Justin McDaniel

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:


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.

Article.  5759 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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