The phenomenon of Immigrant or Diaspora Religion presents a problem for the field of Religious Studies in America. Whether we consider them New Religious Movements or the religious trappings of Immigrants and some eccentric Westerners, these religions arriving from Asia and elsewhere are difficult to make sense of, whether in the general diasporic or American context. In this paper I demonstrate a new matrix of interpretation for understanding, as I call them, Diaspora Religions using Buddhism in the North American and South Asian Tibetan Diasporas as my example. This matrix consists of three sets of divisions in regards to our understanding of "Religion" (1) Representation and Practice; (2) the Dominant Themes of a Diasporic Religious Movement; and (3) the Pragmatic Issues of a Diasporic Religious Movement. For Buddhism in the Tibetan Diaspora the Dominant Themes are the tendencies towards Ecumenism, Modern Western Values, and Nationalism. The Pragmatic Issues are Education, Continuity of Culture, and Sacred Relocation. This matrix is not a simple device as it assumes interrelations among the three categories of division, but I believe it is a good way of conceptualizing and understanding the familiar strangers now in our midst who are nothing if not simple. In the case of Tibetan Buddhism in diaspora, I primarily explore the adaptations in practice relating to the issue of education as impacted by the three Dominant Themes and the framing of Tibetan culture using Buddhism as it relates to both practice and representation and the three Dominant Themes. I show how education in South Asia and North America is deeply tied to the continuation of Tibetan Culture, and how Tibetan Culture, as it is reimagined in exile, is framed by Tibetan Buddhism. Although this paper does not demonstrate the full spectrum of interpretation afforded by the matrix above, it does provide questions and suggestions for further research to make such analysis possible.


Graham, Mark


Religious Studies



Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2010 Nicholas Charles Christopher Janus