Sakyong Mipham’s Shambhala as a Playful Road to an Enlightened Society

By Janet M. C. Burns.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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Published online: June 22, 2016 Free Download

Two well-established and prominent theories in the sociology of culture are Robert Bellah’s theory of religion and Johan Huizinga’s theory of play. Both argue that religious ritual originates as a form of play that creates individual and social change and functions as an adaptive force in human evolution. This study derives an analytical framework from, and presents new experiential support for, their theories. The empirical case is Shambhala International. The data is based on participant observation over a five-year period, as well as textual, and collected from books and internet publications by the leaders of the movement. The Shambhala illustration exhibits how a particular religious ritual, Buddhist meditation, has become semi-detached from its religious origins and reconverted back into a form of play that is transforming individuals and their relationship to society. While Bellah and Huizinga argue that play became religion, this paper suggests meditation is a converted religious ritual that has become a playful source of social change.

Keywords: Shambhala, Enlightened Society, Sakyong Mipham, Religious Ritual as Play

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 6, Issue 3, September 2016, pp.63-76. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 22, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 495.449KB)).

Dr. Janet M. C. Burns

Professor, Department of Social Science, University of New Brunswick, Saint John, NB, Canada