In Gender and the Path to Awakening, Martin Seeger lays out the nuances and varying conceptions of female renunciation in modern Thai Buddhism. Centered on long-term textual and ethnographic research on six remarkable female practitioners, Seeger considers trends and changes over the last 140 years in the practices of female renunciants and their devotees. He also investigates understandings of female sainthood in Thai Buddhism, its expressions in material culture, and the importance of orality and memory in Thai Buddhist epistemology.
Supported by interviews and careful study of sermons, hagiographies, and hitherto untranslated and rare Thai sources, this book examines the social backgrounds, modes of expression, veneration, and historical contexts of Thai women pursuing the Buddhist ideal. Rich in ethnographic detail and with additional grounding in foundational Indian Buddhist texts, this book offers new insights into the complexities of female renunciation and gender relations in modern Thai Buddhism.
Martin Seeger is Associate Professor of Thai Studies at the University of Leeds. From 1997 to 2000 he was ordained as a monk in northern Thailand. He earned his PhD in Thai Studies from Hamburg University, and his research has focused on Thai Theravada Buddhism and its role in Thai society.
“Comprehensive and multidimensional. This book will be central not only to the study of Buddhism in Thailand and Southeast Asia but also in Buddhist studies everywhere. It is well written and engaging, and I am sure it will become a classic in the field.”—Steven Collins, author of Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities
“I was thrilled to read this book. Seeger uncovers some of the many untold stories of the active, creative, and influential Thai Buddhist women rigorously engaged in soteriological practice and teaching. He lets the women speak for themselves and thus sheds light on the religious roles of women in contemporary Thai Buddhism while acknowledging individual and regional differences.”—Ute Hüsken, Heidelberg University
“Martin Seeger has finally placed the study of female ascetics and monastics in Thailand into its historical context. His use of primary and secondary sources, interviews, and his superb translation skills make this essential reading for anyone in monastic studies, Buddhist studies, or gender and religion.”—Justin Thomas McDaniel, University of Pennsylvania