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.

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 [orthogonal] dimensions of religiosity.