Academic Literature on Forest Monasticism of Myanmar

Do you know of any academic literature on Buddhist forest monasticism of Myanmar?

I have the following sources for Sri Lanka and Thailand, but have not been able to find anything comparable for Myanmar.

Sri Lanka
Carrithers, Michael. 1983. The Forest Monks of Sri Lanka: An Anthropological and Historical Study. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja. 1976. World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja. 1984. The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets: A Study in Charisma, Hagiography, Sectarianism, and Millennial Buddhism. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Tiyavanich, Kamala. 1976. Forest Recollections: Wandering Monks in Twentieth-Century Thailand. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press.

Tiyavanich, Kamala. 2003. The Buddha in the Jungle. Seattle: University of Washington Press.


There is some writing on the weikzas which are interesting characters on the periphery of Burmese Buddhism:

  • The Immortals: Faces of the Incredible in Buddhist Burma by Guillaume Rozenberg
  • The Buddha’s Wizards: Magic, Protection, and Healing in Burmese Buddhism by Thomas Nathan Patton

There’s this recent ethnography (not a history) of Tai Buddhists across the China-Myanmar Border

I assume you’re familiar with / not looking for books on Ledi Sayadaw and his followers?


Thank you Bhante. Please forgive my ignorance: are weikzas forest monks, or are they more of a cult?

To further clarify the context: I’m primarily interested in works that discuss the origins of ‘conventional’ forest monasticism as a result of reform movements in the past two centuries. Any references on this aspect of Ledi Sayadaw’s work would also be helpful.

I was aware of a different work by Rozenberg (2010), Renunciation and Power: The Quest for Sainthood in Contemporary Burma, but it doesn’t seem to deal with the history.

1 Like

Depends on who you ask :joy: They are certainly… erm… unorthodox in their practices and beliefs. I tend to think of it as a syncretic religion mixing Buddhism, Daoism, and animism. But it’s not so much further afield than some of the black magic stuff that used to be common in the jungles just across the Thai border (pace Tiyavanich’s rather sanitized histories).

I see. Yes, Ledi:

  • The Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw by Erik Braun

I’m not aware of a history of Pa Auk …

1 Like