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Buddhism is all too often represented as an aloof, ascetic tradition disengaged from society. However, in historical and contemporary societies across Asia, and increasingly around the world where Buddhism is found, Buddhist practitioners and institutions are deeply intertwined with broader cultural, political, and economic forces. These include the forces that influence conceptions of childhood and the position of children. Since Buddhism began in South Asia 2,500 years ago, children have always been important members of lay and monastic communities. This is because, as Rita Gross has written, children and the state of childhood have no special status in Buddhist societies. All children come to their current birth with accumulated karma, resulting from their thoughts and actions in previous lives, and therefore, they have the ...

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