Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Ronald Grimes

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


This book explores learning through ritualizing in introductory meditation courses offered at two Tibetan-based, western Buddhist centres in Toronto. Through interviews with several of the centres’ newcomers, experienced members and teachers, it explores students’ reasons for enrolling in meditation classes as well as their attitudes towards religion and ritual. The study's primary focus is on respondents’ experiences of learning through formal practices such as meditation postures and techniques. Ritualizing is interpreted in part through performance theory, an approach which highlights the performative elements of ritual and the physical enactment of ritualized postures and gestures. Learning through ritualized activities creates a unique kind of understanding, a tacit type of knowledge that is located in muscle and bone rather than solely in the brain. But meditation involves forms of ritualizing in addition to its physical postures and gestures. The conception of ritualizing employed here thus extends beyond performance—those activities that are done to be seen—to include practices which take place in meditators’ minds. Thus, meditative concentration techniques are also considered ritualizing. From this perspective, the mind is regarded as an aspect of the body that is also capable of ritualized behaviour. Respondents indicated that there was a range of different types of learning experienced in the meditation classes. With the aid of an influential learning model called Bloom’s taxonomy, this study explores the distinct types or “domains” in which meditation students learned. They include gaining new factual or intellectual knowledge, experiencing changes in attitudes, emotions or values and developing new physical skills and techniques. Linking ritualized activities to learning theory illustrates the ways in which ritualizing contributes to new learning in these distinct domains.

Convocation Year