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Title: The environmental beliefs and practices of Taiwanese Buddhists.
Author: Lin, Yih-Ren.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3610 4088
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 1999
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This thesis explores the phenomenon of Taiwanese Buddhists' environmental concerns as they occurred in the 1990s. A socio-cultural perspective is adopted to enquire into the following questions: (1) what does 'Huan-Bao' (Jl-1*-, literally environmental protection) mean to Taiwanese Buddhists? (2) are there patterns of Buddhist environmental concerns? (3) how do Taiwanese Buddhists construct their environmental concerns? (4) what is their relationship with Taiwan's environmental movements? and (5) have their environmental concerns any relevance to the development of Buddhism in Taiwan? The field work was carried out from Jan. 1996 to Aug. 1997 by employing several different qualitative methods. Three Buddhist-centred organizations' 'Huan-Baos' were researched from both institutional and individual levels. These organizations are: TzuChi Charity Foundation, Dharma Drum Mountain, and Life Conservationist Association. An integrated framework of discourse analysis was developed through reviewing Maarten Hajer, David Harvey, Klaus Eder, and Kay Milton's works. Based on their works, this framework emphasizes the power of discourse coalitions, the dynamics of social process, the globalization of environmental particularisms, and the formation of individual and institutional identities. In summary, the study finds that: (1) Taiwanese Buddhist 'Huan-Bao' discourses are constructed through Buddhist Masters' re-interpretations and lay Buddhists' social practices, namely: Tzu-Chi's 'Cherishing Fu (tit, literally good fortune)'~ DDM's 'Pureland on Earth'~ and LCA's 'Life Respecting'. Though hardly challenging the 'ecological modernity' theme that is dominant in Taiwan's environmental movements, these discourses, nevertheless, demonstrate a special spiritual dimension that was rarely found before. (2) The social practices of lay Buddhists play an important role in defining and redefining what 'Huan-Bao' means to them. This social process not only enriches and reshapes the institutional definitions of 'Huan-Bao' but also helps to create individual identities. More importantly, it allows practitioners to 'dwell securely' in Taiwan where a rapid social change and insecurity are often experienced. In this way, this trend of Buddhist Huan-Bao discourse has become well situated in the phase of 'place making' of Taiwan's environmental movements. (3) The distinctive interpretation of'Huan-Bao' by each Buddhist organization suggests a unique social process behind each organization's evolution of 'Huan-Bao' discourse. These multiple meanings of 'Huan-Bao' and associated social processes manifest a new developmental stage of Taiwanese Buddhism characterized by rationalization, secularization, and contextualization. (4) This study establishes a bridge for dialogue with the search for an eastern religious environmental ethic that has for a long time been romanticized and stereotyped in western environmental movements. The study not only illustrates how the dynamics of social change cannot be separated from Buddhists' heightened environmental awareness, but also challenges the over-simplified assumptions that western environmentalists make about the environmental beliefs of' eastern religions'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Buddhism; Taiwan; Environment; Huan-Bao; Religion