Title

Explorations of Silence in the Religious Rituals of Buddhists and Quakers

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

7-19-2012

Department

Anthropology and Sociology

Abstract

This paper is a participant-observation-based study of one Quaker and three Buddhist groups. Using a sociological framework, it explores silence as actively practiced in religious ritual. It demonstrates the usefulness of employing multiple continuums to analyze practices, including a speech–silence continuum, a body movement–body stillness continuum, and a thinking–not thinking continuum. Even when silence is seen as active, it may be construed as functioning to turn people inward and away from each other. Instead, this paper demonstrates how silence for these groups is not necessarily socially isolating. For instance, participants not only learned, practiced, and reflected on silence together, but drew connections between the practice of silence and changes in everyday social interactions, including bringing compassion into these. Some persons referred to realizing a sense of interconnectedness in the silence akin to a Meadian fusion.

Publication Title

Religion

Volume

42

Issue

1

First Page

549

Last Page

574

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