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Title: Religious belief and practice among Sri Lankan Buddhists in the UK
Author: Azzopardi, David
Awarding Body: SOAS, University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis presents an examination of Sri Lankan Buddhism in the UK which highlights the multivalent meanings of ritual, devotional, cultural and meditative practices within the Sri Lankan diaspora, and thereby overturns the simplifications of existing analyses of Buddhism in the West. The dominant paradigm within the study of Buddhism in the West has been based on the use of a 'Two Buddhisms' model, in which a contrast is drawn between the religiosity of Western convert Buddhists and that of Buddhist immigrants from Asia (chapter 2). This model draws on and reinforces ideas dominant within the anthropological study of Theravada Buddhism in Asia, which suggest that lived Buddhism can best be understood by the drawing of certain dichotomies based on categories such as nibbanic/kammatic or modernist/traditional (chapter 3). My fieldwork and interviews at Sri Lankan Buddhist institutions in the UK challenge such simplistic models. The primary focus of my research is the London Buddhist Vihara, the oldest Buddhist monastery in the UK (chapters 4-7). However, my analysis is also broadened beyond this institution through discussions of a second Sri Lankan temple in London (chapter 8) and a meditation-centred Sri Lankan organisation without a permanent temple or centre (chapter 9). The thesis explores these organisations not only in relation to each other, but also in relation to other Theravada Buddhist institutions in the UK, particularly those predominantly attended by British converts. Through this analysis, the thesis produces a highly nuanced examination of Sri Lankan Buddhism in the UK, one which reveals the religious diversity found among Sri Lankan Buddhists in Britain, and which shows that one can find points of similarity and contact, as well as areas of difference and distance, between diaspora and convert Buddhists in the West.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral