Are there any books to find information on the continuation and history of Buddhism in Thailand and Myanmar? (I am hoping to find the history and evolution of ritualistic practices)

I need some information on the evolution of Theravadin Buddhist ritualistic practices. Theravadin Buddhism mainly existed with the help of three main countries; Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Burma. Several times, the higher ordination was brought back and forth between the countries, with that the rituals and monastic practices. It is obvious that there has been a cultural transfer with the events, however, it is not clear when exactly contemporary ritualistic practices originated. I would be grateful if you could suggest some readings.

Best regards!

1 Like

For the modern period, there are a few books. How to Behave: Buddhism and Modernity in Colonial Cambodia, 1860–1930 by Anne Ruth Hansel stands out, for example.

Unfortunately, not many records of ritual practices survive from premodern times.

For example, I have this paper by Alexey Kirichenko on Sāralaṅkā Bhikkhu, a Tai monk who brought the “Siam” ordination lineage to Sri Lanka in the 1750s and then traveled to Burma.

Before that, there is the book Rewriting Buddhism on reforms in 12th century Sri Lanka.

Even further back, there’s this short article on the archeological evidence of the initial spread of Buddhist practices across Southeast Asia in about the 6th – 9th centuries.

What time period are you interested in specifically?


Thank you very much for the suggestions, I find those very useful. Actually, I am interested in 1500 CE - now. There must be revolutionary points of ritualistic evolution after the western invasion of Asia. I am looking for those missing pieces to put the story together, hopefully.
As Gombrich & Obeysekara point out there is a drastic change in Buddhism with the formation of Protestant Buddhism. I doubt the rise of Contemporary Ritualistic Buddhism is due to these changes. Buddhism in Sri Lanka declined in the 18th century to Ganinnanse(set of laity people in robes), and with that transformation to later generations was interrupted. Therefore most of the contemporary rituals might have come from Siam(Thailand).

Yes. They had to get a number of Pāli texts from Siam as well, as this letter records.

The books of Kamala Tiyavanich are a pretty good resource for this: she’s collected many of the oral histories of 19th century, Siamese Buddhism together to show a (somewhat idealized) pre-reform Buddhism.

I have yet to read a full-length monograph on the turn-of-the-century, Bangkok reforms. Perhaps others here have some recommendations on that part of the story?

For Burma, there’s the biography of Ledi Sayadaw by Erik Braun, The Birth of Insight and more broadly there’s The Making of Buddhist Modernism by David McMahan – one of @Snowbird’s favorites iirc


Which particular rituals are you interested in?


Day to day worships and special rituals such as Buddha pūjā, bodhi pujā, kaṭhina pūjā, aṭṭhaparikkhāra pūjā.

There are these eight great merits as stated in below stanza.

“kaṭhinaṃ ca parikkhāraṃ - vāsa dānaṃca uttamaṃ
buddhappamukhasaṃghassa - dānaṃ dhammassa lekhanaṃ
khetta dānaṃca saṃghassa - paṭimā karaṇaṃ pi ca
karaṇaṃ vacca kuṭiyā - aṭṭha puññāni vuccare”


The last two are hopefully not ritualistic, as I know I actually used the stuff from the last atapirikara set I received…except the razor as these seem to always be rusty?

From the PTS PED re atapirikara:

They are enumd in verse at J.I,65= DA.I,206,viz.ticīvaraṁ,patto,vāsi,sūci,(kāya-) bandhanaṁ,parissāvana,i.e.the 3 robes,the bowl,a razor,a needle,the girdle,a water-strainer.They are expld in detail DA.I,206 sq.Cp.also J.IV,342 (aṭṭhaparikkhāra-dhara); V,254 (kāyabandhana-parissāvanasūci-vāsi-satthakāni; the last-named article being “scissors” instead of a razor); DhA.II,61 (°dhara thera).

But maybe we can find you some more on buddha puja and bodhi puja.

1 Like

Kate Crosby’s Esoteric Theravada is possibly of interest. Here’s an article she wrote for JPTS on one possible origin of esoterica in the Pāḷi recital tradition

This chapter on Sri Lankan chanting practices is unfortunately closed access, so I can’t vet it, but it looks relevant?

Most of the Routledge Handbook is also :lock: but perhaps some of it is relevant?


I can’t recommend John Strong’s The Legend and Cult of Upagupta highly enough.


This is the ebook version on Google Play Books:

If you’re interested with the free full ebook version, you can PM me for the link :grin:

1 Like

I don’t know if it is too basic, but see Kariyawasam section on bodhi puja.

I gather that bodhi puja is mainly SL and SL diaspora specific?

1 Like

Thank you all for the information. :heart: