Date of Award

1-1-2002

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Anne Harris

Second Advisor

Mr Ines Tyson

Abstract

This research focuses on the role of Buddhism in the changing lives of rural women in Sri Lanka since Independence from the British in 1948 up to the present time. In this thesis I pose two questions: firstly, how important is Buddhism in the everyday lives of rural women and secondly, what impact has changes in Buddhism since Independence had upon laywomen and renunciants. I have chosen the rural village Athale, in the dry zone of southeast Sri Lanka as my area of investigation. The history of the village dates back to the times of the great hero King Dutugemunu (I61-137BCE) and it is part of a complex of villages that form a socioeconomic unit. This research investigates the lives of the rural women who belong to this village and whose religious background is Sinhalese Theravada Buddhism, a way of life embedded in their culture. The thesis examines cultural, political, educational and religious changes since Independence, especially changes in Buddhism. The socioeconomic problems of contemporary Sri Lanka resulted in the changes adapted to the spirit religion. The meditative tradition of Buddhism still flourishes under lay as well as the renunciants, in Sri Lanka. Fieldwork in Sri Lanka took place in December 1997- February 1998 and in July 2000- September 2000. The Non Government Organisations have been active in the village since 1988. The data collection method used for this research was qualitative: personal interviews, participant observation, direct observation, informal conversations and surveys were used to gather personal and demographic details and how women practise Buddhism. The findings indicate that women have incorporated different methods of practising Buddhism to suit their needs at a particular time of their lives.

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