How to Behave

How to Behave: Buddhism and Modernity in Colonial Cambodia, 1860-1930

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  • Book Info
    How to Behave
    Book Description:

    This ambitious cross-disciplinary study of Buddhist modernism in colonial Cambodia breaks new ground in understanding the history and development of religion and colonialism in Southeast Asia.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6109-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    The 1920s in Cambodia saw an exuberant burst of new printed writings by Khmer Buddhist modernists on the subject of how to behave, as good Khmer Buddhists and moral persons, and simultaneously, how to purify themselves in the context of everyday life in a modernizing world. This book examines the intertwined ethical and historical questions of what Khmer writers articulated as the Buddhist values most important and relevant to their times, how these interpretations were produced, and how they represent Southeast Asian ethical and religious responses to the modern circulation of local and translocal events, people, ideas, and anxieties. In...

  5. 1 Defending the Jeweled Throne: Khmer Religious Imagination in the Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 18-44)

    A Khmer vernacular poetic version of a Southeast Asian biography of the Buddha, composed at the end of the nineteenth century,¹ depicts the Bodhisatta’s meditational victory over the temptations offered by Mārā, “the enemy of Lord Buddha.”² The culminating episode in the poem is a dramatic contest between Mārā’s army and Nāṅ Dharaṇī, the earth goddess, who testifies in support of the Bodhisatta over the ownership of a jeweled throne produced by the merit that the Bodhisatta generated from virtuous actions performed in countless past lifetimes. In the Bodhisatta’s defense, the “lovely celestial maiden Nāṅ Dharaṇī asserts,

    “Yes, I am...

  6. 2 Buddhist Responses to Social Change
    (pp. 45-76)

    The nineteenth century was a difficult and turbulent time in Cambodia. One Khmer official recounted in his memoir that by 1848, after decades of warfare,

    [t]he country was shattered. In every village, [people] struggled to and sources of income but could not. None of the rice farms or garden crops had been planted because everyone had been too afraid of Vietnamese and Siamese soldiers coming into the rice fields. . . . Entire villages were devastated, abandoned, deathly quiet. It was sorrowful and heart wrenching beyond description seeing the misery of widows with tiny children, their heads resting in their...

  7. 3 Vinaya Illuminations: The Rise of “Modern Dhamma”
    (pp. 77-108)

    By 1914, a new articulation of Buddhism concerned with the question of how to live in the modern world had come to life in Cambodia. It was shaped by the experiences of social and political change in the nineteenth century and by the traditions of Buddhist social criticism discussed in the previous chapter. It was also the outgrowth of a long-standing Theravādin impetus toward purification and reform at times of crisis or dynastic transition.¹ To a great extent, it reflected and drew on the more general project of modernization and reform under way during this period in Siam and colonial...

  8. 4 Colonial Collusions
    (pp. 109-147)

    Cambodia is “a country of profound faith . . . , [its religion] natural and spontaneous like our parishes of the Middle Ages,” observed a French administrative report from the mid-1930s. It was thus regrettable that “in a domain where the calm of meditation, the serenity of philosophical discussions are the normal ways of religious conviction and thought,” a “discipline rather different from traditional conceptions” had recently arisen. Bolstered by its ties to the administration itself, the report asserted, this “new doctrine” was spreading widely among the population, producing both “enthusiastic converts” and “others resolutely hostile in the name of...

  9. 5 How Should We Behave? Modernist Translations of Theravāda Buddhism
    (pp. 148-184)

    “Nowadays,” Ukñā Suttantaprījā Ind observed in theGatilok,his primer on moral conduct, “people are not the same as they [once] were.” Although they intend to behave in accordance with the Dhamma, more often they end up being “swayed by the ways of the world instead.”¹ Thus, it was necessary to give scrutiny to the question of moral conduct: “how should we behave if we want to make ourselves pure?”²

    Ind’s comments prelude my return in this chapter to reading Khmer Buddhist representations of moral development, the bookend to the nineteenth-century ethical literature I examined in chapter 1. Returning...

    (pp. 185-186)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 187-228)
    (pp. 229-244)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 245-254)