Tue, Apr 26

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Dr. Elsa Ngar-sze Lau - Pilgrimage, Traveling Gurus and Transnational Networks: Lay Meditation Movement in China

Drawing from ethnographic study of the lay meditation movement, this lecture discusses a new trend of global religious network developed through pilgrimage and travelling gurus.

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Dr. Elsa Ngar-sze Lau - Pilgrimage, Traveling Gurus and Transnational Networks: Lay Meditation Movement in China

Time & Location

Apr 26, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

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About the Event

Modern and Contemporary Buddhist Encounters in the Southern Sinosphere

Institute for the Study of Humanistic Buddhism (ISHB), University of the West

Elsa Ngar-sze Lau - Education University of Hong Kong, HKSAR

Transnational religious networks developed through migration and diaspora have been well discussed. However, in the past few decades, there are growing religious transnational networks developed not by migrants, but by pilgrims and travelling gurus. Since the 1960s, some Westerners have travelled to Southeast Asia to learn meditation and then returned to the West to become meditation teachers. They also invited well-known meditation teachers to travel to the United States from Asia to lead meditation retreats. The movement of transnational lay meditation and later secular mindfulness have been flourished in the West. In the past two decades, Chinese traveling to learn meditation in Southeast Asian Buddhist countries have impacted the growth of transnational meditation practices in mainland China. There has been an increasing number of Chinese monastics and lay people from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China visiting Buddhist sacred sites and meditation centres in Southeast Asian countries, including Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka. With the influence of Buddhist modernization, they are attracted to learn various kinds of transnational meditation practices, especially vipassanā, by staying in meditation centres for a period of time. Like many yogis from all over the world, some Chinese ordain as short-term monks or nuns in the Theravāda tradition. After returning to China, some active meditators organized retreats by inviting teachers from Southeast Asia to travel to China. Global-known meditation and mindfulness teachers also travelled to China to teach meditation in the past few years. Drawing from ethnographic study of the lay meditation movement, this lecture discusses a new trend of global religious network developed through pilgrimage and travelling gurus.

Dr. Lau is now a Senior Lecturer at the Education University of Hong Kong, and Assistant Professor (part-time) of the Department of Buddhist Studies, Foguang University. After completing an MPhil in social anthropology at Oxford, she completed her PhD thesis on the emergence of Theravāda meditation communities in contemporary China at the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University. She has published academic papers and book chapters on transnational Buddhist meditation and mindfulness in Chinese societies.

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