This project investigates the cultural context of contemplative practice in the West through an ethnographic study of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT), a contemplative meditation practice derived from the Tibetan Buddhist lojong tradition. Addressing lacunae in current studies of secular meditation interventions, this study seeks to elucidate (1) how CBCT, which focuses on the cultivation of moral emotions in explicitly normative ways, intersects with the pre-existing spiritual, moral, and religious subjectivities of participants; (2) to what extent participants’ practice of CBCT adheres to CBCT practice as it is prescribed and taught to them, or deviates from it through individualization; (3) how at-risk populations engaging in CBCT, such as patients who have attempted suicide, employ CBCT to bolster subjective well-being and resilience. Understanding the internalization and individualization of secular practices like CBCT and how they are integrated (or not) into religious, moral and spiritual identities, beliefs and conceptual frameworks will be essential if CBCT and similar practices are to contribute to H.H. the Dalai Lama’s vision of implementing secular ethics in society and education and for a more comprehensive scientific understanding of CBCT and its potential benefits.

Chikako Ozawa-de Silva, PhD

Emory University

Chikako Ozawa-de Silva, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Cultural, Medical and Psychological Anthropology at Emory University. She received her D. Phil. in Social and Cultural Anthropology from Oxford University … MORE