The Economization of the Individual - Changes in Buddhist Inspired Practices of Meditation

Public talk with Professor Inken Prohl, Universität Heidelberg

Proceeding from the insight that religious ideas are embedded in social practices, my paper will use a material religion approach to analyze the role played by embodiment, performances and material objects in religious practice. Understanding religion as a sensory experience as much as an intellectual endeavour, Zen Buddhist inspired practices of meditation will be analyzed as 'sensational forms'. The discussion of differing ascriptions toward zazen - the practice of silent sitting in Zen Buddhism commonly referred to as 'meditation' in the so-called West - in Japanese temple Buddhism as well as in examples from contemporary urban contexts demonstrates that the same forms can evoke different sensations. Those evocations are dependent on cultural, contextual, and individual dispositions that differ in traditional Japanese and urban contemporary contexts. As I will show in my paper, the practice of Zen Buddhist meditation transformed from a re-enactment of the Buddha's enlightenment into strategies of optimizing the self that are related to the economization of the individual.

Everyone is welcome!

The BBB-lecture series are sponsored by the Danish Council for Independent Research | Humanities