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Songkhla, Natayada na (1999) Style and Ascetics: Attractiveness, Power and the Thai Sangha. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The majority of research for this thesis took place during the Thai general election of 1988 when the new religious movements Santi Asoke and Wat Dhammakaya were subject to investigation for political activity despite, respectively, defiance or denial. The relationship between the Thai Sangha and lay devotees is examined in order to discover how it is that Thai monks, whom many researchers find powerless, can be accused of political activity. In the past, monks have been used to legitimate lay political leaders and have taken active roles in local leadership. This thesis aims to determine whether monks in Thailand have power and, if they do, how such power becomes politically threatening to the status quo. As is suggested by the rise of new movements, the Thai Sangha is not an institution of uniform standard and activity; monks often appear different from each other in subtle yet distinctive ways and these differences can be noted by the lay public. Differences in appearance often reflect variations in monks' pastoral involvement in the lay community. In short, there are different styles of Thai monk, each with a lay following which is attracted to his particular style. There are four factors which effect the relationship between the Thai Sangha and the lay public: monks, devotees, temples and day-to-day religious life. Each of these factors - among the mainstream Sangha, Santi Asoke and Wat Dhammakaya - are examined, compared and contrasted in order to determine the nature of monastic powder in Thailand and how that power works in society to allow' the Sangha to act as legitimators and local leaders and, on occasion, to be perceived as a threat. Particular attention is given to the devotees and the style of monk they find attractive. It is this attraction that is the basis of monastic power.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:31

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