Transformations of Buddhism in Germany

A DFG-Project at the Institute for Religious Studies at Heidelberg University.

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Our project investigates the transformations of Buddhist-inspired ideas and practices in German contemporary society using qualitative research methods. We intend to gain new insights into current forms of social organisation of Buddhism as well as into different types of Buddhist practices within the religious search for meaning, coping and the pursuit of well-being.

Capturing social reality of Buddhism from the point of view of German actors stands at the centre of our analysis. In order to investigate the every-day meaning of Buddhist ideas and practices, an action-orientated definition of religion, which puts the focus on the behavioural dimensions and aesthetic components of Buddhist practice in Germany, is used. The investigation of the functions of religious practices is guided by sociological and psychological models as well as the theories of material religion.

To carry out this research project a multimethodological approach has been chosen, which nevertheless has an anthropology of religion outlook at its centre. In order to gather comprehensive data about behaviours, structures, mechanisms and interactions in the field of Buddhist practice, field research, guided and specialist interviews, and questionnaires will be given a great importance.