Abstract

The Buddhist monkhood in each of the Theravāda countries of Southern Asia—Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka—is segmented into smaller fraternities (nikāyas). In Sri Lanka these fraternities have proliferated since the early nineteenth century. This proliferation has been interpreted as evidence of a Buddhist reform or return to orthodoxy and portrayed against the background of Sinhalese society as a whole. In this essay I argue that the establishment of twenty-five such nikāyas in the Low Country of Sri Lanka can be better understood both as serving a variety of interests (of which reform is one) and in terms of regional groups of monks and lay people.

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