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This article examines the lay meditation movement occurring in contemporary Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The lay meditation movement represents a different perspective from the nationalistic Sinhala Buddhism that has dominated the discourse in the wake of the intractable ethnic conflict in the country. The lay meditation movement reflects the contemporary ferment in Buddhist discourse among the laity. One of the key themes in this movement is the privileging of experience because it gives the lay groups authority to challenge contemporary orthodoxy and it has empowered a new class of spiritual leaders, the lay gurus. Paraphrasing Stirrat, we can say that these lay gurus are leading the lay meditation movement towards ‘a series of different interpretations of what it means’ to be a Buddhist today. In its overall effect the lay meditation movement not only reconstructs what it means to be a Buddhist today but also points in the direction of establishing new forms of sectarianism that could be considered to be ‘new religious movements’ under the umbrella of Buddhism.

The present study was an exploratory investigation of a unique phenomenon: the traditional, Theravadin Buddhist meditation retreat. It is unique in the sense that such meditation retreats involve the constant practice of "concentration" and "insight" meditation techniques during every waking moment for periods of time up to 3 months. The following research questions derived from Buddhist sources and contemporary psychological theory and research, provided the major organizing framework of the study; (1) Are relationship factors, such as idealization, an important component of retreat experience? (2) In a Western, psychoanalytic sense, are the meditators characterized by a healthy sense of "narcissism" or self-love? (3) What is the nature of the meditators' self-concepts? (4) What are the effects of the meditation retreats on the participant's experience of self and world? All subjects were solicited, unpaid, volunteers recruited from the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) during the autumn and winter of 1979-80. The design of the study was naturalistic in the sense that it utilized the natural groupings of the IMS: the 3 month and 2 week meditation retreats. A total of 53 meditators completed the pre and post-retreat test packets: a sample of 20 subjects from the 3 month retreat and a pooled sample of 33 subjects from 3 different 2 week retreats. The self-administering test package included a Semantic Differential with 5 factor scales and 12 concepts, Knapp's Metaphor Scales (MS), and a Who-Are-You (WAY) test in addition to several less important measures. The data analysis was based on the interpretation of sample descriptive statistics, "Matched" T-tests, and analysis of covariance. As reflected by the WAY test, "Abstract" self-concepts predominated over "Role" and "Trait" self-descriptions, suggesting the meditators have an ideological commitment to the "anatta" (no-self) principle of Buddhism. Self-concepts were not significantly effected by either retreat experience. Comparison of the relative magnitude of the profile of semantic factor means for the concepts "Me" and "Your Meditation Instructor" documented that the relationship is an important factor in both types of meditation retreats. Both groups of meditators idealize their teachers, find them reliable and consistent, and experience them as emotionally rewarding. Among the 2 week sample, only, there is evidence that something akin to an "idealizing transference" (or perhaps a more general "positive transference") develops in relation to the teacher. Personality change among the meditators may be as much due to the relationship with the teacher as it is to the practice of meditation, per se. Judged in relation to 3 Western variables, derived from modern clinical theory, both samples appeared to have a healthy sense of "narcissism". These clinical variables seemed unaffected by the meditation retreats. However, important changes in the experience of self and world did occur among the 3 month sample. These results were consistent with Theravadin Buddhist theory. The self was perceived as more "non-reactive", suggesting an increased mastery of the "insight meditation" technique of "bare attention". The connotations of death changed, suggesting an increased appreciation of "anicca" (impermanence) and acceptance of the theory of reincarnation. The 3 month meditators come to reject a Western, romantic, interpersonal definition of love in favor of the Buddhist emphasis on an internally generated and maintained feeling state and stance of selfless, altruistic, "non-reactive", non-selective, compassion for the world. Finally, the 3 month retreat seemed to increase the participants' emotional detachment from and devaluation of Western attitudes concerning work and material strivings. Additional, but less important findings are reported in the body of the study.

Making Sense of Tantric Buddhism fundamentally rethinks the nature of the transgressive theories and practices of the Buddhist Tantric traditions, challenging the notion that the Tantras were "marginal" or primitive and situating them instead -- both ideologically and institutionally -- within larger trends in mainstream Buddhist and Indian culture. Critically surveying prior scholarship, Wedemeyer exposes the fallacies of attributing Tantric transgression to either the passions of lusty monks, primitive tribal rites, or slavish imitation of Saiva traditions. Through comparative analysis of modern historical narratives -- that depict Tantrism as a degenerate form of Buddhism, a primal religious undercurrent, or medieval ritualism -- he likewise demonstrates these to be stock patterns in the European historical imagination. Through close analysis of primary sources, Wedemeyer reveals the lived world of Tantric Buddhism as largely continuous with the Indian religious mainstream and deploys contemporary methods of semiotic and structural analysis to make sense of its seemingly repellent and immoral injunctions. Innovative, semiological readings of the influential Guhyasamaja Tantra underscore the text's overriding concern with purity, pollution, and transcendent insight -- issues shared by all Indic religions -- and a large-scale, quantitative study of Tantric literature shows its radical antinomianism to be a highly managed ritual observance restricted to a sacerdotal elite. These insights into Tantric scripture and ritual clarify the continuities between South Asian Tantrism and broader currents in Indian religion, illustrating how thoroughly these "radical" communities were integrated into the intellectual, institutional, and social structures of South Asian Buddhism.