The Buddha's Wizards: Magic, Protection, and Healing in Burmese Buddhism

Project: Research

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Magical wizards with supernatural powers flying around the world healing thesick, taking over the minds and bodies of young women, and defending religion from theforces of evil is not the usual vision of Buddhism. But this is exactly what one finds inthe Buddhist country of Myanmar, a country where the majority of people abide byTheravada Buddhism --- a form of Buddhism generally perceived as stoic and staid,lacking religious devotion and elements of the supernatural. The Buddha's Wizards:Magic, Protection, and Healing in Burmese Buddhism, debunks this misconception byproviding an engaging ethnography of the contemporary Burmese Buddhist world ofwizards, magical spells, and supernatural powers.Based on almost a decade of fieldwork in Myanmar and a cross-disciplinaryapproach (religious studies, anthropology, history) this book explores the last 200 yearsof Burmese Buddhists' devotion to Buddhist wizards and argues that understanding theirprotective power is the key to understanding their persistence in the modern period. Thewizards who possess such magic, and their devotees who harness it, manipulate thenatural world around them to enact real world changes. My interpretive strategy situatesreligious narratives, magical practices, and ritual works involving Buddhist wizards andtheir devotees within a broader landscape of Burmese Buddhist traditions andcontemporary social dynamics in Myanmar, as well as within the more intimate setting ofdevotees' lives.


Project number7200508
Effective start/end date1/09/16 → …