The sangha in Myanmar is often considered by some scholars to be a “loose,” “autonomous,” “democratic,” and “de-centralized” organization that does not resemble a “church” in the Western sense of the term. Yet, when it serves certain ideological purposes — particularly when many in saffron robes march against a government one does not like — then, the sangha suddenly becomes a cohesive and ideologically united organization. But when the crisis is over, and one wants it to be no longer monolithic — that is, when one desires to promote its anti-centralist nature and Government’s effeteness in controlling it — then it returns once again to being a “loosely” organized autonomous, and “democratic” organization.

Scholarship on the Myanmar sangha needs far more consistent methodology, rigorous analysis, better use of original evidence, and a longer historical context in which to “locate” it than heretofore realized. This is particularly crucial when interpreting highly-charged, emotional, and sensational events such as the so-called “Saffron Revolution” of 2007, which turns out to be neither “saffron” nor “revolutionary.” This becomes most clear when the sangha, as in this article, is studied not in isolation and out of historical context, but within a long-term and intimate relationship with the state.