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The Dhammakāya Gāthā: A Neglected Buddhist Text and Its Significance for the “Thai-Khmer” Buddhist Practices

Abstract

The Dhammakāya Gāthā is a Pāli-Buddhist, prose text that has been circulated within the cross-cultural/translocal sphere of Thai-Khmer Buddhism for over five centuries. Its earliest extant version appears on the “Braḥ Dhammakāya inscription,” an engraved stone slab from the stūpa of Wat Suea, Phitsanulok, Thailand, dated to 1549 CE. The Gāthā was well-known in the Thai-Khmer cultural sphere during the pre-modern period, but today, it has received little attention by modern practitioners, although it plays the most significant role in the Thai-Khmer Buddha image construction and Buddhābhiseka. In this talk, I will analyze textual and para-textual elements of the Dhammakāya Gāthā in order to uncover the doctrinal meanings underlined in the Gāthā and reveal functional usages of the text. I argue that the study of the Dhammakāya Gāthā enables us to understand a broad spectrum of Buddhist practices, textual formation and transmission, and intertextualities that link Buddhism, its texts, and Buddhists from the 16th century to the present day.  

 

Bio

Speaker: Mr. Woramat Malasart received a BSc from the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Chulalongkorn University in 2015 and a MA in Buddhist Studies from the University of Otago in 2019. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Religion Programme, School of Social Sciences, University of Otago, New Zealand and holds a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship (2020-2023). He is interested in many aspects of Buddhism, but his particular passion is the study of Buddhist manuscripts from Southeast Asia, especially those written in Khom and Tham/Dhamma scripts. His current PhD thesis is “The Dhammakāya Lemmata from Core Text to Commentary: Buddhist Practices, Textual Transmission, and Formation during 16th-19th Centuries in the Cross-Cultural Sphere of Traditional Thai-Khmer Buddhism,” under the supervision of Dr. Elizabeth Guthrie, Dr. Trent Walker, and Professor Will Sweetman.

Moderator: Prof. John Marston, from the Center for Asian and African Studies of El Colegio de México in Mexico City, serves as scholar-in-residence at CKS during the second half of 2023. His association with CKS dates back many years- he has received CKS research funding through our Fellowship programs and also coordinated a CKS capacity-building project. Marston’s publications include History, Buddhism, and New Religious Movements in Cambodia (with Elizabeth Guthrie), Anthropology and Community in Cambodia, and Ethnicity, Borders, and the Grassroots Interface with the State. His articles have appeared in multiple scholarly journals and edited volumes published by Cornell University Press, University of Hawaii Press, Edinburgh University Press, Palgrave, El Colegio de México, and Ateneo de Manila University Press.  

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the publications and through webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. The designations employed in the publications and through the webinars, and the presentation of material therein, do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. as to the matters discussed therein. The responsibility for opinions expressed in the publications and webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers, and the publication does not constitute an endorsement by The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. of the opinions, views or issues discussed therein.

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