Beyond Buddhism and animism: A psychometric test of the structure of Burmese Theravada Buddhism

Autoři: Mark Stanford aff001;  Jonathan Jong aff001
Působiště autorů: Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom aff001
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(12)
Kategorie: Research Article


Anthropologists and religious scholars have long debated the relationship between doctrinal Theravada Buddhism, so-called ‘animism’, and other folk practices in southeast Asian societies. A variety of models of this relationship have been proposed on the basis of ethnographic evidence. We provide the first psychometric and quantitative evaluation of these competing models, using a new scale developed for this purpose, the Burmese Buddhist Religiosity Scale. Having tested existing hypotheses in our first study (n = 2285) we formulated an alternative model, which was then tested in our second study (n = 3377). We argue that this model provides support for a two-dimensional distinction between great and little traditions, shedding light on decades-old theoretical debates. Far from being in conflict, the transnational religious tradition of the literati and the variegated religious practices of locals appear to be reflected in two complementary dimensions of religiosity. This distinction has been heretofore neglected in psychometric research, but arguably merits attention beyond Buddhism, in the psychology of religion more generally. Our findings suggest that, insofar as research on religiosity relies on doctrinal pronouncements denigrating little traditions as mere superstition, it may be blinded to a crucial dimension of religious life.

Klíčová slova:

Anthropology – Buddhism – Cross-cultural studies – Myanmar – Psychology – Psychometrics – Religion – Physical cosmology


1. Bulbulia J, Geertz AW, Atkinson QD, Cohen E, Evans N, François P, et al. The Cultural Evolution of Religion. In: Richerson PJ, Christiansen MH, editors. Cultural Evolution: Society, Technology, Language, and Religion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press; 2013. p. 381–404.

2. Henrich J, Heine SJ, Norenzayan A. The weirdest people in the world? Behav Brain Sci. 2010;33(2–3):61–83. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X0999152X 20550733

3. Redfield R. Peasant Society and Culture: An Anthropological Approach to Civilization. Text. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1956.

4. Asad T. The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam. Washington, DC: Georgtown University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies; 1986.

5. Bowen JR. Discursive Monotheisms. Am Ethnol. 1993;20(1):185–90.

6. Gombrich RF. Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. London: Routledge; 2006.

7. Gombrich RF, Obeyesekere G. Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 1988.

8. Tambiah S. Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka. Univeristy of Chicago Press; 1992.

9. Malalgoda K. Buddhism in Singhalese Society 1750–1900: A Study of Religious Revival and Change. Berkeley: University of California Press; 1976.

10. Borchert T. Worry for the Dai Nation: Sipsongpanna Chinese Modernity, and the Problems of Buddhist Modernism. J Asian Stud. 2008;67(1).

11. Turner A. Saving Buddhism: The Impermanence of Religion in Colonial Burma. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press; 2014.

12. Blackburn AM. Locations of Buddhism: Colonialism and Modernity in Sri Lanka. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 2010.

13. Walton MJ. Buddhism, Nationalism, and Governance. In: Jerryson M, editor. The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2017. p. 532–45.

14. Walton MJ. Buddhism, Politics and Political Thought in Myanmar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2016.

15. Harris I. Buddhism and politics in twentieth-century Asia. Harris I, editor. London and New York: Pinter; 1999.

16. Mendelson EM. Sangha and State in Burma: A Study of Monastic Sectarianism and Leadership. London: Cornell University Press; 1975.

17. Houtman G. How a Foreigner Invented “Buddhendom” in Burmese: From Tha-Tha-Na to Bok-Da’ Ba-Tha. J Anthropol Soc Oxford. 1990;21(2):113–28.

18. Brac de la Perrière B. An Overview of the Field of Religion in Burmese Studies. Asian Ethnol. 2009;68(2):185–210.

19. Temple RC. The Thirty-Seven Nats: A Phase of Spirit-Worship Prevailing in Burma. London: W. Griggs; 1906.

20. Yoe S. The Burman: His Life and Notions. New York: W. W. Norton; 1963.

21. Spiro ME. Burmese Supernaturalism. Philadelphia: Prentice-Hall; 1978.

22. Mendelson EM. Religion and Authority in Modern Burma. World Today. 1960;16(3):110–8.

23. White E. Rethinking Anthropological Models of Spirit Possession and Theravada Buddhism. Relig Soc [Internet]. 2017;8(1):189–202. Available from:

24. Brohm J. Buddhism and Animism in a Burmese Village. J Asian Stud. 1963;22:155–68.

25. Lehman FK. Review: Doctrine, Practice, and Belief in Theravada Buddhism. J Asian Stud. 1972;31(2):373–80.

26. Obeyesekere G. The Great Tradition and the Little in the Perspective of Sinhalese Buddhism. J Asian Stud. 1963;22(2):139–53.

27. Kirsch AT. Complexity in the Thai Religious System: An Interpretation. J Asian Stud. 1977;36(2):241–66.

28. Nash M. Burmese Buddhism in Everyday Life. Am Anthropol. 1963;65(2):285–95.

29. Ames MM. Magical-animism and Buddhism: A Structural Analysis of the Sinhalese Religious System. J Asian Stud [Internet]. 1964;23:21–52. Available from:

30. Spiro ME. Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and Its Burmese Vicissitudes. New York: Harper & Row; 1970.

31. Pranke P. On Saints and Wizards: Ideals of Human Perfection and Power in Contemporary Burmese Buddhism. In: Brac de la Perrière B, Rozenberg G, Turner A, editors. Champions of Buddhism: Weikza Cults in Contemporary Burma. Singapore: NUS Press; 2014. p. 3–31.

32. Patton TN. The Buddha’s Wizards: Magic, Protection, and Healing in Burmese Buddhism. New York: Columbia University Press; 2018.

33. Tambiah S. Buddhism and Spirit Cults in North-East Thailand. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1970.

34. Stavrakopoulou F. “Popular” Religion and “Official” Religion: Practice, Perception, Portrayal. In: Stavrakopoulou F, Barton J, editors. Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah. London/New York: T&T Clark International; 2010. p. 37–58.

35. Schober J. Communities of interpretation in the study of religion in Burma. J Southeast Asian Stud. 2008;39(2):255–67.

36. Belzen JA. Towards Cultural Psychology of Religion: Principles, Approaches, Applications. Springer; 2010.

37. Hill PC, Hood RW. Measures of Religiosity. Hill PC, Hood RW, editors. Birmingham, Alabama: Religious Education Press; 1999.

38. Finke R, Bader CD. Faithful Measures: New Methods in the Measurement of Religion. Finke R, Bader CD, editors. New York: New York University Press; 2017.

39. Pargament KI, Mahoney A, Exline JJ, Jones JW, Shafranske EP. Envisioning an integrative paradigm for the psychology of religion and spirituality. In: Pargament KI, Exline JJ, Jones JW, editors. APA Handbooks in Psychology APA Handbook of Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality (Vol 1): Context, theory, and research. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; 2013. p. 3–19.

40. Allport GW. The Individual and His Religion. New York: Macmillan; 1950.

41. Allport GW, Ross JM. Personal Religious Orientation and Prejudice. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1967;5(4):432–43. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.5.4.432 6051769

42. Batson CD. Religion as Prosocial: Agent or Double Agent. J Sci Study Relig. 1976;15(1):29–45.

43. Altemeyer B, Hunsberger B. A Revised Religious Fundamentalism Scale: The Short and Sweet of It. Int J Psychol Relig. 2004;14:47–54.

44. Glock CY, Stark R. Religion and Society in Tension. Chicago: Rand McNally and Company; 1965.

45. Hill PC, Pargament KI. Measurement Tools and Issues in the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. In: Finke R, Bader CD, editors. Faithful Measures: New Methods in the Measurement of Religion. New York: New York University Press; 2017. p. 56–85.

46. Emavardhana T, Tori CD. Changes in Self-Concept, Ego Defense Mechanisms, and Religiosity Following Seven-Day Vipassana Meditation Retreats. J Sci Study Relig [Internet]. 1997;36(2):194–206. Available from:

47. Thanissaro PN. Validity and Reliability of a Revised Scale of Attitude towards Buddhism (TSAB-R). Religions [Internet]. 2016;7(44):1–11. Available from:

48. Thanissaro PN. Measuring attitude towards Buddhism and Sikhism: Internal consistency reliability for two new instruments. Ment Heal Relig Cult. 2011;14(8):797–803.

49. Falb MD, Pargament KI. Buddhist coping predicts psychological outcomes among end-of-life caregivers. Psycholog Relig Spiritual. 2013;5(4):252–62.

50. Phillips RE, Cheng CM, Oemig C, Hietbrink L, Vonnegut E. Validation of a Buddhist Coping Measure Among Primarily Non-Asian Buddhists in the United States. J Sci Study Relig. 2012;51(1):156–72.

51. Phillips RE, Cheng CM, Pargament KI, Oemig C, Colvin SD, Abarr AN. Spiritual Coping in American Buddhists: An Exploratory Study. Int J Psychol Relig. 2009;19(4):231–43.

52. Pargament KI, Koenig HG, Perez LM. The many methods of religious coping: development and initial validation of the RCOPE. J Clin Psychol. 2000;56(4):519–43. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-4679(200004)56:4<519::aid-jclp6>;2-1 10775045

53. Piedmont RL. Cross-cultural generalizability of the Spiritual Transcendence Scale to the Philippines: Spirituality as a human universal. Ment Heal Relig Cult. 2007;10(2):89–107.

54. Piedmont RL, Leach MM. Cross-Cultural Generalizability of the Spiritual Transcendence Scale in India. Am Behav Sci [Internet]. 2002;45(12):1888–901. Available from:

55. Cassaniti JL. Remembering the Present: Mindfulness in Buddhist Asia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; 2018.

56. Huber S, Huber OW. The Centrality of Religiosity Scale (CRS). Religions [Internet]. 2012;3(4):710–24. Available from:

57. Myanmar Information Management Unit. 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census [Internet]. Myanmar Information Management Unit. 2014. Available from:

58. Nielsen MMRD. Making it in Myanmar [Internet]. Nielsen. 2014. Available from:

59. Muthén LK, Muthén BO. Mplus User’s Guide. Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén; 2017.

60. Pasek J, DeBell M, Krosnick JA. Standardizing and Democratizing Survey Weights: The ANES Weighting System and anesrake [Internet]. 2014. Available from:

61. DeBell M, Krosnick JA. Computing weights for American National Election Study survey data. 2009.

62. DeBell M. Best Practices for Creating Survey Weights. In: Vannette DL, Krosnick JA, editors. The Palgrave Handbook of Survey Research. Palgrave Macmillan; 2018. p. 159–62.

63. Hu L, Bentler PM. Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Struct Equ Model A Multidiscip J. 1999;6(1):1–55.

64. Horn JL. A rationale and test for the number of factors in factor analysis. Psychometrika. 1965;30(2):179–85.

65. Velicer WF. Determining the Number of Components from the Matrix of Partial Correlations. Psychometrika. 1976;41(3):321–7.

66. O’Connor BP. paramap: Factor Analysis Functions for Assessing Dimensionality. 2018.

67. Revelle W, Rocklin T. Very Simple Structure: An Alternative Procedure for Estimating the Optimal Number of Interpretable Factors. Multivariate Behav Res. 1979;14:408–14.

68. Revelle W. psych: Procedures for Personality and Psychological Research. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University; 2018.

69. Cattell RB. The Scree Test for the Number of Factors. Multivariate Behav Res. 1966;1(2):245–76. doi: 10.1207/s15327906mbr0102_10 26828106

70. Hayton JC, Allen DG, Scarpello V. Factor Retention Decisions in Exploratory Factor Analysis: A Tutorial on Parallel Analysis. 2004;7(2):191–205.

71. Asparouhov T, Muthén BO. Plausible Values for Latent Variables Using Mplus. 2010.

72. IBM. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows. Armonk, NY: IBM Corp; 2017.

73. Gross RM. Meditation and Prayer: A Comparative Inquiry. Buddhist-Christian Stud. 2002;22:77–86.

74. Slone DJ. Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn’t. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2004.

75. Hodge KM. Sorting Through, and Sorting Out, Anthropomorphism in CSR. Filos Unisinos. 2018;

76. Green A. The Mindreading Debate and the Cognitive Science of Religion. Sophia. 2015;54(1):61–75.

77. Epley N, Waytz A, Cacioppo JT. On Seeing Human: A Three-Factor Theory of Anthropomorphism. Psychol Rev. 2007;114(4):864–86. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.114.4.864 17907867

78. Cofnas N. Religious authority and the transmission of abstract god concepts. Philos Psychol [Internet]. 2018;31(4):609–28. Available from:

79. Whitehouse H. Modes of Religiosity: A Cognitive Theory of Religious Transimssion. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press; 2004.

80. Van Leeuwen N, van Elk M. Seeking the supernatural: The Interactive Religious Experience Model. Relig Brain Behav [Internet]. 2018; Available from:

81. Spiro ME. Kinship and Marriage in Burma: A Cultural and Psychodynamic Analysis. London: University of California Press; 1977.

Článek vyšel v časopise


2019 Číslo 12
Nejčtenější tento týden