Throughout Burmese history people donated money, land, and labor to the sangha in the hope of acquiring merit and ensuring rebirth in a better existence. Each dynasty was confronted with the flow of wealth from state properties and taxable public holdings to tax-free sanghika estates. Since all religious donations were given in perpetuity, and so were cumulative, the pattern had serious economic consequences. It also posed an ideological dilemma for the monarch: while he was supposed to be the major benefactor of the Religion, the state needed these essential resources for its own survival. In order to halt this trend temporarily, or reverse it within the confines of legitimate Buddhist kingship, Burmese kings used sasana reform, a religious ritual for purifying the sangha; sasana reform was structurally related to economic factors. Although this paper is concerned primarily with Burma, evidence is provided to suggest that similar economic pressures may have been responsible for sasana reform in India, Ceylon, and Thailand.

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