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Project #1

Michelle Nguyen

17 February 2019

COMM 2150-502

Tamra Phillips
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Overview

I attended a religious service at the Dhammakaya Temple, which is a branch of

Buddhism in Washington, D.C. I spoke with one of the monks who reside at the temple

named Alm. He informed me of the history of the branch of Buddhism, and their values

and beliefs. After studying Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions, I feel that I am more aware

and considerate of the different value-orientations that other cultures may have.

Religion

Dhammakaya Buddhism originated in Thailand and follows the teachings of

Buddha. The members follow a set of values called The Five Precepts. If they fail to

follow these, they cannot reach their destination of Nirvana (their version of heaven full

of perfect peace and happiness), and Karma will deliver the consequences for their

actions in their next life. The Five Precepts are: abstain from stealing, abstain from taking

life, abstain from drinking alcohol, abstain from committing adultery, and to abstain from

lying.

Religious Function

I arrived at the Dhammakaya Temple early and was greeted by Alm. He explained

to me that meditation was used as a tool to help rid oneself of anger, delusion and greed.

Everyone is in a cycle of death and rebirth known as Samsara. Once these things are

completely gone, that person escapes the cycle of Samsara and reaches Nirvana. Alm

explained that everyone is the architect of his or her own fate. If one decides to do evil in

the present life, they will suffer in the next life.

The service started out with morning chanting, followed by a lesson about woman

with a hunched back in result of her actions from a past life, but redeemed herself in
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order to live better in her next life. Lunch was provided by all of the members who

brought a dish, because everyone is seen as one big family.

Value Theory

Geert Hofstede, a Dutch social psychologist, identified and examined the areas of

common problems among national societies. “Intercultural conflicts are often caused by

differences in value orientations.” (Martin & Nakayama, 2013) Hofstede developed the

cultural dimensions theory in 1984. He identified the five cultural dimensions: Power

Distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance, and Long-term

Orientation.

The Power Distance Index is the “extent to which the less powerful members of

organizations or institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed

unequally.” (Hofstede, 1984)

Individualism focuses on the individual and decision-making based on what is

best for the individual. The opposite of individualism is collectivism, which focuses on

the group and decision-making based on what is best for the group.

The Masculinity-Femininity value “refers to (1) the degree to which gender-

specific roles are valued and (2) the degree to which cultural groups value so-called

masculine values (achievement, ambition, acquisition of material goods) or so-called

feminine values (quality of life, service to others, nurturance, support for the

unfortunate).” (Martin & Nakayama, 2013)

Uncertainty Avoidance “deals with a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and

ambiguity; it ultimately refers to a man’s search for truth.” (Hofstede, 1984)


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Long-term versus Short-term Orientation is a societies search for life’s meaning

and purpose. Short-term orientation is described by “those who are concerned with

possessing the truth, focus on quick results in endeavors, and recognize social pressure to

conform.” (Martin & Nakayama, 2013) Long-term orientation “tends to respect the

demands of virtue, to focus more on thrift, perseverance, and tenacity in whatever they

attempt; and to be willing to subordinate themselves to a larger purpose.” (Martin &

Nakayama, 2013)

Analysis

Buddhist monks are seen as ranking above the ordinary congregation member.

The congregation members see monks as committed leaders because the monks live very

devout lives compared to their own. The congregation members accept that the monks

have higher authority and wisdom in regards to their Buddhist teachings, and therefore

have a higher power distance.

They also partake in both individualistic and collectivistic activities. In

meditation, the individual focuses on ridding themselves of anger, delusion, and greed in

order to reach Nirvana. However, they also adopt a collectivistic mentality. They do not

see food as one’s own, but as the group’s food. They show this by offering the monks

food every week, and holding a potluck every Sunday for lunch during the religious

service.

Focusing on their quality of life follows feminine values. The Buddhists center

their lives on escaping Samsara and finding their ultimate peace. On this journey, they

support the lives of the unfortunate and care for others, in hopes that the quality of their

next life will be enhanced.


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With extensive rules such as the ones that monks have to follow, the Buddhist

religion has high uncertainty avoidance. Monks are required to live celibate lives, and

cannot participate in worldly activities, such as cooking, drinking alcohol, and watching

television for entertainment.

The Buddhists focus on being virtuous and being a part of a greater purpose. The

fifth cultural variability dimension that they belong to is of long-term orientation.

Buddhist teachings revolve more around virtue than truth. This means that it is more

important to be a good and virtuous person than to be correct about which religion is true

or what happens after death.

Reflection

Before attending the religious service at the Dhammakaya Temple, I was nervous

about how the other members of the congregation would react to me being there. I had

reservations about the project because I knew that I would have to venture out of my

comfort zone. However, I knew that it would be a good learning opportunity for me to

experience a rich and fascinating culture. I learned things such as their beliefs, which

revolve around being able to reach Nirvana. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions allowed me

to organize my thoughts and served as topics for critical thinking. I can incorporate these

dimensions in the future as guidelines for learning and understanding another culture. In

the end, I feel that the project was a worthwhile endeavor that took me out of my comfort

zone to learn and participate in another culture’s beliefs and practices.

References

Hofstede, G. (1984). #24 Hofstede, Cultural Dimensions. Utah: Salt Lake Community College.

Martin, J.N., Nakayama, T.K. (2013). Intercultural Communication in Contexts. Sixth Edition.

New York, New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.166-212.