Manusya, Journal of Humanities


Justin McDanial

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Nissaya texts are idiosyncratic vernacular notes composed and used by Buddhist monks in Northern Thailand and Laos between the 16th and early 20th centuries. They evince a particular relationship of the authors with the classical (i.e. originally composed in Pali) scripture of Theravada Buddhism, as well as with their intended audience. They reflect certain understandings of the notions of authorship, textual authenticity, the possibility of translation, and homiletics. A comprehensive study reveals the early development of Buddhist curricula in the region and a detailed study pedagogical methods used in these texts affords us a way to describe the nature of Buddhist belief and practice with much greater precision. In this paper, I will demonstrate how the choice of source texts by nissaya translators and the commentarial services they employ reveal the contours of the pre-modern Northern Thai and Lao Buddhist curricula. By focusing on the development of curricula in the region before the middle of the 19th century, we can avoid the vagaries that come with the application of normative notions of the Theravada Buddhist canon to a region of diverse textual production and disparate intellectual expression.

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