PhD candidate receives dissertation fellowship in Buddhist studies

Temple and two monks in Yangon, Myanmar, Shutterstock

Htet Min Lwin, a PhD candidate in York University’s Department of Humanities and a graduate associate at the York Centre for Asian Research, has been awarded a 2024 Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in Buddhist Studies to advance his dissertation work in Buddhist studies.

Htet Min Lwin
Htet Min Lwin

Htet is one of 11 scholars from universities around the world who have been awarded $30,000 each in support of their dissertation fieldwork, archival research and writing. This fellowship program is administered by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and made possible by a grant from the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Global, which aims to promote the understanding and interpretation of Buddhist thought in scholarship and society, strengthen international networks of scholars in the field, and increase the visibility of new knowledge and research on Buddhist traditions.

The award builds upon – and looks to advance – Htet’s doctoral research at York which explores the Myanmar government’s attempts in 1958, 1962 and successfully in 1980 to institutionalize the country’s monastics – people who renounce worldly pursuits to devote themselves fully to spiritual work – under a centralized, state-backed authority.

Arguing against the triumph of the state’s political secularism, his work demonstrates the monks’ Buddhist logic and the sources of power within the tradition that led to them finally accepting this centralized authority. He shows how the state’s attempt to regulate religion resulted not only in the monastics being put under state control but the state ultimately being transformed by religion – creating a more orthodox society and resulting in an authoritarian, nationalist Buddhist state and communities.

“I am extremely delighted and looking forward to the field research,” says Htet, “as my work has potential to provide significant theoretical intervention on how the other-worldly ideal of the Theravada [Buddhist] tradition and protection of Buddhist teaching can get entwined with the ‘political secularism’ of the modern nation-state.”