Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Jeffrey Samuels (Director), Eric Bain-Selbo, Paul Fischer

Degree Program

Department of Philosophy & Religion

Degree Type

Master of Arts


This thesis examines how some American and Burmese forms of Buddhism in the Bible Belt today share common ground through a process of adaptation. Exploring tradition and change, I reveal how change often requires adaptation. Utilizing ethnographic research conducted in south central Kentucky and middle Tennessee, I argue that some Burmese and American forms of Buddhism in the Bible Belt experience change through three aspects of adaptation. These consist of reduction, syncretism, and preservation. I explore these three aspects through interviews and observations of immigrant Burmese Buddhist monks and American Buddhist meditation leaders. In doing so, I also examine the various ways in which the southern American landscapes affect change within traditional Burmese Buddhism through a process of Americanization. As a result of Theravada Buddhism’s relocation, change in Buddhism can also be seen in the American form, which is believed by many to becoming its own unique school of Buddhism. This can be found occurring in the regions of south central Kentucky and middle Tennessee. Preservation of tradition, an element of adaptation to Americanization, is a theme that frequently arose during my time spent at immigrant Burmese Buddhist temples and through interviews conducted with two ethnic Burmese Buddhist monks. The tendency to reduce Buddhism to a tradition of meditation was, on the other hand, a theme that came up in my conversations with two American meditation leaders. Their tendency to syncretize several schools of Buddhism is also explored. Being that the Buddhist subjects interviewed for this ethnography reside in the Bible Belt, their thoughts on Christianity and their interactions with Christians has also been included.


Other Religion | Philosophy | Religion