Speaker Series: Buddhist Modernism in the West: Colonialism, Beat Poets, and Brainscans with David McMahan
What many people today consider "Buddhism" —a rational, philosophical way of life with little ritual or belief in the supernatural—is actually a distinctively modern reformulation of the ancient religious tradition. The development of what some scholars call Buddhist Modernism has a fascinating history going back to the nineteenth century. Colonialism in Sri Lanka, Transcendentalism in America, Protestantism in Europe, and modern psychology all contributed to its most recent manifestation, the scientific study of meditation and interpretation of Buddhism as a "science of mind." Find out how this dialogue between science and Buddhism has been shaped by the remaking of Buddhism in the context of modernity.
David L. McMahan, Ph.D.
David L. McMahan is Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania. He received his Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He is the editor of Buddhism in the Modern World (Routledge 2012) and author of The Making of Buddhist Modernism (Oxford, 2008), Empty Vision: Metaphor and Visionary Imagery in Mahāyāna Buddhism (Routledge Curzon, 2002), and a number of articles on Mahāyāna Buddhism in South Asia and Buddhism in the modern world.
He has written on early Mahāyāna Buddhist sutra literature, visual metaphors and practice, and the early history of the Mahāyāna movement in India. More recently, his work has focused on the interface of Buddhism and modernity, including its interactions with science, psychology, modernist literature, romanticism, and transcendentalism. He is currently researching the various ways that Buddhist and Buddhist-derived meditation is understood and practiced in different cultural and historical contexts, ancient and modern.