Fluid Minds

Being a Buddhist the Shambhalian Way


  • Alexander McKinley Duke University




identity fluidity, Buddhist ‘signs’, Buddhism in America, Shambhala International


What are the criteria for counting something as Buddhist? This discipline-defining question has become increasingly perplexing as Buddhism is transmitted across the globe, taking new forms as it adapts to new contexts, especially as non-Buddhists increasingly come to participate in the meditation activities of Buddhist communities in the West. Through an ethnographic analysis of a Shambhala center in the southern United States, this article suggests that the best way to talk about such groups is neither through categorizing membership demographics, nor by ranking the different degrees of Buddhism practiced in Shambhala as more or less authentic, but rather by focusing on how the group ultimately coheres despite inevitable differences in opinion. Thus instead of defining what is ‘authentically’ Buddhist among Shambhalians, this article tracks the manner in which certain Buddhist forms of signification (especially meditation) are shared regardless of personal religious identities, forging a community through common interest.


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How to Cite

McKinley, A. (2015). Fluid Minds: Being a Buddhist the Shambhalian Way. Buddhist Studies Review, 31(2), 273–291. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.v31i2.273