Tobunken Seminar "Re-entering the World? Rituals and Decisions to Leave the Sangha in Theravāda Communities"

Date : 16:00-17:30 on Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Venue : 1st Conference Room 304 (3rd floor), Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo

Title:Re-entering the World? Rituals and Decisions to Leave the Sangha in Theravāda Communities

Speaker : Kate Crosby, SOAS/King’s College, London

Language : English

The reason boys and young men become monks in Theravada Buddhism has been much studied. Becoming a monk generates merit for parents, provides access to education, and enables social mobility. It is a lifecycle ritual, revealing brahmanical influences and re-enacting the Buddha’s leaving home. But what about the other end of the process, what motivates a monk to leave the Sangha and ‘re-enter’ society? How about those monks who stay long term? This talk will look at monastic disrobing patterns across Theravada regions, including the Chittagong Hill Tracts. We shall look at rituals, as well as psychological and financial consequences, the societal roles of monks and how these have been affected by political events of the 20th centuries. We shall see the impact of the civil war and over-population in Bangladesh, secularisation in Laos, the killings under the Khmer Rouge and age restrictions under the Vietnamese in Cambodia. While marked similarities affect monks life-choices throughout the Theravada world, disrobing is also a barometer reflecting the particular pressures facing each society. On the one hand, fear and failure to act before the appropriate age (c.40), on the other hand, altruism, entrepreneurship and genuine spiritual motivation are key factors in ensuring lifelong commitment.

Organizer: BABA Norihisa