Theravada Buddhist Responses to Colonialism and their Modern Implications: Yin-Cheng Lecture by Kate Crosby (4.3.23)
From jlegath Legath
Lecture by Kate Crosby, Response by Alicia Turner
Abstract: The warfare, disease and disruption to the status quo that came with European colonialism to the countries of Theravada Buddhism seemed to fulfill ancient predictions of the calamities that would attend the decline of the Buddhist religion. In their responses to the practical and conceptual challenges of colonialism, Buddhists took inspiration from the canonical and commentarial texts that contained both such predictions and potential counter measures. These texts thus inspired both adaptive and conservative responses aimed at preserving the Buddha’s teaching and maintaining the availability of spiritual progress. Despite finding inspiration in the same texts, the resulting forms of Buddhism have often taken markedly opposite directions, ranging from secularised and modernist approaches on the one hand, to the reactionary and fundamentalist approaches on the other. Examples of adaptive responses include modern Mindfulness, the dismissal or reinterpretation of traditional cosmology and rebirth from Theosophy onwards, and ‘common-sense’ interpretations of Buddhist ritual or monastic rules. In contrast, all of these types of response have been the subject of non-Dharma/non-Vinaya, or ‘heresy and malpractice’, trials in modern Myanmar, with defendants being found guilty for straying from the detailed teachings on these subjects found in the Pali canon, commentaries and Abhidhamma. This talk will illustrate the different directions taken to protect Buddhism from colonialism in different Theravada countries and the ramifications for both Theravada and global Buddhism today.
Launched in September 2021, the Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture Series (印證佛學傑出學術系列講座) is a collaborative, multi-university partnership between Peking University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Inalco (Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales), Princeton University, Harvard University, and the University of British Columbia.The Lecture Series is established in honor of Venerable Cheng-yen 證嚴, founder of Tzu Chi, and her mentor Yinshun 印順 (1906–2005), with the goal of promoting topics in Buddhist studies.