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

Since the end of Sri Lanka’s Civil war in 2009, a new group of Buddhist televangelist televangelism known as the Mahamevnāwa Monastery has emerged, encouraging the attainment of Nirvana (liberation from suffering) in this life and attracting thousands of Sri Lankan Buddhist followers. This group posits that “traditional Buddhists” do not observe the Path to Nirvana but rather engage in nationalist politics and rituals that emphasize material wealth. Instead, the Mahamevnāwa movement emphasizes that a “true Buddhist” should look to attain Nirvana, not nationalism, and do so in this lifetime. Yet in order to access this ostensibly non-nationalist, non-materialistic spiritual goal of Nirvana, the Mahamevnāwa group has introduced new rituals and religious practices using the Sinhala language and electronic media formats that have often been linked with nationalism and consumerism in the past. Through ethnographic research on new Mahamevnāwa rituals, media forms and anti-nationalist discourse, this project investigates how Mahamevnāwa Buddhists use Sinhala language and new media forms to create their non-nationalist and non-materialistic religious practice for this-worldly Nirvana. This project seeks to theorize Sri Lankan Buddhist televangelism beyond the polarizing paradigms of either materialist consumerism or nationalism on the one hand, and decontextualized religious liberation on the other.