Popularizing Buddhism

Preaching as Performance in Sri Lanka

By Mahinda Deegalle

Subjects: Asian Religion And Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791468982, 255 pages, June 2007
Hardcover : 9780791468975, 255 pages, October 2006

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

1. Preaching in the Context of Popular Religion
2. Buddha as the Best Preacher
3. Bana as an Emerging Tradition
4. Banapot as Innovation
5. Marathon Preachers
6. Preaching Performance in the Nineteenth Century
7. Twentieth-century Innovations
8. Preacher as Poet
9. Further Reflections

Explores the ritual practice of Buddhist preaching.


The first book to focus on the ritual practice of Buddhist preaching in Asia, Popularizing Buddhism examines the role of preaching in Buddhist devotional life and its relationship to the vernacular Sinhala literature of late medieval Sri Lanka. Blending ethnography, textual and doctrinal studies, and an analysis of untranslated Sinhala vernacular Buddhist texts, Mahinda Deegalle traces the development of Buddhist preaching within the Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist tradition. He explains the preaching ceremony popularly known as bana and offers a rich depiction of preaching styles, events, and specific preachers. The book delves into the debates surrounding the preaching ritual's origin and its potential beginning and continuity within the bhanaka (reciter) tradition, and explores the interactions between vernacular religious traditions of Sri Lanka with cosmopolitan Buddhism. Deegalle advances previous research on the transmission of Buddhist teachings by constructing a vivid picture of the way Sri Lankan Buddhist traditions have shaped the nature of Theravada Buddhism.

Mahinda Deegalle is Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religions at Bath Spa University in England. He is the editor of Buddhism, Conflict, and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka and coeditor (with Frank J. Hoffman) of Pali Buddhism.