Introduction: “Buddhist Politics” as Emptiness: History and the Forms of Engagement in Asia

  • John Whalen-Bridge
  • Pattana Kitiarsa


In an essay from 1962 entitled “Buddhism and Asian Politics,” Joseph M. Kitagawa wrote, “in any part of the world, the relation of religion to politics defies simple interpretation” (Kitagawa, 1962, p. 10), and this claim stands strong 50 years later. The particular ways of relating Buddhism and politics have, however, been debated throughout this half-century, and the notion that Buddhism is inherently quietist about the individual’s responsibility regarding the social causes of pain, a point also made by Kitagawa, has been debated by scholars associated with Engaged Buddhism. Perhaps, the turning point in how twentieth-century scholars thought about Buddhism in relation to the state would come a year later, with Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc’s self-immolation.


Moral Authority Religious Authority Khmer Rouge Sacred Site Political Protest 
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© John Whalen-Bridge and Pattana Kitiarsa 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Whalen-Bridge
  • Pattana Kitiarsa

There are no affiliations available

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