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Buddhist Meditation and Emerging Pluralism in the Philippines

Fri, March 17, 12:45 to 2:45pm, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, Floor: 4th Floor, Forest Hill


Buddhism has been a marginal religion in the Philippine religious landscape, overshadowed by more influential religions like Catholicism and, to a lesser extent, Islam. This marginality is ethnicity-based and historically-conditioned. Identification of Buddhism with the Filipino-Chinese has prevented broader circulation and exchange of ideas and practices, a reality that goes far back since the Spanish colonial period. Alternative sources of knowledge about Buddhism has, however, made inroads in the country, and Buddhist ideas are now becoming more accessible to Filipinos. Using data to account for reported “transcendent experiences” of contemporary meditators, this paper traces trajectories of appropriating Buddhist-inspired meditation practice by practitioners. These trajectories may be one of three possibilities: the first is the use of meditation to reinforce Christian religious practice or engage in “dual belonging”. Second is the role of meditation in fostering religious conversion to Buddhism and the adoption of a lifestyle that includes going to temples, chanting sutras and providing financial support for monks and nuns. Lastly, there is the use of meditation by nominal, non-practicing Christians, as a spiritual (but not necessarily religious) practice. These life trajectories provide an additional layer of inquiry to account for emerging diversification and pluralism in the Philippines today, one that is hinged on the meaning-making dimension of individual selves, as well as the enabling and constraining character of modern institutions.