Although recent scholarship has shown that the term ‘Theravāda’ in the familiar modern sense is a nineteenth- and twentieth-century construct, it is now used to refer to the more than 150 million people around the world who practice that form of Buddhism. Buddhist practices such as meditation, amulets, and merit making rituals have always been inseparable from the social formations that give rise to them, their authorizing discourses and the hegemonic relations they create.

This book is composed of chapters written by established scholars in Buddhist studies who represent diverse disciplinary approaches from art history, religious studies, history and ethnography. It explores the historical forces, both external to and within the tradition of Theravāda Buddhism and discusses how modern forms of Buddhist practice have emerged in South and Southeast Asia, in case studies from Nepal to Sri Lanka, Burma, Cambodia and Southwest China. Specific studies contextualize general trends and draw on practices, institutions, and communities that have been identified with this civilizational tradition throughout its extensive history and across a highly diverse cultural geography.

This book foreground diverse responses among Theravādins to the encroaching challenges of modern life ways, communications, and political organizations, and will be of interest to scholars of Asian Religion, Buddhism and South and Southeast Asian Studies.

part |54 pages

Local cultures and Buddhist vernaculars in colonial modernity

chapter |23 pages

What Theravāda does

Thoughts on a term from the perspective of the study of post-colonial Nepal

part |49 pages

Theravāda Buddhist practices in the contemporary world

chapter |16 pages

The rhetoric of authenticity

Modernity and “true Buddhism” in Sri Lanka

chapter |13 pages

“Conscripts” of Chinese modernity?

Transformations of Theravāda Buddhism in southwest China in the reform era