Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Houston Buddhism databases

In this post, I'm going to describe two local and one national Buddhism information resources.  As of today, all of these sources are incomplete, such that if a seeker uses them to gauge either the breadth or depth of Houston's Buddhist community, an inaccurate picture will result.  However, all have the potential for independent updates and may further develop to become valuable comprehensive information resources, so they are noted here for possible future reference as well as perspective.

In researching these sources, I contacted members of Houston's academic community for input, and I thank them for their attention and replies.

(1) The Harvard Pluralism ProjectDr. Michele Verma, Lecturer in the University of Houston Religious Studies Program, was unaware of any viable compilations describing local Buddhism, but suggested I investigate the Harvard Pluralism Project.
The website allows searching by tradition, and searching geographically.
Map resources were also provided, but it's immediately apparent that portions of the database have not been updated in eight years.
As well as the general searchable database resources given above, the Harvard group has examined religious diversity in more detail within a subset of major American cities.  Unfortunately for us, as of this writing, greater Houston is not yet among those profiled online.
An effort has been made to profile different Buddhist organizations in Austin, Texas.  Each listed center has been evaluated in a manner analogous to those being added to the "Temple Profiles" section of South Houston Sangha News.
(2) The local "Buddhism in Houston" list.  Dr. Anne C. Klein, published author on Buddhism, one of the founders of Houston's Dawn Mountain Temple, and Professor in the Rice University Religious Studies Department (Wiki profile here), had previously been maintaining a linked list of local Buddhist groups.  Responsibility for the list was later assumed by another individual who noted on the webpage that maintenance of the list was "OBE" - overcome by events - such that updates could not be continued.
This is what the page banner looked like as of this blog post.  This resource list has not been updated since 2002.
These were the listed facilities as of 2002.  In an email, Dr. Klein noted that the list had never been complete with respect to ethnic Buddhist Temples, especially Vietnamese.
(3) Texas Buddhist Council (TBC).  A perusal of the list above reveals the existence of an entity called the Texas Buddhist Council.  In fact, the type of databasing, profiling, and communication being attempted by South Houston Sangha News is more typically undertaken by centralized nonprofits such as this entity appears to be.  Running down its identity revealed this de facto homepage, which appears not to have been updated since 1998. 
Texas Buddhist Council mission statement from the webpage cited above. 
The TBC appears to have been initiated as a true inter-congregational, inter-Temple effort (some "Councils" and "Associations" are really vehicles designed to promote a particular group or lineage rather than Buddhism as a whole).  However, TBC does not appear to be active at this time.  The webpage is associated with Houston Buddhist Vihara which, as described in this previous "Temple profile", currently does not have any English-speaking Venerables in residence.  Furthermore, the TBC website references information contributions coordinated by a John RB Whittlesey.  Unrelated internet resources suggest that Mr. Whittlesey may have since passed away (not confirmed!). 

So there you have the best current information that I've been able to find on local inter-group Buddhist associations and database resources.  As always, if you have additional information, please email me via southhoustonsangha -at- gmail.

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