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What is American Buddhism?


What is Buddhism?
Historical Background
The Essence
Learning Buddhism
Energy Management
Buddhism is the Study of Continuation
What is Meditation?
Music and Meditation


There are many forms of Buddhism in America today: Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, Thai Buddhism, etc. Together, they form a rich mandala, which we call American Buddhism. The particular type of American Buddhism presented in this website is based on the teachings of Rama - Dr. Frederick P. Lenz. It is a combination of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, Kundalini Yoga, and Original Zen as adapted to contemporary American society.

Dr. Frederick Lenz began teaching Buddhist meditation in his early twenties. Throughout his life, his goal was to transmit the essence of Buddhism so that Western practitioners could achieve the highest state of Buddhist realization – Enlightenment.

Dr. Lenz wrote a number of popular books about Buddhist teachings including: Lifetimes, True Accounts of Reincarnation (1979), Total Relaxation: The Complete Program for Overcoming Worry, Stress, Tension and Fatigue (1980), Surfing the Himalayas (1995), Snowboarding to Nirvana (1997), and others.

Working with the music group Zazen, he co-wrote and produced 14 musical albums including; Canyons of Light, Enlightenment, Cayman Blue, and Ecologie. All of the albums featured music geared towards facilitating the practice of meditation.

Frederick Lenz passed away on April 12, 1998 in Long Island, New York and willed the majority of his estate to the formation of the Frederick Lenz Foundation for the purpose of supporting Buddhism in America.

The Foundation is dedicated to promoting the benefits of Zen Buddhism, meditation, yoga and related Buddhist practices as a pathway to self-realization and the harmonious blending of the material and spiritual in contemporary American society. The Foundation encourages the study and practice of these disciplines so that Americans with a Western mind set may come to appreciate these ancient gifts of Eastern thought, and utilize them in a way that is relevant to American culture and values. For more information on the foundation, please go to:

What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is a way is life, and we practice it. People can learn how to practice by watching, observing, listening, and becoming sensitive. However, I think Buddhism is something that life teaches us. There are teachers when they are necessary, but life is the real teacher – always remember that.

Buddhism is the enlightenment cycle, and there are different types of it. Principally there is long path and short path Buddhism. The long path is more of the religious aspect - that is to say the church aspect. The practice of reading sutras, healthy ways of living, things like that. These are mainly the Mahayana and Hinayana paths of Buddhism.

The esoteric aspect of Buddhism is meditation. Rama - Dr. Frederick Lenz was teacher of Vajrayana Buddhism primarily, which is the short path of Buddhism.

American Buddhism, as defined by Rama, is the practice of meditation and mindfulness. In meditation, we sit quietly and concentrate on the different chakras or energy centers. In mindfulness, we use all of the experiences in life to improve our consciousness. Our careers, the books we read, the movies we watch, are all used as elements in our practice. Our life becomes our teacher, and it empowers us.

Historical Background

Historically, Buddhism started in the 6th or 5th century BCE when a man called Siddhartha Gautama attained “Enlightenment”. Buddha means the Enlightened One. After his Enlightenment, Buddha realized the Four Noble Truths.

  1. There is suffering.
  2. Suffering comes from attachment.
  3. We can let go of attachment and suffering by going into Nirvana.
  4. This can be reached by following the eight-fold path.

The eight-fold path includes:

  1. Right understanding
  2. Right directed thought
  3. Right speech
  4. Right action
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

Buddha believed in the middle path. There is a wonderful scene in the movie “The Little Buddha” where Siddhartha in sitting in meditation under a tree near the river. A music teacher and his student come by in a boat. The teacher is fine-tuning a string instrument and says to him, “If the string is too tight, it will break. If the string is too loose, it will not play.” At that moment, Siddhartha has an epiphany and realizes that life in better spent in the middle path instead of going into extremes. He abandons the idea of living a life as an ascetic and embraces life in a new way.

After the Buddha’s Enlightenment and many years of teaching, Buddhism moves from northern India into other areas of the world, always adapting to the land and culture of the time. Buddhism has manifested into different forms. In Japan, it became Zen Buddhism, in some parts of China, Buddhism merged with Taoism.

In Tibet, Tantric Buddhism arose in the 6th century CE. Tantric Buddhism, which is called Vajrayana, tries to realize the continuous connection between all human states and conditions. In Vajrayana, we believe that everything has Buddha-nature, and therefore every experience in life can be used to bring us closer to Enlightenment.

Guru Padmasambhava established Buddhism in Tibet in the mid 8th century. He was a practitioner of Tantra, and he is known as the second Buddha. Padmasambhava was an Indian teacher who brought the complete teachings of Buddhadharma to Tibet. Padmasambhava was ordained by Ananda who was the closest disciple of the Buddha, but the teachings of Padmasambhava were a little different from the Buddha.

The Buddha created a path that would be easy for everyone to follow. He outlined a simple practice that was based on compassion and understanding.

Padmasambhava’s emphasis was on energy management and meditation. He believed that all phenomenal existence was merely the manifestation of the mind. He believed that through the practice of meditation, we could learn to create new realities within our minds, so that they may be manifested into reality.

The Essence

Buddhism is about becoming enlightened. The essential premise in Buddhism is that there is Enlightenment. There is nirvana. Beyond this world, there is something radiant and eternal. It created this world and at the same that it is beyond it. We call it Nirvana. You call it anything you want to – God, the Eternal Reality, the Higher Power, the Source, the names do not matter. It is the Eternal Reality that is beyond words.

Buddhism is the practice of joining your mind with that Eternal Reality, and at the same time, viewing this world as part of that reality. Buddhism is about living a grounded, happy, fun life, being energized, and being good about everything that you do, and getting better all the time. It is about utilizing the whole power of your mind, body and spirit to enjoy life, and experience all of its sides.

The essential practice in Buddhism is meditation. Meditation is a process in which you stop your thoughts and learn to merge with the light of Enlightenment. As you make progress in your practice, you transform yourself, and you will be able to transcend your limitations, fears, and pain.

When you practice Buddhism, your life gets better every day. It does not mean that bad things will not happen to you, but you will be able to see life in a different light. After all, life is an adventure.

If you are practicing correctly, the true test is that you will like your life, and you will feel better about yourself. You will be able to see a gradual improvement in the states of mind you experience.

Learning Buddhism

The best way to learn Buddhism is with the help of a teacher. A good teacher is someone who is more advanced than you are, someone who can explain different types of yoga, how to conserve energy, and all kinds of valuable techniques. At the same time, they should inspire you and empower you with mediation so you can gain spiritual insights.

Learning the practice is like going to college. If you are going to college and you get a scholarship you can progress much faster because you can put all of your time into school without having to spend time on a part-time job. That way you can focus all of your energy on school. Empowerments from a teacher are designed to aid the student of meditation, to help them focus more on their practice, and less on other types of distractions.

Now there are good teachers and bad teachers. A good teacher will inspire you, and teach you how to think for yourself. A bad teacher will tell you how to live your life and not inspire you.

A good teacher will transfer power, knowledge, and heart by inspiring you to meditate and to seek Enlightenment. This newfound power should always be used to improve life, and never to hurt others. Buddhism is a practice in which we learn to avoid injuring others and ourselves. We learn to respond to difficult situations with a sense of calm and balance. We learn that we have lived before and we will always live in one form or another. You get to experience that in meditation – this knowledge will come to you. You will also gain a new appreciation for the beauty of life.

Energy Management

Buddhism is a very comprehensive way of looking at life and energy. Over the centuries, ways of saving energy have been developed by Buddhists. These methods are the essence of Buddhism. Energy conservation is a very important part of the practice. We only have so much energy, and in order to reach higher levels of mind, we need energy.

Energy comes from various sources:

  • Releasing the kundalini through the practice of meditation
  • Empowerments from enlightened teachers
  • Traveling to power places where the Earth vibrates faster
  • Doing happy things
  • Being successful
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Exercise
  • Eating certain types of foods that have more energy than others
  • Spending time with positive people

You gain or loose energy in your relationships with other people. If you spend time with people who make you feel bad, your energy is being drained. If you spend time with people who inspire you, you will have a good time and you will feel fine afterwards.

Buddhism is the Study of Continuation

Buddhism is not a singular way, it is a compilation of ways, and it changes. Buddhism does not have a start or an end. It does not start with Gautama Buddha who is the most famous Buddha. Buddha means the Enlightened One. There have been many enlightened beings before and after Gautama Buddha.

We can say that the practice of meditation and Buddhism started when a person realized that they could still their thoughts and experienced eternity. The ancient Egyptians had a method of meditation, and their practice of meditation dated back in time to even earlier civilization.

Buddhism is the study of continuation. It is the practice of meditation. It is a body of ways and traditions, which help a person to experience enlightened states of mind.

The central point of all Buddhism is the practice of meditation. Meditation is about quieting the mind and making the mind still. Thoughts are like a curtain that separates you from reality. When they become still, suddenly you can see eternity.

The practice of meditation is something that you learn a little bit each time you meditate. You need to make your mind calm, quiet, and still. When your thoughts are quiet, you allow your inner light to take over and purify you. It’s like taking a shower, it washes away the dirt and makes you clean. It energizes you. Each time you meditate, you are on the pathway to enlightenment. You are a mental traveler on a journey, which we call life.


One of the central premises in Buddhism is happiness. Happiness is not really something you gain in the world. People try to become happy through their careers, their relationships, their material possessions. In reality only a certain amount of happiness can be gained from those things. Happiness comes from within your self. If you sit down in the morning and meditate, you will experience more and more happiness, and you will gain better balance over your life.

What is Meditation?

Meditation is an experience - an awareness - a way of perceiving, and a way of life. Our lives are dependent upon perception. How we see the world affects our mental states. If we see the world as dull and boring, then that is how the world is going to be.

In the practice of meditation, we learn to experience life in new ways. Meditation is the awakening of our inner energy and the discovery of self-understanding.

How do we meditate? First, we have to set up a time to meditate. Once you choose a time, you must stick to your schedule. The best time to meditate is in the morning after you have taken a shower.

According to the Dalai Lama, “Meditating in the morning gives you a good mental state that will positively affect your whole day.”

It is also necessary to set the right environment or mood. For example, wear comfortable clothing, nothing that restricts you or makes you feel uncomfortable. Choose a location, and set up a meditation table. It is a good idea to select a good spot in your house where you will be able to meditate every day. By creating a permanent meditation area, you create an energy circle, which will help you to focus. Personalize your meditation area. For instance, place a rug in front of your table, sit on a pillow, burn incense, or place flowers on a table.

Once you have a meditation table, you can decorate it with candles. Meditating to candle light is better than meditating by incandescent light. The use of background music is highly recommended. The musical group Zazen has recorded several albums, which have been specifically designed to help you meditate. This music creates a strong buffer around your subtle physical body, which facilitates and empowers your concentration and meditation practice. For more details, please refer to the next section on music and meditation.

All of these things help you to elevate your consciousness. You do not need a rug, or a table, or candles to meditate, but all of these things add to the ambiance. Concentrating on beautiful things, like the flowers, will help you to focus your energy.

Once you are ready to meditate, get a clock or a watch so you can time yourself. At the beginning, you are going to meditate for fifteen minutes twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening after you come home from school or work.

After you have been meditating for about six months, increase your meditation to half an hour twice a day. After a year or two, increase your time to forty-five minutes and finally to one hour. It is not necessary to meditate for more than two hours a day; at that point, you should work on increasing the quality of your meditations, not the quantity.

When you begin to meditate, sit in a chair or cross-legged on the floor, but be sure your back is straight. It is better to sit in a cross-legged position, but it may be uncomfortable for you. If you would like to be able to do this, it is suggested that you take a yoga class and learn how to stretch and loosen up the leg muscles.

Now, close your eyes and repeat OM four to seven times. Chanting OM before you start to meditate helps you to activate your psychic consciousness. When you chant OM, make sure to elongate the M at the end. Take your time to chant OM, don’t do it too quickly; take at least five seconds to do it. OM is an ancient sound that invokes the creative forces of the Universe. OM means perfection. Chanting OM symbolizes your quest for perfection and success. After chanting OM, open your eyes and practice concentration.

The first five minutes of your meditation should be spent on concentrating with your eyes open. Place a candle or a yantra on top of the meditation table at eye level or a little bit above. A yantra is a geometrical figure made from linear elements intended to represent, in a synthetic form, the energies of the natural world.

The Sri Yantra represents the creative force of the Universe.

Yantras are believed to be the natural or true ideograms from which writing is derived. Yantras are the necessary basis for all attempts at symbolic representation of sacred forms, images, sacred architecture, altars, temples, and ritual gestures. After you have been concentrating on the yantra for several minutes, you will notice that the lines inside the yantra appear to move. This is not simply eye fatigue. You are actually learning to see into another plane of awareness.

After you have been concentrating for five minutes, close your eyes and listen to the stillness of eternity. When you are meditating, you are trying to still your thoughts. This is done is in two different steps.

The first step is to ignore your thoughts, and to realize that you are not your thoughts, but in reality, you are only listening to your thoughts. Thoughts are like birds. They fly by, and then they are gone. Your mind is like the sky. Birds travel through the sky, but the sky remains there after the birds are gone. We are the sky. Thoughts are birds that come and go. You can enjoy looking at the birds if they are beautiful, but it is the sky that endures. If the birds squawk, we cannot hear the stillness of the sky. If the birds are angry and self-destructive, we have a terrible problem. So we are learning to see that we are not our thoughts.

The second step is to begin to eliminate negative thoughts. In other words, do not let the angry birds into your house. If a pretty bird comes, then that’s okay. How do you keep the birds away? You do it by concentrating on the chakras while you are meditating. A chakra is an energy center that exists within the subtle physical body - the body of energy. In the practice of meditation, we learn that we have a physical body and a body of energy. The body of energy contains your aura, which is a protective shield of energy that surrounds your body. This is like an energy immune system that protects you from the energy of other people.

Chakras are circles of energy where energy lines connect within the body. These energy points, also called meridians, are used in acupuncture to stimulate the body’s energy flow. According to the famous Taoist Master Mantak Chia, “Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are based on a person’s ability to maintain the proper circulation of the bioelectric energy throughout the body.” This energy is what the Chinese call chi, and it can be stored and generated by concentration on the chakras. The subtle physical body, or the body of energy, is not perceptible to most individuals. However, it is visible with the help of Kirlian photography.

Chakra Meditation as taught by Rama - Dr. Frederick Lenz is the well-known practice of concentration on the three main energy centers - the navel, the heart, and the third eye. Following this practice will transform an individual into a very powerful, balanced, and wise human being. Some people might argue that there are actually seven main chakras or energy centers in the body. In reality, there are many more. There are hundreds of energy centers, chakras, or meridians surrounding the body. But if you focus on those three main points, that practice will generate enough energy to nurture and open all the other centers in a more balanced and harmonious way.

In one of his books, Mantak Chia said, “After considerable practice, you will be able to open the higher energy centers called tan-tien by the Chinese. According to Taoism, one of these reservoirs exists at the level of the navel, another at the heart, and the third in your head towards your forehead.” In the same book, Michael Winn explains, “While in actual fact the entire body is one large interconnected tan-tien, or field of energy, it is easiest to try to open each center sequentially. You must open the first three centers first to provide a strong platform for the other ones.”

Chakra meditation is based on the ancient practice of Kundalini Yoga. According to this Tantric philosophy, Kundalini is the energy that is dormant at the bottom of the spine. Through the practice of meditation and concentration, this energy can be awakened. Once it’s awake, the energy rises through the six energy centers located along the spine, until it reaches the seventh center at the top of the head. Each center represents a doorway to power. As Kundalini passes through each chakra, different states of consciousness are experienced.

The Seven Chakras and Passage Ways

Each chakra corresponds to a nerve center located in the center of the sushumna - the central nerve channel in the spinal column. The Sahasrara, the seventh chakra, is located at the top of the head. It also called the crown chakra, or the thousand-petal lotus of light. It is the supreme seat of consciousness in the body. The Ajna chakra, or third eye, is located in the center of the forehead. It is the center for wisdom and psychic seeing. The Vishuddha, or throat chakra, is located at the base of the throat. It is the center of creativity. The Anahata, or heart chakra, is located in the center of the chest. It is the center of balance and harmony. The Manipura, or navel center, is located about an inch below the navel. It is the center of willpower and energy. The Svadhishthana is located in the center of the pelvic region. It is the center of sexual energy. Finally, the Muladhara, or root chakra, is located at the base of the spine. It is the seat of the Kundalini energy.

While concentrating on all of the energy centers can be very productive, it is also very time consuming. If instead, you concentrate your practice on the navel, the heart, and the third eye; your practice will be more efficient. Mastering the concentration on the three main centers will help you to gain power over the physical world, to gain happiness and balance, to be able to see opportunities, and to become wiser.

The chakra around the navel area is the power center; and as you focus on this center, you will develop tremendous willpower. The heart chakra, which is located at the center of the chest, develops psychic abilities, and sensitivities; it also brings about a tremendous stillness within the mind and develops the ability to experience love, beauty, and balance. The wisdom chakra, which is found slightly above the eyebrows, develops your intuitive wisdom, and knowledge, and gives you the ability to see life in different ways. The wisdom chakra will help you develop a greater vision for your life.

The first time you meditate, you might want to touch one of these spots for a minute or two. Hold your fingers very lightly against your energy centers. As you press very gently there, it will be easier for you to focus. These are not random spots, there are windows here - windows that lead into other levels of the mind. Each will generate a different type of experience. The combination of power, heart, and wisdom creates a balanced individual. That is why it is suggested that you focus on each of these centers.

Spend five minutes concentrating on the navel center. Take a deep breath and move the energy from the navel center up to the heart center. After five minutes, take another deep breath, and move the energy from the heart center up to the third eye and hold your attention there for the last five minutes.

When thoughts come into your mind, just say “no” aloud. Say it with willpower. You can think about it in this way: when you get a thorn stuck in your foot, you can use another thorn to get it out, and then throw both of them away. Here we are using one thought to eliminate the other one.

At the end of a session, we always bow down to the ground - that is our way of giving the meditation to Eternity, of letting go of it, letting go of ourselves. Finally, remain quiet for a few minutes in order to absorb the energy that you have generated during your meditation.

Initially it might not seem like you are doing anything, and you may find yourself just thinking a lot. But, as long as you are trying, you are doing something. It’s like doing push-ups: the more you practice, the stronger you become. After you practice doing push-ups for a while, you will begin to see a difference. You will not see yourself with big muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but after you practice for a while, you will be able to see and feel the difference.

It’s the same with the practice of meditation: inwardly your mind is becoming stronger and you are gaining personal power. After a while, that power will begin to manifest in your life. You will find that it is easier to study or to do your job. Your mind will be clear, sharp, and defined. You are more aware. You will feel better, and you will be more in touch with everything in your life. As you continue to practice, your knowledge and power will increase.

In Secular Meditation, the Dalai Lama states, “Meditation is the instrument to transform and shape our mind. Meditation should not be considered a religious subject. Compassion, love, forgiveness, spiritual harmony, sense of brotherhood, all of those things are religious subjects. Meditation is the training of the mind. Meditation makes the mind more alert. Concentrating on one point in meditation helps you to develop your analytical mind. Therefore, more success, determination, self-confidence, and willpower will come into your life.”

This is the basic guide to meditation. If you follow this program, you will find a tremendous increase in your mental awareness. Most people who do this see dramatic increases in their level of personal power and success. You will accrue more power and higher levels of mind will start to open for you.

According to Sri Sathya Sai Baba, “True meditation helps us discover our inner identity. It enables us to hear the divine voice in our heart, which illuminates the path ahead. It allows us to perceive and develop greater qualities.”

Music and Meditation

While Rama – Dr. Frederick Lenz was alive, he created a number of music albums along with the group Zazen to help you meditate. Three CDs in particular are extremely helpful; Enlightenment, Canyons of Light, and Samadhi.

The Enlightenment CD is used for morning meditation Canyons of Light is used for evening meditation, and Samadhi may be used at any time. There are fifteen songs in each album, and each song is about four minutes long. Each of the fifteen songs was composed around a dimension and they are in ascending order.

The morning CD offers an experience of fifteen different dimensions of light that provide the energy, insight and power to go out and have a wonderful day. The evening meditation CD references fifteen other dimensions that are easy to get into at night.

If you listen to this music while you are meditating, the music will do two things. One, it will provide an auric blanket. The energy in the music is very high. Rama went into very high planes of consciousness, into Samadhi, to bring a certain power into the music as a whole. When you listen to one of these albums, the energy is so high that it will block out the thoughts and impressions of the people in this world. So it will be like if you are meditating in a pristine environment – in a beautiful power spot with no impressions.

Secondly, all the songs are in groups of five. There are three groups of five songs in each album. The songs reference particular chakras. The first five songs in each album reference the navel center, the next five the heart chakra, and the last five reference the third eye.

When you start listening to the first five, hold you attention in the navel area and listen to the five songs. The navel chakra is located about an inch below the navel. The navel center and the two lower chakras are the centers for power. By concentrating on the navel center, the two other centers are activated in a balanced way. Each song is very different. They are designed in an ascending order and reference different planes of light, and you move from one to another. You climb up the latter of light just by listening to them.

When those five songs have ended, move your attention to the center of the chest. The heart chakra is located in the center of the chest. Hold you attention in the center of the chest and listen to the next five songs. The heart chakra and the throat chakra are the centers for balance. If you concentrate on the heart chakra, it will activate the throat chakra as well. If you hold your attention there for five songs, you will feel tremendous happiness, brightness, and if you meditate deeply your mind will become very still.

After you have listened to the first ten, you will be in a much higher plane of energy. Then, hold your attention on the third eye. Your third eye is located between your eyebrows and slightly above. Your third eye is a center of knowledge. The third eye and the crown center at the top of the head are the knowledge centers.

The three meridians are power, balances – which is happiness, and wisdom or wisdom. When you bring all three together, you are complete.

The last five songs reference the higher chakras. Simply listen to them and keep your attention on the third eye. When thoughts come in and out of the mind, simply ignore them, and listen to the music.

As you listen to each song, you are bringing the kundalini up through your concentration. The chakras are doorways to different dimensions to different planes of Enlightenment. As you hold your attention on them, the kundalini energy at the base of the spine will raise first to the navel center, then to the heart center, then to the third eye.

This type of meditation practice will bring a tremendous amount of beauty, energy, and brightness into your life. Your mind will become clear. Your life will be centered. You will be able to access higher aspects of mind and smile.

To read more about Rama's teachings, please check out the following websites:,,, and