Almost a Proper Buddhist: the Post-secular Complexity of Heritage Buddhist Teen Identity in Britain

Phra Nicholas Thanissaro


This qualitative study explores how Buddhist affiliation relates to practice, how Buddhist teens define and experience their religious identity and which sociological paradigms are helpful in understanding the dynamics of Buddhist teen identity. Focus group methodology was used to examine attitudes to superstition, stereotypes, prejudice, religion and society, convictions, and friends for 65 heritage Buddhist teenagers from Britain. Shared identity was expressed in terms of spiritual teachers, eclecticism within the Buddhist tradition, Asian heritage, openness to the supernatural, relevance of Buddhism in the present day and temple-going. Practice rather than belief seemed to represent the operational difference between how Buddhist teens defined 'Buddhist' and 'proper Buddhist'. Buddhist teens experienced little negative prejudice on account of their religion but experienced being grouped with Buddhists of other ethnicities in others' eyes. Secularization, modernity, projection and especially post-secularism were found helpful as sociological paradigms for explaining various aspects of Buddhist teen identity.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Phra Nicholas Thanissaro

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