The Emergence of Secular Insight Practice in Australia

David Bubna-Litic, Winton Higgins


In recent years insight (vipassana) practice in Australia has diversified in content and spawned new institutions that present a more secular face. These changes exemplify the development of global Buddhism elsewhere rather than some local, sui generis divergence from international trends. Nonetheless, the unusual prominence of Buddhist migrants in the Australian population has influenced the interaction between “traditional” and “western” Buddhists, and thus the emergence of the new trends. In interpreting the transformations in question, we make heuristic use both of Martin Baumann’s periodization of Buddhist history, with its characterization of the present stage as global, and Stephen Batchelor’s distinction between “religious Buddhism” and “dharma practice.” The Australian experience highlights the value of the earlier interaction between migrant and locally-born Buddhists, and the formative effect their later separation has on lay practice. This experience also points to the salience of forms of association when secular Buddhist practice melds with the Western values of inclusiveness and equality, not least in gender relations.

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Copyright (c) 2015 David Bubna-Litic, Winton Higgins

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