History of the Thai Forest Tradition

Are there any good histories of the Thai Forest Tradition?

I’m aware of a few biographies (and a lot of hagiographies) on specific monks, as well as some short papers and remarks on the tradition as a whole, but I realized today I know of nothing that gives the overall story. Am I missing it, or does such a book really not exist?

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This was recommended by a friend a couple of years ago:


An unusual, enjoyable, thought-provoking and important book Source: Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Kamala’s book is a noteworthy, readable contribution to Buddhist studies and belongs in every university library. Source: Religious Studies Review

What [Kamala] sets out to do, with magnificent success, is to use the (auto)biographies of ascetic monks, her own interviews and other conventional historical materials to reconstruct their lifestyle, their gradual subsumption into the nationalist culture of the Bangkok elite, and their final near-elimination through the destruction of forests which were their main habitat. Source: Times Literary Supplement



I know just this short article, but worthwhile reading :slight_smile:

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I really enjoyed this book. When I read it around 1998, it was one of the only books commercially available on Thereavada Buddhism. I actually took it with me on my first (and only) trip to Thailand and found it really inspiring. Her other books are good too.


J. L. Taylor, Forest Monks and the Nation-State: An Anthropological and Historical Study in Northeastern Thailand

Justin McDaniel, The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk (especially the first part, “Monks and Kings”).

Hayashi Yukio, Practical Buddhism among the Thai-Lao in the Making of a Region

Lastly, though his anthropology is a little dated, there are the three studies by Stanley Tambiah, especially the third:

Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in North-East Thailand.

World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background

The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets.


That’s a wonderful book, as is another book by the same author, The Buddha in the Jungle.