Usually one of the first associations upon hearing ‘Sri Lankan Buddhism’ is either the religious violence that swept across the island in the recent decades, or the Pali canon and Theravada Buddhism. In this interview with Anja Pogacnik, Dr. Stephen Berkwitz doesn’t really speak of either.

Listen Now

This episode has not been transcribed yet. 

Consider a donation to pay for the cost of editing a transcript?

About this episode

Stephen Berkwitz doesn’t really speak of either. Instead, the interview focuses on Sri Lankan colonial past and how the presence of European rulers and Christian missionaries affected local Buddhism.

Pogacnik and Berkwitz discuss the effects of colonial missionaries on the solidification of a Buddhist religious identity in Sri Lanka and the far-reaching consequences of this turn on some contemporary Buddhist monks, who are turning to the Pali canon in search of ‘authentic Buddhism’. Berkwitz explores the connection of this turn to scripture with the presence of Protestant missionaries and the idea of ‘Protestant Buddhism’ in Sri Lanka, presenting some challenges to seeing the missionary influence as a straight-forward one. Exploring examples of the counter influences Buddhism had on Christian missionaries that came to Sri Lanka, Berkwitz concludes the interview by talking about the complex relationship and interplay of religion and power in the Sri Lankan context.

Listeners interested further in the authors Berkwitz mentioned in the interview can look into the works of Gananath Obeyesekere and Anne Blackburn. You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us. And remember, you can use our Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com, or Amazon.ca links to support us at no additional cost when buying academic texts, choral scores, lunchboxes and more.

 Fund the RSP while you shop! Use an Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, or Amazon.com affiliate link whenever you make a purchase. There’s no additional cost to you, but every bit helps us stay on the air! 

We need your support!

Want to support us directly? Become a monthly Patron or consider giving us a one-time donation through PayPal

Related Resources

Brian Victoria on Zen Buddhist Terrorism and Holy War

Podcast

Is there something particular about religion which makes it a more potent ‘violence enabling mechanism’ than other factors? Are some religions more likely to inspire violence than others? And why should scholars even care? In this interview, Chris discusses these issues and more with Professor Brian Victoria, who, in addition to his scholarly credentials, is a fully ordained Zen Buddhist priest.
Mormonism, Growth and Decline

Podcast

Can Mormonism be described as a New Religious Movement? Is there a unified phenomenon which can be classified as Mormonism? Is Mormonism to be considered as a form of Christianity? This week, Chris is joined by Ryan Cragun – Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Tampa, Florida – to discuss not only these conceptual issues,...

Responses to this episode

Of Demon Kings and Protestant Yakṣas

The disappointment of Western pacifists here is not unlike the reaction of early Orientalists who, disappointed by the ritualism and deity-worship they found in living Buddhist cultures, described a degenerate Buddhism. Let me begin by saying that this is not a critique, but an effort to contribute to a conversation about issues that have affected me personally as a scholar. In particular,...

Other EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Religion and Globalization

Podcast

What do we mean by globalization? What does this concept have to say to the study of religion? How have religions been agents in the globalization process? What theoretical and methodological issues arise when trying to answer such questions? All of these questions and more are tackled in an interview which touches on post-colonialism, secularization theory, theodicy, ...
The World Religions Paradigm

Podcast

What counts as 'world religions' and how do we engage or promote this category in the academic study of religion. Join James Cox and David G. Robertson as they unpack this category.
Cross-Cultural Identities Roundtable

Podcast

It’s Identities? Week here at the Religious Studies Project, with not one but two specially-recorded roundtable discussions about how identity is negotiated (if indeed it is) through our religious, ethnic, sexual and socio-cultural identities. This first podcast focuses on identity and dislocation, either through diaspora or through rapid social change.
Identity or Identification?

Podcast

Identity or Identification? In this second podcast for Identities? Week, the Culture on the Edge group address the issue of religious identity. Is our identity – cultural, religious or other – something which causes us to act, or something which we choose to mobilise in certain circumstances? And what part do scholars have in reifying these discourses?
NSRN Annual Lecture 2012 – Matthew Engelke: In spite of Christianity

Podcast

What do we talk about when we talk about religion? What do we recognize as essential and specific to any given faith, and why? In this lecture, I address these questions by drawing on fieldwork among humanists in Britain, paying particular attention to humanism’s relation to Christianity.
D. Mitra Barua on Immigrant Buddhism in the West

Podcast

"...Rebranding the Buddhist concept of Harmony to be a more politically comparable term to the Canadian mosaic..." Dr. D. Mitra Barua is an instructor of Religious Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, and has a Masters in Buddhist Philosophy undertaken in Sri Lanka.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The views expressed in podcasts, features and responses are the views of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Religious Studies Project or our sponsors. The Religious Studies Project is produced by the Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO), a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (charity number SC047750).