Thursday, November 14th, 2019 King Milinda in Independent Burma and the Struggle to Control the Buddhist Canon

Thursday, November 14, 201910:00AM - 12:00PM208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place


Asian Institute PhD Seminar Series


The first independent Burmese administration of U Nu embarked on a national Buddhist revivalist project that included laws regulating Buddhism, sponsorship of lay-centred meditation centres, and the so-called Sixth Buddhist Council. This paper focuses on Burmese monk Mingun Jetavana Sayadaw (1868-1954) and the controversy over his Pali commentary in the early 1950s, the Commentary on the Questions of [King] Milinda (Milindapañha-aṭṭhakathā). Published in 1948 by a pioneer of mass-lay meditation in the most classical commentarial genre, this text sparked protest in the streets and forced U Nu to send police to confiscate almost 400 copies from a monastery in Rangoon at night. Ostensibly the uproar was over reforms the Mingun Jetavana Sayadaw proposed to the monastic code (vinaya), possibly hurrying the enactment of the Monastic Courts Act of 1949 (Ṭhana Vinicchaya). By examining the controversy over this text through newspaper articles, epigraphic evidence and government documents, this paper will explore the intersection between Buddhist statecraft, emerging communities of insight (vipassanā) meditation, and control of the Pali canon in mid-twentieth-century Burma.

Tony Scott is a PhD Candidate in the Department for the Study of Religion in collaboration with the Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. His research interests lie in South and Southeast Asian Pali discourse and its intersection with communities of practice, vernacular language, and twentieth-century statecraft. He currently focuses on the Milindapañha-aṭṭhakathā, a modern Pali commentary on the Questions of King Milinda (circa 1st century B.C.E.) written by a Burmese pioneer of insight (vipassanā) meditation, the Mūla Mingun Jetavan Sayadaw (1868-1954).


Tony Scott
PhD Candidate, Department for the Study of Religion and Collaborative Specialization in South Asian Studies

If you are attending a Munk School event and require accommodation(s), please email the event contact listed above to make appropriate arrangements.

Disclaimer: Please note that events posted on this website are considered to be public events – unless otherwise stated – and you are choosing to enter a space where your image and/or voice may be captured as part of event proceedings that may be made public as part of a broadcast, webcast, or publication (online and in print). We make every effort to ensure your personal information is kept and used in compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). If you have any questions please get in touch with our office at or 416-946-8900.