The Sangha and Political Acts: Secularization in a Theravada Buddhist Society

  • Keiko Tosa (Autor/in)

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The secularization thesis has been influential in social thought. Most Western and
some Asian countries including Japan, seem to confirm this thesis. However, in
most Southeast Asian countries religion remains important. In this paper, I focus on
the monk demonstrations in Myanmar in 2007. First, I show the contradictions in
the confrontation between religious ideals and the institutionalization of sangha (the
monastic community of ordained monks and novices) in the modern political system.
Then I discuss the institutionalization undertaken to unify the sangha and the
relationship between sangha institutions and legal system and the secular world.
After this contextualization, I examine the monk demonstrations as part of a social
movement. This involves exploring the kinds of networks used by the monks and the
levels at which the military government intervened in the movement. Finally, I consider
the response of Japanese Buddhist networks, including some humanitarian associations,
and the effect of the monk demonstrations on wider networks of Buddhists.