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De villkorligt frigivna: Relationen mellan munkar och lekfolk i ett nutida Thailand

by Wiktorin, Pierre, PhD

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation, based on 14 months of fieldwork carried out in central, northern and north-eastern Thailand, focuses on laypeople's demands on contemporary Thai Theravada sangha. In the aftermath of the economic breakdown in 1997, an intense discussion concerning the moral status of the sangha took place. The religious interests and demands clearly differ between different groups. What still seems to unify these groups or classes of Buddhists, however, is their concern for the sangha's compliance with a few vinaya-rules such as observing the chastity vow and not keeping donations obtained in merit making for personal use. In an attempt to move beyond the obvious, this dissertation applies an exchange theory to problematize the above. Two separate but intimately related spheres exist in modern Thai society; a short-term sphere where profit making, individual success, vitality and consumption of luxury goods are tolerated and even spoken for, and a long-term sphere concerned with the reproduction of social and cosmic systems. While the latter sphere is regarded as morally positive, the former is, if not negative, at least morally ambiguous. If surplus (money, food and other gifts) is transferred from the short-term sphere to the other sphere, however, it is not only considered a morally positive act, but also as constituting an exchange of creativity. This exchange is attributed to the separation of the spheres, which implies that if distinctions that reify them are blurred, reactions will not be absent. The monk's concern with his non-laypeople behaviour makes him more or less a negation of the male gender. Moreover, while these regulations certainly make the monk's gender different from the layman's, they also make it dangerously similar to the female gender ? and risks of category transgressions are usually countered with taboos. When discussing sex- and money monks, the Thai Buddhists did not only question the moral status of the sangha. They also, indirectly, held it responsible for the economic crisis. The status of the sangha is thus linked to the status of the nation. While this certainly highlights the habitus of the monks, it simultaneously draws attention to the laypeople which, like Eve, provided the sangha with the apple that kicked humanity out of Eden. The Wat Phra Dhammakaya controversy could arguably be seen in this context. The majority of the movement's followers consist of affluent middleclass people; a section of Thai society dominated by the ethnic Chinese. Consequently, the questioning of the sangha that took place in the aftermath of the economic crisis, could be seen as religiously as well as politically motivated.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Lunds universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:SOCIAL SCIENCES; HUMANITIES and RELIGION; Samhällsvetenskaper; Social sciences; Humanities; Humaniora; anthropology of religion; tourism; habitus; (late)orientalism; social fields; private and public identity; exchange theory; modernity; gender; Wat Phra Dhammakaya; reformist monks; sangha-laypeople relationship; Thailand; Theravada Buddhism; Non-Christian religions; Världsreligioner (ej kristendom)

ISBN:91-22-02118-3

Date of Publication:01/01/2005

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