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Title:Paths to enlightenment: Theravada Buddhism in upper Burma
Author(s):Schober, Juliane Sybille
Department / Program:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Religion, History of
Anthropology, Cultural
Abstract:This study is based on fieldwork in Mandalay, Burma and on the study of Theravada Buddhist texts. Religious, cultural, and social realities are contrasted with the doctrinal foundations of the Theravada Buddhist tradition taking into account indigenous perceptions and cosmological computations of relationships between religious practice, ritual, texts, and other aspects of socio-cultural formations.
Burmese social and religious realities form three separate domains of Theravada Buddhist ritual and practice. They are the laity, the monkhood (samgha), and self-ordained religious virtuosi (htwetyap pauk pouggou) striving for imminent enlightenment. The primary religious obligation of the laity is to provide material support for the physical body (rupakaya) of the Buddhist dispensation. In doing so, the lay community gains merit which, according to Theravada belief, is the basis for its material and spiritual wellbeing. The monastic obligation is to preserve the spiritual body (dhammakaya) of the dispensation through study of the scriptures and practice of the truth (dhamma) as it was conceived by the founder, Gautama Buddha. In this way, the monkhood maintains its ethical purity and acts as a proper source of merit for the laity. Self-ordained ascetics frequently are charismatic cult leaders who embark upon and seek to master a path like that of the founder himself, above and beyond the realizations of enlightenment he had envisioned for his community.
These domains share common structural features with regard to cosmological order, the spiritual quest of the individual, the notion of the common good of the community, social and religious principles of hierarchy, and with regard to diversity in practice and uniformity in ritual. Each domain defines parameters for chartering a path to enlightenment (nibbana), based on domain specific conceptions of the bodies (kaya) of the dispensation (sasana) and structured analogously to Theravada texts. Yet, they differ in content and meaning of religious practice, ritual and the path chartered.
Issue Date:1989
Rights Information:Copyright 1989 Schober, Juliane Sybille
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9011007
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9011007

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