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Iain Sinclair

Warfare was widespread in classical India. Although the Buddhists of India abhorred killing, they could not evade or ignore war altogether. From the seventh century to the thirteenth century, various types of war magic, together with justifications for their use, developed in tantric Buddhist communities. Defensive types of war magic adhered to pacifist ethics and aimed to avoid, halt, or disperse armies. Harmful war magic was applied in the context of the transcendent ethics of enlightenment. Even when warfare was fully incorporated into Buddhist soteriology, non-violence remained a paramount virtue, and the scope of a just war was very limited. The present survey of tantric sources shows that tantric Buddhist war magic emerged as a reaction to the inevitability of war and was applied in the hope of mitigating warfare's excesses.

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Contemporary religious life in the Republic of Altai

The interaction of Buddhism and Shamanism

Agniezka Halemba

Based on extensive fieldwork, this article analyses the state of religious beliefs and practices in present-day and recent Altai. The contending claims and historical traditions of Shamanism, Buddhism and Burkhanism are discussed as part of the process of forging a new Altaian national identity. Altaian intellectuals tend to favour Buddhism over Shamanism, as providing more systematic philosophical content and links with the wider Buddhist community in neighbouring countries. Shamanism, however, more spiritual, unstructured and heterogeneous in its make-up, is more popular at grass-roots level, though there are some attempts at institutionalization and interaction with the political process. Supporters of this view see Buddhism as extraneous and non-indigenous and 'un-Altaian'. Despite instances of open clashes, the author concludes that in the future there may develop more constructive interaction between the two religious traditions.

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Erick White

Anthropological studies of spirit possession in Theravada Buddhist worlds continue to be strongly shaped by many of the theoretical presumptions embedded in the analytic models proposed by the earliest generation of scholars. The ability of subsequent theoretical developments in the discipline to influence analyses of spirit possession, Theravada Buddhism, and the relationship between them has been hindered in recent decades by the limited institutionalization of the anthropology of Buddhism as a shared, comparative research agenda. This article re-examines anthropological models of spirit possession in Theravada Buddhist South and Southeast Asia in light of three theoretical developments in anthropology in the final decades of the twentieth century—the critique of culture, the rise of practice theory, and the historical turn. Incorporating these developments more fully will, it is argued, advance a more analytically robust and empirically nuanced framing of both Buddhism and spirit possession as objects of future anthropological study.

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Buddhism, the Asokan Persona, and the Galactic Polity

Rethinking Sri Lanka's Constitutional Present

Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne

Sri Lanka's civil war between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamil communities has now raged for nearly half a century. The Sri Lankan cum Sinhalese Buddhist state has since independence resisted all significant attempts by the Tamil political leadership at power sharing. Most constitutional lawyers and progressive Sri Lankan opinion (Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, etc.) hold that short of a separate state, administrative power should be devolved in the form of a federal state, so as to give autonomy to the northeast of Sri Lanka, while the forces of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism have sought to justify the centralized state by recourse to the history of Buddhism and the Sinhalese on the island. Such arguments have drawn on the ontological potential of the cosmic order of Sinhalese Buddhism, which is fundamentally hierarchical in intent. Here I argue that the diffused nature of this cosmic order provides the ontological grounding for a decentralized state structure that can accommodate ethnic difference in a non-hierarchical relation. Thus, the legacy of Sinhalese Buddhism can be rescued from the forces of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism.

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Imitations of Buddhist Statecraft

The Patronage of Lao Buddhism and the Reconstruction of Relic Shrines and Temples in Colonial French Indochina

Patrice Ladwig

From 1893 onward, French colonialism sponsored and restructured Lao and Khmer Buddhism in order to create an ‘Indochinese Buddhism’. Over a span of several decades, the French promoted monastic education, reconstructed the major temples in Vientiane, and renovated the That Luang, the most important Buddhist relic shrine of Laos. This article explores the motivations and strategies for this endeavor, specifically focusing on French efforts to ‘re-materialize’ Lao Buddhism’s religious architecture. I argue that the renovation of these monuments as symbols and centers of power under the auspices of the École française d’Extrême-Orient was based on mimetic processes that should be understood as a form of ceremonial governmentality and colonial politics of affect, whose goal was to win the ‘sympathies’ of the colonized.

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Robert W. Montgomery

This article investigates the upsurge in political and social activism among the Buriats of Siberia's Lake Baikal region during Russia's 1905 Revolution (broadly defined as 1905 to 1907). Specific topics include the Buriats' struggles for their ancestral lands and traditional political structures, and against Russification and discrimination; the activities of the Buriat intelligentsia; the holding of Buriat national congresses; participation in radical and liberal movements; the use of Buddhism as a national symbol; attempts to nativize education; and participation in the early Duma system.

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Alms, Money and Reciprocity

Buddhist Nuns as Mediators of Generalised Exchange in Thailand

Joanna Cook

In this paper I examine the part that women, in the ambiguous role of Buddhist nun (mae chee), now take in the emblematic Buddhist practice of alms donations. The monastic office of 'mae chee' is complicated. It is conveyed through the ritual adoption of religious vows and is usually undertaken for life. However, mae chee ordination is only partial and its status is far below that of monks. In Thai law mae chee are regarded as pious laywomen (upasikas) and the Department of Religious Affairs does not mention them in its annual report. Even so, because they are said to have renounced the world they do not have the right to vote. Owing to this ambiguity mae chee are able to employ both the ascetic practices of renouncers (such as accepting alms) and those of laywomen (such as offering alms). Mae chee, while debarred from the alms round, both receive alms from the laity and donate alms to monks. Furthermore, mae chee receive monetary alms from the laity on behalf of the monastic community as a whole. I argue that by handling money given to the monastic community mae chee mediate in a relationship of generalised reciprocity between the monastic community and the lay society. By donating alms to monks, mae chee appear to be reaffirming their status of partial ordination, yet in order for them to be able to receive alms donations from the laity they must see themselves, and be recognised by the laity, as an integral part of the monastic community. A nuanced understanding of these economic, religious and gendered roles is crucial to our understanding of the incorporation of women into the monastic community and the ways in which gift practices are related to interpersonal and group dynamics in the context of modern Thai monasticism.

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Beyond the Glittering Golden Buddha Statues

Difference and Self-transformation through Buddhist Volunteer Tourism in Thailand

Brooke Schedneck

Volunteer tourism is becoming an important way to understand and experience culture. In Thailand, one option for volunteers is to teach English to novice monks in Buddhist temple schools. These volunteers choose to live in a Buddhist temple in order to experience difference through the religious atmosphere and interact with Buddhist monks. The aesthetic environment is unique and awe-inspiring to this group. However, through interviews and analysis of travel writing, this article argues that the unexpected also has a role in generating selftransformation. Beyond the golden, glittering Buddha statues are Buddhist novice monks who become not just representatives of Thai culture but particular individuals. Volunteers discuss their own transformation as a result of both the expected difference and unexpected familiarity they encounter within the temple communities where they teach.

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A Topographic Event

A Buddhist Lama’s Perception of a Pilgrimage Cave

Jesper Oestergaard

This article discusses a Buddhist lama's perception of a cave, situated in Maratika in the eastern part of Nepal, which is a pilgrimage site to both Hindus and Buddhists. In the Buddhist perspective, Maratika is believed to be the location where the mythological hero Padmasambhava achieved immortality and where he left various traces in the landscape, such as footprints in rocks. Mythology and geography thus intersect in Maratika, whereby myth is spatialized and landscape is temporalized. Through a description of a series of events, in which a specific, newly discovered trace was an object of joint attention between the lama, Karma Wangchuk, and myself, the article illustrates how the perception of the landscape is a mediation between dripstone formations on the walls of the cave and the mythology of Padmasambhava.

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Andrei Bazarov

This article examines the book culture of the Buryat Buddhists of the Southern Siberia. Based on social archaeographic studies, the article posits a link between local book culture and the stable identity of Buryat Buddhist. Defining Buryat Buddhist identity based on an analysis of different aspects of their worldview, cultural life, and historical past, this article reveals how Buddhist book culture and home life are the most important aspects in the formation of local identity. The analysis confirms that a radical change in the mechanism of the transfer of tradition, social changes, and the economic crisis led to the transformation of the vector of development in the traditional book culture of the Buryats, highlighting that the main priority is not the religious but the ethnic component.