Doing Religion in Phowa Courses: Studies on Praxeology and the Logic of Reflection in Courses on "Conscious Dying" in Diamond Way Buddhism

Werner Vogd, Jonathan Harth, Ulrike Selma Ofner


From the pragmatist viewpoint, as first formulated by John DEWEY following William JAMES, religiousness must be understood less as a specific kind of experience than as an "adjustment" towards an epistemic perspective that throws a different light on all experiences. Religiousness thus has to do with a particular relationship between the self and the world which is seen from a holistic perspective. But how can religious attitudes and meaning systems be established and sustained that are foreign and which from the modern standpoint seem doubtful?

Taking the Phowa meditation practised in Tibetan Buddhism as an example, this study shows how spiritual teachings that initially appear to Western adepts to be strange and esoteric can gain in credibility and meaningfulness through an interweaving of group processes, visualisations, body-oriented exercises and mental experiences in an overarching arrangement. The analysis is based on empirical data obtained in narrative interviews conducted with teachers and learners of Diamond Way Buddhism who have been socialised in the west. The interviews were analysed using a method based on the documentary method, expanded by contextural analysis in order to do justice to the interviewees' reflections on their religious relationships to their selves and the world.



Buddhism; theory of practice; pragmatism; doing religion; qualitative research; meditation; documentary method; narrative interview; contextural analysis


Copyright (c) 2015 Werner Vogd, Jonathan Harth, Ulrike Selma Ofner

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