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Rebuilding Buddhism

Rebuilding Buddhism

The Theravada Movement in Twentieth-Century Nepal

Sarah LeVine, David N. Gellner

ISBN 9780674025547

Publication date: 09/30/2007

Rebuilding Buddhism describes in evocative detail the experiences and achievements of Nepalis who have adopted Theravada Buddhism. This form of Buddhism was introduced into Nepal from Burma and Sri Lanka in the 1930s, and its adherents have struggled for recognition and acceptance ever since. With its focus on the austere figure of the monk and the biography of the historical Buddha, and more recently with its emphasis on individualizing meditation and on gender equality, Theravada Buddhism contrasts sharply with the highly ritualized Tantric Buddhism traditionally practiced in the Kathmandu Valley.

Based on extensive fieldwork, interviews, and historical reconstruction, the book provides a rich portrait of the different ways of being a Nepali Buddhist over the past seventy years. At the same time it explores the impact of the Theravada movement and what its gradual success has meant for Buddhism, for society, and for men and women in Nepal.


  • This is a well-researched and carefully documented study of the modernization of Buddhist traditions in Nepal, one that is centered upon compelling biographies of Nepalese monks and nuns. Through following the arcs of these lives that are skillfully contextualized by the authors, one can discern the various crosscurrents at work in the religious field in Kathmandu throughout the twentieth century. The ethnography is rich and important for the fields of Nepalese studies, religious modernization, gender studies and Buddhist studies.

    —Todd Lewis, College of the Holy Cross


  • Sarah LeVine is Research Associate in Human Development and Psychology, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
  • David N. Gellner is Lecturer in the Social Anthropology of South Asia, University of Oxford.

Book Details

  • 394 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press