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Newell, Catherine (2008) Monks, meditation and missing links: continuity, “orthodoxy” and the vijj dhammakya in Thai Buddhism. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis examines the pervasiveness of dhammakaya meditation practices in modern Thailand. It identifies the precursors of dhammakaya meditation used by the Dhammakaya temples internationally, and explores its history in relation to royal-led reforms of Buddhism, Thai forest monks and expectations of Theravadin orthodoxy. Chapter 1 explores the early Bangkok period in which Buddhism played a central role in discrediting and legitimating new rulers, and the lifetime of King Mongkut (1804-1868), in whom we may perceive a microcosmic representation of the effects of reform. Chapter 2 introduces the founding father of the Dhammakaya temples and “rediscoverer” of dhammakaya meditation, Sot Chandassaro Bhikkhu (1885-1959). This chapter explores the broader significance of Sot’s work, and the legacy of his teachings in Thailand and the United Kingdom. In Chapter 3, the broader history of the Dhammakaya temples is considered. Chapters 4 and 5 offer an overview of the history of meditation in Thailand, and assess the impact of 19th- and 20th-century reforms upon meditation traditions. It also considers the way in which this climate of reform, and academic approaches to the study of meditation, have introduced and perpetuated certain ideas about “orthodoxy” and the functions of meditation practice. Chapter 6 focuses upon dhammakaya meditation and assesses its possible precursors. In conclusion, the thesis argues that dhammakaya meditation represents a longer tradition of pre-reform Thai Buddhism, preserved and promoted by Sot through the narrative of “rediscovery”.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2009 11:02

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