Golfer Tiger Woods’s statement on Feb. 19, 2010, about his marital infidelities included a recommitment to the Buddhist religion he was raised in. Woods’ statement came one day after a meeting between the Dalai Lama and President Barack Obama, giving Buddhism a high-profile week and providing journalists a chance to write about this growing religion.
The name Buddha comes from the Sanskrit for awakened — and in the United States today, Buddhism has come wide awake. Originally spread from Asia, Buddhism is now considered the fourth-largest religion in the United States. The ever-growing number of U.S. practitioners is estimated at 1.5 million or more. That growth is bringing awareness, but not necessarily understanding or acceptance.
For example, as revelations of Tiger Woods’ serial infidelities emerged after a Thanksgiving weekend incident with his wife at their Florida home in 2009, Fox News analyst Brit Hume made headlines by urging the golfer to convert to Christianity in order to find the redemption and forgiveness that, Hume said, Buddhism does not offer.
Many Buddhists disputed Hume’s characterization, and in his statement on Feb. 19, 2010, Woods went out of his way to say that he needed to change and that “Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age.”
“People probably don’t realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years,” he said. “Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught.”
On Feb. 18, 2010, the exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, met at the White House with Obama, the first time the two had met. In October 2009, the president did not meet with the Dalai Lama when the Buddhist leader was in Washington, apparently to avoid angering the Chinese before Obama’s summit in Beijing that November. China has ruled Tibet since 1959, when the current Dalai Lama was forced to flee into exile.
After their meeting, the White House released only a brief statement, which underscored how sensitive the issue is. The Dalai Lama did meet with reporters outside the White House. He said the two leaders discussed world peace and “the promotion of human value.”
These stories of an American adherent of Buddhism and an international Buddhist leader highlight just some of the issues journalists can address.
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