Articulating Secularism in Religious Paradigm: A Study of Theravada Buddhism in Contemporary Myanmar
Keywords:Cult, Political, Secularism, Myanmar, New Religious forms, Theravada Buddhism
This research intends to examine the intersection of secularism and traditional religion in the lives of Buddhist people of Myanmar who revere a proclaimed secular leader Aung San SuuKyi as Bodhisattva. It suggests that Aung Saan Suukyi is a unique instance of personality cult where a secular leader attracts followers with her charisma without calling off their traditional religious affiliation. It employs the model suggested by Sarah Hunter which ascribes six traits to the personality cults including ideology (nationalism), the ideal leader (closeness to masses), frequent communication through media, relating oneself to great men in history through lineage or political legacy, Naming places after the leader’s name, life of cult after death of founder etc. It concludes that her charisma was created because of her heroic struggle in the chaotic situation of Myanmar in the twentieth century. Her selfless struggles and the ideology of liberation of her people portrayed her as the personification of wisdom and hope quite like a goddess in the traditional religious theology. Despite being a secular nationalist leader, she managed to attract her followers from a traditional religious setting because she laid the foundations of her cult ideology on nationalist cum religious grounds.