Ascribed and Achieved Buddhist Identities

in Heartwood

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2004 | ISBN: 9780226088990
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226089010 | DOI:
Ascribed and Achieved Buddhist Identities

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Based on how practitioners at Wat Phila and the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center (CIMC) constructed their organizations, the Buddha's teachings, and their communities, this chapter explores how practitioners construct personal identities in light of the Buddha's teachings and their involvement in Wat Phila or the CIMC. Practitioners at Wat Phila and the CIMC emphasize the Buddha's teaching to “come and see” in their conversations about their personal identities. Regardless of what they draw from the tradition, most of them do develop some kind of identity in relation to the Buddha's teachings, rather than to Wat Phila or the CIMC as organizations. At both Wat Phila and the CIMC, many practitioners describe themselves through achieved religious or spiritual identities that they have chosen in the United States. The fact that Wat Phila and the CIMC include practitioners with such a range of religious and spiritual identities shows that identity is not a central organizational concern at either center. Rather than a subcultural identity theory, Wat Phila and the CIMC point to the need for more of a cohesive particle theory of minority religious identity

Keywords: Wat Phila; Cambridge Insight Meditation Center; Theravada Buddhism; America; Buddhist organizations; religious practitioners; Buddhist identities

Chapter.  10476 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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