Western Buddhist Perceptions of Monasticism


  • Brooke Schedneck Arizona State University




Monasticism, Western Buddhism, Buddhist Female Ordination


This paper explores the contemporary encounter between Western cultures and the Buddhist tradition of monasticism. I have investigated attitudes towards this institution in the forms of contemporary Buddhist memoirs, blog websites, interviews, and dharma talks. This article argues that the institution in general is not ideal for some Western Buddhists— it is seen by some as too restricting or anti-modern. Others find value in monasticism; they are aware of those who critique the institution, and offer instead a model that removes anti-modern elements that they see as problematic. As an extension of these attitudes, this article also draws on the issue of female monasticism. Western Buddhists argue that all women should have the choice to be ordained because this shows that Buddhism is modern. I conclude that Western Buddhists are interested in creating a modern, universal tradition, and this can be seen by analyzing conceptions about monastic life.

Author Biography

Brooke Schedneck, Arizona State University

Brooke Schedneck is a PhD student in religious studies at Arizona State University. Her interests include Theravada Buddhism, Buddhism in the West, and religious biography and autobiography.


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How to Cite

Schedneck, B. (2009). Western Buddhist Perceptions of Monasticism. Buddhist Studies Review, 26(2), 229–246. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.v26i2.229