Is Nessie a Naga?

Buddhism in the West and Emerging Strategies of Importation

Authors

  • Joseph P. Laycock Texas State University
  • Natasha L. Mikles University of Virginia

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/bsor.v43i4.35

Keywords:

nagas, Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhism in the West, ritual

Abstract

In 2014 Lama Gelongma Zangmo of Scotland sparked curiosity when she suggested that the Loch Ness monster or “Nessie” is actually a naga––a fantastic creature from Buddhist mythology. Visitors to her Tibetan practice center on the shores of the Loch will be able to leave offerings to Nessie. Without exaggerating the significance of these offerings within the larger context of Zangmo’s practice, this article suggests that efforts to ritually incorporate Nessie into a Buddhist cosmology is an index of broader changes in Buddhism’s arrival to the West. First, Zangmo’s open discussion of cosmology, ritual, and supernatural beings is a marked distinction from “Protestantized” Western Buddhism, which has historically presented Buddhism as a rational and philosophical alternative to Christianity. This suggests that Buddhists in the West have become less concerned with conforming to Protestant notions of “proper” religion. Second, Zangmo’s praxis is significant to broader patterns of how Asian religions adapt to Western topography. Whereas Asian immigrants have sometimes re-imagined Asian sacred sites in Western countries, Zangmo was taken the opposite strategy of “Buddhicizing” a local monster. This suggests that similar transformative moves can be expected as a globalized world continues to transplant religious traditions from one continent to another.

Author Biographies

Joseph P. Laycock, Texas State University

Joseph Laycock is an assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State University. His forthcoming books include The Seer of Bayside: Veronica Lueken and the Struggle for Catholic Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2014) and Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic over Role-Playing Games Says About Religion, Play, and Imagined Worlds (University of California Press, 2015)

Natasha L. Mikles, University of Virginia

Natasha L. Mikles is a doctoral candidate in Sino-Tibetan Religion at the University of Virginia, where her research focuses on the Conquest of Hell episode of the Gesar epic and its relationship to Tibetan identity in the nineteenth century.

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Published

2014-12-02

How to Cite

Laycock, J., & Mikles, N. (2014). Is Nessie a Naga? Buddhism in the West and Emerging Strategies of Importation. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 43(4), 35–40. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsor.v43i4.35

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Section

Articles