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Nusantara’s Dharma: Ashin Jinarakkhita and the Buddhayāna Movement

Fri, March 17, 12:45 to 2:45pm, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, Floor: 4th Floor, Forest Hill

Abstract

Ashin Jinarakkhita (1923-2002) is widely regarded as modern Indonesia’s first Buddhist monk. Born in a Peranakan Chinese family in colonial West Java, he was educated in the Netherlands and was a member of the Theosophy Society before his ordination. Ashin Jinarakkhita’s mission was to revive Buddhism in Indonesia, and establish an inclusive monastic community, consisting of Sangha from the Theravāda, Mahāyāna, and Vajrayāna traditions. His Buddhayāna movement which emphasized on the spirit of inclusivism, non-sectarianism, and pluralism, had a profound intellectual impact in Indonesia in the second half of the twentieth century. He crafted a vision of Indonesian Buddhism as a diverse, yet unified religion in line with the modern Indonesian nation during the period of the New Order (1965-98). This vision of a modern Indonesian Buddhism fit for a democratic, diverse, and pluralistic Indonesia continues to attract large numbers of Indonesian people in the twenty-first century. This paper examines Ashin Jinarakkhita’s life, thought, and network, situating them in the context of the sociopolitical and intellectual changes that transformed postcolonial Indonesia in the twentieth century. I argue that Ashin Jinarakkhita’s reform of Indonesian Buddhist teachings was a calculated strategy to ensure the survival of Buddhism in the world’s largest Muslim nation. Drawing on fieldwork, interviews, temple publications, and archival documents, this study will reveal the innovative and radical ideas of an eminent Southeast Asian Buddhist reformer of the last century.

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