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A radical conservative Buddhist utopia: The Asoke People

Author

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  • Kanoksak Kaewthep

    () (Chulalongkorn University, Faculty of Economics, Bangkok, Thailand)

Abstract

This paper provides an overview of the Asoke People, the nature of their practices of Dhamma, and a detailed analysis with a case of the Sisa Asoke Community in Srisaket Province, Northeastern Thailand. It argues that in recent times as modern Thai society has become increasingly differentiated, the Asoke People have started to develop the community culture on the basis of an innovative interpretation of Dhamma. Attention is focused in particular on the practices of Precept or “ Sila ”, which led to the emergence of a new religious movement aiming at a reformation of traditional religious values. The Asoke group has established the “anti-mainstream communities”, here mean to reject the materialistic consumerism of Thai society generally and is thus a critique of modernity, all over the country. “Be diligent, take initiative, dare to be poor, and endure sarcasm” is a motto, which reveals the Puritan pride and reformist objectives of the Asoke and its communities. Importantly, this new Buddhist social movement also engenders a challenge to alternative development paradigm. The Asoke group like NGOs seeks an alternative paradigm for development by focusing on self-reliance, in contradiction to the capitalist or industrialised path. However, unlike other self-reliance movements, the Asoke group’s entry point is religion rather than economics. This, the author suggests, is helping to reshape and redefine conventional religious practices of Nirvana . In this regard, giving (or Dana ) is an important means of everyday practice of accumulating merit (Bun) in order to attain Nirvana at the end. This is the most crucial nostalgia of Thai Buddhists.

Suggested Citation

  • Kanoksak Kaewthep, 2007. "A radical conservative Buddhist utopia: The Asoke People," Society and Economy, Akadémiai Kiadó, Hungary, vol. 29(2), pages 223-233, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:aka:soceco:v:29:y:2007:i:2:p:223-233
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    Keywords

    Buddhist utopia; Asoke people; sila; nirvana;

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