Living Theravada: Demystifying the People, Places, and Practices of a Buddhist Tradition

Shambhala Publications. Apr. 2023. 272p. ISBN 9781611809718. pap. $24.95. RELIGION
First-time travelers to Southeast Asia would be well-served by placing this title on their reading list. The book focuses on giving current, detailed descriptions of the Theravada Buddhist tradition in all its variety. The richness of those specifics opens a unique window into the culture and daily existence of people in that area today. Schedneck’s (Religious Tourism in Northern Thailand) illustrations and explanations evoke the feel of journeying across Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand under the guidance of an approachable, knowledgeable professor of religion. Shying away from abstract theological discussions, she shows how the observances and institutions of monastic elites and popular practitioners come together to form a major component of society in Southeast Asia. While respectful and fair toward the subjects of her study, she is also willing to point out the problems and scandals that are a part of the complete picture, such as issues regarding gender, nationalism, and monastic excesses.
VERDICT This is an immensely informative book and a beneficial entry point into understanding this religious tradition.
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