Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

Abstract Jovan Maud

Buddhist Education and Transnational Networks: The Case of a Buddhist College in Southern Thailand

Throughout its history, the Buddhist world has been connected not only through practices of pilgrimage and missionisation, but through centres of scholarship and learning. Buddhist universities and other educational centres have acted as important nodes facilitating the circulation of Buddhist ideas, practitioners, and material resources. In addition, Buddhist educational institutions have often served as ecumenical sites in which lay and monastic practitioners of different traditions have met and interacted. Accordingly, in contemporary Asia the revitalisation and transformation of Buddhism is proceeding not only in temples, meditation centres but also through the (re)construction of educational institutions. Most notably, international efforts are currently underway to revitalise the legacy of Nalanda University, probably Buddhism's most famous historical educational institution. However, despite such important developments little scholarly attention has been directed at the question of how educational institutions contribute to shaping the contemporary Buddhist world.

Based on preliminary research, this paper seeks to address this issue by focusing on a Buddhist educational institution which has been established in southern Thailand in recent years. In particular, the paper details the transnational character of this institutions and the manner in which it functions as a node within networks of Buddhist practitioners, teachings, and funds.

The paper also considers ecumenical ambition of this institution and asks how this vision intersects with Thai Theravada Buddhism, one of the primary institutions of the Thai nation-state, and what tensions arise from this relationship. What does it mean for international Buddhist institutions to be established within a national Buddhist space? Do they, for example, undermine the unity and prestige of nationally-based religious forms? And how is the relationship between national and transnational "modes" of Buddhism negotiated by local and international actors who are involved with the educational institutions?

By focusing on these questions, this paper seeks to broaden the focus on the globalisation of Buddhism to include education as an important mode not only in the reproduction of Buddhist communities, but also in the transformation of contemporary Buddhist networks.