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A Ohio University Press Book

Burma’s Mass Lay Meditation Movement
Buddhism and the Cultural Construction of Power

By Ingrid Jordt

“Jordt has provided the reader with insights into a Burmese theory of power relations which foreign observers rarely take into account.”

The Irrawaddy

“(Burma’s Mass Lay Meditation Movement) provides a new opening to the discussion on the socio-political culture and political legitimacy in contemporary Burma…will undoubtedly revitalise the debate on various aspects of social and political issues in contemporary Burma.”

Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

“In almost every respect, Ingrid Jordt’s Burma’s Mass Lay Meditation Movement constitutes an impressive piece of scholarship.... In marrying together an insightful analysis of Burmese social and political conditions with a thoughtful consideration of how traditional Buddhist concepts and practices are coming into play in the contemporary context, Jordt presents a rich and illuminating account of modern Burma that has much to offer the reader.”

The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology

“One of the most important things about this book is just how terribly needed it is. There is no other book that takes a cold, hard look at the relation of modernist meditation movements in Burma to the military regime.”

Current Anthropology

Burma’s Mass Lay Meditation Movement: Buddhism and the Cultural Construction of Power describes a transformation in Buddhist practice in contemporary Burma. This revitalization movement has had real consequences for how the oppressive military junta, in power since the early 1960s, governs the country.

Drawing on more than ten years of extensive fieldwork in Burma, Ingrid Jordt explains how vipassanā meditation has brought about a change of worldview for millions of individuals, enabling them to think and act independently of the totalitarian regime. She addresses human rights as well as the relationship between politics and religion in a country in which neither the government nor the people clearly separates the two. Jordt explains how the movement has been successful in its challenge to the Burmese military dictatorship where democratically inspired resistance movements have failed.

Jordt’s unsurpassed access to the centers of political and religious power in Burma becomes the reader’s opportunity to witness the political workings of one of the world’s most secretive and tyrannically ruled countries. Burma’s Mass Lay Meditation Movement is a valuable contribution to Buddhist studies as well as anthropology, religious studies, and political science.

Ingrid Jordt is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She has conducted research in Burma since 1988.   More info →

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Retail price: $29.95, S.
Release date: October 2007
272 pages · 5½ × 8½ in.
Rights:  World

Release date: July 2014
272 pages
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for Burma’s Mass Lay Meditation Movement

“Engaging, well-written and intellectually stimulating.... sheds significant light on the Buddhist background to discontent with the current regime.... The great strength of this book is its central thesis that international criteria for ‘regime performance‘ have little meaning in the Burmese context if the religious sphere is not taken seriously into consideration.”

Pacific Affairs

“Ingrid Jordt presents an insightful account of Burmese Buddhism, lay meditation and the construction of political legitimacy. Her analysis shows the complex ways in which Burmese culture mediates popular beliefs concerning power and millennial expectations. This book will be required reading for students of Buddhism, anthropology, religion, political science, and those with geographic interests in Southeast Asia, and particularly Burma.”

Juliane Schober, Department of Religious Studies, Arizona State University

“A subtle, sympathetic, and astute examination of lay piety in Burma and its political implications. Jordt combines an insider’s comprehension of Buddhist meditation with a capacity to stand back and take a wider view. The result is a book rich in illuminating insights.”

James Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Professor of Anthropology at Yale University

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