LOS ANGELES -- About 150 leaders from a variety of Buddhist groups around the country are expected to gather here for the first convocation of the American Buddhist Congress set for Nov. 10-12.

They will adopt a constitution, elect officers and pass resolutions on matters of concern to all American Buddhists.

Planning for the meeting began more than a year ago when Buddhist leaders gathered in Boulder, Colo., first urged formation of a national organization to explain Buddhism to non-Buddhists and to foster intrafaith dialogue and support.

Several million Buddhists, many of them immigrants from Asia, now live in the United States, and their numbers are growing rapidly. Increasing numbers of non-Asian Americans have also turned to Buddhism, attracted by the faith's emphasis on the direct experience of wisdom and inner peace through meditation and right living.

Zen, Tibetan and Nichiren Soshu of America, an offshoot of one school of Japanese Buddhism, are among the better-known forms of Buddhism that have proved attractive to thousands of non-Asians.

As it is in Asia, where about 250 million Buddhists live, Buddhism in the United States is divided among dozens of sects organized along ethnic and theological lines and by traditional allegiances to teaching lineages.

Ratansara, a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk who is also cochairman of the congress' interim executive committee and directs the 100-student College of Buddhist Studies in Los Angeles, said that some 30 Japanese Buddhist sects alone exist in the United States. A statement issued at last year's Boulder meeting noted that "at this time in history North America holds the greatest variety of Buddhist traditions {of} anywhere in the world."

The largest concentrations of Buddhists are in Hawaii, Colorado, California and other West Coast states, but sizeable pockets of Buddhists also can be found in the Northeast and Midwest.

"The problem is communication with each other and non-Buddhists also," said Ratansara.