The ecological self: a cognitive anthropological study of identity, body ideology and ecology in American Zen monastic culture

Graves, Kelly Anne, author
Snodgrass, Jeffrey, advisor
Kwiatkowski, Lynn, committee member
Mackenzie, Matt, committee member
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Colorado State University. Libraries
This research will examine the unique cultural context of Japanese Zen as it is practiced, embodied and shared in an American monastic setting. It will look at how this particular “culture of meditation” (defined as the U.S. Zen monastic culture) promoted within these communities may influence the way a person frames their bodies, sense of self and environment. Through this process, I suggest that the experience of self-moves from an ego-centric to a more eco-centric ontology, resulting in a unique environmental worldview that may be related to subjective wellbeing. Using a mixed-methods approach this will be explored through the use of ethnographic grounded theory, surveys and a cognitive test measuring visual processing with the intent of providing a case for how a “culture of meditation” may impact the way we contextualize ourselves within the world around us. An introduction to Buddhism in America will be given, in order to frame the particular Buddhist culture examined in this study, as well as a definition of “meditation” through the vantage of contemporary psychological vocabulary. This study will take a strong interdisciplinary stance. Chapter 3 will examine various theories from psychology, anthropology and ecology as possible frames to interpret the unique cultural and religious identity that is promoted by Zen monastic culture. Then, first hand research conducted at a U.S. Soto Zen monastery in Oregon will be addressed, using an enhanced ethnographic approach to give voice and rigor to the lived experience of how this “culture of meditation” transforms a sense of self and motivates an alternative ecological worldview. Chapter 4 will provide an overview of the methods used, detailing information on participants, setting and an analysis of prior participant observation and Chapter 5 will present and examine the data in each step of the study, providing analyses of the findings and identify the emergent themes. A summary of these analyses and description of the conclusions will be discussed in Chapter 6, as well as the limitations of the research process, applications of the findings and recommendations for future directions. Themes of body, self and environment will be explored throughout the study, with the intention of providing a unique exploration of Zen practice, culture and experience.
Includes bibliographical references.
2015 Summer.
ecology, self, body, zen, monastic