Year published :2009

Pages :320 pp.

Size :14x21 cm.

Rights :Southeast Asia

ISBN: 9789749511602

Buddhist World of Southeast Asia, The

by Donald K. Swearer

Second Edition 

This book is a unique synthesis and empathetic interpretation of the many facets of Buddhism in Southeast Asia with a particular focus on Thailand. It integrates a kaleidoscopic picture of Buddhism in the region with scholarly interpretation and first-person portrayal. The author focuses his study of Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia as a dynamic, complex system of thought and practice embedded in the respective cultures, societies, and histories of Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka.

The book analyzes three distinct but interrelated aspects of this system. The first is the popular tradition, in terms of life models personified in traditional myths and legends, rites of passage, festival celebrations, and ritual occasions. The second is Buddhism and the state, in terms of the paradigmatic influence of Asoka on conceptions of Buddhist kingship, the symbiotic relationship between Southeast Asian kingship and sacred cosmology, the Buddha as cosmocrator, and the rise of charismatic Buddhist political leaders in the postcolonial period. The third is modern transformations of Buddhism, in terms of the changing roles of the monk and laity, modern reform movements, the role of women, and Buddhism and the West.

This second edition of The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia includes numerous additions and changes throughout, particularly developments that have occurred within the Buddhist world of Southeast Asia since 1995. The bibliography and notes have also been significantly updated and expanded.

What others are saying

“I have used the first edition in a number of courses and found that students always have greatly appreciated Swearer’s clear writing, his insightful analysis of the relationship of Buddhism to the states under whose jurisdiction followers live, and his exploration of the creative adaptation of Buddhist practices to the modern world.”—Charles F. Keyes, University of Washington

“One of the marvelous qualities of this book is the author’s deft interpretive movement between the analysis of Theravada Buddhism as a world religion, sharing and exhibiting comparative characteristics that help us to understand human religiosity writ large, and his examination of highly localized and distinctive features of Theravadin thought and practice in different parts of Southeast Asia.”—Anne Ruth Hansen, University of Wisconsin-Madison

About the Author

Donald K. Swearer is Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School at Harvard University, and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Buddhism. His recent books include Becoming the Buddha, The Sacred Mountains of Northern Thailand and Their Legends (with Sommai Premchit and Phaithoon Dokbuakaew), and The Legend of Queen Cama (with Sommai Premchit).