Mindful Individualism and Communitarian Engaged Buddhisms: A comparative analysis, with special reference to Thich Nhat Hanh.
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AbstractThis dissertation argues that the contemporary Western mindfulness movement has taken two forms: 'mindful individualism' and 'communitarian engaged Buddhisms.' Mindful individualism adopts a personal, individual and 'self-help' view of mindfulness, and is largely commodified, secularised and disconnected from the Buddhist roots of mindfulness in order to further other agendas. Communitarian engaged Buddhisms maintains many connections to the history and teachings of Buddhism and tends to use mindfulness in conjunction with other Buddhist concepts, such as interconnectedness, with an overall emphasis on compassionate action and social justice. I provide a comparative analysis of mindful individualism and community-focused engaged Buddhism, while demonstrating that Thich Nhat Hanh, a significant figure in the contemporary mindfulness movement, is depicted as a paradoxical figure within the movement. While he maintains his reputation as the archetypal engaged Buddhist, peace activist and global spiritual leader, Hanh's bestselling books teach the benefits of mindfulness in a range of contexts, and have been especially popular among a secular Anglo-American audience. Hanh has therefore also been viewed as the archetypal 'packager' of mindfulness, which in contrast to the community-focused nature of engaged Buddhism, has been criticised as being individualistic, secularised, and disconnected from its Buddhist roots, since flourishing in Euro-America. This dissertation explores the ways in which mindfulness has been applied to a variety of secular contexts, including mindfulness as a therapeutic technique, corporate mindfulness, mindful eating and more. I use these examples to demonstrate that contemporary mindfulness has become largely individualistic, secular and focused on personal happiness, whilst in contrast, those involved in engaged Buddhism remain focused on the aspect of community and reducing the suffering of those around them. I argue that Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings function within both sides of this dichotomy, promoting a mindfulness which 'begins with the individual' and is accessible for a non-Buddhist readership, while actively engaging with and encouraging his concept of engaged Buddhism. This dissertation uses Hanh as a lens to explore and analyse the theoretical 'paradox' problem in Western Buddhism.
CitationWard, L. (2017). Mindful Individualism and Communitarian Engaged Buddhisms: A comparative analysis, with special reference to Thich Nhat Hanh. (Masters thesis). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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