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What Is ‘Spiritual’ in Modern Western Buddhism?

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on the development of modern Buddhism in the West and compares these transformations with aspects of traditional Asian Buddhism. In doing so, it pays special attention to the self-definition of many modern practitioners of the dharma, as this is above all the context in which the term 'spiritual' crops up. The chapter examines who can be considered a Buddhist, and the way all Buddhists establish a connection between their practice and the 'ideal biography' of the Buddha. It also considers what Buddhist practice implies in Asia and in the modern West, how Buddhism has come to be seen as a kind of ideal modern, intellectual spirituality. The chapter proceeds to a new development which the author provisionally calls 'lifestyle Buddhism'. It concludes with an analysis of what is so spiritual about present-day Western Buddhism.

Keywords: Buddhist practice; dharma; modern western Buddhism; spirituality



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