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Barnard College

Publication Date

Spring 2007

Program Name

Tibet/Bhutan: Tibetan and Himalayan Studies

Abstract

The experience of watching commercial television and the ideals it promotes are incompatible with fundamentalist Buddhist teachings about consciousness, community and desire. However, the Bhutanese, whose culture, traditions, and worldview have a strong Buddhist foundation have not rejected the medium, which was introduced in Bhutan in 1999. But they have not fully embraced it. Instead they follow the Middle Path, weighing its positive and negative impacts in a manner that seems influenced by the guiding principle of non-extremism in Buddhist philosophy, and a notion the Bhutanese have adopted as a developmental strategy to attain Gross National Happiness. By first examining television in context of Buddhist beliefs and then analyzing Bhutanese discourse on television (and specifically the dialogue taking place in Thimphu) within the same Buddhist framework, this paper seeks to explore an interesting paradox: While not rejecting commercial television outright on the basis of their Buddhist beliefs, the Bhutanese are responding in a distinctly Buddhist way, neither embracing nor denying in the way of the Middle Path.

Disciplines

Anthropology | History of Religions of Eastern Origins | Social and Cultural Anthropology

 

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