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Monastic economy and interactions with society: in the case of Burmese Buddhist nuns.

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper

Publication date10/2007
Place of PublicationLancaster, UK
PublisherHiroko Kawanami
Number of pages24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In Burma/Myanmar, daily interactions that take place between the monastic community and wider society provide the foundation for people�s religious activities and Buddhist worship. Especially, �going for alms� is a symbolic religious act, which is considered essential in cultivating a sense of responsibility on the part of monastic members, and dedication and commitment on the part of laity. In comparison with monks, however, nuns have an ambiguous religious standing in the monastic community. They are monastic in terms of the other-worldly values they hold and their communal affiliation, but they manifest worldly features when it comes to monetary transactions with their lay donors. In this respect, they are more vulnerable to the secular implications of receiving donations. After the socialist government that kept the country in isolation for 26 years, the military regime (State Law & Order Restoration Council, later State Peace & Development Council since 1997) introduced policies to open up its economy following the social upheaval in 1988 caused by the suppression of the democracy movement. Following an attempt by the regime to invite foreign capital and develop the economy, there has been a noticeable transformation in urban and semi-urban areas, especially since the mid-1990s. These areas are rapidly moving away from the traditional milieu of interdependence to a non-personal market oriented economy, and although eighty percent of the population is still confined to rural villages, there are signs that suggest nuns are increasingly becoming affected by the more materialistic transactions emerging in society.