A growing body of scholarship on Buddhism is exploring the historical role of warfare and militarism. Buddhist polities have generally exempted monastic communities from military conscription and taxation. Although the monk Khruubaa Srivichai (1878–1938) is revered as a saint in northern Thailand today, during his lifetime he was detained under temple arrest on multiple occasions. He was sent to Bangkok in 1920 and 1935 to face charges that ranged from conducting unauthorized ordinations to treason. For the controversies he generated, the media of the day called him “that puzzling monk.” Prevailing scholarship has explained the controversies as the result of conflicts internal to the Thai monastic order. In this essay, I argue that the puzzle posed by Srivichai is solved by recognizing the importance of changing policies regarding military conscription, changes which sought to restrict the traditional rights of the northern population to ordain and expanded state access to manpower.

You do not currently have access to this content.