Hardinge Simpole

Buddhism in Bellingham
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By Kingsbury, Caroline
ISBN 1843821427
SERIES Cambridge Buddhist Institute
Paperback  376 pages
Subject [Buddhism ] [History of specific groups ] [History of specific institutions ]
Published April 2004
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In the fall of 1993, four different Buddhist groups in Bellingham joined their financial resources and rented a space in the downtown area to use for Buddhist meditation and teaching. The groups remain autonomous and use the Hall at different times, but continue to act ecumenically in maintaining the communal space. The numbers of participants have steadily increased over the last few years, and the groups continue to co-operate with each other while remaining autonomous. This study offers clarification and explication of this phenomenon by way of conducting in-depth interviews with participants of each of the four groups. The goals are to ascertain what the members' specific Buddhist practices and beliefs are and to determine if the membership of the groups differs markedly from each other, for example, in demographics or similar pre-Buddhist experiences. A brief history of Buddhism and a summation of its beliefs is given, extant research of Buddhist conversion is summarized, and theories of why people convert are explored to help illuminate the processes that people may have undergone in deciding to align themselves with Buddhist practice. The research material is presented in the framework of a seven-stage model of religious conversion that organizes and highlights the overarching themes found in these Buddhist groups. It will be shown that participants are highly educated, spiritually seeking, independent thinking individuals who do not feel obliged to believe or act on specific dogmatic ideologies, but who embrace the practice of Buddhist meditation, and find its supporting philosophy amenable to their cognitive viewpoints.

A major inclusion is a set of transcripts of the Business Meetings of the group. These give a virtually complete chronological account of how the meditation center was initially organized and maintained, a project that rested on the faith of several individuals that Buddhist meditators in the area would continue meditating and want to support a communal space where this could be facilitated.

Caroline Kingsbury received her Masters at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington and is a Research Associate in the Anthropology Department there. She is a long-time Vipassana practitioner and lectures on Buddhist history and contemporary issues in the Pacific Northwest.

© Hardinge Simpole, an imprint of Zeticula Ltd., Unit 13, 196 Rose Street, Edinburgh EH2 4AT, Scotland