Transculturation of Tibetan Buddhism: adoption or adaption?
Published inJYU dissertations
© The Author & University of Jyväskylä
This monograph analyzes the formation of translocal Tibetan Buddhism from the viewpoint of convert Tibetan Buddhist organizations and communities. The study addresses the boundaries and the effect of “culture”, and the changing form and function of religion from pre-modern to postmodern society, as well as the role of information and communication technologies in this process. The literature review describes the position of Tibetan Buddhism in the modern world by mapping the global religious landscape and the historical development of the spiritual from pre-modernity to postmodernity. The theoretical frameworks informing the analysis in this study are the concepts of transculturality (Welsch, 1999) and transculturation (Rogers, 2006). The study also highlights the role of mediated communication, allowing for translocal and glocal manifestations of small narratives. The empirical basis of this monograph is based on the analysis of three data-sets. The first is seven years of forum discussions among the students and Elders of a study program, offered by FPMT (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition), an organization offering teachings in Tibetan Buddhism for converts around the world. The second data-set is sixteen semi-structured interviews with the members of two Tibetan Buddhist groups in Helsinki, Finland (Tara Liberation (FPMT) and Danakosha. The third data-set is five interviews with monks, who received a traditional Tibetan Buddhist education and now work around the world, teaching (predominantly) Western followers. The findings are structured into five thematic clusters and presented in opposition to common assumptions, claimed in the literature on Buddhism in the West. The analysis challenges the understanding of cultural factors and regional influences as imperative, demonstrating contingency of culture and identity and fluidity of cultural flows of meanings and physical elements. The research highlights the importance of focusing on the narratives and practices of specific organizations and lineages, rather than on conceptual impositions, like “Western Buddhism” or “American Vajrayana”, because the Buddhist formations are confined by their specific meanings and operate on the global level. The study includes predictions about possible future developments of Tibetan Buddhism and expresses some recommendations for its stake holders. Keywords: transculturality, transculturation, Tibetan Buddhism, postmodern religion, social constructionism ...
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