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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

S. N. Goenka’s Vipassana movement is famous for its ten-day intensive silent retreats and its consistent rejection of religious categories, though its teachings and practices are directly derived from Theravada Buddhism. Drawing from qualitative research, this chapter examines a range of rhetorical strategies that Goenka uses to distinguish his movement from religion and the implication of these discourses on shaping unique patterns of conversion and disengagement. It introduces the term “tacit conversion” to describe a process whereby increased socialization into a movement and the adoption of its language paradoxically renders conversion invisible for the member. The chapter subsequently explores various disengagement pathways from this movement.

Keywords: Vipassana meditation, S. N. Goenka, leaving Buddhism, conversion, religious disengagement, disaffiliation, qualitative research, narrative analysis

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