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.
About the Author
DR. BROOKE SCHEDNECK teaches courses on Buddhism and Asian religions at Rhodes College and leads their Maymester in Thailand. She holds a BA in religious studies from Boston University, an MTS in world religions from Harvard Divinity School, and a PhD in Asian religions from Arizona State University. She has lectured in Buddhist studies at the Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs in Chiang Mai, Thailand. A regular contributor to the Religion and Ethics section of The Conversation, Brooke is also the author of Thailand’s International Meditation Centers (Routledge, 2015) and Religious Tourism in Northern Thailand (University of Washington Press, 2021) and coeditor of Buddhist Tourism in Asia (University of Hawaii Press, 2020).
“A knowledgeable and multidimensional way to learn about how Theravada Buddhism is actually lived and practiced in Southeast Asia.”—Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart
“With her opening evocation of the smells, sights, sounds, and experience of walking into a Buddhist temple, Schedneck welcomes us right into the lived world of Theravada Buddhism—as it is actually practiced. By introducing all the key areas of Theravada doctrine through this lens, she gives us a superb introduction to the richness of Buddhist life, practice, and theory. Living Theravada shows us the Buddhism of South and Southeast Asia from the inside, with all its color, warmth, and vitality: it gives a wonderful, informative, and practical introduction to Theravada Buddhism as a lived tradition.”—Sarah Shaw, author of The Art of Listening and Mindfulness
“This book offers a fine comprehensive overview of the living Theravada Buddhist tradition in its wide diversity, showing the spectrum of Theravada beliefs and practices that range from the popular and devotional level to the more elite doctrinal and meditative side of the tradition. Expanding the narrow focus on Theravada as the repository of the most ancient Buddhist canon and a source of rigorous meditation techniques, the author reveals Theravada Buddhism as a broad umbrella that can accommodate people of vastly different needs, aspirations, and capacities.”—Bhikkhu Bodhi, author of Reading the Buddha’s Discourses in Pāli
“Schedneck skillfully surveys contemporary Theravada Buddhism. . . . 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.”—Publishers Weekly
“An immensely informative book and a beneficial entry point into understanding this religious tradition.”—Library Journal, starred review
“Eschewing the parochial view that ‘popular Buddhism’ is necessarily less meritorious than its more literate cousin of ‘elite Buddhism,’ Schedneck sees much virtue in the popular practices that have evolved in local communities. From praying for wealth to sacred tattoos consecrated by monks, the lived realities of Theravada Buddhism today are rich and lively.”—Buddhadharma
“Schedneck presents thoroughgoing research on contemporary Theravada Buddhism across mainland Southeast Asia. The text is appropriate for scholars, Buddhist practitioners, and newcomers to the region and religion, and is both particular in its examples and sweeping in its scope, from historical context to vivid descriptions of the daily life and practices of lay people and monks. . . . Schedneck’s writing is powerfully sensory and vivid across the landscapes and through the temples and villages she describes.”—Lion’s Roar