Krishantha Gemunu Kumara Fedricks

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Texas, Austin, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9897

Approve Date

October 25, 2019

Project Title

Fedricks, Krishantha (Texas, Austin, U. of) "Nirvana Here and Now: The Language and Media of Buddhist Televangelism in Post-War Sri Lanka," supervised by Dr. Courtney Handman

KRISHANTHA FEDRICKS, then a graduate student at University of Texas, Austin, Texas, was awarded funding in October 2019 to aid research on “Nirvana Here and Now: The Language and Media of Buddhist Televangelism in Post-War Sri Lanka,” supervised by Dr. Courtney Handman. During the last two decades of upheaval in Sri Lanka (including civil war and ethnic violence), a new transnational movement of televangelist Buddhist monks, collectively part of the Mahamevnāva Monastery, has emerged encouraging its followers to access nirvāṇa (liberation from suffering) in this lifetime, not in the afterlife. To make nirvāṇa more accessible to a broader audience, the movement has established over fifty branch monasteries in urban areas throughout Sri Lanka and twenty worldwide since 1999. Mahamevnāva Buddhists prioritize the attainment of nirvāṇa over material wealth and nationalist politics. This dissertation explores how Mahamevnāva Buddhists — both monks and lay practitioners –are reforming Buddhist practices through innovative rituals and the adoption of colloquial linguistic forms and consumerist media forms to create a non-hierarchical, non-consumerist, and non-nationalist religious movement focused on attaining nirvāṇa in this world. Going beyond the polarizing paradigms of materialistic consumerism and nationalist politics, as well as decontextualized religious liberation, this dissertation argues that non-materialistic religious identities can coexist with consumerist forms of media and nationalist language. Furthermore, it shows that both traditional and new media formats contribute to making the previously inaccessible goal of liberation an attainable objective trans-local and transnational Sri Lankan lay middle-class individuals.