Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Janet McLellan

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


One of the key elements in the growth and adaptation of Buddhism in North America is the integration of Buddhist practice and family life (see Farrer-Halls: 2002, 88; Ikeda-Nash: 2000, 297-300; Tsomo: 2000, 327; 1999b, 26; 1995, 12; Gross: 1999b, 105; Nhat Hanh: 1996, 200; Mandell: 1995, 51; Boucher: [1988] 1993). Scholars and practitioners acknowledge the difficulty balancing childcare with a strict meditation practice adopted by many non-Asian North American Buddhists, as well as the long term ramifications of addressing Buddhist practices and what have been issues traditionally associated with the Buddhist realm of samsara rather than nirvana. By appealing to the Mahayana notion of a bodhisattva many practitioners seek to validate parenting as a path toward spiritual growth and enlightenment. This thesis examines the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and scholar, who addresses the integration of parenting and Buddhist practice. Thich Nhat Hanh is frequently associated with "socially engaged" Buddhism. This research explores the expansion of "social engagement" to include micro issues such as family dynamics as well as the macro topics of socio-political and environmental injustices. Thich Nhat Hanh's work is juxtaposed with Rita Gross, a Buddhist practitioner and religious studies scholar who, unlike Thich Nhat Hanh, addresses the question of gender and the historical role of motherhood in traditional Buddhist praxis. This thesis identifies three areas which need to be addressed to provide for an egalitarian integration of family life and Buddhist practice among non-Asian North Americans. First, micro issues of family and personal relationships are valid forms of socially engaged Buddhism. Two, the issue of gender roles within family life and Buddhist practice must be examined. Three, the notion of non-attachment within parenting will need to be fully explored, theoretically and experientially.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season