Knowledge and Practice Against the Backdrop of Impermanence: Diabetic Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka

Thursday, 2 August 2012: 8:50 AM

Sunny Wijesinghe, MS, MPH, RN
School of Nursing, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to identify two sources of knowledge on which these Buddhist nuns base their diabetes practice.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to identify two areas in which diabetes health behavior can be improved.


The increased rate of type 2 diabetes in Sri Lanka has prompted interventions to prevent/manage diabetes through dietary modifications and exercise. However, self-management of diabetes in a specific population such as Buddhist nuns, who depend on food donations and limit physical activity to suit a monastic code of conduct, has not been studied.


This problem- focused descriptive ethnography studied ten diabetic Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka through in-depth interviews and participant observation. Data analysis followed a process of immersion/ crystallization (Miller & Crabtree, 1994) in which the researcher  is immersed in the data and relies on intuition or reflexivity of working the iterative steps of the research study


Nuns referred to four types of knowledge with regard to diabetes:  Pre-diagnosis knowledge, knowledge from hearsay, knowledge based on medical science, and knowledge through Buddhism. Their health behavior hinged upon a subtle equilibrium between negotiation and compromise with the community, but it always happened against the backdrop of impermanence in life.


Reinforcing positive health behavior in the general community seemed to be the most effective way to improve self -management of diabetes in Buddhist nuns.