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Religions 2018, 9(4), 90; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9040090

Transcending Gender: Female Non-Buddhists’ Experiences of the Vipassanā Meditation Retreat

Department of Religious Studies, Rhodes College, Memphis, TN 38112, USA
Received: 20 February 2018 / Revised: 17 March 2018 / Accepted: 19 March 2018 / Published: 21 March 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Women in Buddhism)
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Abstract

Female non-Buddhists have been writing detailed descriptions of their personal experiences in vipassanā meditation retreats since the 1960s. These memoirists relate to the English-speaking world their experience of the retreat process and self-transformations. Early memoirists traveled Asia in order to learn and practice vipassanā meditation. These memoirs are as much about the meditation practice itself as living in an Asian culture. The mindfulness craze, beginning in the late 2000s, brought with it increased awareness of vipassanā practice. At this time we see a renewed interest in recording vipassanā retreat experiences, but these are even more personal and not concerned with travel, as many vipassanā meditation retreats are now available outside of Asia. I consider four female memoirists: Marie Byles and Jane Hamilton-Smith, writing in the 1960s and 1970s, and Raji Lukkoor, and Jennifer Howd, whose memoirs appeared in 2010 and 2014, respectively. These women’s writings demonstrate that, although non-Buddhist female meditators understand vipassanā meditation as a nongendered practice, it is still an embodied, gendered experience. Each of these women has different reactions to the female gender on the retreat, from outrage at gender discrimination to acceptance of it, from judgment of female teachers and meditators to revealing a more feminine self. View Full-Text
Keywords: meditation; Theravada; Buddhism; women; gender; autobiography meditation; Theravada; Buddhism; women; gender; autobiography
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Schedneck, B. Transcending Gender: Female Non-Buddhists’ Experiences of the Vipassanā Meditation Retreat. Religions 2018, 9, 90.

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