Sitagu Sayadaw’s ‘Mahavamsa’ Sermon

This is an English translation of a sermon given by the revered Burmese Buddhist leader Sitagu Sayadaw. It was given on 30th October 2017 to army officers at the Bayintnaung garrison and military training school in Kayin, Mynmar.

The following is part of the sermon with English translation and Burmese script. The original sermon was 3 hours long.

I have made further comments on new mandala.

It has gained much attention as the Sayadaw quotes from the notorious Dutthagamani passage from the 5th Century CE Sri Lankan chronicle, the Mahavamsa, which was originally composed in Pali. The standard English translation of the Mahavamsa by Wilhelm Geiger is available here.

In the famous episode Dutthagamani, having waged a long and bloody war in which millions were killed is advised by a group of eight Arahants (Buddhist saints):

From this deed arises no hindrance in thy way to heaven. Only one and a half human beings have been slain here by thee, O lord of men. The one had come unto the (three) refuges, the other had taken on himself the five precepts. Unbelievers [they have ‘wrong-views’, micchādiṭṭhi ] and men of evil life were the rest, not more to be esteemed than beasts. But as for thee, thou wilt bring glory to the doctrine of the Buddha in manifold ways; therefore cast away care from thy heart, O ruler of men!’

The Pali reads: saggamaggantarāyo ca natthī te tena kammunā / diyaḍḍhamanujā ve’ttha ghātitā manujādhipa // saraṇesu ṭhito eko, pañcasīle pi cāparo / micchādiṭṭhī ca dussilā sesā pasusamā matā // jotayissasi ceva tvaṃ bahudhā buddhasāsanaṃ/manovilekhaṃ tasmā tvaṃ vinodaya narissara, Mhv xxv. 109-111.

00:00-00:25     During Burma’s fight for independence, under the leadership of General Aung San, almost every one of the prominent warriors in the Burmese Army took shelter at the Buddhist monasteries in the rural villages, all over the country. We have learnt and read about that in history books. Buddhist monks and [Burmese] soldiers are inseparable.

00:26- 00:45    King Duttagamani accepted a flying alms-bowl. Not only was there food for himself, but his horse and the soldiers were also fed, as it was full of food. After they had had the food, they washed it [the bowl] and the empty alms-bowl was sent flying back. This was called the “flying alms-bowl”.

00:46-01:20     King Duttagamani had won the battle triumphantly. Millions of Tamils (Damilas) had died in the battle. After the battle, King Damainla, King Kyae were killed. King Duttagamani managed to unite the divided island of Lanka. Did you know that the island of Sri Lanka was separated into two sides? One side was Tamil (Damila) and the other was Buddhist. So who managed to combine the two separated parts into one country? King Duttagamani.

01:21-01:40     After the battle, the King was too exhausted to fall asleep. He couldn’t fall asleep and stayed awake in the middle of the night. What was happening to him was that he was being overtaken by remorse. What is that called? (to the audience)

  • “remorse” (The audience answers)

01:41-02:05 We are talking about the powers of the Dhamma. The victory of this battle is due to the power/quality of the Dhamma over King Duttagamani. The battle was won because of the effects of the power of the Dhamma. And as a result of the unity of the monks in fighting the battle together, the battle was over. That was how they had a landslide victory in beating the invaders.

02:06-02:21   It’s about unity, right? There must be unity between the King (leadership) and its people as well as the unity between the Army and Sangha (the Monks). The Four of them also have to be united. It’s like the four legs of a chair. They all have to support the country.

02:22-03:02 The King was unable to sleep until midnight because he was thinking about those millions of opposing Tamil soldiers, whom he had killed in the battle. He feared he would go to four hell realms due to the his unwholesome actions (B. arkhutho. P. akusala-kamma) he committed by killing millions of human beings. He was mentally exhausted because of fighting in the battle; the worries of having to rebuild the country again; the worries of resisting and defending the country against the Tamils; the worries about the unwholesome actions he committed. All these worries accumulated because of the millions of lives lost in battle.

03:00-03:30 The Arahants residing in the countryside become aware of the remorse of the King [through their ‘spiritual powers’, abhiññā].

-Who are they? (He asked the audience)

-The Arahants. (The audience answered)

You all need to understand that these arahants are always taking care of the King.

The King receives metta [loving-kindness] from the arahants, which is well received.

03:31- 03:50    As soon as they were aware of the King’s remorse, eight of these arahants arrived in the middle of the night. They asked the guard to open the palace gate. The guard informed the King and he let the Arahants go in to see the King.

They asked the King why he isn’t sleeping well.

The King said he was remorseful.

03:51-04:02     He said he had remorse about the unwholesome actions he had committed and that he will go to hell for those actions.

The eight Arahants said “Do not be worried at all, your Majesty. It was only a tiny bit of unwholesome action that you have committed”

04:03-04:42     “Why only a tiny bit”, the King asked.

The Arahants answered that “even though millions of beings had been destroyed, there was only one and a half human beings who is a genuine being. There was only one and a half beings who can be regarded as a human being. Out of these Tamil invaders, there was only one who had adopted the five precepts, and one who had adopted the five precepts and taken the three refuges in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. Therefore, there was only one and a half human beings.

The arahants have the ‘spiritual power’ (abhiññā) to see this.

So, even the person who practices the five precepts is not a complete being. He is half a human being.

04:43-05:20     “The one who adopts the five precepts together with the three refuges in Buddha, Dhamma and Sanga, is a complete (full) human being. Among the millions of beings who he killed by shooting, hitting & chopping, there was only one whom can be called a human being and one whom can be called half a being. Thus, there’s only one and a half human beings in total. Please do not be worried, your Majesty”

We did not say it. Who said it? (He asked the audience)

He answered to his own question – The Arahants said it.

The King then had peace of mind.

05:21-06:49     [Then Sitagu Sayadaw recites a sermon/Sutta, with interpolations]: “Laypeople lead by their leader and members of Sangha lead by the Venerable monks shall be mutually dependent and support each other. After having totally freed from 62 years of being a slave’s life, our native land shall be built again. Our country, our land, our inheritance shall be established and prospered. Don’t let it falter.”

06:50-07:20 Land, water, sky [alluding to the three parts of the military: Army, Navy and Air Force]. There was that monk who saw the Tipiṭaka books being buried inside the meditation compound. So that counts as “Land”- your infantry Army, “water”- your navy, “sky” –that means your Air Force, right?

07:21-07:40     The monks see that. They have a big heart for the country. Land, water and sky. One should not lack anything, no omissions. Our Land should be protected. Our water should be protected thoroughly including the Straits. Don’t take anything for granted.

07:41-07:43     Do not worry. No matter how much you have to fight, how much you have to shoot them, just remember what was being said earlier. There are only one and a half beings that can be regarded as human beings. The persons who cannot be called human beings are not important.

07:44-08:30     All three of them – land, water, sky, should not lack in any protection and should be safeguarded by the Army. So, this is to the officers in the Army here – land, water, sky – should not lack anything. What does it mean?  Safeguarded by the assembly of troops, during the military parades ceremony, on the Armed Forces Day, the chief of the military parade offered all the troops to the Chief of Defence. Doesn’t he use this particular term while doing so? It was the same term written 80 years ago by Gadaryone Sayadaw called “tut paung” (assembly of troops).

08:31-08:55     This term was already written 80 years ago by Gadaryone Sayadaw. Land, water and sky should be safeguarded by the assembly of troops. Like King Duttagamani and King Ajātasattu, they not only fight for the country, but they also fight for the Buddha sāsana. This should be the way.

08:56-09:54     If you want to hear, just listen to this. King Duttagamani made a solemn vow before he marched towards the battle [solemn vow recited in Pali.] This was King Duttagamani’s solemn vow, meaning “the reason I fight for this battle is not to sustain the luxury of being a King. The reason I am fighting Kyay Kalars (the Damilas, Tamils) is to preserve Buddha’s sāsana for as long as possible on this island of Sri Lanka. This was King Duttagamani’s solemn vow. He did not fight to preserve the luxury of being in the palace. Why did he fight? He fought to preserve Buddha’s sāsana for as long as possible.

09:55-10:35     The London Pali text society wrote this in English: [not clear where this is from, it is quoted by Sitagu Sayadaw in English], “My battles are not only to the secure kingship, but also for the future security long establishment of Buddhism.” [Then he explains this quote in Burmese]: In order to have a safe and secure Buddha sāsana and to preserve and sustain Buddhism in this country and in the future, I fought this battle” Who made this solemn vow? King Duttagamani and King Ajātasattu.

10:36-10:49     Similarly, our soldiers should take this example of King Duttagamani and King Ajātasattu in your heart. Thus, I would like to conclude this ceremony by encouraging you undertake this military responsibility of serving for the country and sāsana.

10:50-12:07     [Then Sitagu Sayadaw repeats the sermon/Sutta that he gave earlier]: “Laypeople lead by their leader and the members of Sangha lead by the Venerable monks shall be mutually dependent and support each other. After having totally freed from 62 years of being a slave’s life, our native land shall be built again. Our country, our land, our inheritance shall be established and prospered. Don’t let it falter.”

Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu.

ေအာက္ပါ Transcript လုပ္ထားေသာသူကုိ ေက်းဇူးတင္ပါသည္။
သူတို႔စားေနတဲ့ထဲကေန တစ္ဆုပ္စီတစ္ဆုပ္စီအကုန္လံုး နည္းနည္းခ်င္းထုတ္ၾကတယ္တဲ့။ အားရစရာၾကီးေနာ္။ သံဃာေတာ္အပါး၅၀၀ ေက်ာ္ေလာက္ရွိခ်င္ရွိမွာေပါ့။ သပိတ္တစ္လံုးျပည့္သြားတယ္။ တစ္ဆုပ္စီ၀ိုင္းထည့္တာ။ ျပီးေတာ့မွ ရဟႏၱာပုဂၢိဳလ္ၾကီး ရွင္ေဂါတမက ဓိဌာန္ျပီး ေကာင္းကင္ကေနျပီး ပ်ံျပီးလႊတ္လိုက္တယ္။ စစ္ေျမျပင္ စစ္တလင္း စစ္ဦးေရာက္ေနတဲ့ မင္းၾကီးရဲ႕ လက္ထဲကို ဒီသပိတ္ၾကီးေရာက္ေစသတည္းဆိုျပီး ေကာင္းကင္ကေန ဓိဌာန္ျပီးလႊတ္လိုက္တာ သပိတ္ပ်ံ ဆိုတာ အဲ့တာ။ သပိတ္ၾကီးေကာင္းကင္ေပၚကပ်ံျပီးေတာ့ မင္းၾကီးလက္ထဲက်တယ္။ သံဃာနဲ႔ စစ္သည္ေတာ္ေတြနဲ႔ ေ၀စားၾကတဲ့ အေၾကာင္းေလးေပါ့ေနာ္။ သီဟိုရ္သမိုင္းမွာ ခ်စ္ျမတ္ႏိုးစရာ သိပ္ေကာင္းတယ္။
လြတ္လပ္ေရးေခတ္ ဗိုလ္ခ်ဳပ္နဲ႔ေခါင္းေဆာင္ေတြ လြတ္လပ္ေရးယူေပးတဲ့ေခတ္တုန္းကလည္း စစ္ေသလာၾကီးေတြအၾကီးအကဲ အကုန္လံုးေလာက္ နီးနီး ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံရဲ႕ ေက်းလက္ေတာရြာ ဘုန္းၾကီးေက်ာင္းတိုင္းမွာ ခိုေအာင္းခဲ့ဖူးတာၾကီးပဲဆိုတာလည္း တို႔ေတြ သမိုင္းေတြမွာဖတ္ရတယ္။
သံဃာေတာ္ေတြနဲ႔ စစ္သည္ေတာ္ေတြနဲ႔က ဘယ္လိုမွခြဲလို႔မရဘူး။
ေကာင္းကင္ထဲကသပိတ္ၾကီး မင္းၾကီးလည္း ၀ေအာင္စားရတယ္။ သပိတ္တစ္လံုးျပည့္ေနေတာ့ စစ္သူၾကီးလည္းစားရတယ္။ ဘုရင္ၾကီးလည္းစားရတယ္။ ျပီးေတာ့ သပိတ္ၾကီးေရေဆးျပီး အခြံၾကီးလႊတ္လိုက္တာ။ သပိတ္ၾကီးပ်ံသြားတယ္။ သပိတ္ပ်ံတယ္ဆိုတာ အဲ့တာ။
ဒု႒ဂါမဏိစစ္ပြဲ ေကာင္းေကာင္းေအာင္တယ္ဆိုတာ တမီလ္တပ္ၾကီး သိန္းေပါင္းမ်ားစြာ တမီလ္ေတြေသၾကတယ္။ စစ္ပြဲၾကီးျပီးသြားေတာ့ တမိလႅမင္း၊ ေက်းမင္းက်ဆံုးတယ္။ သီဟိုရ္ ကၽြန္း ႏွစ္ပိုင္းကြဲေနတာကို တေပါင္းထဲျပန္ျဖစ္ေအာင္လုပ္ႏိုင္တယ္။ သီဟိုရ္ ကၽြန္း ႏွစ္ပိုင္းကြဲေနတာေနာ္.. နားလည္လား။ တမီလ္တစ္ပိုင္း ဗုဒၶဘာသာတစ္ပိုင္း။ ႏွစ္ပိုင္းကြဲေနတဲ့ သီဟိုရ္ကို တေပါင္းတည္းလုပ္သြားတာ ဘယ္သူလဲ။ ဒု႒ဂါမဏိ။
စစ္ပြဲၾကီးျပီးသြားေတာ့ ဘုရင္ၾကီးေမာလြန္းလို႔ အိပ္တာ…အိပ္မေပ်ာ္ဘူး။ သန္းေခါင္ယံႏိုးျပီးေတာ့ အိပ္မေပ်ာ္ဘူး။ ဘာျဖစ္သလဲဆိုေတာ့ ကုကၠဳစၥ ျဖစ္တယ္။ ဘာျဖစ္တာလဲေဟ့..။ ကုကၠဳစၥျဖစ္တယ္။ ဓမၼရဲ႕ စြမ္းရည္ကိုေျပာျပေနတာေနာ္။ ဒု႒ဂါမဏိ မင္းၾကီးရဲ႕ အေပၚ မွာ ဓမၼရဲ႕ စြမ္းရည္ေတြ ဓမၼရဲ႕ ပါ၀ါေတြသက္ေရာက္ေနလို႔ စစ္ပြဲၾကီးႏိုင္တဲ့အေၾကာင္း။
သံဃာေတာ္ေတြနဲ႔ ညီညြတ္စြာ တိုက္ပြဲၾကီးျပီးဆံုးတဲ့အေၾကာင္း ၊ က်ဴးေက်ာ္၀င္ေရာက္သူမ်ားကို အျပဳတ္ အျပတ္တိုက္ခိုက္ႏိုင္ခဲ့တဲ့အေၾကာင္းကို တို႔ေျပာျပမယ္။
ညီညြတ္ေရးအေပၚ မင္းနဲ႔ျပည္သူညီညြတ္ရမယ္။ တပ္နဲ႔ျပည္သူညီညြတ္ရမယ္။ ေလးဦးေလးဖက္လည္းညီညႊတ္ဖို႔ ကုလားထိုင္ရဲ႕ ေလးေျခာင္းလို အားလံုးႏိုင္ငံေတာ္ကို ၀ိုင္းေထာက္ဖို႔သာေျပာ။
ညသန္းေခါင္းယံ အိပ္မေပ်ာ္ဘူး ဘာျဖစ္လဲဆိုရင္ …ငါသတ္လိုက္တာ.. ဆန္႔က်င္ဘက္ ေက်းကုလားတမယ္ေတြ သန္းေပါင္းမ်ားစြာေသသြားတယ္။ အဲ့ဒီ အကုသိုလ္ၾကီးအတြက္ေတာ့ ငါအပါယ္ေလးပါးမွာခံရေတာ့မွာပဲ။ စိတ္ပန္းတယ္။ စစ္တိုက္လို႔ ပန္းတာကတစ္မ်ိဳး၊ ႏိုင္ငံထူေထာင္ဖို႔ ပန္းတာကတစ္မ်ိဳး ။ တမီလ္ရန္ကို တြန္းလွန္ျပီးေတာ့ ေနာက္ထပ္ကာကြယ္ဖို႔ ကပန္းတာတမ်ိဳး။ အကုသိုလ္ကိုေတြးျပီးေတာ့ ပင္ပန္းတာကတမ်ိဳး ။
သန္းေပါင္းမ်ားစြာ ေသသြားတဲ့ စစ္ပြဲၾကီးကို အဲ့တာပိုပန္းေနတာကို ေတာမွေတာင္မွာေနတဲ့ အဘိဉာဏ္ရ ရဟႏၱာၾကီးေတြေတာင္ သိေတာ္မူသြားတယ္တဲ့။
ရဟႏၱာၾကီးေတြက မင္းၾကီးကို အျမဲတန္း ၾကည့္ရႈ႕ေစာင့္ေရွာက္ေနတယ္ဆိုတာ နားလည္ရမယ္ေနာ္။ ရဟႏၱာၾကီးရဲ႕ ေမတၱာကိုေကာင္းေကာင္းရတယ္။ သိေတာ္မူသြားတဲ့အတြက္ေၾကာင့္ ရဟႏၱာၾကီး ရွစ္ပါး သန္းေခါင္ယံၾကီးၾကြလာတယ္။ နန္းေတာ္ေစာင့္က တံခါးေပါက္ကို တံခါးဖြင့္ခိုင္းတယ္။ ဘယ္သူလဲ။ သံဃာေတာ္မ်ား ။ မင္းၾကီးကို သတင္းပို႔။
ဖြင့္ေပးလိုက္။ သံဃာေတာ္ေတြ၀င္သြားတယ္။
မင္းၾကီး အိပ္မေပ်ာ္ဘူးလား။ ဘာျဖစ္လဲ။ စိတ္ပူတယ္။ လုပ္ျပီးတဲ့ အကုသိုလ္ၾကီး ခံရေတာ့မွာပဲလို႔ဆိုျပီး စိတ္ပူတာဆုိေတာ့ ရဟႏၱာရွစ္ပါးကေျပာတယ္။
မင္းၾကီး ဘာမွမပူနဲ႕။ အကုသိုလ္နည္းနည္းေလးပဲျဖစ္တယ္။ ဘာျဖစ္လို႔ အကုသိုလ္နည္းနည္းေလးျဖစ္သလဲ။
မင္းသတ္လိုက္တာ သန္းေပါင္းမ်ားစြာျဖစ္ေပမဲ့။ တကယ့္လူစင္စစ္က တစ္ေယာက္နဲ႔ တစ္ပိုင္းပဲပါတယ္တဲ့။
လူပီသတဲ့သူကဘယ္ေလာက္?။ အဲ့ဒီက်ဴးေက်ာ္၀င္ေရာက္လာတဲ့ ေက်းကုလား တမီလ္ေတြထဲမွာ ငါးပါးသီလ ေစာင့္တည္တဲ့သူကတစ္ေယာက္။ ငါးပါးသီလနဲ႔ သရဏဂံုတြဲေစာင့္တည္တဲ့သူက တစ္ေယာက္ ဒါပဲပါတယ္။ အဘိဥာဥ္က ရဟႏၱာမို႔လို႔သိတာေနာ္။ ေျပာ… ငါးပါးသီလေစာင့္တည္သူက … အဲ့တာလူမပီသဘူး။ အဲ့တစ္ပိုင္း။
ဗုဒၶံ သရဏံ ဂစၦာမိ၊ ဓမၼံ သရဏံ ဂစၦာမိ၊ သံဃံ သရဏံ ဂစၦာမိ န႔ဲ ငါးပါးသီလနဲ႔ တြဲေစာင့္တည္တဲ့သူက တစ္ေယာက္..အဲ့တာ လူ႔အျပည့္တစ္ေယာက္၊ သန္းေပါင္းမ်ားစြာ စစ္ပြဲမွာ ပစ္သတ္လို႔၊ ခုတ္သတ္လို႔၊ ထိုးသတ္လို႔ ေသသြားတဲ့ထဲမွာ လူပီသတဲ့သူကတစ္ေယာက္၊ လူမပီတပီတဲ့သူက တစ္ပိုင္း၊ လူတစ္ေယာက္နဲ႔ တစ္ပိုင္းပဲပါတယ္။
မင္းၾကီးမပူနဲ႔ ကိုယ္ေတြမေျပာဘူး ဘယ္သူေျပာလဲ သီဟိုရ္ကရဟႏၱာၾကီးေျပာတာ။ အဲ့ေတာ့မွ မင္းၾကီးစိတ္ေအးသြားတာ။




The Buddha Stool and Blasphemy

The Thailand based Knowing Buddha organisation, which campaigns against the misuse of images of the Buddha and other Buddhist sacred objects, has started a campaign directed at a stool using the an image of the Buddha’s head. It is as they appear, a seat made from an image of the Buddha’s head.

They are widely available online and one of the product descriptions reads:

A quirky yet beautiful addition to our collection of stools comes this delightful Buddha stool. In the design of a Buddha head and finished in white, this Buddha is sure to add to brighten up your home, adding charm in abundance


New article: The Idea of ‘Blasphemy’ in the Pāli Canon and Modern Myanmar

Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume 4 (2): 2016

Part of a special edition on blasphemy and Buddhism with some excellent contributions.

Details are here.


‘There are many terms in the Pāli Canon that refer to “disrespect” committed against venerated objects or people. Some of these ideas come close to the idea of “blasphemy” in other religious traditions. In traditional forms of Buddhism, the stress is on protective and auspicious acts. Images, texts and chanting are partly concerned with averting danger. Primarily it is the Buddha (and images of him), because of his great meritorious and ethical deeds, who accomplishes this. In this context blasphemy against sacred objects is a perfectly coherent idea in Buddhism. In Myanmar, monks from the Ma Ba Tha movement have expressed outrage at what they perceived to be the manipulation of images of the Buddha. These will be compared to ideas in the Pāli Canon to suggest how the idea of blasphemy is a constant feature in the history of Buddhism.’

More ‘blasphemy’ in Myanmar


As reported in the Myanmar Times:

A Spanish tourist visiting Bagan with his wife over the weekend found his trip interrupted when police discovered a Buddha tattoo on his leg.

The tourist and his wife were escorted to Yangon on July 10, according to Mandalay Region police.

Shin Sandavaya from the Tharmakay monastery reported the case to the police station in Bagan after he spotted a Buddha image on the leg of visitor outside Kantotpalin Pagoda.

Religious authorities from the Nyaung-U office and immigration officers interviewed the 46-year-old tourist and confirmed that he has a Buddha tattoo on his calf that was inked in Spain. The two tourists were sent to Yangon the same day, and the embassy contacted, according to Mandalay police.

“They arrived in Yangon [yesterday] morning at 5am leaving Bagan by bus. The tourist police took them to the Spanish embassy around 5:30am,” said an officer from the Mingaladon township station.

AFP quoted a police officer saying that the man will be deported to Bangkok. The Myanmar Times was unable to independently confirm deportation plans.




Leicester City: Buddhism, Karma and the Premier League Title


As is being widely reported the English football team Leicester City look likely, against all the odds, to win the Premier League title this year. After struggling on the pitch for several years they were never considered contenders for the title at the beginning of the season. In fact, they were many people’s favourites to be relegated.

In the search for their turnaround of fortunes many have suggested the influence of Buddhism on the success of the team. Leicester City have Thai owners and Thai Buddhist monks have been regular visitors to the teams King Power Stadium ground. During these visits the monks have regularly performed Buddhist blessings and purifications.


After their poor season the club’s owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, had the idea that their lack of success was due to a lack of ‘merit’ (an idea closely related to karma). By actively supporting the ordination of Buddhist monks and the building of Buddhist temples it was intended that Leicester City’s levels of merit would increase. With an increase of merit, generated primarily by performing Buddhist offerings and benevolent actions, good fortune would occur. The rituals at the club’s ground were intended to be auspicious and maintain the benefits of merit. Finally, certain powerful Buddhist objects were used in the form of amulets, believed to have a powerful and beneficial influence.


Clearly, the terrible season suffered by Chelsea is down to a lack of religious merit accrued at Stamford Bridge.





Soka Gakkai as a form of Buddhism

Philosophy & Religion Video Interviews

In this interview, I talk to Robert Harrap, General Director of SGI-UK, and we discuss the nature of Soka Gakkai as a form of Buddhism. We touch on the way n which SGI is distinctive, and also its points of commonality with other forms of Buddhism.

You can see more about how SGI seeks to embody Nichiren Buddhism at

The Religion, Philosophy & Ethics course at the University of Gloucestershire offers the chance to study philosophy, and a range of religious traditions. You can see the course map HERE.

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Memories of a Bowie Conference: 5. Someone sees it all


Paul Fuller. David Bowie, Buddhist Modernism and Charismatic Charms

SPEAKER Fuller lectures in Buddhist Studies at the University of Cardiff and is the author of The Notion of Ditthi in Theravada Buddhism: The Point of View (Routledge, 2004).

imanbowieSYNOPSIS Examines how Bowie used Buddhist ideas taking as its starting point the notion of Buddhist Modernism (McMahan, 2008). Early Bowie was immersed in Buddhist ideas as reflected in his songs, but how did he understand them? Gombrich and Obeyesekere use the term ‘Protestant Buddhism’ to explain Buddhism that is rational and scientific. Or perhaps Bowie’s approach shows a more traditional understanding of Buddhism. Station to Station can be seen as charismatic, acting as a charm and this would be an apotropaic use of religious language in which language has a power beyond its content. At this time Bowie’s work was presumably Christian (for example, Word on Wing), but perhaps by not…

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