Mindfulness, interbeing and the engaged Buddhism of Thích Nhất Hạnh. (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
This thesis explores the practices of mindfulness, interbeing and Engaged Buddhism proposed by Thích Nhất Hạnh (born 1926), a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, writer, poet, calligrapher and peace activist, who was nominated for the 1967 Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. After being exiled from Vietnam in 1966, Thích Nhất Hạnh lived in France until 2016. He currently resides in Vietnam, intending to spend his remaining days in his home country. Thích Nhất Hạnh is known for his teachings on integrating mindfulness into daily life. He coined the term “interbeing” and promoted the concept of “Engaged Buddhism”, which links meditative practices with social engagement as well as applying them to everyday situations, with the aim of bringing benefit and wellbeing of humanity.
This research adopts the qualitative method of ethnography with the intention to fill a gap in the current mindfulness literature, which largely focuses on quantitative methods. To understand and capture the experiences of mindfulness practitioners first-hand, I collected data through fieldwork at Plum Village – a Buddhist monastic community and retreat center that Thích Nhất Hạnh established in France in 1982 – where I conducted participant observation and ethnographic interviews. As mindfulness is essentially experiential and none of us can access minds other than our own, an autoethnographic approach is incorporated in the methodology. The data collected are examined from the perspective of a newly developed theoretical framework based on Pierre Bourdieu’s social theory of habitus, which provides new insights into the potentially transformative effects of mindfulness practice in the contemporary world. The findings reveal the ways in which Thích Nhất Hạnh has transformed the traditional Buddhist teachings to suit his modern audience and illustrate how his teachings can affect people’s daily lives and have an impact on society.
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