Monks in Politics, Monks in the World: Buddhist Activism in Contemporary Myanmar
Abstract

Monks in Politics, Monks in the World: Buddhist Activism in Contemporary Myanmar Despite common claims that monks in Myanmar are expected to remain aloof from politics, there is a long history of monastic political engagement in the country. This activism has continued during the present transition period, with monks being involved in issues from land rights protests to anti-Muslim campaigns. Of particular interest, beyond the mere range of issues, are the motivations and methods as well as the ways in which monks have justified their participation in political issues. Based on field work in Myanmar from 2011-2014, this chapter identifies four different ways that monks explain their participation. First is invoking the duty of a monk to defend the sāsana, the Buddhist religion, second is a further consideration of other “vocationally correct” ways for monks to participate in politics, third relates to the particular characteristics of monks, and the fourth looks at the importance of the intention behind any act and its purpose. The range of views on monastic political engagement reveals the ways in which the monastic vocation in Myanmar is being discussed, challenged, reinforced, and transformed during this period of change.


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