Buddhism, Power and Political Order: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Buddhism, Power and Political Order

1st Edition

Edited by Ian Harris


240 pages

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Weber's claim that Buddhism is an otherworldly religion is only partially true. Early sources indicate that the Buddha was sometimes diverted from supramundane interests to dwell on a variety of politically-related matters. The significance of Asoka Maurya as a paradigm for later traditions of Buddhist kingship is also well-attested. However, there has been little scholarly effort to integrate findings on the extent to which Buddhism interacted with the political order in the classical and modern states of Theravada Asia into a wider, comparative study.

This volume brings together the brightest minds in the study of Buddhism in Southeast Asia. Their contributions create a more coherent account of the relations between Buddhism and political order in the late pre-modern and modern period by questioning the contested relationship between monastic and secular power. In doing so, they expand the very nature of what is known as the 'Theravada'.

Buddhism, Power and Political Order offers new insights for scholars of Buddhism, and it will stimulate new debates.


[Harris] and his contributors go beyond Weberian and Marxist approaches to reveal the complexity and tensions in the Sangha–state relationship throughout the region. . . . it is the way these tensions and complexities are highlighted in nearly every chapter that makes this collection a must-read for scholars in the field or anyone concerned with the relationship between religion and political power in Asia. - Justin McDaniel, University of California at Riverside, Religious Studies Review, Vol. 35, Issue 2, June, 2009

Table of Contents

1. Introduction - Buddhism, Power and Politics in Theravada Buddhist Lands Ian Harris 2. Idealism and Pragmatism: A Dilemma in the Current Monastic Education Systems of Burma and Thailand Khammai Dhammasami 3. Rajadhamma Confronts Leviathan: Burmese Political Theory in the 1870s Andrew Huxley 4. Colonial Knowledge and Buddhist Education in Burma Juliane Schober 5. Reconstructing the Cambodian Polity: Buddhism, Kingship and the Quest for Legitimacy Peter Gyallay-Pap 6. The Cambodian Hospital for Monks John Marston 7. Buddhism, Power, and Political Order in pre-Twentieth Century Laos Volker Grabowsky 8. Past, Present, and Future in Buddhist Prophetic Literature of the Lao Peter Koret 9. In Defence of the Nation: The Cult of Nang Thoranee in Northeast Thailand Elizabeth Guthrie 10. King, Sangha, and Brahmans: Ideology, Ritual, and Power in Pre-modern Siam Peter Skilling

About the Editor

Ian Harris is Professor of Buddhist Studies at University College of St. Martin, Lancaster and was Senior Scholar at the Becket Institute, St. Hugh's College, University of Oxford from 2001-4. He is co-founder of the UK Association for Buddhist Studies and has written widely on aspects of Buddhist ethics. His most recent book is Cambodian Buddhism: History and Practice (2005) and he is currently responsible for a research project on Buddhism and Cambodian Communism at the Documentation Center of Cambodia [DC-Cam], Phnom Penh.

About the Series

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism is a comprehensive study of the Buddhist tradition. The series explores this complex and extensive tradition from a variety of perspectives, using a range of different methodologies. The series is diverse in its focus, including historical, philological, cultural, and sociological investigations into the manifold features and expressions of Buddhism worldwide. It also presents works of constructive and reflective analysis, including the role of Buddhist thought and scholarship in a contemporary, critical context and in the light of current social issues. The series is expansive and imaginative in scope, spanning more than two and a half millennia of Buddhist history. It is receptive to all research works that are of significance and interest to the broader field of Buddhist Studies.

Some of the titles in the series are published in association with the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, which conducts and promotes rigorous teaching and research into all forms of the Buddhist tradition.

Editorial Advisory Board:
James A. Benn, McMaster University, Canada

Jinhua Chen, The University of British Columbia, Canada

Rupert Gethin, University of Bristol, UK

Peter Harvey, University of Sunderland, UK

Sallie King, James Madison University, USA

Anne Klein, Rice University, USA

Lori Meeks, University of Southern California, USA;

Ulrich Pagel, School of Oriental and African Studies, UK

John Powers, Australian National University, Australia;

Juliane Schober, Arizona State University, USA

Vesna A. Wallace, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Michael Zimmermann, University of Hamburg, Germany

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / Buddhism / General (see also PHILOSOPHY / Buddhist)
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Customs & Traditions
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General