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The Status and Values of the Santi Asoke

Marja-Leena Heikkilä-Horn

Santi Asoke, a Buddhist temple on the outskirts of Bangkok, is famous for its strict practices, Members of Santi Asoke eat only one vegetarian meal a day, walk barefoot, and have no Buddha statues in their temple. They emphasize recycling, natural agriculture, and anti-consumerism. Asoke temples are located in different parts of Thailand: Nakhon Pathom, Sisaket, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Sawan, Ubon Ratchathani, and Chiang Mai.

The group was founded by a Buddhist monk named Bodhiraksa who in 1975 officially resigned from the strat monastic hierarchy, after criticizing behavior and beliefs in the established Sangha. The newly formed Asoke group encouraged memers to teach actively in public parks, schools, and universities. They did so until 1989 when the leader, the monks, and the nuns were detained and accused of pretending to be Buddhists. The group was subsequently banned from preaching and a trial attempting to pronounce them illegal began. In Decimber 1995 , the monastics received a suspended sentence of two years.1

This article discussed the status and values of the Buddhist Santi Asoke nuns, known as sikkhamats. Included is a survey of the moral values of the sikkhamats relatede to merit-making (tham bun) and descriptions of how their values compare to those of mainstream Thai Buddhists. In addition, they completed about their lifestyle. Finally the article examines their hierarchical position and status within the Asoke group.

Santi Asoke Membership

In January 19952 the Asoke group consisted of 92 monks, 23 sikkhamats3(nun), and four novices. This number fluctuates as some monks and sikkhamats disrobe, while others become ordained. However, the monks do not disrobe as frequently as in mainstream temples because, theoretically, the Asoke monks strive for a lifetime ordination. Even with this goal in mine, the intended lifetime ordination can be broken and the person can easily disrobe. Approximately ten sikkhamats have disrobed during the history of the Asoke group.4

There has been considerable mobility among the monks during the more than 25 years of Santi Asoke's existence. Dozens of monks have disrobed, some for health reasons, somefor personal reasons, and others for breaking the Vinaya rules. Many have remained in close contact with the Asoke group. living in the vicinity of a center and practicing the Asoke lifestyle as laymen.

A similar mobility is evident among the sikkhamats, eventhough there are more restrictions and a longer waiting period for becoming a sikkhamat. Theoretically, it takes one year for a layman to become a monk, and two years for a laywoman to become a sikkhamat. In practice, however, since the nujber of sikkhamats is restricted to correspond to thenumber of monks, it takes several years to become a sikkhamat. The official ratio is four monks to one sikkhamat. In 1995 , the population of the group adhered to this formuly: 92 monks to 23 sikkhamats. Although reasons for this proportionate restriction have not been publicly stated, it seems clear not exceed the number of monks. If all the Asoke female lay followers were ordained, this would certainly be the case. Because the status and postion of the sikkhamats is unique in the Thai Buddhist worle (ordination is usually restricted to monks), allowing their numbers to increase might further infuriate mainstream monks who pooose Asoke's independent philosophy and practice of ordaining women.5

The Value of Merit-Making among Sikkhamats

To improve one's social and economic status in the next live, Thai Buddhists constantly strive to earn religious merit (bun), which affects future well.6 Merit-making is thus one of the main activities of the laypeople in Theravada Buddhism, and ranking the merit-making activities can be used as a method to compare and analyze values in these countries. Despite the weaknesses and criticisms of this method,7 it still provides one way to measure social values in the Thearvada Buddhist context. The method has been applied here in and attemps to evaluate the values of Asoke followers, monks and sikkhamats included, in comparison to the values of mainstream Buddhists in Thailand.8

In his study of a Thai Buddhist community, H.K. Kaufman distributed a questionnaire to 25 farmers in central Thailand.9When asked to rank the means of acquiring merit, the farmers ranked merit-making activities in the following order:

1 Becoming a monk
2 Contributing money to construct a temple
3 Having a son ordained as a monk
4 Making excursions to Buddhist shrined throughour Thailand
5 Contributing to the repair of a temple
6 Giving food to monks
7 Becoming a novice
8 Observing the fiveprecepts daily10
9 Offering robes to monks at the kathina ceremony11

Ten years later a similar ranking list was created by Stanley Tambiah after interviewing 79 "Family heads" in a village in norrtheastern Thailand:

1 Completely financing the building of a temple
2 Becoming a monk or having a son become a monk
3 Contributing money to repaio a temple or making kathina offerings
4 Observing Buddhish holy days
5 Strictly observing the five precepts

To ascertain Asoke group's view of merit-making activities, I prepared a list of 15 activities and an "other" option. I asked members to choose the six most meritorious acts and to rank them in order of merit. The alternatives presented resembled those presented to mainstream followers by Kaufmann and Tambiah. To reflect the values of the Asoke group in cludes many ordained women and female lay followers, the option of "becoming a sikkhamat" was included, balancing the male option of becoming a monk. Observing precepts was divided into two alternatives: observing eight precepts or five. Finally, the option of giveng money to beggars was added, and thenature and ectent of financial contributions were specified. The list of merit-making activities reads:

* Attending temple ceremonies every holy day
* Becoming a monk
* Becoming a sikkhamat
* Contributing money for the construction of a temple
* Contributing money foe the construction of a hospital
* Contributing money for the construction of a school
* Contributing money to repair a temple
* Eating vegetarian food
* Having a son ordained as a monk
* Giving food daily to the monks
* Giving money to the beggars
* Giving 100 baht in a kathina ceremony
* Giving 1,000 baht in a kathina ceremony
* Strictly observing the 5 precepts
* Strictly observing the 8 precepts
* Other (explain)

Many individuals in the Asoke group felt conflicted about ranking the activities. Some persons did net respond at all, others ticked off all 16 alternatives as equally important, while some chose six alternatives as first priority and six as second priority, and so forth. Of the 16 sikkhamats responding to the questionnaire, there failed to respond properly to the question concerning the ranking of merit-making activities. The 13 sikkhamats who did respond properly formed a value pattern which decidedly differs from the general pattern in the Asoke group.

A majority of the mongs and laypeople considered "becoming a monk" the highest form of merit-making. Of the 13 sikkhamats, only two selected "becoing a monk" as the best alternative for earning merit and these two chose "becoming a sikkhamat" as second most meritorious and "observing the five precepts" third. However, nine out of 13 sikkhamats (69 percent) chose the alternative of "becoming a sikkhamat" as the best way to earn merit, clearly demonstrating that they have developed a strong idintity as sikkhamats. Five of these sikkhamats chose strict observance of the eight precepts as the second best alternative.

At this point the pattern disappears and responses become more diverse. For the third most meritorious activiry, choices were fairly evenly divided among "eating vegetarian food," "observing the five precetps," and "observing the eight precepts." Among the alternatives mentioned under the "other" category were: spreading the Dhamma, serving the temple and society, helping needy people, and doing work that no one else in doing.

The patterns that emerged showed that the sikkhamats strongly emphasize the precepts. "Becoming a sikkhamat" is clearly the best alternative according to them, followed by "observing eight precepts" or "observing five precepts."

The Social Values of the Sikkhamats

Overall, responses from the sikkhamats clearly in dicated the high value they place on observing precepts. When asked what first impressed them about the Asoke group, they mentioned the teachings of Bodhiraksa, the eating of vegetarian food, and the strict observance of the precepts. They also appreciated the group's diligence, simple lifestyle, friendliness, and its strictness in not accepting donations of money. When asked what aspects of mainstream Buddhist practice they took exception to, the sikkhamats were reluctant to offer a critique. The information I got centered on lifestyle: laxity in observing the precepts, handling of money, ownership of property, and so forth. The discussion below is based on members' responses to questions regarding their lifestyle and the reasons they chose to follow the Santi Asoke path.

When asked why is it good to eat vegetarian food, the sikkhamats emphasized the first precept - to refrain from taking life - more strongly than the monks. The practice of refraining from killing is seen not only as a means of avoiding demerit (baap), but also as a means of creating merrit (bun).

In response to the question, "Why is it good to live a simple ascetic life?" the sikkhamats emphasized that living a simple life is less of a burden both for oneself and for society. One has more time to work for society and to help others. One mentioned that leading a simple life helps to control one's mind.

"Why is it good to eat only one meal a day?" elicited answers similar to the question on vegetarian food. In addition, the sikkhamats mentioned health issues, being less of a burden to those who prepare the food and to those who consume it. When asked "Why is it good to abstain from alcohol?" all respondents emphasized that alcohol is dangerous to health, wastes money, and causes many problems for human beings. From the Buddhist point of view, alcohol is not one of the four necessities - food, shelter, clothing, and medicine - mentioned in the Buddhist teachings, and it hinders one's concentration (sati). Some also mentioned that it can lead to association with bad company and the breaking of precepts.

In response to the question, "Why is it good to wake up so early?" the sikkhamats mentioned the fresh air, which is good for the health. Another advantage they mantioned is that it reduces laziness. When asked, "Why is it beneficial to wear simple (not fashionable) clothing? the sikkhamats responded that fashionable clothes are a waste of time and money. One said it is better to spend the time being "useful for society." Two others felt that fashionable clothes create passions, create demerit, and "deceive oneself and others." They felt that fashion demonstrates "greediness in your soul."

The Asoke group vigorously promotes a single lifestyle among their followers. Celibacy is, of course, reqired for monastics both at Santi Asoke and in mainstream Thai Buddhism. Only one of the 13 sikkhamats had previously been married, whereas 17 out of the 84 monks (20 percent) had been married. When asked, "Why is it beneficial to remain single and celibate?" the sikkhamats emphasized the freedom and independence to practice Dhamma and to work for society, not only one's family.

Two additional questions on the Asoke lifestyle elicited insight into the type of meditation promoted by the Asoke group. Responding to the question, "How do you meditate while working," the sikkhamats emphasized mindfulness- consentrating one's mind on the work - and the importance of analyzing one's mind. When asked about "the most important thing about the Asoke group for you," respondents mentioned the practice of Dhamma, spreading of Dhamma, the feeling of unity (khwaam samakki), the work for society, and the warm friendships among members of the group.

Translating Moral and Social Values into Practice

Among the values included here, the Asoke group emphasized the precept to abstrain from killing. For them, this should automatically translate to a vegetarian diet, since having animals killed for food clearly contradicts the first precepts. Some members refuse milk products and eggs so as "not to bother the animals" by milking them or taking away their eggs.

Another important value emphasized by the group is anti-materialism. An ordained person should not possess anything except the minimum nesessities: a knife for shaving, a sewing kit, an umbrella with a mosquito net, some clothes and eating utensils. The monks should not encourage the laypeople to possess property by blessing their private cars, shops, or lottery coupons.

The monks and sikkhamats in the Asoke group carry small booklets called property diaries (bantuk attaborikhaan), in which they carefully note everything they have received from the laity, from toothbrushes to calendars and clothes. Only medicines are exempt. This booklet is then shown to the abbot of the center, preferably once a month. The value of each gift is mentioned, or at least estimated if the monastic feels it is inappropriate to question the donor.

The Asoke group emphasizes simplicity even in ceremonies and rituals. It focuses on the literary tradition of the Buddhist teachings and keeps rituals to a minimum. Members look askance at the elaborate rutuals practiced by mainstream Buddhists. The rhythmic Pali chanting, glittering statues of the Buddha, and other decorations are perceived as obscuring the essence of Buddhist doctrines. Belief in magic is discouraged. The group rejects the folk brahminical and magico-animistic practices that are prevalent in main-stream Buddhist monastic culture and that occupy a dominant role in the lives of ordinary, particularly rural, Thai people.12 Rather than propitiating spirits (phi) and pondering their influence, anyone who is afraid of a ghost is encouraged to treat the spirit as a defilement (kilet) of the mind appearing in the form of a spirit (phi), and to confront it there. It is explained that because spirits do not exist in nature or in the outside world, but rather in the human mind, they cannot be conquered by magic rituals, but only by Buddhist practices aimed at reducing the defilements of the mind.

The Asoke group also vigorously emphasizes the third precept, to abstain from illicit sex. In Asoke ideology, sexual passion (kama rakha) is believed to be one of the basic defilements and all sexual activities seem to be classified as "illicit." Like mainstream monks and mae chi, the Asoke monks and sikkhamats are expected to live celibate lives, Lay followers are encouraged to follow the same practice and are encouraged to stay in the ascetic segregated dormitories where ten to twenty persons share a room. Even married couples are encouraged to abstain from sexual activities.13

The seventh precept encourages abstention from singing and dancing or even watching this kind of entertainment. This precept is sometimes held in abeyance at the Asoke centers, however, especially on national holidays when noisy festivities are arranged. The children and abults sing, play, dance, and act in small plays. The only restriction to this entertainment applies to those between the ages of 14 and 45 ; they are not allowed to dance because it might lead to sexual temptation.14

Santi Asoke constantly plays music over loudspeakers. The music is usually songs composed by Bodhiraksa with a Buddhist or moral message. Many songs from outside are accepted, however, after being screened by the monks to make sure they are inoffensive. At monthly children's parties, the children individually perform rock, pop, and folk songs, dance folk dances, and relate anecdotes in Thai or Lao.

Another break with the seventh precept is the practice of watching videos daily in all Asoke centers. After the monks have censored them, popular Thai and Chinese dramas recorded from Thai television circulate from center to center, From my observations, however, the censorship applies only to commercials; all the violence of the kungfu movies and the suggestive sex scenes in Thai dramas are openly shown. "The Sound of Music," "Little Buddha," and Charlie Chaplin films are regular favorites. The monks comment on the films as they are watching and others are expected to discuss the moral message of the films afterwards.

The seventh precept is also to refrain from wearing ornaments and jewelry. At Santi Asoke, one of the first signs that people have accepted the group's principles is when they remove their amulets, golden earrings, bracelets, and rings. Along with switching to a vegetarian diet, this could be interpreted as evidence of a "conversion experience," indicating their full acceptance of the Asoke lifestyle.15

Recruitment and Advancement in Asoke

To understand the social status of the sikkhamast in the Asoke group, it is important to examine the way in which members are recruited and advance within the group. In a questionnaire, I asked: (1) "How did you learn about the Asoke group?" (2) Where did you encounter the group for the first time?" and (3) "Where did you meet Bodhiraksa for the first time?"

Typically, sikkhamats discover Santi Asoke through reading books or by accompanying a friend on a visit to one of the centers, often during a national gathering. At one time, the monks and sikkhamats moved freely around, preaching and presenting slide shows, often at schools or teachers' colleges. In response to these activities, many teachers joined the group. These days people are often recruited through tapes. Most of the members recall the precise date of their first encounter with the group. Sikkhamats generally take more time than monks in deciding to follow the group, reject worldly life, and seek ordination.

Advancing toward Ordination

Laypeople wishing to become ordained in the Asoke sect usualy follow a gradual prescribed pattern of advancement. First, they apply to become temporary guests (akhantuka chon) and stay in dormitories in the temple area. During their stay, they must follow a vegetarian diet and observe the eight precepts. Every seven days guests may prolong their stay by asking permission (vikab) from the senior monk or the person teaching that day. A temporary guest may leave after the seventh day, with no further obligations.

female aspirant,
2nd stage(krak)
18 months
Female aspirant,
1st stale (pa)
6 months
temple resident
18 months
Permanent guest
6 months

Temporary guest
3 months

A person must stay as a temporary guest for at least three months before apllying to become a permanent guest (akhantuka pracaam). Guests in this category must also follow a vegetatian diet, kiip the eight precepts, and extend their stay every seven days. After strying as a permanent guest for at least six months, a person can apply to become a temple resident (aramika). After staying as a temple resident for 18 months, a person may apply to become an aspirant (pa).

All aspirants are chosen from among the temple residents, and many wish to become ordained. Others do not wish to be ordained, especially women who, due to the restrictions on the number of sikkhamats, realize they have little chance of becoming ordained during their lifetimes. As a resutl, there is considerable mobility among temple residents. Many temple residents, as well as permanent and temporary guests, walk barefoot, eat only one meal a day, and wear deep blue peasant shirts (mohom) and trousers or satongs.

The first serious step to ordination is to become a pa. After four months as a pa, a man advances to the next step; for a woman this takes six months. A male pa wears brown trousers, while a female wears a brown sarong. Both wear white shirts. Women may keep their hair long, but not longer than ten centimeters. The daily duties of the pa include assisting the monks and sikkhamats, washing clothes, cleaning public spaces and buildings, and helping in the kitchen, especially serving food to the monastics. Many aspirants also work in the schools.

The next step for a male aspirant is to become a nak. after four months he may become a novice (samanutthet). For female aspirants, the next step is to become a krak. A krak shaves her head and wears similar clothes as before, with the addition of a brown shawl (sabai) on her left shoulder for formal occasions. Technically, a krak can advance to become a sikkhamat after 18 months, but due to restrictions on the numbers of sikkhamats in relation to monks, many well-prepared kraks cannot become ordained. To become a sikkhamat, a woman must be less than 50 years old, but due to the long wait, many kraks pass the age limit before they are eligible for ordination.

Decisions concerning advancement are made by senior ordained members. The monks decide about advancement for male candidates. and sikkhamats decide on female candidates. They interview candidates on all levels, especially the pa and krak. After that, they bring their decisions to the monks, who do not pose any questions to the female candidates.16

There may be exceptions to these procedures. For example, the steps from pa to nak, or from pa to krak, do not follow automatically. A candidate may fail in the interviews or may hesitate to advance to the next position. Many aspirants resign their positions, but stay in the group as ordinary laypeople, sometimes continuing to live in the neighborhood of the temple, donating food to the monastics, and attending sermons.

The Status of Sikkhamats in Asoke

The hierarchical pattern of the Asoke colsely follows the pattern of mainstream Buddhist monasteries and Thai society in general. The monks pay respect by prostrating (kraap) to the leader of the group, Bodhiraksa, who is also the most senior monk. Bodhiraksa himself pays respect only to the Triple Gem - the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha - along with the other monks during teachings. the sikkhamats pay respect by prostrating to Bodhiraksa, all the monks, and the eldest sikkhamat. Early on, this tradition distinguished the Asoke group from the mainstream, since the three bows are usually directed to the Triple Gem.17 Even in the Asoke group, however, the three bows are often confused with paying respect to the Triple Gem.

Theoretically, novice monks have the same status as the sikkhamats, but in practice they are treated with more respect, in accordance with Thai tradition. The sikkhamats consequently bow to the novices. aspirants are expected to pay restect to both the monks and the sikkhamats. Temple residents and permanent or temporary guests are all expected to pay respect to the sikkhamats as well as the monks. However, some male lay followers individual, rather than a general pattern.

Before the teachings, the laypeople pay respect by prostrating (kraap) to the leading monk, to whomever is teaching, to the group of monks and, finally, to the sikkhamats.18 After the sermon, the laypeople are expected to bow three times again in the same order, to both monks and sikkhamats. When consulting the monastics, a layperson sits on the floor before the monk or sikkhamat, who sits either on a chair or on the floor of his or her hut (kuti). When talking to monks, a laywoman is expected to hold her hands in the greeting position (wai) all the time. The same is expected of a sikkhamat when talking to monks. these practices follow mainstream Buddhist traditions.

The senior-junior hierarchy among the monastics holds the same importance for the Asoke group as for mainstream practitioners. Monks pay respect to senior monks; instead of using given names, a junior monk refers to his senior as "phante," whereas the senior calls his junior "awuso," or by his name. The same fornat applies to the sikkhamats. During teachings and alms rounds, the monastics sit or walk in the order in which they were ordained.

During sermons, monks sit in the front on an elevated stage while the sikkhamats sit at the side on a somewhat lower stage. In Santi Asoke, the sikkhamats sit to the right of the monks while in Pathom Asoke they sit to the letf, reflecting the flexibility in these arrangemants. Female aspirants sit next to the sikkhamats on the floor, whereas male aspirants sit next to the monks on th floor. there is no traditional seating arrangement for laypeople; they sit scattered in no specific order. Although segregation of the sexes is preferred, in larger gatherings this preference sometimes disappears.

Administratively, at Santi Asoke three sikkhamats have been elected to represent the group in the outside world. They act as mediators between the monks and sikkhamats, and are responsible for the female aspirants as well as the female temple residents and permanent guests. these positions do not bestow higher status on the mediators. Higher status, both morally and in the hierarchy, is reserved for the oldest sikkhamat in Santi Asoke and the oldest sikkhamat in Pathom Asoke.

The sikkhamats hold conferences every half-month. An additional meeting is held once a month to discuss general problems of the group. This meeting is presided over by a monk. Meetings with the female aspirants are chaired alternately by the sikkhamats and the monks. Sikkhamats chair meetings of female temple residents and permanent guests, but never meeting of male aspirants or male temple residents.


Traditionally, women in Thai Buddhism hold positions subordinate to those of men. According to popular interpretation, a woman must be born as a man before she can aspire for enlightenment. The Asoke group challenges these assumptions by giving women the possibility of devoting their lives to religious practice. Thus far the group has ordained 23 women as nuns, albeit with the title of sikkhamat. The 23 sikkhamats in the group are highly respected by Asoke followers and, even if some lapses in paying respect do occur, the sikkhamats still hold social and hierarchecal positions higher than mainstream mae chi. This elevated status reveals itself in responses to the questions above, where "becoming a sikkhamat" is selected as the second highest means of earning spiritual merit, a ranking favored not only by sikkhanats, but aslo by monks. This clearly demonstrates that, given the opportunity for ordination, Thai women can gain as much respect as most monks today. Furthermore, the fact that many sikkhamats chose "becoming a sikkhamat" as the highest merit-making activity indicates that their identity as nuns has now asserted itself strongly, even though their position defies traditional Thai Buddhist concepts.

1 more details of the trial can be foune in Marja-Leena Heikkilä-Horn, Buddhism with Open Eyes. Belief, and Practice of Santi Asoke (Bangkok: Fah Apai, 1997). This book is based on my doctoral dissertation, "Santi Asoke Buddhism and Thai State Response" (Helsinki: Abo Aksdemi Universety Press, 1996)

2 My statistics originate from January 1995 when I conducted fieldwork in Santi Asoke. Bu November 1997 , there were over 100 monks and 24 sikkhamats.

3 The term sikkhamat, or sikkha mata, means Wstudying mother." Some laypeople call the nuns mae nen, which can be translated as "female novice."

4 Recently, Sikkhamat Thipdevi from Pathom Asoke disrobed. She had been in the group for 20 years and because of her high-society background and language skills, was well-known among researchers and journalists. She continues to dress in the manner of a sikkhamat with a long brown dress and shaved head. Ahother former sikkhamat, who disrobed about 18 years ago, remains in the neighborhood of the Santi Asoke center and visits the temple daily to talk with the sikkhamats, eat vegetatian food, and watch vidoes in the evening. Two other Santi Asoke sikkhamats disrobed for a time, lived outside the center, then refoined the group and have been recordained.

5 For more about mae chis, see Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, Thai Women in Buddhism (Berkeley: parallax Press, 1991), pp. 36-44.
6 For more about Thai concepts of merit, see Lucien M. Hanks, "Merit and Power in Thai Social Order," American Anthropologist 64, no. 6 (1962): 1247-61; Niels Mulder, Monks, Merit and Motivation: An Exploratory Study of the Social Functions of Buddhism in Thailand in Processed of Guided Social Change (De Kalb, Il.: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University), 1969; and Ilana Friedrich, "Dissent through Holiness: The Case of the Radical Renouncer in Theravada Buddhist Countries," Numen 28, no. 2 (1981): 164-93.

7 See Jane Bunnag, Buddhist Monk, Buddhist layman: A Study of Urban Monastic Organization in Central Thailand (Ccombridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), pp. 144-45; B.J. Terwiel, Monks and Magic: an Analysis of religious Ceremonies in Central Thailand (Lund, Sweden: Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies, Monograph Series No.24), pp. 240-41; and Marja-Leena Heikkilä-Horn, "By Making Merit All is Gained: Buying Hapiness, Power, and ?Wealth in Thai Buddhism. " in Hou' Free are the Southeast Asian Markets, ed. Nils H. Winter Turku: Åbo Akademi University Press, 1994, pp. 149-74

8 H.K. Kaufman, A Community Study inThailand (New York: Bangkhuad, 1960); Stanley J. Tambiah, Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in North East Thailand (Cambridge, 1970).

9 Kaufman, A Community Study in Thailand.

10 The five precepts, usually taken by laypeople, are to refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and intoxiants.

11 Kuafman, ibid., pp. 183-84.

12 These practices are described in some detail in Thomas Kirsch, "Complexity in the Thai Religious System: An Interpretation." Journal of Asian Studies 36 (1977) : 241-66; and Michael Ames, "Magic-Animism and Buddhism: A Strructural Analysis of the Sinhalese Religious System, " Journal of Asian Studies 23 (1964): 21-52.

13 For example, Major General Chamlong Srimaung has built separate huts for his wife in the centers where he has built houses (Paphom Asoke and outside Ratchathani Asoke). In this way, he and his wife do not share a bedroom, averting temptation and deflecting doubts from outsiders.

14 There can be exceptions even to this rule, as I observed during Mahapawarana in 1994 when some schoolgirls over the age of 14 danced folk dances.

15 For Stark and Bainbridge, a "conversion experience" was one characteristic of a sect member. Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival and Cult Formation ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p.21

16 There is secrecy concerning these questions; I was not able to obtain any examples.

17 In Santi Asoke and Pathom Asoke, at the third bow the sikkhamats consciously turn toward the eldest sikkhamat, who then acknowledges the greeting by sitting straight.

18 the laypeople in Santi Asoke and in Pathom Asoke remember to turn toward the sikkhamats at the third bow.The same does not happen in the larger national gatherings.

Swimming Against the Stream

Edited by
Karma Lekshe Tsomo


phante ѹ / awuso / sikkhamat ԡҵ
(bun) ح / (baap) һ / (sati) ʵ / (khwaam samakki) Ѥ /
(bantuk attaborikhaan) ѹ֡ ѵԢ / (phi) / (kilet)
(kama rakha) Ҥ
(akhantuka chon) ҤѹءШ (akhantuka pracaam) ҤѹءлШ
(pa) / (krak) ѡ / nak Ҥ / (mohom)
(vikab) ԡѻ / (kuti) د /
(samanutthet) ط / (sabai) / (kraap) Һ / (wai)