Miracles of Book and Body: Buddhist Textual Culture and Medieval Japan (Buddhisms)

Miracles of Book and Body: Buddhist Textual Culture and Medieval Japan
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Kalupahana, David J. Edited by P.

Charlotte Diane Eubanks

Premasiri, — Intriguing essay on the concept of the miracle in early Buddhism by a scholar of Buddhism who is best known for portraying early Buddhism as philosophy and the Buddha as an empirical pragmatist. Provides an interesting interpretation of the three types of Buddhist miracle that deemphasizes the role played by wonder and awe, and lays stress upon the unique moral significance of the teachings.

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Concrete Results? In the Lotus Sutra, for instance, the Buddha explains to the assembly of monks that, in a certain kingdom long ago, there was a buddha named Victorious Through Great Penetrating Knowledge who often gave sermons to the king and his sixteen sons. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Locating Setsuwa in Performance 3. Let me be clear. Like Roland trying to control the arrangement of his corpse on the battlefield, the Buddha wants his textual corpus to maintain a certain shape and order, lest the evidence be misread and his deeds misunderstood. On a narrative level, Fugen's false request produces a litany of desperation rather than the expected preaching of the Lotus Sutra.

Zin, Monika. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, Nine chapters each describe a separate episode, drawing extensively upon both narrative and iconographical materials. Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login. Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.

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Don't have an account? Imagine, for a moment, reading the final chapter of a novel in which a secondary character turns to the protagonist and asks him, "What's the name of this book we're in, and how would you like me to circulate it after you die? Readers can now identify that "I," who disappeared after line one, as a specific character in the story. This frame narrative also establishes something of a phantom link between the sutra's authority and its purported origin in the word of the Buddha.

The other metafictional strategies, however, largely work to undermine this tentative link and, in fact, naming and entrustment scenes are at times quite problematic. The Nirvana Sutra, for instance, is virtually a case study in everything that can go wrong with entrustment. Put another way, the sutra showcases a variety of ways in which a written sutra, by disrupting the smooth functioning of entrustment, can stop being merely the object that is passed around orally entrusted by one person to another and can instead begin to seize authority for itself. When the Nirvana Sutra opens, the Buddha is on his deathbed.

Myriad beings appear, all grieving and wailing that once the Buddha has passed into extinction, the teachings, too, will begin to die.

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He is now your refuge. Why is this? Thus, you should entrust this unsurpassed buddha dharma to all the bodhisattvas. The monks' point, though, is that any one of them may die at any moment, so it would be far safer to entrust the teachings to all of the advanced practitioners rather than any single person. The Buddha recovers quickly from this criticism and praises the monks' forethought, noting that he had already considered this contingency.

He accepts their proposal and formally announces that he hereby entrusts the dharma to all bodhisattvas. What we have here, in somewhat muted form, is something like a deathbed squabble over the inheritance. To whom will the treasure of the dharma be handed down? At this point, the treasure under discussion is the entire dharma, and not just any single named sutra, so whoever receives the formal assignment stands to become the next leader of the assembly. At least for now.

The troubles are not over. The issue of entrustment appears to be resolved. The sermon draws to a close, and the layman Cunda is chosen to present the last offerings. This second entrustment scene raises a rather thorny question, under which is hidden an equally thorny textual problem.

What this snag in the narrative tells attentive readers is that the text of the Nirvana Sutra that we now have is clearly a composite document, one that has been stitched together from at least two separate sources. It is ironic that the entrustment scene is the segment of the narrative that most obviously exposes the seams in that narrative's textual history. If the conventional work of the entrustment scene is to provide a clear point of oral origin for the written text of the sutra, that is manifestly not how this particular entrustment scene works.

I would not go so far as to call it a parody of convention, but it is definitely a departure, and a critical one at that. As if this were not enough, there is a third entrustment scene, this one properly situated very near the end of the narrative, but no less troubling for its place of prominence. Entrustment scenes can reveal these seams and some of the stitchwork done to conceal them. Thus, they are severed both from a verifiable history of oral discourse and from an identifiable act of literary fabrication.

Instead, they float free from both these traditional locales of textual authority. In the Sutra of Immeasurable Life, for instance, the Buddha maintains matter-of-factly that, in the ages to come, "all scriptures and paths will perish, but out of compassion and pity, I will especially preserve this sutra and maintain it in the world for a hundred years more.

The Lotus Sutra speaks of human adversaries who "malign the scriptures," acting on "hatred and envy" T 9. All these evil monks Or they will chop off the beginning and add it to the end, chop off the end and add it to the beginning, or put the beginning and end in the middle and the middle at the beginning and end. This violent editorial cutting and pasting will obstruct beings' access to the scripture, Buddha argues, keeping them from getting at its true meaning.

Like Roland trying to control the arrangement of his corpse on the battlefield, the Buddha wants his textual corpus to maintain a certain shape and order, lest the evidence be misread and his deeds misunderstood. The imagery supports the notion of a great physical battle in which sutras are unstrung, sliced and chopped, then sewn back together into unsatisfying semblances of their former selves. Passages such as these work to establish an overarching atmosphere of desperation, and they stress the importance of the recipient in transmitting and preserving the text in these violent times.

In addition to elaborating an anxious tone, these passages also suggest an important characteristic of sutras as material objects, namely, that they are not capable of sustaining themselves.

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With the Buddha having died, the sutras are in danger of dying, too, unless someone else makes special, even supernatural, efforts to preserve them. Even when these efforts are made, however, beings find them "difficult," and inevitably the sutras will all eventually perish. The world will pass through a spiritual dark age, which will end only when another buddha appears to start the cycle turning again. Happily, there is an inverse to this nightmare.

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Long, long ago there was a buddha named Medicine King who lived and taught in a world called Great Adornment. His chief patron was a king who had one thousand sons, one of whom was named Moon Parasol. One day Moon Parasol, observing all the various offerings of his father and brothers flowers, incense, banners, music, etc.

Suddenly, a heavenly being appears in the sky and tells him the most superior is the offering of the dharma. Neither Moon Parasol nor his father knows how to make this offering, so they ask Medicine King to explain. He says, "Good man, the offering of the dharma means the profound sutras preached by all the buddhas. The people of the world all find them difficult to believe and difficult to accept, for they are wonderfully subtle and difficult to see, clean and pure and without stain I will deal more closely with this sort of pretextual history soon, but for the moment let us concentrate on the issue of textual perfection.

In this story, the buddha Medicine King speaks of a vast storehouse filled with text, in other words, a library. The holdings of this library consist of every sutra ever given, each of which is preserved whole, with no smudges or stains, and each of which is stamped with a seal that marks it as genuine.

The bodhisattva's memory is thus a library that only he can read. This is just as well, because normal, worldly people have trouble seeing such a bright, clear text a frustrating experience perhaps remotely akin to trying to read a glossy page under a high-powered fluorescent light. The offering of the dharma, therefore, consists of making the perfectly preserved sutras visible to everyday beings by expounding upon them in sermons. These sermons form the basis of various individually named sutras. The Flower Ornament Sutra contains a similar passage that helps delineate between the perfect, and perfectly sealed, sutras of the bodhisattva and the sutras that we, as human beings, might hope to encounter in this world.

In a section explaining the tenth and final intuition of a bodhisattva on the path to enlightenment, the sutra states that the Buddha's wisdom "exists within the body of every living being," a fact that often goes unrecognized, literally "unseen. Sutras, therefore, are everywhere, millions upon millions of them within our very bodies, but they are obscured and hidden, illegible to the vast majority of living beings.

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Miracles of Book and Body: Buddhist Textual Culture and Medieval Japan to explore the intersection of two key genres of sacred literature in medieval Japan: sutras. Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism . Miracles of Book and Body: Buddhist Textual Culture and Medieval Japan of the cosmos, has heard that a buddha is preaching theLotus Sutraon Earth.

We have a sutra library inside of us, but we do not have access to its holdings. Rendering the sutra scrolls legible requires nothing short of an act of readerly fission in which a person possessed of "penetrating wisdom" and a "pristine pure divine eye" T.

There is a distinction to be drawn, then, between the sutra as "text" and the sutra as "work. A copy may be illustrated or not, include marginalia or not; it can be produced as manuscript or as type, in different fonts, on different substances, with various page and line breaks; some authors, like Walt Whitman, published numerous versions of a single poem; and so forth. Proponents of textual studies assert that each of these differences, though they may at times seem to be superficial, exerts a subtle pull on the work, creating a greater or lesser sense of variability and pointing to the instability of literature as an art form.

Thus the famous question comparing the singularity of Mona Lisa with the bewildering multiplicity of Hamlet. Peter Shillingsburg provides a useful set of terms for grappling with the realities of textual dispersion. According to his terminology, a piece of literature that might be expressed in any number of forms in folio or quarto, on vellum or paper, in various editions, etc. We only ever read material texts. To gloss this terminology with respect to the literature at hand, the sutra as a linguistic text a string of words and line breaks exists abstractly in this world and may survive by lodging itself in a container, the most popular being memory or some sort of external surface leaves or paper.

This physically lodged material text is subject to the ravages of time and the violent attacks of editors or rivals and, even given the best efforts of its devotees, will eventually fade and die. The sutra as work, however, continues to exist, perfect and undamaged, and this abiding teaching is at least one of the concepts encompassed in the Sanskrit word dharma. In later chapters of this book I will tend to bracket the idea of the "dharma," the perfect "work," since it is inaccessible to the average believer.

Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Aug 04, Jessica Zu rated it it was amazing Shelves: religion. This is a totally fun reading.

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I read it out of curiosity because I grew up in a Buddhist family, sutra-readings used to be a big part of my life and I always wonder whether I'm the only freak out there to read sutras the way I read them. Well, that's actually how I lost my faith: the anxiety of the sutras j This is a totally fun reading.

Well, that's actually how I lost my faith: the anxiety of the sutras just piss me off. If they were really the source of all Buddhas' heart and mind, why would they even bother to ask us for shelter and protection? Their very existence and very claim that they were the same as the Buddha's full presence actually they all claim better than the real Buddha , such a claim only reveal the sheer absence of the Buddha.