Friday, October 9, 2009

Most Buddhist U.S. City? Pasadena, CA

Where is the most Buddhist place in America? In the Buddhist spirit of competition (which is essentially nonexistent), send in your nominee! WQ will post all serious contenders and let readers decide just Where is America's most Buddhist city? (Winning submissions can guest edit the site for a day). The editors have selected the first heavyweight contestant, Pasadena, CA. Here's why:

Tucked away in the foothills of greater Los Angeles, the City of Pasadena, California buzzes with Buddhism and spirituality. It rivals its sister-neighborhood Santa Monica and may even excel San Francisco, Berkeley, Naropa (Colorado), Barre (Massachusetts), and Taos (New Mexico) in its resources and connections to the Dharma.

What makes Pasadena, and Los Angeles in general, so Buddhist-friendly is not only that it's in cutting-edge California. It might be that it's surrounded by large Asian communities (particularly within the San Gabriel Valley) with parochial temples, monasteries, and centers. Pasadena is also unique in that it is home to the greatest disparity in wealth in all the U.S., with the widest range in annual household incomes (Pasadena City Weekly). Here are more than a dozen Buddhist resources in this Kathmandu-like foothill community.

  • Dreams of Tibet: Kathmandu Imports a treasure trove of all things Tibetan, Himalayan, and exotically Buddhist.
  • Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara (Sri Lankan Theravada), a working Sinhalese monastery (wihara) with a very active Bangladeshi Buddhist community (Bodhi Mission), this temple and shrine offers a variety of services, free meditation, and access to monks.
  • Buddha Nimit Temple (Thai Theravada), a working Thai monastery (wat) with a very active Indonesian Buddhist community (DhammaCakraTra).
  • Pasadena Buddhist Church (Japanese Jodo Shinshu).

  • Yoga studios galore: The Awareness Center, Mission Street Yoga (with Tantric Buddhist owners), Dahn Yoga, Yoga House, Bikram Pasadena, Lululemon, Dharma Yoga Co-op, Yoga at Neighborhood Church, and smaller outlets...
  • Insight Yoga: Founded by Vipassana teacher Rick Coella (student of Shin Zen Young), Pasadena was also once home to the first full Buddhism+Yoga fusion studio featuring a moving mindfulness practice, traditional yoga, and healing body work. Coella now teaches privately in the area.

Norton Simon Museum Wrathful Deities of Buddhist Art: 8/14/09–3/8/10

  • Tibet Nepal House part shrine, this restaurant is run by Himalayan trekking guide Karma Tenzing Bhotia. It plays host to the Dalai Lama and his retinue whenever they're in town.
  • McDharma's: ( If you're in a more compassionate mood, looking for something healthier junk but in no mood to sit down, drive through. Orean's is the world's first fully vegetarian fast-food restaurant.
  • Buddhist-friendly Hindu mandirs featuring Buddhist-fusion yoga at Pasadena Hindu Temple and Ma Durga Temple; regular Shri Shri Ravi Shankar "Art of Living" classes in Pasadena (; and three local Self Realization Fellowship meditation sanctuaries (Pasadena, Glendale, and the organization's Mother Center in Mt. Washington); the Vedanta Center of Southern California's Vivekananda House.
  • Zen Buddhist sitting group at All Saints Episcopalian Church, a nationally-acclaimed liberal and activist Christian voice.
  • Engaged Buddhists not wanting to trek over to Hollywood, where a new Thich Nhat Hanh sitting group has formed, might find like minded folks among Pasadena's Pagans ( or Native American Shamans (
Pasadena also has natural waterfalls (e.g., Eaton Falls), mountain forests (San Gabriel mountains), and more urban angst than Santa Monica. Surrounding towns are also home to many similar centers and services: