Chinese Buddhist Moral Practices in Everyday Life:Dharma Drum Mountain, Volunteering and the Self

  • Tsung-Han Yang

Student thesis: Phd


ABSTRACTThe University of ManchesterTsung-Han YangDoctor of Social ScienceChinese Buddhist Moral Practices in Everyday Life: Dharma Drum Mountain,Volunteering and the SelfDecember 2010The aim of this thesis is to explore how the everyday relational contexts of religiouspractitioners affect their religious practice and the development of their own distinctivereligious habitus. The thesis explores the case of Buddhist volunteers at a ChineseBuddhist organisation in Taiwan called Dharma Drum Mountain to examine howvolunteers develop a Chinese Buddhist moral habitus and engage in Chinese Buddhistmoral practices in the relational dimensions of their everyday lives, including family,friends, colleagues and other volunteers. I drew upon the sociological thought of Sayer,Bottero and Scheff (etc) to develop my interpretation, and have deployedsemi-structured interviews and participant observation to collect the research data.The thesis found that the Dharma Drum Mountain movement systematically cultivatesits volunteers' Chinese Buddhist moral habitus through Sheng Yen's concept ofcharacter education. The goal of character education is to achieve harmoniousrelationships with others through Chinese Buddhist self-cultivation, or thedevelopment of Chinese Buddhist moral habitus from a sociological perspective. Thethesis found that Chinese Buddhist moral habitus is a collective accomplishment.Relationality guides the religious moral practices of Buddhist volunteers, becausesharing Buddhism with others is the most important factor contributing to the fosteringof harmonious relationships with others and achieving mutual well-being. Sharing isthe key that opens the door to a win-win situation in interpersonal relationships.Dharma Drum Mountain encourages its volunteers to share through the thoroughinstitutionalisation of sharing into its organisational structure, which is achieved byestablishing a mechanism for group discussion in every place where its Buddhistteachings are taught. In addition, the thesis found that volunteers made use of threemethods to develop their Chinese Buddhist moral habitus: self-awareness,self-evaluation and joint practice with other people through intersubjective negotiation.The outcome of successful intersubjective negotiation is mutual attunement. Finally,volunteers fully made use six kinds of Chinese Buddhist moral concepts emphasisedby DDM - care, respect, gratitude, shame, repentance and empathy - to developChinese Buddhist moral habitus in different kinds of interaction situations.
Date of Award1 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMichael Savage (Supervisor) & Peter Mcmylor (Supervisor)

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