'We will never get rich if we follow Buddhism' – The Rise of Brahmanism in Cambodia

2019-09 | working paper. A publication of Göttingen

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​'We will never get rich if we follow Buddhism' – The Rise of Brahmanism in Cambodia​ (​​GISCA Occasional Paper​, 24​​)
Christensen, P. ​ (2019)
Göttingen​: Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3249/2363-894X-gisca-24 

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Christensen, Paul 
This paper explores the growing demand for spirit rituals in Cambodia over the last two decades. Beginning with the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, the author focuses on the revitalisation of “Brahmanism” (brahmaṇya-sāsanā), a term that in Cambodia describes religious practices involving spirits. Brahmanist practices have grown in popularity in parallel with the rapid revitalisation of Buddhism that has taken place since the end of the post-Khmer Rouge Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia in 1989. The author argues that the influence of ideas of pāramī, or spiritual power, is a significant reason for the popularity of Brahmanist rituals. In contrast to Buddhist practice which places emphasis on the accumulation of merit (puṇya), spirits and their human mediums may provide immediate cures, or help in the accumulation of power and money. Hence Brahmanism is appealing to many Cambodians – as the title of the paper suggests – because their offerings are traded for more immediate benefits than Buddhist merit-making. Because of their flexibility, Brahmanist rituals have been easily adapted to the new capitalist market, which was ‘liberalized’ in the 1990s. Unlike the well-documented development of Buddhism, the revitalization of Brahmanism has gone rather unnoticed by scholars of Cambodia. Nonetheless, it has become a modern phenomenon that provides revealing insights into a society that finds itself in politically troubled times.
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Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
GISCA Occasional Paper 



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