mandala states in southeast asia

Description In almost every global region, religion has influenced the lived experiences of humans to the extent that it cannot be rightly disassociated from all aspects of life. In particular, religion has had significant impacts upon the political development of states and kingdoms. Far from only being spiritually and other-worldly oriented, religion has historically had vested interests in earthly affairs, while offering guiding principles to political ideology and legitimacy. After retreating from the life of an aristocrat, it is reported that Prince Siddhartha – the Buddha – continued to enjoy the patronage and company of kings and princes. Throughout their history, Buddhist vihara (monasteries) have often been involved in local politics as they became significant landowners. Buddhism has also offered to South and Southeast Asia states a means of conceiving of kingdoms and empires through the concept of the mandala. The mandala, a religious diagram that represents the universe and has been used as an aid to Hindu and Buddhist meditation, was first adopted by the Arthashastra, a 2nd century B.C. treatise on statecraft, to explain the nature of Indian polities. This concept was later adopted by Western historians to describe the Southeast Asian kingdoms in a way to describe their intricate workings without invoking modern notions of the ‘state’. As King Ashoka in India has demonstrated, Buddhism provides much political guidance Asian kingdoms and empires. This essay will get you to explore the concept of the mandala and how it has been applied to understand the development of political organization, especially in Southeast Asia. The broader context of this essay will be the political influences that Buddhism has had on Asia. The assigned readings will allow you to explore various applications of the Buddhist mandala as a religious icon and as an organizing idiom to understand Southeast Asian states. The essay will require you to engage with the following questions: a) What is a mandala, and what are its origins? b) In what ways does the mandala explain state formation in Southeast Asia? Using examples from each of the readings, discuss the various Buddhist ‘mandala states’ that have arisen throughout Southeast Asian history. Compare and contrast the different characteristics and experiences to highlight the various ways Buddhism has affected state development. c) How do historians today use the notion of a Buddhist mandala to explain and understand pre-modern Southeast Asian state formation? d) Is the mandala a useful way to understand and describe the political entities of Southeast Asia, based upon your reading of the assigned works? This essay will require a significant amount of summary, but there will remain a critical component to your writing. Do not merely repeat what you read. As you discuss how the various authors in this assignment explain and apply the mandala, be clear in how they make their own arguments: what sources do they use? What are their examples? Many of these authors are responding to each other, so be sure to highlight in what ways the authors interpret and respond to other authors. Your essay should have a fully developed introduction with a thesis statement, body paragraphs that are focused on one point each, and a conclusion that satisfactorily brings the paper to an end by reflecting on the broad importance of this research topic. The essay should be cohesive and flow well, which can be achieved by ensuring you have an overarching argument that unites all sections of your essay. To help with structuring your essay, the use of an outline can be very helpful.

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