Demystifying the People, Places, and Practices of a Buddhist Tradition
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Descrição da editora
An illuminating introduction to the contemporary world of Theravada Buddhism and its rich culture and practices in modern mainland Southeast Asia.
Theravada translates as “the way of the Elders,” indicating that this Buddhist tradition considers itself to be the most authoritative and pure. Tracing all the way back to the time of the Buddha, Theravada Buddhism is distinguished by canonical literature preserved in the Pali language, beliefs, and practices—and this literature is often specialized and academic in tone. By contrast, this book will serve as a foundational and accessible resource on Theravada Buddhism and the contemporary, lived world of its enduring tradition.
Brooke Schedneck has done extensive research on topics such as religions of Southeast Asia, contemporary Buddhism, gender in Asian religions, and religious tourism. Narrowing in on topics such as temples, monastic lives, lay Buddhists, meditation, and Buddhist objects, Schedneck highlights the thriving diversity of Theravada Buddhists today. Exploring Theravada as a lived religion reveals how people apply various expressions in everyday life. She presents to readers the most important practices and beliefs of Theravada Buddhists, illustrated through contemporary debates about what represents proper Theravada practice within Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand in the twenty-first century. Additionally, practical information is provided in appendices about what temples and practice centers readers can visit as well as a temple etiquette guide offering tips for being a respectful visitor. While academics will benefit from and appreciate this overview, the writing offers a refreshing introduction to a complex tradition for readers new to the subject.
Schedneck (Religious Tourism in Northern Thailand), a Rhodes College religious studies professor, skillfully surveys contemporary Theravada Buddhism. Focusing on communities in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand, Schedneck examines the experiences of monks and laity in three broad sections: people, practices, and sacred places and objects. Schedneck first explores the significance of Buddhist temples as sacred spaces and community centers, where monks and laity interact on a daily basis as well as during structured rituals. She also engages the sect's gender dynamics: men can ordain as monks, while it's more complicated for women, who may become "precept nuns," though the role lacks the "rules, structure, or respect" of "a full monastic life." Meanwhile, the practices section explains "merit-making activities," in which the benefit from doing good is transferred from monks to laypeople through rituals or festivals. ("Monks represent a field of merit, while laity plant seeds in this field," the author explains.) Appendices offer a list of different meditation centers and outline temple etiquette. Schedneck's take is richly nuanced without sacrificing clarity, making for an entry that's useful for Buddhism students and scholars. Readers will welcome this considered offering.