Theravada Buddhism : contrary to nationalism?
Goh, Delwyn Heang Woon
Date of Issue2018-11-08
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
This dissertation demonstrates how there are potentially core elements in Theravada Buddhism, relating to the religion's conception of a general order of existence (namely, the principles of impermanence, putting aside of self, and suffering), which may retain significant resonance in believers' consciousness. The resulting narrative frame may be contradictory to the modem-day logic of nationalism, especially where it involves national identity and a desire for political sovereignty. To a lesser degree, there is also a certain individualistic streak in Theravada Buddhism that may run counter to how nationalism typically functions to mobilise and coordinate. The preceding thesis is supported by the older literature on Theravada Buddhism, e.g., the analyses of Melford Spiro, and opposed by recent writings on religious nationalism, e.g., from Brubaker and Friedland. The recent trend has been to generalise and posit a high degree of compatibility between religions and nationalism, even as Buddhism is omitted altogether from the discussion.