[The Miami Herald (USA), July 3, 2004]
Armed with snacks and prizes, Audrey Bloom is trying to coax an answer out of her 17 students.
''So who can tell me what duhka means?'' she asks, dangling a set of golden bells from India before a semicircle of confused faces.
''Suffering,'' a handful of her adult students call out, correctly identifying the Sanskrit term.
For the last hour, Bloom has been illuminating the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity at Miami's Unity on the Bay, a non-denominational Christian worship center.
To the casual observer, the 2,500-year-old religion of Gautama Buddha bears scant resemblance to Christianity. But as Buddhism becomes increasingly popular in the United States -- outpacing Episcopalianism with as many as four million members -- a growing number of Christians are exploring Buddhist practices while remaining within their own tradition. Christian-Buddhist meditation groups, retreat centers, books and websites attest to the growth of the trend.
''Times are so scary that people are looking for spiritual discipline that offers some kind of detachment and peace amid all this chaos,'' said Rita Gross, co-author of Buddhists Talk about Jesus: Christians Talk About the Buddha (Continuum International Publishing Group, $15.95). ``People might find a basic meditation practice very helpful, and Buddhism is very chic right now.''