The king of Thailand is a constitutional monarch and having reigned since 1946, is the world's longest-serving head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. The king of Thailand is not only the Head of State and of the Armed Forces he is also the Upholder of the Buddhist religion. As a result he is seen as a unifying figure among its people in the political arena but increasingly it seems that a religious cult has developed around the figure of the king. He is a revered man and holds considerable power and influence among the people. Historically the figure of the Thai monarch has been important in keeping the country politically stable and out of a number of conflicts, with the preference of the Thai monarchy on peace and stability rather than conflict. This paper will examine how the country’s religious background set in Theravada Buddhism affects how the figure of the monarch is constructed and increasingly shows similarities with the role of a spiritual leader not only a political one. I will explore the question of how the Buddhist definition of Kingship affects the mythical narrative surrounding the monarch in Thailand. Setting the context from which I shall approach the issue of in what way the Thai people publicly revere their King in not only secular terms but increasingly religious terms. With modernizing transformations taking place in contemporary Thailand it is noticeable though that the country’s religious background is not lost in the shuffle. Theravada Buddhism is still increasingly important in the country’s social, economic and religious identity. But increasingly the figure of the Monarch takes an all-encompassing figure to exemplify the socio-religious values that Thai’s should aspire to.
During the first three decades of the People’s Republic, Communist Party elites pursued a revolutionary political, economic, and social paradigm, whose long-term goal was to develop a strong national security, ensure prosperity, and strengthen the Party’s comprehensive control of the state. Elites eliminated all foreign religious connections, which were replaced with Party-approved religious organizations. The adoption of the techno-economic paradigm in the 1980s created high economic growth rates as well as widespread corruption that threatened Party’s legitimacy. In response, the Communist Party adapted the revolutionary social paradigm and initiated a moral re-armament campaign. Elites used traditional religions and beliefs to strengthen moral standards and to supplement the state’s social welfare role. Elites however were less trusting of foreign religions, because of their complicated history, their continued foreign connections, and their non-sanctioned religious practices. As long as elites retain the revolutionary social paradigm and its emphasis on Party primacy, elites will continue to favour traditional religions and beliefs while discriminating against foreign religions and heterodox religious movements.
This chapter investigates the historical precedents for the Mañjuśrī assemblies led by Eison and his Saidaiji order disciples. I first examine the four precedents most commonly cited: the Mañjuśrī Parinirvāṇa Sutra, the Mañjuśrī cult on Mt. Wutai in China, Gyōki’s activities, and Japanese state-sponsored Mañjuśrī assemblies that began in the early ninth century. I then argue that it is also necessary to widen our perspective to include a consideration of both warrior government-sponsored Mañjuśrī assemblies in the early thirteenth century and the link between memorial rites for mothers and the Mañjuśrī cult in the Saidaiji order assemblies. In exploring the multifaceted precedents for the Saidaiji order assemblies, this chapter reveals how Eison and his disciples adopted and adapted earlier Mañjuśrī cultic traditions while staging the assemblies as performative opportunities to showcase their particular exoteric-esoteric expertise.
Focusing on the period from 1255 to 1269, this chapter investigates the “living Mañjuśrī” statue that served as the centerpiece for the restoration of the Nara temple Hannyaji and analyzes the two dedicatory texts for the statue written by Eison in 1267 and 1269. Hannyaji was located next to Yamato Province’s largest outcast community and was the temple most strongly linked to the Saidaiji order involvement with outcasts. Enshrinement ceremonies for the Mañjuśrī statue were held as broad assemblies, accompanied by devotional texts that promoted Mañjuśrī, Eison and his disciples’ exoteric-esoteric orientation, and their charitable relief activities for outcasts. I argue that Eison’s writings show a continuity in his teachings on Mañjuśrī and the bodhisattva path for diverse social groups that is neglected when the exceptional nature of his activities for outcasts is emphasized. I further suggest that Eison promoted the Mañjuśrī cult as a universal means for generating the aspiration for enlightenment, engaging in Buddhist practice, and attaining awakening. By examining the ritual, doctrinal, and narrative contexts of Eison’s writings on Mañjuśrī and outcasts in these texts, the chapter gives fuller life to Eison’s own “voice” and monastic milieu while clarifying his characteristic juxtaposition of egalitarian and hierarchical views.
The Korean peninsula of Northeast Asia was not well known to the powers and authorities of Western countries in the nineteenth century, for the royal family and their government of the Chosŏn dynasty (empire of Korea) had maintained an anti-western policy. The national policy did not last a long time; rather the western civilization of advanced science, technology, literature, and culture flowed into this oriental society, where there was a strong influence of Confucianism. Although Buddhist monks were in Korea, it was not the national religion. Instead, various activities of shamanism were performed in the life and culture of the Korean people. Christianity was a new religion to the local people in the nineteenth century. Then, how did the historical development of the Western religion take place in Korea? Was it part of the nineteenth century colonialism? Which country had the greatest effect on the early Korean Protestant movement? How did the Korean scripture (Sǒnggyo) emerge and affect the widespread use of Han’gŭl language in the society? This paper not only demonstrates the unique impact of a Scottish man over the early history of Korean Christianity and the development of Korean literature in 1870s-1890s, but also argues that the Korean diaspora in Manchuria under the principle of the ‘fulfilment theology’ performed as the vessel of John Ross for the modernization of the Hermit Kingdom.
In East Asia, the religious and intellectual history of women has been less seriously dealt with compared to that of men. In Korea, the focus has been most often on elite men who reinforced Confucian patriarchal ideals. Unfortunately, the Confucian hierarchy excluded women from the intellectual world and reinforced inequality and double standards at all levels. This paper gives a voice to the marginalised women who converted to Catholicism during the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century, but who have, once more, been overlooked at the expense of elite men. It will firstly outline how Confucian constructions of “good” women subjugated and delimited their possibilities vis-à-vis men. By engaging with contemporary critical theory, it articulates how marginalised women, who took the lead in spreading the Catholic faith, risking, and often losing their lives in doing so, unsettled Confucian constructions as they endeavoured to realise a new value system based on the Christian teaching of equality: this was considered “dangerous knowledge,” and seen as a threat to the state. This study focuses on two women in particular: Colombe Kang Wansuk (1760-1801) and Luthgarde Yi Suni (1781?-1802), who show us various ways in which Catholicism was transforming the lives of women, dissolving rigid binary notions of gender, allowing everyone to participate in the intellectual and spiritual world through the use of Han’gŭl, as well as developing a new religious modus vivendi for women and men.