Religions2014, 5(3), 560-579; doi:10.3390/rel5030560 - published online 16 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Buddhism has been seen, at least since the Theravāda reform movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as particularly compatible with Western science. The recent explosion of Mindfulness therapies have strengthened this perception. However, the 'Buddhism' which is being brought into relation with science in the context of the Mindfulness movement has already undergone extensive rewriting under modernist influences, and many of the more critical aspects of Buddhist thought and practice are dismissed or ignored. The Mind and Life Institute encounters, under the patronage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, present a different kind of dialogue, in which a Tibetan Buddhism which is only beginning to undergo modernist rewriting confronts Western scientists and scholars on more equal terms. However, is the highly sophisticated but radically other world of Tantric thought really compatible with contemporary science? In this article I look at problem areas within the dialogue, and suggest that genuine progress is most likely to come if we recognise the differences between Buddhist thought and contemporary science, and take them as an opportunity to rethink scientific assumptions.
Religions2014, 5(3), 522-559; doi:10.3390/rel5030522 - published online 30 June 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: A more complete understanding of the Dalai Lama’s intellectual milieu and mental framework serves to contextualize and appraise his contributions to the discourse on Buddhism and Science in general, and the so-called Mind and Life Dialogues in particular. In addition to providing indispensable background information, a fuller expression of his foundational views and motives sheds light upon the idiosyncratic way the Dalai Lama engages new fields of knowledge. Thanks to the Dialogues’ format and the transparency of the Dalai Lama’s scholastic mentality, the way in which Mind and Life participants meet various challenges in practice offers enough traction to retrieve and critically appraise real-time patterns of engagement and innovation. This should prove to be instrumental in determining the Dialogues’ measure of success, at least by its own standards and stated purpose. Following this approach, the Dalai Lama’s long-time use of a proviso derived from Tsongkhapa’s reading of Middle Way philosophy as a methodological distinction that delineates the scope of Science warrants specific attention.
Religions2014, 5(2), 502-521; doi:10.3390/rel5020502 - published online 19 June 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: In this paper, we present a poetics, or guide manual, for making narrative films that resemble biblical narratives. It is similar to Aristotle’s Poetics, only his was for creating drama (though it is of course often used for film now) and was based on Greek dramas and epics. Our poetics is specifically for making films and is based on an even more ancient body of narratives—the Hebrew Bible. In articulating a biblical poetics for filmmakers, we draw heavily on the work of a few of the many biblical-narrative scholars of the last half-century, who draw in turn from the even more extensive research that has been done on narrative theory in general. Our project is one that Aristotle might have undertaken if he had read the Bible and its commentators and known about film.
Religions2014, 5(2), 477-501; doi:10.3390/rel5020477 - published online 12 June 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This article explores several key events in the last 12 years that led to periods of heightened suspicion about Islam and Muslims in the United States. It provides a brief overview of the rise of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam sentiment known as “Islamophobia”, and it investigates claims that American Muslims cannot be trusted to be loyal to the United States because of their religion. This research examines American Muslim perspectives on national security discourse regarding terrorism and radicalization, both domestic and foreign, after 9/11. The article argues that it is important to highlight developments, both progressive and conservative, in Muslim communities in the United States over the last 12 years that belie suspicions of widespread anti-American sentiment among Muslims or questions about the loyalty of American Muslims. The article concludes with a discussion of important shifts from a Muslim identity politics that disassociated from American identity and ‘American exceptionalism’ to a position of integration and cultural assimilation.
Religions2014, 5(2), 459-476; doi:10.3390/rel5020459 - published online 16 May 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: In order to measure a wide spectrum of organized and private religious, spiritual, existential and philosophical practices, the SpREUK-P (SpREUK is the German language acronym of “Spirituality/Religiosity and Coping with Illness”) questionnaire was developed as a generic instrument. To account for the fact that institutional religiosity declines, not only in Europe, and to explore the alternative use of various existing esoteric and spiritual resources, the instrument also addresses non-religious forms of spiritual practices. Previously, it was tested in a more secular context and was found to be of relevance for atheistic/agnostic individuals. Now we intended to apply the instrument to 275 Polish individuals with chronic diseases (100% Catholics, 74% women, mean age 56 ± 16 years). The factorial structure of the SpREUK-P’s Polish version was similar to the primary version, but lacked an exclusive “spiritual (mind-body) practices” subscale. Factor analysis revealed four main factors, which would explain 67% of the variance, i.e., religious practices (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.90), humanistic practices (alpha = 0.87), existentialistic practices (alpha = 0.80) and gratitude/awe (alpha = 0.80). The correlation pattern underlines construct validity. Interestingly, in Polish individuals, existentialistic practices did not significantly differ between religious and non-religious individuals (nor between men and women), while all other forms of spiritual practices did differ significantly.
Religions2014, 5(2), 444-458; doi:10.3390/rel5020444 - published online 15 May 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Buddhist-derived “mindfulness” practices are currently enjoying popularity amongst both the lay population and health professionals in the West, especially in the treatment of psychiatric conditions such as depression. This popularity leads to questions regarding how people in diverse Buddhist communities might conceptualise psychiatric illness and healing. This paper explores perspectives on psychiatric illness within a Tibetan Buddhist community in North India, focusing on the role of “emotions” in causation and treatment which was frequently discussed by informants. Comparisons between biomedical perspectives on emotional “disturbance” as a symptom of psychiatric illness and Tibetan conceptions of emotions as causal or contributory factors in a number of psychiatric illnesses are discussed. Three case studies are described to illustrate some of these common perspectives, examine how they are reflected in health-seeking behavior, and consider comparisons between the two systems.