Ethical Practice, Religious Reform, and the Buddhist Art of Living in Nepal
Seeing Things as They Are
By Lauren Leve
Routledge – 2016 – 256 pages
Theravada has experienced a powerful and far-reaching revival, especially among the Newar Buddhist laity, many of whom are reorganizing their lives according to its precepts, practices and ideals. This book documents these far-reaching social and personal transformations and links them to widespread political, economic and cultural shifts associated with late modernity, and especially neoliberal globalization. Nepal has changed radically over the last fifty years, and particularly since a popular movement opened the door to democratic political structures and an open-market economy in 1990.
Drawing on recently revived understandings of ethics as embodied practices of self-formation the author argues that the revived Theravada school is best understood as an ethical movement that offers practitioners ways of engaging, and models for living in, a rapidly changing world. This book explores Theravada Buddhism in Nepal from the perspectives of its practitioners—people who work the fields, work in offices, or telecommute from homes in Kathmandu—and who find its knowledge convincing, compelling and worthy of trying to internalize and perform. It details Theravada Buddhists’ social, ritual and meditative practices, their often conflicted relations to Vajrayana Buddhism and Newar civil society, their struggles to carve out a space in the world’s only extant Hindu kingdom, and the political, cultural, institutional and moral reorientations that becoming a 'pure Buddhist'—as Theravada devotees understand themselves—entails.
1. Introduction 2.‘A Garden of Every Kind of People:’ Newar Buddhists in Hindu Nepal 3. The Revival of "Pure Buddhism" 4. Being and Becoming a Theravada Buddhist 5. Theravada Care of the Self: Vipassana Meditation 6. The Buddhist Art of Living in Neoliberal Nepal Conclusion: Seeing Things As They Are
Lauren Leve is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA