This is part of a series in which we share reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.
By Jasmine Chia, Harvard College ‘18
This summer, I traveled to Myanmar and was able to do three things: learn Burmese reading and writing, change my thesis topic to a more suitable and interesting topic, and finally to make Burmese friends and connections. My initial objective in going to Myanmar was to research the Vipassana movement, with the intention of going to various temples that practiced this meditative form of Buddhism and interviewing participants to understand how the movement towards Vipassana Buddhism may be linked to political engagement. This was to be a comparative piece comparing Vipassana Buddhism in Myanmar to the Buddhism of the Thammakaya sect in Thailand, which also preached a form of Buddhism modernism that emphasized an individualist experience of enlightenment over a communal form of religious engagement. However, through a series of serendipitous events, I stumbled on a much more interesting phenomenon in Myanmar in explaining the links between capitalist religion and political engagement.