Reading the Rasavahini: A Religious and Literary Study of a Theravada Buddhist Text


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


Harvard Divinity School


This dissertation is a study of a thirteenth century Theravada Buddhist text entitled Rasavahini, asking what is revealed when it is read as a civilizational literary achievement. The project takes up three major lines of inquiry, including the virtues of reading the text as Literature, the relationship between the text's aesthetics and Theravada's civilizational aspirations, and how thinking about the text as both religious and literary challenges us to develop more robust ways of understanding the spread of Theravada Buddhism from Sri Lanka to mainland Southeast Asia. Employing the tools of Sanskrit, Pali, and Sinhala literary theory as well as modern Euro-American literary theory, I perform a close reading of the text and consider it in light of its literary precedents and inter-texts.