Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Ailani Sato-Lim L&S Arts & Humanities

Metaphors of Buddhist Modernism: How Buddhism Is Reframed in America

Buddhism has occupied the popular imagination in American society since the late 1800s. Yet in the crossover to the West, the discourse on Buddhist thought has been molded to suit modern US audiences, manifesting in a depiction of Buddhism as scientific, rational, and atheistic. Further, many metaphors from Christianity, Western science, and Romanticism were imposed onto English-language interpretations of Buddhist works.

My project will use cognitive linguistics to examine the interaction of conceptual metaphors between Buddhist and Western discourse that occurred in the assimilation of Buddhism in the US. How did this lead to the suppression of certain metaphoric frames from the ‘original’ tradition and to the introduction of new frames consonant with US culture? By analyzing English-language works on Zen Buddhism, I will trace how they affect American Buddhists’ engagement with the tradition and question why some frames were preferred over others.

Message To Sponsor

I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to my sponsor for supporting my research project. Thanks to my sponsor’s generosity, I have the opportunity to examine an exciting juncture between two of my academic interests: cognitive science and Buddhist studies. Such support is truly inspiring for undergraduates who are interested in exploring our unique intellectual curiosities.
Profile image of Ailani Sato-Lim
Major: Cognitive Science, Buddhist Studies
Mentor: Eve Sweetser
Sponsor: Leadership
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