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Erik Braun

Associate Professor


  • BA, University of Georgia
  • PhD in Religious Studies, Committee for the Study of Religion at Harvard University

Research Interests

My main area of study is Burmese (Myanmar) Buddhism. I have been especially interested in Burmese traditions of meditation and, following from that, in the transformations of meditative practices (and the understandings of reality they convey explicitly and implicitly) as they spread around the world. My first book, The Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw (Chicago, 2013), explores the origins of mass insight meditation in Burma in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  It was a winner of the Toshihide Numata book prize in Buddhism in 2014. Currently, I am at work on a book project, tentatively titled A Great Awakening, that explores the role of insight practice in contemporary reformulations of notions about the self and society within the globalized insight meditation scene.  I am also co-editing a volume with David McMahan, now under contract with Oxford University Press, that explores meditation and science from the perspective of humanistic scholarship.


  • Early Buddhism
  • The historical development of Buddhist meditation traditions
  • South and Southeast Asian Buddhisms
  • Theravada Buddhism, particularly the Buddhist traditions of Myanmar
  • Buddhism and the modern world
  • Buddhism in America

Selected Publications

  • Buddhist Studies and the Scientific Study of Meditation. Co-ed. with David McMahan (under contract).
  • The Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Winner of a 2014 Toshihide Numata Book Prize in Buddhism from the Center for Buddhist Studies, University of California, Berkeley.  
  •  “Mindful but not Religious: Science and Naturalized Enchantment in the Work of Jon Kabat-Zinn.”  In Buddhist Studies and the Scientific Study of Meditation, ed. by David McMahan and Erik Braun (under contract).
  • “The Great War of the Commentaries: The Abhidhamma and Social Change in Colonial Burma.” History of Religions 55.1 (Aug 2015): 1–40.
  • “The United States of Jh?na: Varieties of Modern Buddhism in America.” In Buddhism beyond Borders, ed. by Scott Mitchell and Natalie Quli. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2015. 163–180.
  •  “Meditation En Masse: A Genealogy of Insight Meditation.” Tricycle: The Buddhist Review (Spring 2014). 56–61, 105.
  • “Local and Translocal in the Study of Theravada Buddhism and Modernity.” Religion Compass 3 (2009): 1–16.