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MEETINGS 2013-2015

386th meeting :   "The ‘Holy Man’ (Ton Bun) Tradition of Lanna Buddhism."

Tuesday 13 Jan 2015.

A talk by Paul T. Cohen

The Talk:
Northern Thailand has a long tradition of ‘holy men’ (ton bun) shared with Tai and non-Tai
peoples of northern Laos, Sipsongpanna (Yunnan) and northeastern Burma. The most famous ‘holy man’ in recent times is the forest monk Khruba Siwichai (1878-1939). In this talk I discuss the religious beliefs and practices of Khruba Siwichai and other exemplars of the modern ‘holy man’ tradition, in particular the contemporary charismatic forest monk Khruba Bunchum. I argue that this tradition is a form of religious revivalism devoted to moral regeneration and the creation of a ‘Buddha Land’ (Buddhadesa) and marked by a
unique combination of reclusive asceticism and worldly activism. My talk will conclude with some observations on recent incipient trends towards the nationalisation and commercialisation of this Lanna tradition.
The Speaker:       
Paul Cohen is a retired Associate Professor of anthropology and currently holds the honorary position of Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University, Sydney. He has conducted periodic field research in northern Thailand since the late 1960s and in northern Laos since the mid 1990s. His research and teaching interests range widely from agrarian issues, medical anthropology and public health, illicit drugs, and Buddhism. He has published six journal articles and one book chapter on
Buddhism, mostly related to the Lanna ‘holy man’ tradition. In late January 2015 he has planned a workshop on Charismatic Monks of Lanna Buddhism to be hosted by the Center for Ethnic Studies and Development, Chiang Mai University..

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