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The Transplantation, Development and Adaptation of Zen and Tibetan Buddhism in Britain.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • David Neil Kay
Publication date2000
Number of pages569
Awarding Institution
Place of PublicationLancaster
  • Lancaster University
Electronic ISBNs9780438571846
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Despite the advances of scholarly research into the nature and development of British Buddhism, its Tibetan and Zen forms remain a neglected area. This study analyses the transplantation, development and adaptation of the two largest Tibetan and Zen organisations currently active: the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives (OBC). To account for their current identity, practice and position within the British religious landscape, the historical and ideological trajectories of the groups are outlined and the factors influencing their transplantation explored. The dynamics of history and identity construction are also considered. To ensure that the diversity of practice within Buddhist organisations is not overlooked, the attitudes and beliefs of individual group members are examined. Indeed, the dialectical relationship between group leadership and membership, and between text and context, are major theoretical concerns. Part One surveys the available literature, identifying the main scholarly perspectives to be explored and tested throughout. A survey of Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain is provided in order to place the groups within their broader contexts. Part Two examines the indigenous Tibetan context of the NKT before charting its emergence in Britain and outlining the contours of its sense of self-identity. The NKT, it is argued, is rooted firmly within traditional Gelug exclusivism whilst simultaneously reflecting and reacting against the conditions of modernity. Part Three outlines the historical and ideological growth of the OBC within the context of the biography of its western founder and her relations with traditional Japanese Soto Zen. The influence of trans-cultural processes on the OBC's transplantation in Britain are acknowledged, but caution is exercised with respect to the applicability of the 'Protestant Buddhism' thesis. Part Four concludes the study by reflecting upon recent developments within the NKT and OBC, speculating about possible future directions and returning to the framework adopted in Part One to structure a comparative discussion.