Asymmetrical Religious Commitments? Religious Practice, Identity, and Self-Presentation among Western Scholars of Hinduism and Buddhism

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The starting point of this article is the observation that more scholars of Buddhism seem to be engaged in Buddhist practices than their colleagues in the study of Hinduism are engaged in Hindu practices. It aims to examine this observation more closely and discuss the involved problematics in a more general perspective of the scholar’s responsibilities in relation to the public. The evidence examined consists partly of different types of public material including scholarly works, institutional and personal webpages, and the results from two anonymous questionnaire surveys set up on Hindu and Buddhist scholarly e-lists. Whereas the former type of evidence seems to confirm the original observation, the latter shows that the difference in the amounts of practicing scholars is more a matter of openness than of identity. The last part of the article, therefore, looks at the stereotypes that are inherited from the modernization of both religions in their transition to the Western world. How far a religiously engaged scholarship is acceptable or not is finally discussed at the institutional level.

Asymmetrical Religious Commitments? Religious Practice, Identity, and Self-Presentation among Western Scholars of Hinduism and Buddhism

in Numen

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1

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36

Personal communication 15 June 2007.

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