From Social Suffering to Social Resilience: Buddhism and Coping in the Tibetan Exile Community

Sara Lewis, Columbia University

In the summer of 2008 I traveled to Dharamsala, India to conduct preliminary dissertation research in the Tibetan exile community. I was interested in learning how Buddhist beliefs and practices may act as a pathway to resilience among Tibetans exposed to political violence. During this time I was able to: 1) refine my research question, 2) network with stakeholders and potential key informants, and 3) utilize and further my Tibetan language skills through immersion. My 2-month stay enabled me to more fully understand the interaction between religious and medical institutions in this community, and to situate my research problem in context. When I returned in August 2010, I was able to draw upon these initial contacts and assemble a local advisory board and official letter of community affiliation. As a result of partnerships in the field, I was also recently invited as a “visiting scholar,” to a symposium at the University of Toronto on mindfulness and consciousness with the Dalai Lama and group of leading mental health researchers.