The Aesthetics of Insight: Practice, Form, and Process in Vipassana

DOI: 10.14673/IJA201521008
Published in Int. Journal of Anthropology – Vol. 30 – n.2 – 2015

Keywords: insight meditation, Sri Lanka Buddhist aesthetics, spiritual practice.

Midpoint in his anthropological career, Jacques Maquet became interested in Buddhism, and especially in Buddhist meditation practice. He was interested in studying Vipassana Bhavana, or insight meditation, not only as a scholar but also for his own spiritual growth. In particular, he was interested in theorizing the social construction of reality, and the aesthetics of Buddhist architecture and sacred spaces. This papers offers a reflection on Maquet’s intellectual journey within these frames, mediated by the author’s sociocultural position as an American-trained anthropologist from Sri Lanka, and as a woman trained in Vipassana. By analyzing the author’s experience at the Kanduboda meditation center in Sri Lanka, the very same location in which Jacques Maquet pursued some of his spiritual training, some hypotheses are formulated on the dynamics which may have catalyzed some of the tenets of aesthetic anthropology Maquet formulated and applied in his influential final studies.

Gunewardena, N.
Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225, USA.