A Western Australian Buddhist community: charisma in continuity and change

Maureen Roberts

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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Today the religion of Buddhism is enjoying much worldwide attention. In Asia,
movements of reform are gaining strength and in Western society different
forms of Buddhism are emerging.

This research records the establishment of a Theravada Buddhist community
in Western Australia. Migrants and refugees from traditional Buddhist
countries join together with many Westerners 'new' to Buddhism to support an
ordained community.

My central argument in this thesis is that this monastic leadership is the
principal element of continuity of the religion. As Western monks, they are
largely responsible for the transmission of the practice of Buddhism from one
culture to another. They have the language, societal knowledge, education and
expertise of Western society into which Buddhism is being introduced and
hence preserve the teaching and practice of the religion in a new society.

I further argue that the leadership of the Western monks not only ensures
continuity of tradition but also cohesiveness within a diverse community. The
ordained community acts as a pivot around which contrasting forces converge.
The interaction that occurs between ordained/non-ordained, male/female,
East/West, traditional and 'new' Buddhists, creates a vibrant living community.

A quality of 'charisma1 manifest in the ordained leadership is identified as the
catalyst that enables Buddhism to take root in a new society. As Buddhist
teaching is transferred from master to disciple, personal charisma, charisma of
office and lineage charisma result in the establishment of a forest monastery in
Western Australia. Charisma persists because of the monastic adherence to
the austere and rigorous practice of this tradition.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Western Australia
Publication statusUnpublished - 1992

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