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Posts Tagged ‘buddhism’

Buddha Relics Stolen, Recovered. Implications?

In cambodia on February 7, 2014 at 2:55 pm

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Then-King NORODOM Sihanouk holding the koṭṭha (urn) containing the Buddha’s relics

Back on December 9-10, 2013, in the midst of ongoing conflicts between the CNRP and the CPP over the disputed elections, and separate but connected mass garment worker strikes, physical relics of the Buddha, supposed to contain hair, bone, and ashes of the historical Sakyamuni Buddha, were stolen. Yesterday, February 6, 2014, police claimed to have recovered these relics in Takeo province. Before proceeding to links and discussion, it might be useful to discuss the concept of relics in general. More after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

Excisions, #1

In comment on December 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm

As I go through the process of pruning my book manuscript in order to deliver to the publisher, I will occasionally post a few sections that I had to cut, but which for reasons obvious, obscure, or inane I have decided to somehow preserve.

Today’s excision is a note about the ways in which scholars of Theravada Buddhism have talked about ‘syncretism’ in Buddhism in Southeast Asia:

Kitiarsa offers an excellent review of the literature on the ‘problem’ of Southeast Asian Buddhism (Kitiarsa 2012). Instead of syncretism, Kitiarsa describes Thai Buddhism as a ‘vigorous hybrid,’ a genetic metaphor, and adds in the notion that it is the widespread commodification of everyday life, and the transformation of perceived needs, that drives modernizing religious difference (Kitiarsa 2012, 2, 31-33, 19). Peter Skilling has also adopted the word hybrid, though in a linguistic mode, specifically to avoid the notion of ‘syncretic,’ emphasizing the creative agency involved in the creation of such hybrids (Skilling 2007, 208 n.2). While I prefer the linguistic metaphor to the genetic one, both appear to suffer from the assumption that we might somehow access an originally pure and non-hybridized tradition.

Kitiarsa, Pattana. 2012. Mediums, monks, and amulets: Thai Popular Buddhism. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Skilling, Peter, Jason A. Carbine, Claudio Cicuzza, and Santi Pakdeekham, eds. 2012. How Theravada is Theravada?: Exploring Buddhist identities. Bangkok: Silkworm Books.

LTO Cambodia: Wat Bo: Scenes of daily life

In comment on April 11, 2013 at 8:38 am

You really need to head over to LTO Cambodia: Wat Bo: Scenes of daily life, to examine the closeup images of Wat Bo’s mural of olden-days, everyday Cambodian life (colonial period, about 100 years old, at monks’ estimation).  There are a lot of images, and LTO is a fine photographer. But what really makes this collection of photos wonderful is his description and surmises about what is going on, all done with reports to what the local monks had told him, and his own thoughts.  I’ll reblog one image to get you over there:

The Rohingya, Buddhism, and anti-Muslim sentiment

In comment on March 27, 2013 at 11:47 am

I’ve been constantly checking my twitter feed lately. #RohingyaNOW Why? Because it’s almost the only place I can find news about what appears to be a straight-up genocidal attempt by some Burmese fascists. I’m not using that word metaphorically or rhetorically; I believe they qualify as fascists under most standard definitions of the word. These people are attempting to provoke a mass movement to expel or murder all non-Burmese and non-Buddhists from the country. Facing its own long-running Muslim minority problems in the South, Buddhist Thailand is doing its bit, too. Long the cooperative beneficiary of human trafficking from Burma into Thailand, security forces from both Thailand and Burma have attacked boats full of Muslim refugees fleeing the violence, sometimes drowning all those on board, other times pushing them away from Thailand’s coastlines, refusing them the obligatory offerings to refugees under International Law.

I do not have time at the moment for an extensive commentary on these issues, but want to add my voice to those who are pleading with the media, the United Nations, and others, to increase coverage, stand up for the victims of communal violence, and begin a process of restoration for victims of genocidal violence. A few points:

1. These are indeed “Burmese Buddhist Fascists.” They are opposed, apparently, first to the Rohingya, an ethnic minority and Muslim group largely in Western Burma.  The fascists consider them illegal immigrants, though they have been in the area for many generations. They are not opposed to the Rohingya solely for reasons of ethnic difference, either: they are explicitly opposed to Muslims in general. Moreover, much of the most vocal leadership, and according to pictures from the most recent riots and murders, much of the on-the-ground leadership, is by Buddhist monks. Here’s Buddhist monk Wirathu, founder of the newly-formed Buddhist Fascist group “969”, sermonizing against Muslims and encouraging a financial boycott of Muslim enterprises, while stoking fears of a Muslim takeover of Burma. It’s chilling:

Additionally, while the violence against Burma’s Rohingya and Muslims existed prior to the recent steps toward democratization indicated by the new participation of Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD in politics (so lambasted in the monk’s speech, above), it seems to have worsened significantly since then. I do not have enough knowledge of the situation first-hand to confirm this, and am basing my perception here on discussions I had with various people who study Burma (both Burmese and non-Burmese) recently. If correct, it would be interesting to read Burma’s current case against the recent work of sociologist Michael Mann, Democracy’s Dark Side: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing. In that book, Mann (whose companion volume on Fascists is also compelling) argues that sudden democratization, mediated by a number of other necessary preconditions, can actually drive ethnic cleansing. I don’t necessarily endorse his views in either book, though I have found much of them compelling and very “good to think with.”

Regardless, Aung San Suu Kyi has been almost completely silent about the multi-year attack on Burmese Muslims. Some reports point out the great overlap between the primary sources of her political support (Buddhist monks) and the primary sources of these anti-Muslim fascists (Buddhist monks), such as this article, headlined, Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Saffron Monks” Stalk Streets With Machetes – Mass Slaughtering Refugees.

2. This is a political conflict about ethnicity and religion, not a religious conflict that has become political. This is a key distinction. When it is presented as ‘ethnic violence,’ or ‘communal violence,’ in the international media, or by UN officers, we imagine different lines than may actually exist.  Watch the following video, which covers the aftermath of the anti-Muslim pogrom that took place in Meiktila on March 22. You’ll see two Burmese Buddhist laypeople interviewed. Read the rest of this entry »

Link Dump for October 2011

In sounding on October 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to post anything here; on the other hand, my book writing is going well. Here are some things that I wanted to post here, with very little commentary.  Just getting caught up:

General Academic, and Religious Studies, Links

Ever curious about what the Religious Studies Book Review is really for? What it’s supposed to accomplish? Or, how to write one? Here’s the first third of a good essay on the topic! The Nature and Function of the Religious Studies Book Review (Part 1 of 3): Writing the Book Review

This excellent visualization of the relative isolation of various academic departments. Hint: anthro is very isolated!

As the financing and operation of the higher education industry becomes an increasingly heated topic, expect more radical discussions, or even (as here, pretty conservative discussions of radical topics) like this – “Do Faculty Strikes Work?” – in places like Inside Higher Ed.

Here’s a nice piece on “New Religious Movements” as an interpretive category. Good to read, for those interested in religion and innovation.

Good advice for the adoption of a ‘Five Year Plan’ strategy (with important distancing rhetoric from the USSR and the PRC!) for academic careers, from Kerim Friedman over at Savage Minds.

This brutal quote about Gender and Success in the Academy, from Kate Clancy’s excellent “The three things I learned at the Purdue Conference for Pre-Tenure Women: on being a radical scholar”:

To be clear, it’s not that academia weeds out the weak. The research on attrition for women and people of color indicates it’s not that women who leave are not confident, or are weak, but that they know their self-worth and have decided they’d rather take their toys to another sandbox where they’ll actually be appreciated.
But those of us who insist on playing with our toys in the academic sandbox need to be radicals. And I do think a lot of the ways we need to be radical involves how we perform our job: we need to set boundaries so that we aren’t always doing the service work no one wants, we need to make our passions our scholarly interests in the face of some who would invalidate it, we need to perform our confidence in front of people who might undermine us. We need to get tenure.

Buddhism Links

Those following the fascinating development of Ven. Luon Savath, Khmer Buddhist monk currently promoting “Engaged Buddhism” in Cambodia and receiving a lot of negative pressure from authorities as a result, will be interested to know that Ven. Savath has his own page, and hosts live and recorded lectures there.

Prof. Bryan Cuevas, whose work on death and the afterlife in Buddhism is the subject of a new book by him, is interviewed in an hour-long interview on the great site, New Books in Buddhist Studies!

General Funereal Studies

A good critique of the interminably stupid iGrief masquerading as compassion in the world, with the passing of Steve Jobs. I certainly wish the man no ill, and do not begrudge him compassion, but am more than a little disturbed at the hagiographical saint-making going on here, when videos like this one, below, are almost completely ignored.

A gorgeous HDR photo of a Japanese cemetery should be seen by all (from the astonishingly wonderful “Stuck in Customs“)

A small burial site found in Northern Vietnam, changing the way we think about pre-history.

Arch West, the inventor of Doritos, passed. Doritos were sprinkled on his grave. Rest in Powdery Flavor, Arch.

The great Khmer language scholar Khin Sok, also recently passed. The world of Khmer studies is considerably poorer for his passing. Rest In Peace, Lokkru.

Some Random Stuff

For my upcoming “Defense Against the Dark Arts” class, a book I’d like to read: “The Inquisitor’s Apprentice.”

And, a lovely piece from Ethnography.com on “love, duty, and marriage in a Thai novel,” on the novelist Siburapha’s “Behind the Painting,” originally published in 1938, and translated into English by David Smyth.

Sounding on Buddhism for September 1 2011

In sounding on September 1, 2011 at 12:26 pm

From the Isn’t It Cool files: one of the most important Buddhist institutions of learning in history is about to be rebuilt. Thanks to news from Noel of the Southeast Asian Archaeology Weblog.

The site is the ancient Dong Duong Buddhist College, built in ancient Champa, and hence on the crucially important sea routes between China and India (and beyond). Many important Buddhist travelers stopped, stayed, studied, and taught at Dong Duong.  The Encyclopedia Brittanica writes of Dong Duong that

Apart from My Son there are one or two other sites in north and central Vietnam where Cham art was made in quantity. The most important of these is Dong Duong, in Quang Nam. It is a ruined Buddhist monastery complex of the late 9th century, conceived on the most beautifully elaborated plan of structured space in Champa. The architectural detail is distinguished from the My Son work by its greater emphasis upon the plasticity of architectural elements such as angle pilasters and porticoes. The circuit wall was about half a mile (1 km) long and once contained many shrines dedicated to Buddhist deities. It is possible that, when this complex of brick courts, halls, and gate pavilions was intact, it may have resembled very closely the contemporary Buddhist monasteries of northeastern India.

Dong Duong is a total mess at the moment: Read the rest of this entry »

Bhikkhu Ñanamoli’s translation of the Visuddhimagga: The Path of Purification

In notice on August 19, 2011 at 9:49 pm

A new edition of Bhikkhu Ñanamoli‘s excellent rendition/translation of the great monk Buddhaghosa‘s Visuddhimagga: The Path of Purification, is available as a free pdf download from the Buddhist text website Access To Insight. I must admit that I find this book to be a sort of key to Buddhist philosophy. It’s amazing.

And it’s fantastic that this new edition is available as a free download.

“The Visuddhimagga is the ‘great treatise’ of Theravada Buddhism, an encyclopedic manual of Buddhist doctrine and meditation written in the fifth century by the great Buddhist commentator, Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa. The author’s intention in composing this book is to organize the various teachings of the Buddha, found throughout the Pali Canon, into a clear and comprehensive path leading to the final Buddhist goal, Nibbana, the state of complete purification. In the course of his treatise Buddhaghosa gives full and detailed instructions on the forty subjects of meditation aimed at concentration, an elaborate account of the Buddhist Abhidhamma philosophy, and detailed descriptions of the stages of insight culminating in final liberation” [summary from the back cover of the BPS edition]. [PDF]

Reading Report

In read on August 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm

No real reviews here, but a short list on what I’ve been reading this Summer, and how I generally feel about the books or articles.  What have you been reading?  Anything I should know about?  Let me know in the comments.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sounding on Buddhism, April 13, 2011

In sounding on April 13, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I’m pushing forward with my new schedule for Sounding posts, where I collect a variety of links on a shared topic (“Cambodia, Buddhism, or Religion,” e.g.) and make a few comments about them.  Today is Buddhism day.

  • Aung San Suu Kyi’s son to temporarily ordain as a Buddhist monk
  • Meditation “Better than morphine?”
  • “New Books in Buddhist Studies” online service
  • Separation of Church and State, Equal Treatment, issues in Stupa on National Park Service land
  • Why Hollywood should just stop making movies about ‘other people’s’ religions as backdrop.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s son to temporarily ordain as a Buddhist monk

Did you hear that Aung San Suu Kyi’s son is going to ordain as a Buddhist Monk?  Apparently.  The son, whose heartthrob status will probably only be increased by this honorable, celibate, act (he is a heck of a good-looking young man), will ordain, but the explicit purpose of his ordination is unclear.  Very often, novitiate ordination is understood primarily as an act which makes merit for one’s mother, so it’s very clearly direct towards his mother.  But the act also dovetails with a sense of opening possibility for a renewed National League for Democracy political party (NLD).

Read the rest of this entry »

South Korean Coffin Rejuvenation Ceremony

In comment on September 15, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Looks like the new Pansukula ceremonies in Thailand are catching on elsewhere, though I have no idea if there’s any actual transmission, or if this is mere ‘morphic resonance.’

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