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The Institute of Buddhist Studies would like to thank all the panelists, participants, and guests who made the 2010 Buddhism Without Borders Conference such a wonderful success!

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Buddhism without Borders: Contemporary Developments of Buddhism in the West

at the Institute of Buddhist Studies
Berkeley, California
March 18 - 21, 2010

Panel V: Living Buddhism: Community and Family, 2:00 - 5:00

Buddhism as Value Source in the Course of New Identity and Lifestyle Formation in the Czech Republic

Jitka Cirklová, Faculty of Social Science, Department of Sociology

In January 2009 during one of his regular visits to the Czech Republic, the Dalai Lama was approached by a young Czech couple, who asked him to give their daughter a Tibetan name. The Dalai Lama chose for the little girl the name Tändzin Jangdön.

The study is focused on one of the cultural phenomena of contemporary Europe: creating a new religious identity without cultural precedents in European cultural history. More specifically, I concentrate on non-Asian Buddhist converts who have adopted religious world view different from that of their ethnic heritage and of the mainstream culture they live in.

Intergenerational transmission is the major factor in the formation of beliefs, because it is the major factor in the identity formation. Significant others, particularly the parents, influence the development of value cognition of their children. What are the values ascribed to Buddhism by the parents with high investments in Buddhist practice? Do they wish their children to internalize these values? Are these values and parental strategies different from the strategies used by parents active in mainstream religiosity? Answers to the above questions could shed some light on the current trends in the denominational evolution.

The parents, who to a certain degree master Buddhist practices and are attached to this particular religious culture, accumulate a specific religious capital which develops when there are higher levels of religious participation, knowledge and experience, including social networks. The aim of my study is to see how the accumulated religious capital affects parental choice regarding children’s education. How is this capital transmitted within the families of different Buddhist streams? What is the role of local Buddhist communities in family life?

My respondents were chosen to represent the streams of Buddhism active in the Czech Republic which are marked by differences in perspective, practices and demographics. Consequently, I would like to answer what commonalities can be found among adherents in all Buddhist convert groups. What social and religious variables predispose individuals to pursue one kind of practice over others? The set of twenty in-depth interviews was partly structured according to the questionnaires presented to respondents who participated in the European Value System Studies. The interviews are composed of five theme blocks: the topic of personal conversion of the parent, Buddhist and non-Buddhist rites and ceremonies, the role of religion in everyday reality, spiritual practice in families and the position of Buddhism in the family and in children’s upbringing. The above outlined structure enables a further application of the collected data in the comparative studies of an international character and makes the whole research transmittable to another religious setting.

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