[Buddha-l] new Ian Harris book on Buddhism under Pol Pot

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Thu Jan 17 07:37:50 MST 2013

X-posted from H-Buddhism since this subject was discussed here not long ago.

From: Ian Harris <chamkarmon at gmail.com>
Subject: New book on recent history of Cambodian sangha (Harris)
Date:  Jan 15, 2013

Dear colleagues,

please note the following publication of interest:

*Buddhism in a Dark Age: Cambodian Monks under Pol Pot*
Ian Harris
Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press
45 illus.
256pp. December 2012
Paper - Price: $22.00ISBN: 978-0-8248-3561-3

This pioneering study of the fate of Buddhism during the communist period
in Cambodia puts a human face on a dark period in Cambodia's history. It is
the first sustained analysis of the widely held assumption that the Khmer
Rouge under Pol Pot had a centralized plan to liquidate the entire monastic
order. Based on a thorough analysis of interview transcripts and a large
body of contemporary manuscript material, it offers a nuanced view that
attempts to move beyond the horrific monastic death toll and fully evaluate
the damage to the Buddhist *sangha *under Democratic Kampuchea.

Compelling evidence exists to suggest that Khmer Rouge leaders were
determined to hunt down senior members of the pre-1975 ecclesiastical
hierarchy, but other factors also worked against the Buddhist order. 
in a Dark Age *outlines a three-phase process in the Khmer Rouge treatment
of Buddhism: bureaucratic interference and obstruction, explicit
harassment, and finally the elimination of the obdurate and those close to
the previous Lon Nol regime. The establishment of a separate revolutionary
form of *sangha *administration constituted the bureaucratic phase. The
harassment of monks, both individually and en masse, was partially due to
the uprooting of the traditional monastic economy in which lay people were
discouraged from feeding economically unproductive monks. Younger members
of the order were disrobed and forced into marriage or military service.
The final act in the tragedy of Buddhism under the Khmer Rouge was the
execution of those monks and senior ecclesiastics who resisted.

It was difficult for institutional Buddhism to survive the conditions
encountered during the decade under study here. Prince Sihanouk's overthrow
in 1970 marked the end of Buddhism as the central axis around which all
other aspects of Cambodian existence revolved and made sense. And under Pol
Pot the lay population was strongly discouraged from providing its
necessary material support. The book concludes with a discussion of the
slow re-establishment and official supervision of the Buddhist order during
the People's Republic of Kampuchea period.


Ian Harris
Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University, Phnom Penh*
H-Buddhism (Buddhist Scholars Information Network)

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