Governing and administering the saṅgha has been described as an inherent part of the enactment of Buddhist statecraft in the pre-modern Theravāda world. With the development of modern forms of statehood under colonialism, however, new forms of governing evolved. Focusing on the pre-modern and colonial phases, this article discusses the laws and procedures that were deployed in Laos for governing the saṅgha. We first give an outline of the pre-modern laws that concern monks and the order of monks, and in the second part explore how these laws were adapted and modified by the French colonial regime. Despite the introduction of modern forms of governance, we propose that there are also strong continuities to be found. Colonial laws for the saṅgha were not simply imposed as legal transplants but were the outcome of complex negotiations between French and Lao leading to an acceptable “hybrid” law that provoked little resistance.
Abstract 192 Introduction 192 Governing the Saṅgha: General Aspects and Outline of the Pre-Colonial Period 195 French accounts of Buddhist law prior to the colonial period 206 Law, Religious Reforms and Saṅgha Regulations during the Colonial Period 207 Colonial research and the production of a hybrid law 211 Colonial law, monks and Saṅgha regulations 217 Conclusion 226 Annex 230 Bibliography 234