Many Petals of the Lotus: Five Asian Buddhist Communities in Toronto


264 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8225-4
DDC 305.6'94307113541




Reviewed by Henry G. MacLeod

Henry G. MacLeod teaches sociology at both Trent University and the
University of



The most recent census reveals that Asians are the fastest-growing
ethnic population in Canada and that they are the largest
visible-minority population in Toronto. Janet McLellan has done a great
service by writing a timely and comprehensive study of the five major
Asian Buddhist communities in Toronto: Japanese-Canadian, Tibetan,
Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Chinese. The Vietnamese and Chinese each
comprise several distinct communities.

Many Petals of the Lotus examines ethnoreligious affiliation and the
role of Buddhism in the integration of Asian immigrants and refugees
into Canadian society. McLellan makes a significant contribution to our
understanding of how religious traditions are transformed with new
social contexts and how religious identity maintains ethnic identity.

McLellan demonstrates how the diversity and pluralism among the
Buddhist communities in Toronto can be traced to the political and
social context in Canada at the time of settlement, the circumstances of
the Asian migrants (especially whether they arrive as immigrants or as
refugees), the transformation of religious practices by subsequent
generations, and globalization. She discusses the impact that
significant legal discrimination and racism has had on Japanese-Canadian
Buddhists since their arrival in 1887. Their experience is compared to
that of the Tibetan, Vietnamese, and Cambodian refugees, each with their
own unique stories, and to that of the recent Chinese Buddhist
immigrants, who are arriving at a time when multicultural policies are
favorable to maintaining ethnic and religious identity. In the past,
Asian Buddhists were pressured to convert to Christianity; now their
descendants are reconverting to Buddhism.

The author does include some references to non-Asian or Western
Buddhists, who are primarily Canadian-born and who have converted from a
Judeo-Christian background. Readers interested in Western Buddhists may
be disappointed.

Anyone interested in the history and current nature of Buddhism in
Toronto will enjoy Many Petals of the Lotus. The book will be of even
greater interest to those in the academic community, where it would be a
useful reference text for courses on religion and ethnicity in Canada,
immigration and refugee policies, and the changing processes of
assimilation, acculturation, and maintaining ethnic identity.


McLellan, Janet., “Many Petals of the Lotus: Five Asian Buddhist Communities in Toronto,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024,