This book explores contemporary practices within the new institution of international meditation centers in Thailand. It discusses the development of the lay vipassana meditation movement in Thailand and relates Thai Buddhism to contemporary processes of commodification and globalisation. Through an examination of how meditation centers are promoted internationally, the author considers how Thai Buddhism is translated for and embodied within international tourists who participate in meditation retreats in Thailand. Shedding new light on the decontextualization of religious practices, and raising new questions concerning tourism and religion, this book focuses on the nature of cultural exchange, spiritual tourism, and religious choice in modernity. With an aim of reframing questions of religious modernity, each chapter offers a new perspective on the phenomenon of spiritual seeking in Thailand. Offering an analysis of why meditation practices appeal to non-Buddhists, this book contends that religions do not travel as whole entities but instead that partial elements resonate with different cultures, and are appropriated over time.
"This is a valuable study for a number of reasons. For example, Chapter 2, ‘‘Theravada Buddhism and the History of Modern Vipassan?a,’’ is simply one of the most elucidating treatments of this subject that I know of. Other chapters offer enlightening ‘‘thick descriptions’’ of how these centers function for spreading the s?asana internationally. But most specifically, this book reveals how meditation, as it spreads beyond Thailand, is transforming itself into a new global spiritual movement."
Mark MacWilliams, St. Lawrence University
Imagining Buddhism 2. Theravāda Buddhism and the History of Modern Vipassanā 3. The Field of International Engagement with Thai Meditation Centers 4. Narratives of International Meditators’ Experiences 5. Meditation for Tourists in Thailand: Commodifying a Universal and National Symbol 6. Pedagogical Techniques for Translating Vipassanā Meditation 7. Embodying Meditation 8. The Future of Thailand’s International Meditation Centers
Much work on contemporary religion in Asia considers the subject from the perspective of the great religions, often focusing on the development of official beliefs, and the development of formal institutions. The books in this series, on the other hand, examine the actual practice of religion in everyday life in modern Asian societies. They reveal a very rich picture of varying religious practices, many of them new and non-traditional. The religions of Asia are undergoing much radical change not only communal religious revivalism, but also an explosion of urban piety, popular preaching, charismatic churches, and on-line religion. The books cover a wide range of subjects in the countries of East, Southeast, South and Central Asia. The series welcomes innovative approaches to theory and methods in the study of religion and religions, and work which considers religion in relation to culture, politics, ethnicity or gender.
Bryan S. Turner is Presidential Professor of Sociology, Graduate Center, City University of New York and Professor and Director of the Centre for Religion and Society at the University of Western Sydney.