When Buddhist vipassanā travels to Jewish West Bank settlements: openness without cosmopolitanism

Ori Mautner*, Nissim Mizrachi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Insight meditation (vipassanā) originated in Theravāda Buddhism. However, participants in a “Jewish Vipassanā” meditation retreat–held at a Jewish settlement in the West Bank region controlled by Israel since 1967–often depicted vipassanā as essentially Jewish. Indeed, to validate their adoption of insight meditation, many participants first needed to establish their exclusive commitment to orthodox Judaism. Consequently, they culturally appropriated vipassanā, decoupling this practice from “religious” Buddhist elements and instead depicting it as “theirs”. While this appropriation entailed significant dimensions of openness to cultural otherness, including an appreciation of “eastern” expertise in meditation, it would be difficult to characterize it as “cosmopolitan”. Rather, in this case openness ironically depended on, and resulted in deepening, meditators’ belief in the superiority of national-religious Judaism. Thus, far from being identical to openness, cosmopolitan attitudes may actually preclude openness in settings that emphasize an exclusive commitment to a single tradition. Theoretical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1227-1245
Number of pages19
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number7
StatePublished - 27 May 2020


  • Buddhism
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Israel-Palestine
  • Judaism
  • cultural appropriation
  • insight meditation


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