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BOOK REVIEW: ATTRACTING THE HEART: Social Relations and the Aesthetics of Emotion in Sri Lankan Monastic.. Carrithers, Michael 2012-01-10

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801 Book Reviews is a more recent and restricted phenomenon. The lack of clarity about the distinction between separatism and secessionism while discussing Punjab is not unique to Chima. Many South Asian scholars make this mistake. I strongly feel that if Chima were to write a new book by freeing himself from the stranglehold of the leadership framework and allow himself to benefit from insights from multi-faceted approaches, he would certainly be able to produce a richer understanding of the Sikh insurgency. Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK PRITAM SINGH ATTRACTING THE HEART: Social Relations and the Aesthetics of Emotion in Sri Lankan Monastic Culture. By Jeffrey Samuels. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2010. xxx, 167 pp. US$36.00, cloth. ISBN 978- 0-8248-3385-5. This exemplary work of ethnography is the fruit of more than ten years of repeated fieldwork visits to Sri Lanka, as well as of the considered use of a highly appropriate set of methods. The result is an account which reveals with a fresh clarity and subtlety the institutions and culture of what might be called everyday mainline Sinhalese Buddhism. Samuels throws light on a wide variety of issues which have been treated by others—Richard Gombrich on canonical Buddhism and contemporary doctrine and practice, H.L. Seneviratne on political Buddhism, myself on the forest movement—and he does so in two ways: first, he describes in depth the development of a particular set of monks from the Rämañña Nikäya who have a place in society adjacent to, but subtly different from, those treated by those three scholars. And second, he supplements those other works with a rich account of the emotional language, and aesthetics of everyday action, which make for the flourishing—or the failing—of relations between monks and laity, and between monks and their pupils. It may seem a minor point, but in fact the care and consistency with which Samuels transcribes, quotes and translates from his corpus of Sinhala materials is a good measure of the care he devotes to the faithful understanding of Sinhalese Buddhist sensibilities. Samuels’ account begins with the warm, energetic and highly intelligent monk, the Venerable Narada Thera, who first ordained at the age of about sixteen in 1974 at a temple near Kandy. Narada then went on to become the chief monk of a line of pupillary succession which includes about 175 monks and novices, and it is among these that Samuels did the majority of his fieldwork. Samuels devotes his first substantive chapter to Narada’s biography and to the issues of emotion, aesthetic feeling and social relations which are typified in Narada’s life and which Samuels explores in the rest of the book. Pacific Affairs: Volume 84, No. 4 – December 2011 802 The particular characteristics of this group of monks make them of special interest to those concerned with understanding the dynamics of the reproduction (or failure to reproduce) of village Buddhism. For, in the first place, these monks follow the established practice in the Rämañña Nikäya of serving lower-caste communities and ordaining lower-caste pupils. Samuels does a good job of using honorifics (or dishonorifics) in people’s retellings of encounters with traditional Kandyan Siyam Nikäya monks to draw a distinction between Narada’s group and others. Samuels also gives us a good view of the fact that Sinhalese Buddhist society has an edge, so to speak: those who have been too low caste, or too poor, or too far from main settlements, to enjoy the company and services of a village temple. And finally, he gives us an excellent account of what “social service” might reasonably mean to monks seeking to serve in such settings. Samuels’ case is roughly this: although we have good and accurate accounts of the doctrinal and sociological character of the monkhood and the monk-laypeople relationship, we have not yet considered closely the nature of actual relations between pupils and teachers and between monks and laity. The key sociocultural term is “attracting the heart,” a well-reasoned translation of a Sinhala phrase which serves to capture the dynamic emotional and social-aesthetic process by which pupils adhere, so to speak, to teachers and laity to monks. Samuels does a particularly good job of sorting out the various sense in which “hearts” may be “attracted” (or repelled). One very important and fresh finding is the extent to which there exists an aesthetic among many Sinhala Buddhists (and not just in texts) which sees a well-disciplined monk, performing his duties in a concentrated and highly cultivated way, as being inherently beautiful … and, for boys who might be taken by this beauty, inherently attractive. Samuels touches on many dimensions of the everyday performance of monks that work this magic, among them a sense of style which prefers the Rämañña Nikäya monks, who cover both shoulders with their robes and prefer darker rather than more garish colours, and who tend to be (at least in Narada’s group) more carefully trained. Similarly he captures the aesthetic of cleanliness and economy, which make a well-run Buddhist temple such a contrast with the vivid sensual assault of a Hindu temple. Samuels uses, and further develops, two lines in anthropological theorizing to aid his characterization of this style of village Buddhism. First, he shows how an analysis of emotional language can show how feelings play a key role in social relations, especially those between laity and monks. Thus the laity of a village may invite and welcome a monk, and support him, or else reject him. Second, he shows how a social aesthetic, loosely governing both self-presentation and judgment of others, can be successfully reproduced. Above all, he contributes to Buddhist studies an account of aesthetics, style and emotion which is clearly related to the Buddhism of texts, but which 803 Book Reviews demonstrates a rich local sensibility and language of emotion which makes Buddhism work in the constant making and remaking of Sinhalese rural society. Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom MICHAEL CARRITHERS SOUTHEAST ASIA IN WORLD HISTORY. By Craig A. Lockard. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. viii, 256 pp. (Illus., maps.) US$19.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-19-533811-9. What does it mean to write about a region “in world history”? Ostensibly it means to give more context to the region, more comparative statistics or other direct comparisons. In this sense Lockard does a very good job at an extremely challenging task. His constant references to women’s status and average life expectancy are examples, though they seem repetitive at times. But if “in world history” means both “from the vantage point of the moon” and at the same time “a close-up view,” as we are told by the editors (viii), then the task is by definition impossible and Lockard does run into some considerable problems. First of all there is the problem of generalizing across Southeast Asia’s celebrated diversity, leading inevitably to rather vague and ultimately meaningless statements which are deadly in a textbook and can only add to the fitful debate about whether Southeast Asia is a “real” world region at all (of course it is!). Leaving these ponderables for the moment, Lockard can be reviewed under these categories: functionality as a textbook, accuracy of historical facts, selection of facts, writing style, and quality of editing, including proofing and photos. Functionality is good, and I will use this book in my Introduction to Southeast Asia class. Chapter content is reasonable, though in several cases the chapters turn out to be country-by-country reviews. Lockard’s choices of content cover about 80 percent of the points worth emphasizing in a review of the nations of SE Asia and the region as a whole. Some problematic issues are the conflation of Burmese nats with the ubiquitous territorial spirits of Southeast Asia (19), the controversial support for the interpretation that Jayavarman II, founder of the Angkorean empire, spent time in Java (39), and saying that the 1986 Philippine election provoked a military “coup” (179) rather than a military “split.” We are also told of the “tourist-based economy” of Thailand (183, despite earlier discussion 181) and AIDS skyrocketing there (183). Malaysia is said to be still increasing the use of Bahasa Malaysia (189) but that is not the case in schools and business, and we are assured that Brunei has already diversified and has invested wisely (191). The Chakri Dynasty of Thailand began in 1785, not 1767 (207). A book at this level of generalization can always be faulted by someone 


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