Living with the Vinaya: An Ethnography of Monasticism in Myanmar

Hardback: $75.00
ISBN-13: 9780824897550
Published: November 2024
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Additional Information

232 pages | 9 b&w illustrations
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  • About the Book
  • Around the first century BCE, Buddhist monks formed monasteries and established relationships with kings and lay people. The rules monks live by, the Vinaya, are a pivotal source of meaning for them and their dealings with society and form the basis of multiple monasticisms across geographical regions and throughout history. The ways in which the Vinaya is understood and practiced, therefore, must take into account the kind of monasticism that emerges from it. In Living with the Vinaya, Ryosuke Kuramoto examines the process of creating monasticism in contemporary Myanmar by focusing on how monks acquire, possess, and consume material goods.

    To live as a monk means to obtain resources from society and to own and use these according to monastic rules. Over the centuries, as monks interacted more with the world beyond the monastery, the question of what a monk “should be” became a concern for not only monks, but also government authorities and lay people. How monks interpreted and observed the Vinaya became a question of legitimacy and power. Kuramoto’s ethnographic analysis reveals the constant (re)creation of monasticism in Myanmar resulting from the interactions between monks and these groups in response to this question. He identifies some of the key mechanisms by which monasticism and broader Buddhist institutions are created and transformed and concludes that monastic governance is inseparable from the Buddhist state and the society that surrounds it.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Ryosuke Kuramoto, Author

      Ryosuke Kuramoto is associate professor of cultural anthropology at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, University of Tokyo.
    • Mark Michael Rowe, Series Editor

      Mark Michael Rowe is associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies, McMaster University.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • Living with the Vinaya is an exceptionally strong book that will set a standard for ethnography of Theravada monasticism. It is an insightful exploration of issues of monastic governance and how the support of monks shapes Burmese society as a whole.
      —Alicia Turner, York University