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Buddhism Theravada
by
Justin McDaniel

Introduction

Did a separate Theravada school of Buddhism actually exist as a discernible entity before the modern period? Can we talk about Theravada Buddhism as a field of study or as a religion bounded by a distinct set of texts, rituals, beliefs, and institutions? The term “Theravada” is rarely found in texts in South and Southeast Asian languages before the 19th century. Moreover, Theravada is mistakenly associated with “early Buddhism,” even though there is no evidence that it was anything more than one of many intellectual, ritual, and organizational lineages in early Indic Buddhism. More properly instead of talking about an amorphous Theravada sect or school, scholars have started to trace ordination and teaching lineages, or look at the degree to which other categories such as araññavāsī/pupphārāmavāsī (forest/flower garden-dwellers) or gāmavāsī/nagaravāsī (village/city-dwellers), or ganthadhura (those who carry the burden of [textual] study) and vipassanādhura (those who carry the burden of meditation practice) were used in different places. Scholars have yet to define the contours of the Theravada. Therefore, the field has been divided into the citations that follow to reflect the tension between local anthropological and textual works and larger national, regional-based, and general studies. Unfortunately, space restraints limit the works cited to those written in Western languages and exclude the large numbers of studies on “socially engaged Buddhism” that has become quite popular in recent years and demands a separate bibliographic entry.

General Overviews

Early on, most studies of Theravada Buddhism were based on research done in Sri Lanka, or were purely textual studies that looked at the Pali canon and its early commentaries. Scholars such as T. Rhys-Davids, Caroline Rhys-Davids, Michael Viggo Fausbøll, Wilhelm and Magdalene Geiger, Frank Edgerton, Walpola Rahula, and Hermann Oldenberg looked closely at Pali texts. Even though “early Buddhism” and Theravada should not be studied as if they were the same subject, many of the important studies of early Pali literature have well served scholars researching later periods, especially those working on Buddhist art, homiletics, performance, narrative, and social ethics in Buddhist communities that use Pali texts in Southeast Asia. The influence of these Pali philological and literary studies cannot be discounted. Starting in the 1960s and 1970s, Fujita, von Hinüber, and Jaini worked extensively on Pali texts popular in Southeast Asia. Richard Gombrich produced a number of foundational works. Gombrich 1988 was one of the first significant general studies on Theravada Buddhism. There are few general studies that focus on Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia in addition to the influential Swearer 2009. Furthermore, Keyes 1977 offers a cultural study of Theravada Buddhist communities. Collins 1998 is the most sophisticated attempt to understand Theravada or Pali Buddhism in terms of civilizational history. Two edited volumes—Pichard and Lagirarde 2003, and Lagirarde and Paritta Chalermpow 2006—have contributed much to our knowledge of the intricacies and intimacies of Theravada communities in the region. Skilling 2009 is the most comprehensive and well-researched general study to date. Some of the best general studies of Theravada Buddhism have been produced by art historians, but this subject is beyond the scope of this entry. The studies of Theravada Buddhism in Indonesia (especially the growing Thai Buddhist missionary movement there), Vietnam, and India remain desiderata. Shan Buddhist studies have increased in scholarly activity in the early 21st century, and Eberhardt 2006 (cited under Thailand) provides an intimate portrait of Shan Buddhist culture. Levine and Gellner 2005 (cited under Gender and Buddhism) studies the revival, especially among women, of Theravada practice in the Katmandu valley of Nepal. The study of early modern Arakan in Leider 2004 (cited under Burma/Myanmar) provides much information on Theravadin Buddhist history.

  • Collins, Steven. Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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    The most influential and sophisticated study not only of Buddhist notions of soteriology and utopia(s), but also of narrative and textual communities. This book is additionally responsible for launching a number of other studies on the “Pali imaginaire” in South and Southeast Asia.

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  • Gombrich, Richard. Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988.

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    Does not discuss problems with defining Theravada Buddhism as a sect or school and generally presents an ideal history. However, although this study has a textual focus, it does make an effort to see how the complex Theravada tradition changed over time in Sri Lanka.

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  • Hinüber, Oskar von. A Handbook of Pali Literature. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1996.

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    The most comprehensive and useful introduction to the manuscripts, editions, and available translations in French, German, English (and occasionally Japanese and Italian) of South Asian Pali canonical and commentarial texts. What is most impressive about this handbook is that von Hinüber covers later manuals, homiletic, and cosmological Pali texts composed in Southeast Asia, and not just canonical and early commentarial work.

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  • Keyes, Charles. The Golden Peninsula. New York: Macmillan, 1977.

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    Although not produced by a Buddhist studies scholar, this is a masterful study of the ways in which multiple religious traditions in Southeast Asia interact and are influenced by tensions over politics, ethnicity, economics, and gender.

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  • Lagirarde, François, and Paritta Chalermpow Koanantakool, eds. Buddhist Legacies in Mainland Southeast Asia. Bangkok, Thailand: Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, 2006.

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    Fourteen articles by the top scholars in Southeast Asian Buddhism, ranging from studies of murals and epigraphy to linguistics and history.

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  • Pichard, Pierre, and François Lagirarde, eds. The Buddhist Monastery. Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 2003.

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    Although this collection focuses on Southeast Asia, there are a few articles on Tibet, Bhutan, and eastern Asia. It is a wide-ranging blend of twenty art historical, textual, and anthropological studies. Particularly useful for the study of monastic architecture and imagery.

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  • Rhys-Davids, T. W. The Questions of King Milinda. Vol. 1. Sacred Books of the East 35. Oxford: Clarendon, 1890.

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    Although Rhys-Davids and his wife, Caroline Rhys-Davids, translated or edited some of the most well-known Pali texts and launched the Pali Text Society, he also translated texts with questionable “canonical” status, such as Volume 2 of The Questions (published in 1894). His translations have been reprinted numerous times, and his editions even became the basis of textual study by elite monks and nuns in Southeast Asia. No student of Pali can work without his Pali-English dictionary.

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  • Skilling, Peter. Buddhism and Buddhist Literature of South-East Asia: Selected Papers. Vol. 5. Edited by Claudio Cicuzza. Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka. Bangkok, Thailand: Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation, 2009.

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    This is a selection of twelve articles by the leading scholar of Theravada Buddhism that reveals a breadth and depth rarely achieved by one person. Appendixes provided at the end of many articles list titles of stories, collections, inscriptions, languages, and the like. These, combined with the extensive notes and very useful bibliography, will make it a perennially useful reference work.

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  • Swearer, Donald. The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia. 2d ed. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009.

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    The recognized classic text introducing students to Southeast Asian Buddhism, which although focusing on northern Thailand, makes a number of broader points about shared regional practices. There is a good balance between historical and ethnographic evidence throughout. Originally published in 1995.

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Sociopolitical Studies

The number of studies about “Buddhism and the state” in Theravada Buddhist studies in Western languages is staggering. Only a few can be mentioned here. This has been a scholarly obsession for forty years caused partly, no doubt, by the popularity of neo-Marxist trends in the field, and the student revolutions in Thailand in the 1970s. Bechert 1966–1967 is the classic study. Other monographs are country-specific studies: Ishii 1986, Somboon 1982, and Taylor 1993 for Thailand; Mendelson 1975 for Burma; and Stuart-Fox 1996 for Laos. Smith 1978 is comparative. It seemed that scholars have said all that could be said on the topic. However, Harris 2007 draws together some of the best minds on the topic, including Khammai Dhammasami, Andrew Huxley, Volker Grabowsky, Peter Gyally-Pap, and Peter Koret.

  • Bechert, Heinz. Buddhismus, Staat und Gesellschaft in den Ländern des Theravada-Buddhismus. Frankfurt and Berlin: Metzner, 1966–1967.

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    This is a highly detailed institutional history of reform from an elite perspective. There is also a third volume that is useful as a bibliographic guide, published in 1973.

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  • Harris, Ian, ed. Buddhism, Power, and Political Order. London: Routledge, 2007.

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    Harris and his contributors go beyond Weberian and Marxist approaches to reveal the complexity and tensions in the Sangha–state relationship throughout the region. Although some of the pieces might seem eclectic and narrow, it is the way these tensions and complexities are highlighted in nearly every chapter that makes this collection a major contribution to the field.

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  • Ishii, Yoneo. Sangha, State, and Society: Thai Buddhism in History. Translated by Peter Hawkes. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986.

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    A comprehensive study of institutional reform, monastic educational administration, and ecclesiastical organization in Thailand.

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  • Jackson, Peter. Buddhism, Legitimation, and Conflict: The Political Functions of Urban Thai Buddhism. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1989.

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    A well-known study that focuses on the ways in which modern economics and social changes have affected the practice of Buddhism.

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  • Mendelson, Michael. Sangha and State in Burma. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1975.

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    A classic study of institutional reform and wealth in Burma that influenced approaches by Leiberman, Aung-Twin, and Dhammasami.

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  • Smith, Bardwell, ed. Religion and Legitimation of Power in Thailand Laos, and Burma. Chambersburg, PA: Anima, 1978.

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    Smith also edited studies of politics and Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Burma. This collection is the broadest, with important contributions by John Ferguson, Barbara Watson Andaya, and Thomas Kirsch, among others.

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  • Somboon Suksamran. Buddhism and Politics in Thailand: A Study of Socio-Political Change and Political Activism of the Thai Sangha. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1982.

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    This is the best overview of religion and politics in Thailand that looks at both elite and grassroots movements. It was controversial when released in Thailand.

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  • Stuart-Fox, Martin. Buddhist Kingdom, Marxist State: The Making of Modern Laos. Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus, 1996.

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    This straightforward history of religion and politics in Laos not only shows how Marxists attempted to eliminate the influence of Buddhism in daily life, but also how they tried to accommodate it later for purposes of social control.

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  • Taylor, James L. Forest Monks and the Nation-State: An Anthropological and Historical Study in Northeastern Thailand. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1993.

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    The best study representing a larger trend in the study of socially engaged Buddhist monks who struggled with the growth of state power and environmental degradation in modern Thailand.

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Gender and Buddhism

Gender is one of the most dynamic subjects in recent Theravada studies. Most studies are focused on the seemingly incongruous lack of formally ordained bhikkhunī (nuns) in South and Southeast Asia in the modern period even though nuns existed in early Buddhism. Many studies are polemic and call on Sangha administrators to reinstate the bhikkhunī order. Skilling 1994 and Schopen 1997 are short but good historical introductions to the study of nuns in early Buddhism. Seeger 2006, a summary focusing on Thailand, is a good example. See also Kawanami 2007, Cheng 2007, and Falk 2007. The study of modern Theravada communities in Nepal was mostly the result of work done on emerging communities of female novices among Newari speakers in the Katmandu valley (Levine and Gellner 2005). Several other studies focus on prostitution and transsexual and transgender issues; see, for example, Jackson and Cook 1999.

  • Bartholomeusz, Tessa. Women under the Bo Tree: Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

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    This slightly polemic but comprehensive study of modern Buddhist women’s movements from both a contemporary and historical perspective looks closely at the practices of Dasa Sil Mata nuns in Sri Lanka.

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  • Cheng, Wei-yu. Buddhist Nuns in Taiwan and Sri Lanka. London: Routledge, 2007.

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    A rare comparative study depicting the path toward bhikkhunī ordination as a global movement, as well as a movement intertwined with local politics and culture.

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  • Falk, Monica Lindberg. Making Fields of Merit: Buddhist Nuns and Gendered Orders in Thailand. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007.

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    This is the most comprehensive and detailed ethnographic study of maechi education, practice, and politics to date. Unlike other studies, it does not present maechi as victims of male hegemony.

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  • Jackson, Peter, and Nerida Cook, eds. Genders and Sexualities in Modern Thailand. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm, 1999.

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    This is a balanced collection on an understudied subject that incorporates ethnography, theoretical reflections, and political commentaries.

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  • Kawanami, Hiroko. “The Bhikkhunī Ordination Debate: Global Aspirations, Local Concerns, with Special Emphasis on the Views of the Monastic Community in Burma.” Buddhist Studies Review 24.2 (2007).

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    This is an overview of the history of the debate and a rare look at the lives of thilashin in Burma from a scholar who has lived and worked with Burmese nuns for many years. Available online.

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  • Levine, Sarah, and David Gellner. Rebuilding Buddhism: The Theravada Movement in Twentieth-Century Nepal. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005.

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    In this book, along with a documentary film, Levine and Gellner describe the relatively modern movement of ordained Theravada samaṇerī (female novices) in the Katmandu valley and their connection to both Burmese teachers and young women’s education.

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  • Schopen, Gregory. “On Monks, Nuns and ‘Vulgar’ Practices: The Introduction of the Image Cult into Indian Buddhism.” In Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks: Collected Papers on the Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Texts of Monastic Buddhism in India. By Gregory Scopen, 238–257. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997.

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    This is a good historical study of the role and activities of bhikkhunī in early Indian Buddhist history that draws on evidence of inscriptions as well as later composite texts.

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  • Seeger, Martin. “The Bhikkhunī-Ordination Controversy in Thailand.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 29.1 (2006): 155–183.

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    This is a comprehensive overview of the ordination issue with a useful bibliography.

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  • Skilling, Peter. “A Note on the History of the Bhikkhuni-Sangha: Nuns at the Time of the Buddha.” W.F.B. Review 31:2–3 (1994): 47–55.

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    Brief, but useful, facts on the history of nuns in early Buddhism. Part 2 of this article is in W. F. B. Review 30–31:4–1 (1993–1994): 29–49.

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Theravada Tantra

Scholarly and popular descriptions of Theravada Buddhism have emphasized it as orthodox, conservative, original, authentic, nonritualistic, and rational. However, an entire field, albeit quite small, so-called tantric Theravada, has grown up around the work of François Bizot. He has published thirteen books or articles on the “esoteric” texts of Laos and Cambodia (two of which are mentioned here). His French colleagues have also produced in-depth and philologically and historically impressive studies on these texts. In English, we have no book-length studies, but a few articles, most notably Crosby 2000. The texts studied in this field include versions of the Ratanamālā, the Saddavimala (see Bizot and Lagirarde 1996), the Gavampati Sutta, a group of texts known as Mūl Kammaṭṭhāna, the Dhammaviṃsun, the Paṃsukūl genre (see Bizot 1981), the Dhammakāya, and a series of important parittas and yantras. (Becchetti 1991 and Bizot 1992 provide visual and textual studies, respectively.) Although these practices should not be simply labeled “esoteric,” they are often set in contrast to the seemingly orthodox Mahāvihāra brand of the Theravada. Scholars agree on the general parameters of these texts and practices even though they might not agree on their general rubric as esoteric, tantric, or yogāvacarin.

  • Becchetti, Catherine. Le mystere dans les letters. Bangkok, Thailand: Editions des Cahiers de France, 1991.

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    This is a visually impressive study of protective tattooing practices in Cambodia and northeastern Thailand replete with photographs and detailed descriptions of script and animal symbols.

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  • Bizot, François. Le Don de soi-même. Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 1981.

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    This is highly a detailed study of Cambodian paṅsakūl manuscripts and rituals connected to end-of-life, funerary, and cremation practices. The paṅsakūl robe offerings are found throughout the Pali Buddhist regions.

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  • Bizot, François. Le chemin de Lankâ. Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 1992.

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    This textual study of a rare manuscript, probably of Thai origins, found in Cambodia explains transformative meditation practices involving the araham and namo buddhaya chants.

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  • Bizot, François, and François Lagirarde. La pureté par les mots. Chiang Mai, Thailand: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 1996.

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    A rare study of protective magical traditions in Laos and northern Thailand focusing on the Saddavimala and the use of Pali syllables and phrases to create ephemeral “dhammic” bodies.

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  • Crosby, Kate. “Tantric Theravada: A Bibliographic Essay on the Writings of François Bizot and Others on the Yogāvacara Tradition.” Contemporary Buddhism 1.2 (2000): 141–198.

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    This is a thorough English-language summary of the work of Bizot with additional comments about other possible textual sources for “tantric” traditions in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

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Burma/Myanmar

Burmese Buddhist studies have produced some of the most dynamic work in Theravada Buddhism. Most focused on Sangha–state relations. Stewart 1949, among others, looked at the politics and religious reform undertaken by various kings, especially during the Konbaung dynasty. Historical studies have much resonance today in Burma considering the bloody 2007 “Saffron Revolution” involving thousands of Burmese monks protesting economic policy and the lack of democratic reform under Burma’s military dictatorship. These politico-historical studies might dominate the study of Burmese Buddhism, but most outside the field are familiar with the anthropological studies by Edmund Leach and most importantly by Melford Spiro (especially Spiro 1970). Pichard and Robinne 1998 includes detailed historical and anthropological studies, and there has been a recent comprehensive overview of the field, Brac de la Perrière and Kawanami 2009. The so-called esoteric traditions discussed in this collection mark one trend in the field, whereas new studies on meditation and the growing role of women in modern Buddhist public culture (see especially Jordt 2007) mark another. Although there are not many studies of Buddhism among the Karen, Assamese, Mon, Tai Khoen, or Wa (see Eberhardt 2006, cited under Thailand), Yasmin Saikia 2006 and Thomas Borchert 2005—short studies on Theravada Buddhists in Assam (India) and Sipsongpanna (China, Burma, Thailand), respectively—as well as some historical studies of Mon, Ahom, and Tai Leu, are available. Only the Nepali/Newari, Arakanese, and Karen Theravadin Buddhists have been featured in major monographs. Furthermore, the study of these stateless “ethnic” groups and their particular types of Theravadin practice has been largely undertaken by anthropologists who have ignored the rich manuscripts and printed textual material available in regional monastic archives. The great exception to that is Peltier 1987, which collected and translated a number of important Tai Khoen narratives found in the border areas of Burma, China, Laos, and Thailand. Anthropological studies have been important for depicting hybrid forms of animism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Brahmanism among various ethnic groups. Hayami 2004, a study of Buddhist and Christian practices among the Karen, is an often overlooked but well-researched study.

  • Borchert, Thomas. “Training Monks or Men: Theravāda Monastic Education, Subnationalism, and the National Sangha of China.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 28.2 (2005): 241–272.

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    One of Borchert’s several publications on monastic education among Theravada Buddhists in Sipsongpanna. Trained in Thai and Chinese, Borchert shows how this community moves between Han-centric state pressure in China to immigrant status in Thailand and Burma.

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  • Brac de la Perrière, Bénédicte, and Hiroko Kawanami, eds. Special Issue: Power, Authority, and Contested Hegemony in Burmese-Myanmar Religion. Asian Ethnology 68.2 (2009).

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    This collection of articles features weikza traditions, nunhood, and hagiography as well as relic worship in Arakan by Leider, Keiko Tosa, Alexandra de Mersan, among others. Brac de la Perrière’s contribution to this collection is an overview of Burmese religious studies. It is very useful.

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  • Hayami, Yoko. Between Hills and Plains: Power and Practice in Socio-Religious Dynamics among Karen. Kyoto: Kyoto University Press, 2004.

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    This is a rare ethnographic study of Karen religious practices that focuses on both Buddhist and Christian rituals and politics.

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  • Jordt, Ingrid. Burma’s Mass Lay Meditation Movement: Buddhism and the Cultural Construction of Power. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2007.

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    This ethnographic study of the politics and religious practices focuses on lay meditators in Burma living under the oppressive military regime. The author demonstrates the relationship between meditation practices and millenarian beliefs.

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  • Leider, Jacques. Le Royaume d’Arakan, Birmanie: Son histoire politique entre le début du XVe et la fin du XVIIe siècle. Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 2004.

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    A sophisticated study of Arakanese history that draws on royal and Buddhist documents and provides a foundation with which to understand monastic politics and patronage.

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  • Peltier, Anatole Roger. La Littérature Tai Khoeun. Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 1987.

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    The most comprehensive study of Peltier’s many translations of Tai Khoen narratives. This collection is very useful as it provides short summaries in French and English of dozens of tales that are loosely connected to jātakas and local romance and adventure stories.

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  • Pichard, Pierre, and François Robinne, eds. Études birmanese en homage à Denise Bernot. Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 1998.

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    This collection of ethnographical, art historical, linguistic anthropological, and historical articles by Tilman Frasch and James Matisoff, among others, draws evidence from art at Buddhist monasteries or religious texts.

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  • Saikia, Yasmin. “Religion, Nostalgia, and Memory: Making an Ancient and Recent Tai-Ahom Identity in Assam and Thailand.” Journal of Asian Studies 65.1 (2006): 33–60.

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    One of the few English-language studies of the Tai Ahom that is not focused on linguistics. Shows the struggles of a minority Buddhist community in India with ethnic ties to Tai peoples in Burma and Thailand.

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  • Spiro, Melford E. Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and Its Burmese Vicissitudes. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.

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    Here, Spiro presents his famous tripartite division of “nibbanic, kammatic, and apotropaic” Buddhism. A much maligned but still very influential study of village Buddhism.

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  • Stewart, John Alexander. Buddhism in Burma. London: University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, 1949.

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    The first major study that is important to review to understand the intellectual history of the field and to see how far scholars have come in understanding the diverse religious traditions in Burma (such as those of the Shan, Mon, Arakanese, and Wa studied in the early 21st century).

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Cambodia

Buddhist studies in Cambodia have grown considerably since the turn of the 21st century because those young scholars who first started working with refugee communities in the early 1980s were able to begin conducting research after the genocide, Vietnamese occupation, and civil war of the mid-1990s ceased. Before this period, Cambodian studies (of which Buddhist studies was a small part) largely focused on either the glorious Angkorian period or the horrifying Khmer Rouge period. This began to change with a very reliable history of Cambodian Buddhism, Harris 2005. This was followed by two provocative studies of the colonial period: Hansen 2007 and Edwards 2007. These broad historical studies have been balanced by ethnographies of contemporary Cambodian Buddhism (especially Chandler and Kent 2008). Although ethnic Khmer scholars have largely not published in languages other than Khmer, with the influence of the Center for Khmer Studies, the École Française d’Extrême-Orient, the Buddhist Institute, and the launch of the journals Siksacakr and Udaya, we are now seeing innovative work by Aing Sokroeun, Boreth Ly, and Khing Hoc Dy in contemporary Buddhist art, women’s studies, and Buddhist social culture.

  • Chandler, David, and Alexandra Kent, eds. People of Virtue: Reconfiguring Religion, Power, and Moral Order in Cambodia Today. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2008.

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    This collection includes contributions by Alex Hinton, Erik Davis, Heng Sreang, Judy Ledgerwood, Ven. Sovanratana, and Kobayashi Saturo that range from Buddhism and politics, Buddhism and memories of the genocide, Buddhist education, and hagiography.

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  • Edwards, Penny. Cambodge: Cultivation of a Nation (1860–1945). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007.

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    Winner of the 2009 Benda Prize for excellence in Southeast Asian studies, this book offers a highly detailed historical look at the ways in which nationalist Khmer reformers and French colonialists worked in collusion and in competition to create Cambodian history and identity. The use of Buddhist institutions and ideals was important to this process.

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  • Hansen, Ann. How to Behave: Buddhism and Modernity in Colonial Cambodia, 1860–1930. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007.

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    This is a sophisticated study of the contested ideals of modernity that draws on rare French colonial, Pali, and Khmer documents. Hansen presents Buddhist “ethics” not as a static set of rules but rather as ideals situated firmly to particular historical episodes, texts, thinkers, and rituals in Cambodia.

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  • Harris, Ian. Cambodian Buddhism: History and Practice. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005.

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    A comprehensive introduction that looks at Angkorian “tantric” practices from the 12th century all the way to present-day Theravada institutions, rituals, and social ethics. He also offers a short history of the attack on Buddhism by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

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  • Marston, John, and Elizabeth Guthrie, eds. History, Buddhism, and New Religious Movements in Cambodia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004.

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    This set of mostly ethnographic studies by Heng Chan Sophia, Ashley Thompson, and Didier Bertrand, among others, looks at diverse subjects such as spirit possession, Buddhism among the Cambodian diaspora, and religion and Khmer identity.

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Laos

Even though Lao studies began experiencing exponential growth in the early 21st century because of more liberal visa policies and the exposure of a number of archival sources, especially the Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts, the study of Lao Buddhism still remains in its early stages in Western languages. Bualy Papaphanh, Bounteum Sibounheuang, Khonngdeuane Nettawong, and Thong Xeuy have consistently produced detailed studies in Lao, but these works have yet to be translated. It was not until the postcolonial period that larger surveys of Lao Buddhism emerged. Zago 1972, Nhouy Abhay 1956, Berval 1956, Archaimbault 1964, and Deydier 1952 reveal the intricacies of Lao Buddhism more broadly. Detailed work on the origins of Lao Buddhism appeared in Lorrillard 2003, and book-length studies such as McDaniel 2008 and Holt 2009 have attempted to both discuss Lao Buddhism compared to Sri Lankan, Thai, and Cambodian Buddhism, and to emphasize its unique features.

Sri Lanka

In the early days of Buddhist studies, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) was the place where many Pali manuscripts were collected and where many foreign scholars trained and conducted philological and archaeological research. Since the 1980s scholars have broadened their scope from institutional history and textual analysis to looking closely at the ways in which Sri Lankan Buddhists have responded to political and ethnic conflict, and colonial control, and created hybrid Buddhist–Hindu–Animist practices. Gombrich and Obeyesekere 1988 and Seveviratne 1999, along with Deegalle 2006, have called attention to the role of Buddhist monks and laity in Sri Lanka’s civil war. Blackburn 2001, a study of Buddhism under colonialism, has provided a deeper understanding of the ways in which Sri Lankan Buddhist identities have been formed, articulated, and institutionalized. This work, along with Berkwitz 2004, has contributed much to Sri Lankan historiography. Ethnographic studies based in Sri Lanka, such as Southwold 1983, have been influential far beyond Theravada studies. John Holt’s books on Buddhism in Sri Lanka (Holt 1991 and Holt 2004) creatively combine historical, textual, ethnographic, and religious studies approaches, revealing the importance of an understanding of caste and Hindu puja in the practice of Buddhism.

  • Berkwitz, Steven. Buddhist History in the Vernacular: The Power of the Past in Late Medieval Sri Lanka. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004.

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    This creative textual study examines Sinhala Buddhist histories, especially the Thupavaṃsa, and the ways in which they helped form moral communities.

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  • Blackburn, Anne. Buddhist Learning and Textual Practice in Eighteenth-Century Lankan Monastic Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

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    By looking closely at the Siyam Nikaya, the author offers a complex history of monastic education in Sri Lanka in relationship to growing colonial and Christian missionary influences.

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  • Deegalle, Mahinda. Buddhism, Conflict, and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka. London and New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    With contributions from prominent scholars including Peter Schalk, Ananda Wickremeratne, George Bond, and R. A. L. H. Gunawardana, this book contains Buddhist responses to the violence, civil war, and politicization of the monkhood.

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  • Gombrich, Richard, and Gananath Obeyesekere. Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.

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    A controversial study, this book can be seen as a starting point in a whole trend of books on Buddhism, politics, and ethnic conflict. Their approach is often contrasted with that of Stanley Tambiah.

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  • Holt, John. The Buddha and the Crown: Avalokitesvara in the Buddhist Traditions of Sri Lanka. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

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    A groundbreaking study of the diverse religious traditions of Sri Lanka focusing on Avalokitesvara, a supposed “Mahayana” bodhisattva, and the ways in which Theravada Buddhists have incorporated him into their daily practice over time.

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  • Holt, John. The Buddhist Vishnu: Religious Transformation, Politics, and Culture in Sri Lanka. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

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    This is a classic religious studies approach drawing on ethnography, history, and even philosophy. This study breaks down normative divisions between Hindu, Buddhist, and animist practice in Sri Lanka.

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  • Seveviratne, H. L. The Work of Kings: The New Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

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    This study of modern Sri Lankan Buddhism focuses on the changing role of the monkhood that questions the Weberian separation between worldly and otherworldly religious activities.

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  • Southwold, Martin. Buddhism in Life: The Anthropological Study of Religion and the Sinhalese Practice of Buddhism. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1983.

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    Along with Michael Carrithers’s work on forest monks published the same year, Southwold’s book marks an important trend in close ethnographic studies of Sri Lankan Buddhist lay and monastic communities.

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Thailand

Because of the scholarly work of royal scholars in Western languages, and the long-term collaboration between foreign and Thai scholars, the study of Thai Buddhism has benefited from interaction between local and foreign scholars. Perhaps the greatest contribution from both Thai and non-Thai scholars to Buddhist studies more broadly has occurred in the field of anthropology. Anuman Rajadhon 1986 and Tambiah 1984, as well as Hayashi 2003 and Scott 2009, have gone far in mapping the ritual and performative aspects of modern Thai Buddhism. Textual, monastic, art, liturgical, and institutional history has benefited from the exploration of both Pali and Thai manuscripts, as well as royal and Sangha administrative documents compiled by highly influential Japanese scholars (see Ishii 1986 [cited under Socio-Political Studies], Eberhardt 2006, Woodward 2003, and Skilling 2009 [cited under General Overviews]). Tiyavanich 1997 has attracted many to the field by studying vernacular Buddhist narrative and the hagiographies of many well-known Thai monks and nuns from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Eberhardt especially shows the importance of studying “border” and “stateless” communities such as the Shan. The study of southern Thai Buddhism is quickly growing in reaction to the violent Islamic separatist movement in the region. Horstmann 2002, a complex study, was pioneering in this new wave of interest.

  • Prince Anuman Rajadhon. Popular Buddhism in Siam and Other Essays on Thai Studies. Bangkok, Thailand: Sathirakoses Nagapradipa Foundation, 1986.

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    Similar to other studies by Wells and Terwiel, this particularly good descriptive study of spirit worship, funerary practices, and lay practice in Thailand is recommended for its candor and readability.

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  • Eberhardt, Nancy. Imagining the Course of Life: Self-Transformation in a Shan Buddhist Community. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 2006.

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    This is an in-depth “ethnopsychological” study of the emotional lives, rituals, economic, and notions of personhood among Shan Buddhists in Burma and Thailand.

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  • Hayashi, Yukio. Practical Buddhism among the Thai-Lao. Kyoto: Kyoto University Press, 2003.

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    The most comprehensive and detailed ethnography study of northeastern Thai Buddhism available based on two decades of research.

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  • Horstmann, Alexander. Class, Culture, and Space: The Construction and Shaping of Communal Space in South Thailand. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction, 2002.

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    This is a theoretically sophisticated study of commercialism, popular ritual, and politics in the often violent region of southern Thailand.

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  • Scott, Rachelle M. Nirvana for Sale? Buddhism, Wealth, and the Dhammakaya Temple in Contemporary Thailand. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009.

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    This is a complex study of commercialism, mass media, and new religious movements in Thailand focusing on the Dhammakaya Temple and its global appeal.

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  • Tambiah, Stanley. The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets: A Study in Charisma, Hagiography, Sectarianism, and Millennial Buddhism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

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    The last of Tambiah’s trilogy looks at politics, religion, material culture, and ritual communication in Thailand, focusing especially on the northeast and the famous monk Ajahn Man Bhuridatto.

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  • Tiyavanich, Kamala. Forest Recollections: Wandering Monks in Twentieth-Century Thailand. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997.

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    The first of Tiyavanich’s lively and polemic studies on rural Thai “saints” focuses on phra thudong ascetics in northeastern Thailand.

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  • Woodward, Hiram. The Art and Architecture of Thailand: From Prehistoric Times through the Thirteenth Century. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.

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    The magnus opus of the most well-respected art historian in Thai studies, Woodward focuses on iconography, dating, lineage, and material, drawing on textual, stylistic, and epigraphical evidence.

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LAST MODIFIED: 09/13/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0161

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