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Chapter 8 - Encounters with Theravada Buddhism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 March 2022

John D. Barbour
Affiliation:
St Olaf College, Minnesota
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Summary

Theravada Buddhism is the dominant tradition in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Thai monasteries in the “forest tradition” are the setting for Tim Ward’s What the Buddha Never Taught and Phra Peter Pannapadipo’s Phra Farang: An English Monk in Thailand. These authors describe how the rules and regulations of the monastic code challenged them and prompted insights into the self’s relentless craving. Ward and Pannapadipo (now Peter Robinson) finally affirm an enduring self with abiding values and commitments, even as they appreciate Buddhist ideas about no-self. Rudolph Wurlitzer’s Hard Travel to Sacred Places and Stephen Asma’s The Gods Drink Whiskey recount travels in the dense urban centers of Cambodia and Thailand. Wurlitzer’s weary and disillusioned memoir rejects the possibility of enlightenment and says he was unchanged by travel. Yet, by taking this stance, he renounces the desire to exploit Asia or engineer his spiritual destiny. Stephen Asma’s account of a year teaching in Cambodia explores ideas about no-self, karma, and other ideas that conflict with Western assumptions and elicit a new orientation to life that he calls “transcendental everydayness.”

Type
Chapter
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Journeys of Transformation
Searching for No-Self in Western Buddhist Travel Narratives
, pp. 207 - 242
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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