Buddhist Salvation Armies as Vanguards of the Sāsana : Sorcerer Societies in Twentieth-Century Burma

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1083-1104
Journal / PublicationJournal of Asian Studies
Volume75
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016

Abstract

Since the early twentieth century, groups of Burmese Buddhist sorcerers and their followers have taken on the duty of guarding the Buddha's sāsana from colonial, ideological, and Islamic threats. Sāsana (broadly, the teachings of the Buddha and the institutions and practices that support them) and how it should be sustained in the face of its inevitable demise have been central concerns of these societies, expressed in both their textual and oral representations. To illustrate this tension between endurance and change, this article explores ideas of the life cycle of the sāsana and how ideas about its responsibility to wider communities of Burmese Buddhists became expressed through the intersection of sāsana and sorcery. Examining the ways these associations understood themselves to be protecting and propagating the sāsana through various means demonstrates how sāsana vitality gave their beliefs and actions a distinct collective and collectively ethical tone.