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Title: Vipassanā meditation and the monasticization of popular Buddhism in Thailand
Author: Cook, Joanna Claire
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2006
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While monastic identity and ascetic practices such as vipassanā meditation have historically been the preserve of monks, requiring full ordination and celibacy, in contemporary Thailand ‘monastic’ and ‘lay’ are not fixed or mutually exclusive categories: temporary ordination for short periods of time has always been available to Thai men; vipassanā has been propagated to the laity since the 1950s; large numbers of laity now enter monasteries as mediation students for short periods and accept monastic precepts for the duration of their retreat; and finally, the subsequent monasticization of popular Buddhism is enabling Thai Buddhist nuns (mae chee), though outside the ordained monastic community (sangha), to define themselves in ways which are, critically, religious, ascetic and  associated with prestige. At the same time, it is providing a vehicle for the actualization of renunciation through the monastic duty to teach and embody the principles of meditation. Monastic identity and practice remain distinct from that of the laity even as lay practice becomes increasingly monasticized. I identify the paradox of will and spontaneity in religious attainment as highlighting the appropriateness of vipassanā  practice in the Buddhist ethical project of cutting attachment to ones self. The morality of monastics presents paradox as a process of self-aware reflection on the one hand and, on the other, absence of self in the performance of one’s moral duty to the laity. For meditation practitioners it is through such self-willed practice that the ethical ideals of non-self (anatta) and spiritual attainment may be actualized. Through the performance of mindfulness within a community of practice, monastics cultivate an ascetic interiority, creating the cognitive space in which spiritual development may be actualized. In this context the ethical ideals of monasticism are actualized through the practice of meditation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available