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MEETINGS 2013-2018


441st Meeting at the Alliance Franšaise, Chiang Mai: “Rituals of allegiance, hierarchy, inclusiveness, change? The Vessantara Festival (Bun Pha Wet) in Isan and Laos”. 

Tuesday, 11 December 2018.

A Talk by Leedom Leffert

The Talk:

The Bun Phra Wet (the Festival Celebrating the Merit made by Prince Vessantara, that we make today) is the product of the distinctive evolution of Theravada Buddhism in Thai-Lao and Lao culture and these people’s places in their respective colonial, subaltern, social organizations. The ceremony expounds on some of the many meanings inherent in the epic Vessantara Jataka.

A congregation, usually a community’s households, organizes a Bun Phra Wet to host visitors and returnees, of whom the exiled Prince and his family are foremost. Holding the Bun requires a community’s radical reconfiguration as a mueang, fit for royalty. It also involves a joyful procession welcoming Phra Wet and his wife, Matsi, back to their kingdom. Finally, the recitation ending the Bun includes the assurance that since we are alive today as The Buddha’s associates, we were then members of the Prince’s royal city and thus are assured of rebirth in the future time of Maitreya.

Where does this ritual leave the people? Is this a religious ceremony, having nothing to do with “today’s world”? Or is it a statement of the rights of community members? Or a pledge of allegiance to monarchy? Does the ritual reinforce the necessary distinction between ruler and ruled, or does it provide a mechanism for redressing inequities?

This presentation will attempt to explore these complexities and provide ways for understanding the epic and some of its implications..

The Speaker:

Leedom Lefferts, PhD, University of Colorado, 1974; Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, Drew University (New Jersey, USA); currently Research Collaborator, Carolina Asia Center, The University of North Carolina (USA). Research in Isan since 1970 (BE2515), Laos and Vietnam since, 1989, Cambodia since 1992. Research topics: village cultural ecology and social organization, material culture (Tai textiles with Dr.
Mattiebelle Gittinger, Mainland SEA indigenous ceramics with Ms Louise Allison Cort), Thai-Lao & Lao Theravada Buddhism and the Bun Phra Wet (with Dr. Sandra Cate).

 

Want to read more? ....click "HERE"(PDF File for downloading or reading online - 14 pages).

 


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