Return to the main conference page.
- Naman Ahuja (Jawaharlal Nehru University): Abductions: of damsels, narratives and identities
Jatakas contain important hagiographies of Bodhisattvas that have served as exemplars for Buddhist society. Different Jatakas became popular at different times and places. Some that were once very popular seem to have disappeared from public memory. One scene that is repeatedly shown in the terracotta and ivory objects made in Bengal between the 1st century BC to 3rd century AD shows a large yaksha abducting a woman whose ornaments are shown falling on the ground. Unsurprisingly, this scene has been interpreted by modern scholars as a depiction of Sita from the Hindu Ramayana. In time, the Ramayana story began to hold more social appeal, and Rama emerged as an exemplar instead. However, in this paper I argue that it is more likely to be a Buddhist jataka and I suggest which jatakas it may be connected with.
- Susan Andrews (Mount Alison U): Representation Matters: Picture Book Presentations of Buddhist Religious Lives
How do picture books present the lives of Buddhist religious achievers? Why do these representations matter? This pair of questions orients my study of the ways religious lives figure in contemporary literature for children. Building on path-breaking work by Derris (2012), DeWalt (2018), Eberhardt (2018), and Heller (2020) among others, the paper compares representations of Buddhist lives in the more than fifty picture books published in English this century. Using a modified version of the Lee & Lowe questionnaire, it aims to assess extent to which these materials reflect the diversity of their audiences whose multiple, intersecting identities include differences in ability, socioeconomic status, gender, and race/ethnicity. In these ways, the paper endeavors to contribute to scholarly discussions of the ways representations of sacred biographies matter for communities that create and circulate them today.
- James Benn (McMaster): Princess Miaoshan the self-immolator
In this paper, I offer a new reading of the popular narrative of Princess Miaoshan in Chinese religion, placing it within the larger context of self-immolation as found in Buddhist narratives and the actions of self-immolators. The acts of extreme violence done to Miaoshan by her father and herself (she stabs the inside of her mouth with a hairpin in order to produce rain, for example) call out for interpretation. It would be instructive to examine not only narratives of self-sacrificing bodhisattvas from Buddhist scriptures but also popular self-immolators such as the charismatic figure Liu Benzun (855-907). Liu was the leader of a grassroots esoteric Buddhist movement that was active in western Sichuan at the end of the ninth century. His practice relied on the use of mantras and on intensive bodily practice for the welfare of others. Liu himself successively amputated or incinerated ten parts of his body. I will place the legend of Princess Miaoshan in conversation with that of Liu Benzun and other narratives relating to extreme body practices and self-immolation in Chinese Buddhism to see if we can arrive at a better understanding of her story.
- Pia Brancaccio (Drexel): Buddhist siddhas in Konkan: Asceticism, Hagiographies and Art at the Kanheri caves (Maharashtra, India)
The proposed paper intends to explore the tradition of asceticism as practiced in ancient Konkan, especially at the Buddhist complex of Kanheri/Krsnagiri (Black Mountain), situated in the outskirts of modern Mumbai. The discussion will open with a reassessment of the evidence documented at Padana Hill by Bhagwanlal Indraji in the 18th century, and then will examine the architectural and artistic remains from the caves at Kanheri which suggest a deep engagement of the resident monastic community in ascetic practices.
Later epigraphic and hagiographic sources will be also discussed to show how in the 9th-10thcentury Konkan went on to become one of the most important hubs for Buddhist esoteric teachings and ascetic training, with great masters learning at Kanheri/Krsnagiri before taking on prominent roles in the famous Mahāvihāra of north India.
- Robert Brown (UCLA): Some Miracles (or Magic) of the Buddha
Scholars have studied representations of the Buddha’s miracles in the art of India for well over a century. Some of the most insightful scholarship on this topic have been from the research of Phyllis Granoff. My paper is intended to destabilize a little the mountain of scholarship that we have been building over the decades.I begin with discussing one of the earliest studies of depictions in Indian art of Buddha’s miracles, that of Marshall and Foucher’s three-volume study focused on the reliefs at the stupa sites of Sanchi and Bharhut (publ. 1905). While some suggestions by Marshall are debated and questioned today, many remain anchored in our present understanding. After a century of study, many speculations remain unresolved.Events associated with the Buddha’s life are often called miracles. These events were eventually reduced to the well-known eight life events that have been produced repeatedly in art from the eighth century in South and Southeast Asia. Calling them “miracles” can be seen in terms of their including miraculous happenings or in terms of the miracle of the Buddha’s existence itself. Each step of the Buddha is a miracle. How to define a “miracle” goes well beyond an art historical issue, but is at the center of much textual and religious studies scholarship as well.While the depiction of miracles is not uncommon in the visual representation in India, it is surprising how few different miracles the Buddha performs. At Sanchi the life events include conception, birth (?), enlightenment, first sermon, decent from heaven, and death. Another type of miracle that is also depicted are competition miracles, events that the Buddha creates to defeat rivals and produce followers. The competition miracles can be performed during life events, as when the Buddha returns to Kapilavastu to see his father.The competition miracles at Sanchi involve the Buddha walking in the sky, growing a mango tree instantly from a seed, and quelling a dangerous snake. These miracles are in fact among the favorite magic tricks that are performed by magicians in India up until today. I expand on this to wonder if the Buddha’s actions are in some way related to magic tricks in his ability to entertain and convince an audience. I add this speculation regarding Buddha’s miracles to the list we have already.
- Jinhua Chen 陳金華 (UBC): What a Sacred Biography Reveals and Conceals: A Reconstructed Biography of Fuli 復禮, A Monk Active in the Court of Empress Wu (r. 690-705)
The Buddhist monk Fuli 復禮 (fl. 680s-700s) was famous for his cooperation with almost all of the contemporary major Buddhist translators, including Divākara (612-87), Devendraprajña (d. 691 or 692), Śikṣānanda and Yijing 義淨(635-713). He has a biography at Song Gaoseng zhuan 宋高僧傳 [Song Dynasty Collection of Eminent Monks], which was largely based on a note on him in Zhisheng’s 智昇(active 720-740) Kaiyuan shijiao lu 開元釋教錄 [Buddhist Catalogue Compiled under the Kaiyuan Era (713-741)]. Not only is this biography ambiguous, but it also contains incomplete, inaccurate and even misleading information. This article attempt to reconstruct the complex and obscure life of this important monk by examining all available information, some from Zanning’s biography, but mostly collected from other textual and epigraphical sources. This biographical reconstruction will highlight nature and flaws of Chinese Buddhist monastic biography, and suggest strategies to overcome these flaws in using Chinese Buddhist bio/hagiographical literature for the purpose of religious studies.
- Ming Chen 陳明 (PekingU): Meditation Master Liaocao 鳥巢禪師 (Lit. Bird’s Nest)：“Meditation Master Bird Nest”: The Biographies Surrounding a Legendary Chinese Monk in the Modern India (鳥巢禪師: 一位民國時期在印奇僧的事蹟書寫)
Regarding the history of the Sino-Indian exchanges during the modern period, two aspects have received the most attention from scholars. The first surrounds Taixu 太虛（1890-1947）and his disciples, regarding their visit, exchange, study and research in India. The second concerns Daojie 道阶 (1866-1932), Deyu 德玉 (?-1948) and others who have practiced, built monasteries, and spread dharmain India. But in fact, other than these two groups, there have also been a decent number of monks who have visited, and even lived in India. It is these anonymous monks who formed the background for the modern Sino-Indian Buddhist exchanges. Among them, there was a Chinese monk who lived a long time on the twin śāla tree in Kushinagar where Buddha attained his nirvana; and came to be known as “Meditation Master Bird Nest” (Ch. Niaochao chanshi ; a.k.a. Shanxiu 善修). This article will analyze the biographies surrounding this legendary Chinese monk, based on such sources as Tan Yunshan’s 譚雲山 (1898-1983)Yindu zhouyou ji 印度周遊記 [Record of the Journey in India], Ruijiang’s 瑞江 Chao Tianzhu ji 朝天竺記 [Record of a Pilgrimage to India], Li Juncheng’s 李俊承 Yindu gu Foguo youji 印度古佛國遊記 [Travelogue in the Ancient Kingdoms of India], Jing Kemu’s 金克木 (1912-2000) Niaochao chanshi 鳥巢禪師 [Meditation Master Niaochao] (include in the Tianzhu jiushi 天竺舊事 [Ancient Affairs in India]), etc. These biographers of diverse backgrounds, in portraying Master Niaochao, focus on different elements in the life of Master Niaochao, including his perseverant faith, his refusal to accept money offering, his ability to communicate with nature and animals (e.g. snake), his interaction with Indian people (especially his clash with the British Indian court which was the key message of his self-narrative), while some compare Master Niaochao with Faxian 法顯 (337-422) — all these hagiographical operations turned a Chinese monk into a reincarnation of Hinduist Rāma. By studying non-elitist monks such as Master Niaochao, and the making of his hagiography, the author believe we could expand our perspective in our study of monastic biographies and deepen our appreciation for the complexity of the modern cultural and religious exchanges between India and China.有關民國時期的中印佛教交流史研究，學界關注的重點有二，一是以太虛及其門下弟子為代表的僧人對印度的訪問、交流或者在印留學與研究的情形，一是以道阶、德玉法師等僧人在印度的修行、建寺與傳法等活動。實際上，民國時期還有不少僧人到印度參訪甚至在印度生活過，這些籍籍無名的僧人群體構成了當時中印佛教交流的背景。其中有一位長期生活在拘尸那迦佛涅槃的娑羅雙樹上的中國僧人，被稱為“鳥巢禪師”。本文以譚雲山《印度周遊記》、瑞江《朝天竺記》、李俊承《印度古佛國遊記》、金克木的《鳥巢禪師》（收入《天竺舊事》）等文獻為依據，重點分析這位堪稱一代“奇僧”的中國禪師的事跡書寫。這幾位身份不同的作者以不同的筆法來呈現“鳥巢禪師”的形象，其中包括凸顯他對信念的長久堅持、拒絕接受金錢布施、與自然和動物（蛇）的交流、他與印度民眾的互動等情形（尤其是他的“自敘”的重點是與英國人主持的印度法庭的抗爭），并透過與高僧法顯的比較， 從而完成了一位中國禪師變成印度教大神羅摩化身的神奇轉換。筆者認為，探討這位“下層”僧人在印度生活的歷程及其“傳記”般的書寫，有助於擴展僧人傳記的研究視野，深入認識現代中印人文交流與宗教互動的複雜性。
- Gérard Colas (EFEO): Belief beyond Affiliation: An example from the Divyasūricarita, a Sanskrit Hagiography of Tamil Saints
The Divyasūricarita (12thc., 14thc. ?) describes the lives and achievements of the twelve Vaiṣṇava Tamil saints (ālvārs) and of later Vaiṣṇava masters (ācāryas). The author, Garuḍavāhanapaṇḍita, was titular physician of the icon-god Raṅganātha of the Shrirangam temple (South India). He narrates inter alia the theft, by the gangster saint Parakāla (Tirumaṅkai-ālvār, 8th c.?), of a golden Buddhist icon from a sanctuary of Nāgapaṭṭanam to finance the construction of an enclosure wall and other buildings in the Shrirangam Vaiṣṇava temple. This paper examines the precedence of devotion over ethical norms, and how the belief in the presence of consciousness in all icons, Buddhist or Vaiṣṇava, overrides religious affiliations.
- Max Deeg (Cardiff): Naked Heretics: On the Representation of Jains in Chinese Buddhist Texts
It is well known that Buddhist canonical texts, particularly in the Sūtrapiṭaka and Vinayapiṭaka, contain references to the heretics (Skt. tīrthika) among which the Jains (or Nigraṇṭha) are the most prominent. While in the Indian context, this is completely understandable because it was the Jains which were the most obvious and direct competitors of the Buddhists, the fact that non-canonical Buddhist sources in Chinese contain references to the Jains as well has not attracted the attention of scholars so far. This paper will collect some of these references to the Jains in the Chinese texts and will address some aspects of Chinese Buddhist “heresiology”, for example what function different groups and particularly the “naked heretics” of nijian (nigraṇṭha) had in such a discourse.
- Margarita Delgado Creamer (Pittsburgh): The Buddha’s Life Story and the transmission of Buddhism to Latin-America
Buddhism was largely unknown in Latin-America when it was introduced to a mesmerized Argentinianaudience in the middle of the 20th century by one of the greatest literary writers of all times, Jorge Luis Borges. Uncannily mirroring the transmission of Buddhism along the Silk Roads at the turn of the common era, in which storytellers often retold the Buddha’s life, Borges also chose to narrate the Buddha’s biography rather than delve into doctrinal or philosophical aspects. This was a turning point in the history of the transmission of Buddhism to Latin America, yet to date there are no full monographs dedicated to this topic. In fact, studies about Buddhism in Latin America are extremely scant, as are studies about Borges’s views on Buddhism and his role in its transmission.This situation is fortunately slowly changing as the academic interest in these issues grows. This paper strives to contribute to the two converging areas of Latin American Buddhism and Borges’s mediating role by first interrogating the role of the Buddha’s hagiography as a tool of religious transmission from a general perspective, to then focus on Borges’s narrative and interpretation. The aim of the second part is fourfold: 1. To analyze how the aesthetic approach allowed Borges to attempt to transcend the dichotomy between fiction and truth, and to blur the line between sacred and secular biography. (2) To situate the conferences that Borges gave about the Buddha and investigate their historical role in the development of Buddhism in Latin-America. (3) To analyze Borges’s interpretation of his sources and assess the role of Orientalism in his depiction of the Buddha and his understanding of Buddhism. (4) To briefly analyze the place of the narrative of the Buddha’s life story within Borges’s opus, a topic that I discuss more fully in a separate paper.In brief, following the horizon of research inaugurated by Phyllis Granoff and Koichi Shinohara more than three decades ago, this paper investigates the religious and cultural significance of the Buddha’s life story in the transmission of Buddhism to Latin-America and engages with the current discussions about issues of truth vis-à-vis hagiographical accounts. It is my hope that this research will contribute to the discussion at large and allow for new and rich comparisons.
- Peter Flügel (SOAS): Jaina mendicants as generalized media and embodiments of social relations
The paper theorizes the unarticulated link between the function of mendicants as media and products of connected lives, karma theory, and Jaina religious biography. The focus is on the articulation of the social and the karmic implications of the framed peregrinations, patterns of social interaction, and monastic career path of a Jaina mendicant. The argument of the paper is twofold. On the one hand it will argue that, like money, Jaina mendicants function as generalized media of social communication in Jaina social systems, to the degree that their life-courses correspond to the religious paradigm. On the other hand, it will argue that the Jaina theory of karmic matter offers conceptual means for an individual to reflect on and thus to constitute processes of social self-objectification in sequences of prescribed social interactions which fulfill both soteriological and social functions.
- Eli Franco (Leipzig): Dharmakirti’s Biographies, Sacred and Less Sacred
Dharmakīrti (ca. 600-660) was undoubtedly the most influential philosopher in the Buddhist epistemological tradition. Practically the entire pramāṇa-literature in South Asia was written either in the form of commentaries and sub-commentaries on his works, or as independent treatises also commenting on and inspired by his work. His impact remained decisive as long as Buddhism was alive in South Asia and continues in the Tibetan tradition to the present day. Thus, it is not surprising that traditional “Histories of Buddhism” such as those by Bu Ston and Tārānātha recount Dharmakīrti’s life in a considerable detail. Not surprising also is the fact that these biographies contain well-known Buddhist hagiographical topoi: recognition of the superiority of the Buddha and conversion to Buddhism, enduring a social ban from the original social milieu, revelation of a deity and wish-granting, excelling in studies and surpassing one’s own teacher (and what is less common, surpassing the founder of the tradition, Dignāga), secret study of heretical traditions and appropriation of their secret knowledge, engaging in and winning public debates, making many converts, gaining royal patronage, founding many monasteries, and finally miracles or auspicious signs at the funeral. However, next to these traditional biographies, one encounters also other approaches to Dharmakīrti’s life based on sporadic, bitter remarks by Dharmakīrti himself and some oddities in his work. These were used both by traditional commentators like Yamāri and modern scholars like E. Frauwallner to reconstruct Dharmakīrti’s life (or parts thereof) directly out of his work. In spite of similarity in approach and identity in data, Yamāri and Frauwallner sometimes reach diametrically opposed conclusions. These contradictory assumptions about Dharmakīrti’s life are bound to lead to new investigations of his work.
- Marko Geslani (South Carolina): The Perils of Prediction: Jain Biographies of Varāhamihira
The sixth century polymath Varāhamihira’s great achievement was to canonize the astral sciences (jyotiṣa/jyotiḥśāstra) as a legitimate Sanskritic discipline, despite an uneven and still poorly understood history of transmission that likely involved non-Brahmanical mediators. Two fourteenth century Jain prabandhas (Merutuṅga’s Prabandhacintāmaṇi and Rājaśekhara’s Prabandhakośa) remember Varāhamihira as a prototypical haughty Brahmin, and rival of the Jain monk, Bhadrabāhu. By establishing a conflict between Jain and Brahmanical astrologers, these tales no doubt sanction jyotiṣawithin the repertoire of Jain monastic services, while witnessing their relatively complete Brahmanization by the second millennium. But these stories also illustrate a tension within the astral sciences between prediction and observation that was recognized by Varāhamihira himself. Reflecting on the priestly-astral taxonomy rendered by these stories from the perspective of the longer history of the reception of jyotiṣa, I suggest that the success of this discipline depended in part on the evasion of the problems of prediction within a framework of royal patronage.
- Ellen Gough (Emory University): The Jain Monk Viṣṇukumāra and the History of Rakṣābandhana
In north India today, the festival Rakṣābandhana is known as a day when sisters tie a thread to their brothers’ wrists to ensure their safety and wellbeing. In Hindu communities, a number of narratives have been attached to the festival, including a story of Indrāṇī tying a thread to her husband Indra’s wrist to offer him protection in a battle against the asuras, and an account of Draupadī wrapping part of her sari around Kṛṣṇa’s bleeding finger. Meanwhile, in Digambara Jain communities, the festival is celebrated not as a bond between brothers and sisters, but as a commemoration of the monk Viṣṇukumāra’s defeat of the evil king Bali, who was torturing 700 mendicants in Ujjain. Each year for the festival, in a lengthy worship ceremony, lay Digambaras, to request the protection of the medicant community, tie a thread to either the brooms of mendicants or their seats and listen to the story of the monk Viṣṇukumāra. This paper looks at how the story of Viṣṇukumāra became linked to Rakṣābandhana, examining the story’s development from the Vāsudevahiṇḍī, to the Harivaṃśapurāṇa, to modern tellings observed as part of the festival in Mumbai in 2016. Looking at these narratives of a Jain saint sheds light on forgotten histories of the Brahminical Rakṣābandhana festival. Ultimately, the paper shows that the dominant Brahminical narrative that was attached to the festival in the medieval period was not the story of Indra or Kṛṣṇa, but the story of Vāmana’s defeat of Bali.
- Lilian Handlin (Harvard): A late 11th Century Selfie: King Kyanzittha’s Carte de visite
The paper is written in honor of professor Phyllis Granoff’s pathbreaking publications that among much else recovered biographical practices associated with cultures situated in the Indian sub continent. While these practices are linked to mostly non Buddhist settings, they also illuminate others where different answers to human conundrums obtained. That is the case with a South East Asian kingdom, whose ceremonial center was called Arimadanapura, The City that Crushes its Enemies, and whose ideational universe was elaborated by recourse to the Buddha Gotama’s teachings in their Pali version. This investigation addresses professor Granoff’s suggestion, made explicitly in Monks and Magicians: Religious Biographies in Asia (1988) that studies of biographical ( and by extension autobiographical) genres deepen our understanding of religious communities in medieval India.A late 11th century monarch left behind inscriptions unlike most others extant from the first millennium CE in South Asia. Kyanzittha, whose ceremonial title was Sri Tribhuwanadityadhammaraja, reigned in Arimadanapura from 1084 until his death probably in 1112 CE. The big stone inscriptions he set up in several locations within his kingdom form the subject of this article. The widespread practice of prasastis, panegyrics or poems penned by court poets on behalf of their patrons, filtered into other territories, including his domain. But unlike South Asian prototypes that usually employed prestige languages, mainly Sanskrit, Kyanzittha’s selfies were in the Mon vernacular, though the king reigned over a multi ethnic empire, whose predominant group by this time were the Burmese, with their own written vernacular. The paper flags an issue hitherto ignored in Burmese historiography – the perception of the king’s self, as verbalized in an astonishing personal reveal. That reveal considerably broadened the parameters of first millennium royal self glorifications as becomes evident when Kyanzittha’s inscriptions are compared with Sinhala versions of the genre.The period under investigation was a time when as Sheldon Pollock argued about the Sanskrit metropolis, power became aesthetized. Kyanzittha’s autobiographical conception instantiates a similar though Pali rather than Sanskrit informed, subjectivity. Unraveling the royal statements uncovers an 11th century self consciousness, grounded in narratives, as self identities always are. For these narratives, given the kingdom’s orientation, the Buddha’s Word provided the vocabulary, and His biography life patterns. Autobiographies always and everywhere have a triple trajectory – linking the past to the present while squinting towards the future. This allowed Kyanzittha to insert his persona into the cosmic time frame, past, present and future – capacious enough to encompass his realm. These stupendous news were inscribed on stones scattered in various parts of the kingdom, integrating the transformed blessed realm into a Buddha Ksetra – a realm of well being governed by the dhamma, guaranteeing all subjects’ happiness as the king said. And, for good measure, all were promised stupendously happy future lives, since the king, as the inscriptions reiterated, was also in charge of heavens’ gates. What’s not to like?
- Jack Hawley (Columbia): A Definitive Vernacular Childhood for Krishna?
In the reign of Maharana Amar Singh II of Mewar (1698-1710) poems attributed to the Brajbhasha poet Surdas were for the first time subjected to a process of selection that caused them to represent the childhood of Krishna alone—apart from any other aspects of the deity’s life story. Remarkably, this innovation happened in a visual environment, in a set of 50 miniature paintings tagged Sūrsāgar, that is, “Sur’s Ocean.” Thus it seems that the ocean itself was reformatted, emerging as this particular lake. Could it have been the visual dimension that led to this isolating of Krishna’s childhood? Whatever the answer, after that point in time the poet came increasingly to be thought of as a specialist in Krishna’s childhood. Did this development have anything specifically to do with the Amar Singh Sūrsāgar, or was the Amar Singh Sūrsāgar a symptom of the larger shift? Finally, did these developments have an impact on how the poet’s own life story was remembered, or were they symptomatic of something that had happened earlier, perhaps in a Vallabhite environment?
- HOU Haoran 侯浩然 (Tsing-hua): rGwa Lotsāba gZhon nu dpal (1105/1110–1198/1202) and His Travel to India
This paper presents a study of a twelfth-century Tibetan Buddhist master named rGwa Lotsāba gZhon nu dpal (1105/1110–1198/1202). This Tibetan or Tangut monk travelled to India to pursue Buddhist teachings and returned to preach in Central Tibet and the surrounding areas. He spent several years in Eastern Tibet collecting disciples and preaching the Dharma, establishing an effective network for the dissemination of Tibetan Buddhism in Eastern Central Asia. Recently, scholars have discovered that a significant amount of the Mahākāla documents found at the site of Kharakhoto are related to him. All of this points to the importance of his propagation of Tantric teachings during the Tangut Period. Taking into account his hagiography and the excavated documents, this paper aims to examine the life story of rGwa Lotsāba gZhon nu dpal, focusing on his experiences in India and Eastern Tibet and the role he played in the formation of the Mahākāla literature from Kharakhoto.
- Haiyan Hu-von Hinüber (Freiburg): What happened to Xuanzang in Nālandā in the year 642?: The Divination of the Jain Vajhara and its Influence on Xuanzang´s Decision returning to China
The present paper aims to discuss an interesting passage in Xuanzang´s Biography. In the entire research on Xuanzang, little attention has been paid to this special notice by Huili (cf. Da-tang Da-ci´en-si San-zang Fa-shi-zhuan: A Biography of the Tripiṭaka Master of the Great Ci´en Monastery of the Great Tang Dynasty. T50:245c21ff.).One day in Nālandā, a Jain monk named Vajhara (or Vajra), who was “naked” (i.e. of the sky-clad Digaṃbara school) came unexpectedly into Xuanzang´s cell, namely at the time when the Chinese master was about to make the difficult decision whether he should undertake the dangerous journey back to China. Xuanzang often heard before that the Nirgranthas are particularly skilled at divination, he therefore asked the Jain saying “I am a monk from country China and have come here to study many years ago. Now I want to return home. Shall I be able to reach my home? Which choice – going back or staying here – is more auspicious? And how long could my life last?” Following Xuanzang´s wish, the Jain performed a divination ritual and then informed the Chinese Buddhist that he would definitely reach his homeland, although staying in India should be the better choice.We can assume that Xuanzang’s encounter with the Jain Vajhara, which likely took place shortly before the master left India in 643 had a great impact on his final decision to travel back to China. This divination event in Nālandā was presumably so important to Xuanzang personally that he entrusted it to his close disciples like Huili lateron in China. Remarkably, Xuanzang himself did not mention it in his Datang-Xiyu-ji (Records of the Western Regions of the Great Tang Dynasty), which was written on behalf of the emperor. Theoretically, there are various aspects to investigate the above mentioned report by Huili, for example the Buddhist attitude towards the Indian tradition of divination etc. In the present essay, however, I first focus on Xuanzang’s relationship with the Indian “heretics” (waidao), especially with members of the Jain community. Because of the close and varied interrelationship between Jainism and Buddhism throughout history, this perspective can help us to understand the social and religious context of the Indian Buddhism in 7th century. In this regard, Xuanzang´s records of his personal observations and experiences will also be examined with special consideration.本論文旨在討論《大唐大慈恩寺三藏法師傳》中一段值得注意的記載。在研究玄奘的領域裡，這段特殊的記錄至今並未引起足夠的重視（見《大正藏》卷50，245頁c21以下).在那爛陀的一天，玄奘的僧房裡突然來了一個名叫伐闍羅的“露形尼乾子”。“尼乾”是中文相對梵文nirgrantha 的音譯，而“子”則是putra 的意譯。在一般情況下，putra 意為“兒子”，但與某宗教團體相連的話，便意指其“信徒”。在印度，nirgranthaputra“尼乾子”是對耆那教信徒的統一稱謂，其出家人亦稱“比丘”。通過慧立的描述“露形尼乾子”，我們可以進一步得知，該比丘屬於耆那教兩大部派之一的“天衣派”（Digaṃbara)。該尼乾子造訪時，正值玄奘大師思索去留問題而難以決斷的關頭。故有下文：“法師舊聞尼乾善於占卜，即請坐，問所疑曰：玄奘支那國僧，來此學問歳月已久。今欲歸還，不知達不？又去住二宜,何最爲吉？及壽命長短? ” 於是，伐闍羅“乃索一白石畫地而筮。報法師曰: 師住時最好, 五印度及道俗不無敬重。去時得達,於敬重亦好, 但不如於住。師之壽命, 自今已去更可十年”。可以推斷的是，尼乾伐闍羅所作的占卜應該發生在玄奘於643年離開印度之前不久，而此事對玄奘最終決定歸國產生了重大影響。顯而易見，尼乾子的占卜對玄奘本人是具有特殊意義的，而學生慧立的記載應該源於大師本人的口述。值得注意的是，在御訂的《大唐西域記》裡，玄奘並未提及占卜事宜。從理論上講，慧立的上述記載可以從多種不同的視角給予深入研究，比如釋迦信徒對印度傳統占卜習俗的態度以及傳承，等等。但在本篇論文裡，作者將首先聚焦玄奘大師與印度“外道”的關係，尤其是與耆那教僧團成員之間的交往。鑒於耆那教和佛教在歷史上千絲萬縷的密切關聯，關注二者的視角將有助我們理解，塑造了七世紀佛教的印度社會和宗教框架具體是怎樣的。從這一點上來說，玄奘在印度親眼目睹的觀察以及他親身經歷的體會均屬彌足珍貴的歷史文獻，需要逐一地深入研究。
- Alexandra Kaloynaides (UNC): The Saintliness of Being Smart: Female Pali Masters in Burma’s Last Kingdom
What role does academic excellence play in Buddhist understandings of virtue? What do stories of supremely smart women say about the men who write and circulate them? This paper explores a royal Buddhist chronicle from Burma to examine what its celebration of scholastic women says about Buddhist values and practices in the Konbaung dynasty, the Southeast Asian country’s last kingdom. In this 1861 chronicle, the Sāsanavamsa, the author, Paññasāmi, narrates a series of amusing stories of women and girls besting those around them—even monks—with their sophisticated mastery of elaborate Pali grammar. I propose that this section of the Buddhist chronicle offers insights into a Buddhist imagination in which Burmese kings and monks promote Buddhist education to such a dramatic extent that even low-ranking women are masters of the linguistic complexities of the sāsana’s canonical language. While there is a relatively long tradition of scholars looking to the Sāsanavamsa for insights into Burmese Buddhist history, there has not been an academic study of this hallmark text’s atypical section on women. I examine this text’s curious scenes—of a mother correcting her twelve-year old daughter’s Pali declension paradigms, a maid accidentally seeing her boss’s penis, and a young girl shaming a monk for incorrectly using a first person pronoun with the third person verb termination—to consider the characterization of these uncommon female figures alongside the text’s sacred biography of male monastics.
- George Keyworth (Saskatchewan): Catalogs and Canonization: The History of the Zhenyuan era Catalog and Its Impact on Hagiography in Medieval Japan
Buddhists do not, of course, maintain some sort of universal list of saints, as we see in the Catholic church, for example. But Tibetans, Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese certainly celebrated and venerated Indian, Central Asian, and East Asian scholars, especially translators (trepeṭakas, e.g., Kumārajīva [344-413] or Xuanzang 玄奘 [ca. 602-664]), and “patriarchs” (zushi or soshi 祖師) of various lineages. Just as Catholics, Nestorian Christians, and Muslims maintained various lists of “saints,” in the case of Buddhist literature in Sinitic, terms such as shengzhe 聖者 (shōji or seiji) or xianzhe 賢者 (kenja)—sages—and their [often translated from Indic language] texts or hagiographical documents about them were cataloged before the 6th century in China. Canonicity cannot be maintained among disparate communities without shared lists of relevant individuals and their literature. This paper investigates the curious history of an extremely influential Chinese catalog of the Buddhist canon compiled in 800 by Yuanzhao 圓照 (d.u.), known as the Zhenyuan xinding shijiao lu 貞元新定釋教録 (Jōgen shinjō shakkyō mokuroku, Newly Revised Catalog of Buddhist Scriptures, Compiled During the Zhenyuan Era [785-805], Z no. 1184, T no. 2157) in medieval and early modern Japan, where it was used as a “shopping list” when pilgrims including Kūkai 空海 (774-835, in China 804-806), Ennin 円仁 (794-864, in China 838-847), and Enchin 円珍 (814-891, in China 853-858), to name only a few, returned from China with the latest translations and texts about sages. Apparently either lost or disregarded in China after the mid-10th century (T no. 2158) in favor of the earlier Kaiyuan shijiao lu 開元釋教錄 (Record of Śākyamuni’s Teachings, Compiled During the Kaiyuan Era [713-741], Z no. 1183, T no. 2154, comp. 730), which was used to index printed canons in China, the Zhenyuan lu was not only closely followed in many medieval Japanese libraries to index the contents of manuscript copies of mostly 7th and 8th century Buddhist manuscripts, but in the 18th and 19th centuries it was used by bibliographers at Zōjōji 増上寺 (a major Pure Land temple in Edo [Tokyo]) to explain why the [second] Korean Koryŏ 高麗 canon (comp. 1236-1251) was textually superior to Song, Yuan, and Ming Chinese Buddhists canons. Particular attention to the transmission and dissemination of sacred biographies and the order of them in the Zhenyuan lu, rather than the Kaiyuan lu or later Chinese catalogs (e.g., Zhiyuan fabao kantong zonglu 至元法寶勘同總錄, comp. by 1294, Shōwa hōbō mokuroku 昭和法寶目録 II: T no. 25), demonstrates that which sacred biographies receive canonical status—and are shared—determines canonicity among disparate Buddhist communities in medieval and early modern East Asian history.
- LI Can 李燦 (Beijing Foreign Studies University): Jinagupta, a Buddhist translator Travelling to Sui China (581-618), and his Connections with the Great Forest Temple in Gandhāra: A Commentary on Jinagupta’s Biography in the Xu Gaoseng zhuan 隋代來華譯師闍那崛多 (Jinagupta) 與犍陀羅地區的大林寺——《續高僧傳闍那崛多傳》箋註
Jinagupta (528-605) was a famous Gandharan translator in China; and his biography in the Xu Gaoseng zhuan 續高僧傳 (Continued Biographies of Eminent Monk) constitutes an important source for studying the history of contact between India and China. However, despite the important research laid down by Édouard Chavannes and Kuwayama Shōshin 桑山正進, there still remain issues that are unclear about the biography of Jinagupta as well as this particular biography in the Xu Gaoseng zhuan. This article will utilize the Gandharan inscriptions that were recently discovered, as well as relevant Chinese sources, in order to perform a preliminary study on the Dalin Monastery 大林寺where Jinagupta was ordained. Based on this study, the article will then reconstruct the biography of Jinagupta during his study and travel in India and before his arrival in China. This article will also provide new insights into the history of Buddhist translation and the history of Buddhism during the Sui Dynasty (581-618). 闍那崛多（Jinagupta）是6-7世紀自犍陀羅地區來華的著名譯師，《續高僧傳》中闍那崛多傳也是研究中印交通史的一份十分重要的資料。儘管此前沙畹、桑山正進等學者曾進行過重要研究，但有關闍那崛多生平和《闍那崛多傳》仍有一些未能明確之問題。本文試圖結合犍陀羅語銘文與相關漢文資料記載，對闍那崛多出家地大林寺這一犍陀羅地區重要寺院進行初步考察，在此基礎上進一步澄清闍那崛多來華前在印度的學習與旅行經歷，同時也將為佛典翻譯史和北周、隋代佛教史提供一些新的思考。
- LI Wei 李巍 (He’nanU): Miracles, Rituals and Spells: Healing Narratives in the Biographies of Eminent Monks
The Gaoseng zhuan 高僧傳 (Biographies of Eminent Monks) contains many stories of monks curing people of illness. These stories are mostly concentrated in the section on ‘Miracle Workers’ (Ch. Shenyi 神異). The monks’ ability to heal not only exemplifies their supernatural endowment which contributed to their popularity among the people and the elites, but also showcases their ability to see the illness as the karmic effects of their previous actions or as the result of the influences from spirits; and to prescribe appropriate cures. In other sections in the Gaoseng zhuan, we could also find stories that narrate, in detail, how monks have cured the sick; and their acts of healing sometimes involve specific rituals and spells (Skt. dhāraṇīs). With the help of the sources of the Tang Dynasties (618-907), we could see that such rituals are derived from Buddhist scriptures and are related to tantric dhāraṇīpractices. In the Xu Gaoseng zhuan 續高僧傳 (Continued Biographies of Eminent Monk), however, in the section on the ‘Miracle Workers’, the acts of healing are no longer featured prominently; and whenever they appear, they are de-emphasized for their miraculous effects, while the monasteries tend to be represented as sanatorium. This change may indicate that as Buddhism became increasingly popular in China, the act of healing gradually came to be associated with tantrism, and that the stories about the miracles of healing are no longer emphasized in the monastic hagiography, while the monastery is increasingly perceived as a sanctuary for healing and self-cultivation.《高僧傳》多處描繪了僧人治病救人的事跡，這些事跡主要集中於“神異”部分，治病救人具有神異的屬性，而且醫治常人所不能醫治的疾病本身也是異域僧人傳法的或者被當權者賞識的重要手段。而僧人治病行醫不僅代表著神異的能力，突出表現為僧人可以看透因果、鬼神作為疾病的根本原因，從而對症下藥，治療疾病。而散見於他處的治療故事預示了治病救人是如何踐行佛教經文的，這些救治有時具有特定的儀式，並需要配合一定的咒語（陀羅尼），結合唐代文獻，我們可以看出相關做法本於經文的敘述、且有密教陀羅尼修行的蹤跡，從在僧人的修行實踐中得到驗證。而到了《續高僧傳》中，對於“神異”部分的高僧而言，治療故事地位不再突出，且不再強調故事的神異色彩。同時，寺院具有了藥館的屬性，這種變化可能意味著隨著佛教日益流行，治病救人的傳統更多與密教修行關聯起來，而神異色彩的療愈故事不再成為僧傳的重點，而寺院作為清修靜養之地的功能日益突出。
- LIU Cuilan 劉翠蘭 (Pittsburg): The Tang Buddhist Monk Xuanzang 玄奘 (602-664) and His Illegal Travel to India
The Tang Buddhist monk Xuanzang’s (602-664) travel to India from 629 to 645 not only led to his successful career as a Buddhist teacher and translator, but also inspired Chinese storytellers, writers, and artists to create the Journey to the West, one of the most beloved Chinese classics across East Asia. This entire journey, however, was illegal as the Tang border was closed and international travel was forbidden in 629. When Xuanzang left for India in 629 with neither permit nor identity document, what legal risks did he undertake? Upon his return to China in 645, what legal consequences awaited him? Drawing on the Biography of the Tripitaka Master from the Great Ci’en Monastery (Da Ci’en si sanzang fashi zhuan大慈恩寺三藏法師傳) written by his close disciple Huili 慧立 (615-？), this paper examines the legal aspect of Xuanzang’s travel to India to understand the interplay of law, state, and religion in Tang China.
- Sonya Mace (Cleveland Museum of Art): Seeing the Blues: The Nun Utpalavarna in Medieval South Asian and Himalayan Painting
The life story of the nun Utpalavarna occurs in a wide range of Buddhist texts, sometimes in astonishing detail. Among the many events of her life and past lives, only one is regularly depicted in works of visual art: her worship of the Buddha upon his arrival at Saṁkāśya. Textual interpretations of her act vary widely; some regard it is pious and exemplary, while other explicitly call attention to the act as worthy of stern rebuke. The way her image is depicted in art may provide a clue as to whether she was seen as a model or a cautionary example of how not to behave. This paper focuses on her depictions in the earliest surviving paintings with identifiable images of Utpalavarna, dating to the 11th to 13th centuries. Sometimes she is rendered as blue in color, and others she is not. Drawing upon the work of Phyllis Granoff and her research into the meaning of colors in medieval India, the instances when Utpalavarna is blue may point to more than just a visual translation of her name, the “Blue Lotus Colored One,” it may also imply a context in which her actions were viewed as wrong.
- Yagi (Yaara) Morris (UW-Madison): Trajectories of Past Lives and the Formation of an Imperial Landscape: An Exploration of a Medieval Japanese Esoteric Buddhist Text
The historicity of sacred biographies, as accounts of past lives and deeds, has long been treated as the essential character of these narratives. Recent scholarship, however, has shown that their driving force was current circumstances and concerns, and that, beyond tracing (often imaginative) individual lives, they engaged with broader doctrinal, performative and political spheres. As narratives that play across the boundaries of past and present, real and imagined, local/personal and universal, they were also a salient device of sectarian and at times political legitimation throughout the Buddhist sphere.My paper examines the role of local hagiographies and their intertwinement with narratives of the Buddha in the construction of sacred landscapes and imperial authority in a medieval Japanese esoteric Buddhist text. Entitled the Kinpusen himitsuden (‘The Secret Transmission of the Golden Peak’), the text was written in 1337 by Monkan Kōshin (1278-1357), a central guardian-monk of emperor Go-Daigo, at the refuge palace of the southern court in the mountains at the height of the imperial crisis. Dedicated to the emperor’s ritual practice, I argue that the text was to invest Zaō, the tutelary deity of Kinpusen, with the potency of the Buddha, and to transform the mountain into a palace and an emperor on the run into an enlightened Buddhist king.
- Michael Nylan (Berkeley): Beyond Sacred vs. Secular Biographies
In recent decades so much work on biographical literature has been done in many disciplines (e.g., religious studies and gender history) that one might well think there was little more to said. Both Michael Nylan and Marty Verhoeven still find the topic well worth pursuing in their respective fields, however. Nylan’s attention has been drawn to consider the propensity of scholars in Religious Studies to style proponents of classical learning as members of a “clerisy,” or quasi-clerics (Klerisei is German for clergy) forming a distinct class of learned or literary people constituting a social, cultural, or artistic vanguard more focused on sacred matters than on secular. To her mind, even if such characterizations prove helpful at points, they tend to slight questions about the disparate sources and types of authority commanded by well-trained classicists, and thus ultimately underplay or even distort important aspects of the lives reported. Ruminating on this has led her to pose some larger questions about the categories we bring to reading strategies in company with Martin Verhoeven, whose recent work has focused on the Platform Sutra and the Lotus Sutra. Verhoeven emphasizes that the early sacred biographies enjoin readers to derive meaning not only from words but from the works of humankind. This paper therefore asks how, if ever, we are to know that we understand the intended significance of a specific biography or set of biographies, given many early historians’ preoccupations with measuring human greatness in terms of events leading to massive disturbances to natural and human life forms, rather than with the long-term endeavors that contribute to developmental processes. Put another way, how are we to discover and circumvent the “forestructures of understanding” (in Heidegger’s phrase, the prejudices, beliefs, expectations, and memories that we bring to our readings) and what clues in the form of analogies, allegories, and metaphors do we find in the biographies themselves that will provide us with signposts to understanding “lives of merit” worth emulating today.
- Sahaj Patel (Vanderbilt University): Codes in the Margins: Modern Technologies in the Sacred Biography of Pramukh Swami Maharaj
Everyday uses of digital technology and the potential of global audiences have changed several aspects of hagiographical productions over the last few decades. These changes—in formats, accessibility, and reader engagement facilitation—require new analytical approaches to the study of hagiography. Specifically, this analysis will examine innovations incorporated in the production of a multi-volume sacred biography of a Hindu guru named Pramukh Swami Maharaj (1921-2016), who was the leader of the BAPS Swaminarayan community. Uniquely, the author embeds Quick Response (QR) codes throughout the text. When readers scan a QR code with their mobile phone, a corresponding YouTube video appears and provides a video of the contextual information, a discourse explaining the story, or the guru himself narrating the story. This paper will consider the relationship of such technologies with the text as paratextual to understand the production, function, and reception of a story in a religious community. How can we understand the inclusion of these paratextual elements in the overall biographical process? What is the author trying to achieve, and equally as important, how can these innovations and the ensuing multi-sensorial experiences affect the act of engaging the text? I contend that technologies considered as paratextual elements allow us to trace larger theological, hermeneutic, and affective networks connected with hagiography. This relationship between text and paratext can potentially explain how hagiographies become operative and how authors and readers can negotiate meaning and emotion toward objects of value.
- QI Guanxiong 齊冠雄 (Florida): The “Guru” of the “Late-Ming Beatniks”: Master Foshi and Reading the Tribute Poems to Him as Hagio-biographies
This paper examines the tribute poems dedicated to master Foshi 佛石 (1569-1636), the de facto founder of the Li’an Monastery 理安寺 in Hangzhou. Fascicle Eight of the Li’an Monastery Gazetteer contains more than 70 tribute poems written by his literati followers. Instead of depicting Foshi as an advanced Chan master or a sincere Pure Land devotee, these poems highlight his extreme asceticism and admirable personality. Allegedly, Foshi dwelled in the mountain alone as an ascetic for eight years, and his spiritual attainment subdued the tigers nearby. He quickly accumulated his fame among the Hangzhou literati circle around 1594. Soon, his followers fundraised for the construction of the Li’an Monastery that was finished around 1612. I argue, by comparing the portrayals of Foshi in the tribute poems and the conventional Buddhist hagio-biographies, the idiosyncratic tribute poems deviate from the typical Buddhist tropes and discourses, directly reflect Foshi’s charisma perceived by his followers, and better explains the cultic followings that Foshi embraced.
- Aleksandra (Sasha) Restifo (Fairfield U): Genre as a Polemical Device: An Alternative Biography of Banārasīdāsa (1586-1643)
One of the best well-known Jain biographies of early-modern North India is arguably the Ardhakathanaka (“Half a Story”), an autobiography of Jain layman Banārasīdāsa who founded the Adhyātma, or spiritual, circle in Agra in ca. 1623. Banārasīdāsa’s lively and engaging account of his religious and professional peregrinations, infused with self-irony and self-criticism, has captured the attention of many scholars and students of South Asian religions and generated multiple studies and translations. What is less known, however, is that there is an alternative telling of Banārasī’s story, which his ideological opponent, Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjaka monk Meghavijaya (ca. 1653-1704) incorporated into his philosophical treatise titled the Yuktiprabodha-nāṭaka (“Drama of Awakening through Logic”). The Yuktiprabodha-nāṭaka represents an unusual specimen of polemical literature for at least two reasons. First, it is an attack on a specific individual and his belief system, rather than—as it normally is—on a set of ideas whose authors are only implied. Second, it is titled a play (nāṭaka) and contains dramatic elements. I argue that these two features remain in a complimentary relationship in that it is the genre of drama that enabled Meghavijaya to use Banārasī’s biography to discredit him and consequently debunk his religious beliefs. Drama necessitates the presence of a protagonist, and Banārasī plays this very part in the Yuktiprabodha, an unconventional play based on real events. This paper further discusses Meghavijaya’s elaborate technique of invalidating Banārasī’s Adhyātma doctrine and identifies a discrepancy between Meghavijaya’s presentation of Banārasī’s life choices and ideas and Banārasī’s own discussion of the same in his autobiography and other literary works, which I suggest reveals a dichotomy between Adhyātma religious ideology and practice.
- James Robson (Harvard): The Ambivalent Bat: The Place of “Bat Monks” Within Buddhism
Bats, which have most recently been connected with the transmission of COVID 19 to humans, have often had a bad rap. Bats have long aroused the imagination and interest of humans and folklore abounds in stories about them. While we know much more about Buddhist monks who were labelled “Mute Sheep Monks” (yayang seng 啞羊僧) there has been little written on a different type of monk, known as “Bat Monks” (bianfu seng 蝙蝠僧) that is often mentioned alongside the “Mute Sheep Monks.” In this paper, I explore the ambivalence of the “Bat Monks” and why the bat, in particular, was chosen as the animal to represent those monks which are described in Buddhist texts as: “One who resembles a monk but is not a monk, resembles a lay person but is not a layperson, the Buddha calls them bat-monks or bald laymen.” In order to better understand reference’s to “Bat Monks” within the history of Buddhism, I will include a broader history of the place of bats within Chinese religions and will also include a brief foray into their place within Japanese Buddhism.
- Gregory Schopen (UCLA): The Monk Mūlaphalguna and the Nuns: Biography as Criticism
Most of the monks that cause trouble in vinaya texts are either nameless or members of the Group-of-Six. Those in the first category are almost certainly literary fictions and were not historical people, and the same is being more and more suggested for those in the second category as well: each member of the Group appears to be a literary creation meant to embody or stand for one or another common monastic failing or fault—over eating, acquisitiveness, lasciviousness, etc. This paper will focus on another named figure who appears to have been a literary device used to criticize the practices of nuns that some monks did not approve of. His biography seems to have no other purpose than to represent nuns in an unfavorable light, as head-strong and overwrought. His name was Mūlaphalguna.
- Kirill Solonin (Renmin University of China): Gampopa Sonam Rinchen Tangut Biography
Various dimensions of the Bka’ brgyud tradition shaped Tangut Buddhism during the late 12th century. Different compositions pertaining to the circle of Gampopa’s disciples have been identified in the Tangut collections worldwide, both in Tangut and in Chinese. Tangut version of Gampopa’s name has also been known for a while. However, not until recently were we able to assess the degree of Tangut familiarity with Gampopa’s figure. Tangut fragment n. 2885 from St. Petersburg, provisionally titled “Nature of Mind according to Tilopa” contains fragments of the earliest Tibetan version of Gampopa’s biography, known as “Dus gsum Mkhyen pa’i zhus lan”, i.e. a record of Dusum Khyen pa’s encounters with the master, during which he reminiscences of his earlier life and meditations experiences. The paper contains a translation of the Tangut text, comparison with the Tibetan original, discussion of the vocabulary, etc.
- Jacquline Stone (Princeton): How the Priest Nichiren Escaped Beheading and Saved Japan from the Mongols: History and Hagiography in a Japanese Buddhist Tradition
Stories of saints and heroes move us because they speak in some way to our situation. Thus over time, as circumstances change, episodes in sacred biography are reinterpreted or even deleted, while new ones may be invented. This paper highlights this process by examining interpretative shifts surrounding two incidents in the life of the Japanese Buddhist teacher Nichiren (1222-1282), who preached exclusive devotion to the Lotus Sūtra as the sole vehicle of liberation in the present degenerate age. (The presentation version of the paper may focus on only one episode.) The first concerns how seemingly miraculous events in traditional hagiography fare when subjected to modern demands for scientific credibility. Nichiren’s harsh criticisms of other Buddhist forms provoked the anger of religious and civil authorities, and at one point he was arrested and secretly taken to the execution grounds. By his own account, at the very point of being beheaded, he was saved when a luminous object streaked across the night sky, terrifying his would-be executioners. For more than seven hundred years, this dramatic scene has featured in retellings of Nichiren’s life story, including written biography, plays, historical fiction, movies, and graphic novels. However, since the late nineteenth century, its historicity has been hotly disputed. In 1890, Prof. Shigeno Yasutsugu (1827-1910), a pioneer of modern evidence-based historiography, denounced the story of the “luminous object” as a spurious creation of Nichiren’s disciples. His critique galvanized the Nichiren Buddhist lay leader Tanaka Chigaku (1861-1939), who attacked Shigeno’s thesis in a six-hour lecture before some three thousand people. Tanaka used the controversy to mobilize support among Nichiren Buddhist followers for reviving Nichiren’s aggressive style of propagation (shakubuku) in the modern era. More recently, scholars have adduced textual evidence on both sides of the dispute to argue either that passages in Nichiren’s writings alluding to his miraculous escape from death are his own authentic statements or represent later interpolations. The terrifying “luminous object” itself has been interpreted in meteorological or astronomical terms as ball lightning or as a comet or meteor, showing how “supernatural” episodes in sacred literature may be recovered by—but at the cost of subordination to—science as a dominant legitimating discourse.A second episode illustrates how elements in sacred biography may be added or deleted, reshaping life stories to address changing historical circumstances. Early tradition held that the shogunate or military government offered Nichiren official patronage if he would join the prelates of other sects in offering prayers to thwart impending attack by Mongol forces. But, being convinced that only faith in the Lotus Sūtra could save the country, and that rejection of the Lotus in favor of “lesser” teachings had invited the threat of invasion in the first place, he refused. Beginning in the eighteenth century, however, when European and American ships began to menace Japan, retellings of Nichiren’s biography began to claim that, when the Mongol invasion threatened, Nichiren had inscribed a mandala on a huge banner, and when the shogun’s warriors unfurled it atop a hill in Kyushu overlooking the sea, the “divine winds” (kamikaze) arose and sank the attacking fleet. This new element in Nichiren’s life story spawned its own artifacts, including actual banner mandalas used in nineteenth-century prayer rituals to ward off the threat of foreign powers, and inspired readings of Nichiren as a savior of the nation during Japan’s modern imperial period (1868-1945). However, with the rejection of militant nationalism following the end of the Pacific War, this episode, influential for some two hundred years, has virtually disappeared from Nichiren biography.
- Aleksander Uskokov (Yale): When Bhakti Meets the Mahāvākya: Jīva Gosvāmin and the Devotional Reinterpretation of tat tvam asi
Mahāvākyas are identity statements from the Upaniṣads which in the soteriology of Advaita Vedānta are the direct means of liberation. Since late medieval times, Advaita ascetics receive them as liberation mantras at their initiation into renunciation. In this paper I investigate how the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ascetic Jīva Gosvāmin (16th century), a follower of Caitanya the great cultural hero of Bengal, reinterpreted the Advaita doctrine of monism tied to the Upaniṣadic mahāvākya to subsume it under a new soteriology of devotion to the personal deity Krishna.
- WANG Bangwei 王邦維 (PekingU): Daoxuan’s Biography for Xuanzang 道宣的《玄奘传》
There are many sources on the biography of Xuanzang, the longest and the most elaborate of which is the Da ci’en si Sanzang fashi zhuan 大慈恩寺三藏法師傳 (A Biography of the Tripiṭaka Master of the Great Ci’en Monastery), followed by the ‘Biography of Xuanzang’ (Ch. Xuanzang zhuan 玄奘傳) in the fourth juan of the Xu Gaoseng zhuan 續高僧傳 (Continued Biographies of Eminent Monk) by Daoxuan 道宣 (596-667). But the difference between these two important sources is more than a matter of length and details. Comparing with the former, the ‘Biography of Xuanzang’ has exhibited distinct differences in many aspects, such as its manner of expression. This article will compare the two biographies in terms of three aspects. 有關玄奘生平的資料有多種，其中篇幅最大，內容也最詳細的是《大慈恩寺三藏法師傳》，其次是道宣《續高僧傳》卷四的《玄奘傳》。但這兩種有關玄奘的最重要的傳記，差異的不僅僅是篇幅，與《慈恩傳》相比，道宣的《玄奘傳》不僅在內容，同時也在表述的形式等方面都有一些不同。本文希望通過對比，分三個方面就此進行討論。
- Eugene Wang 汪悅進 (Harvard): The Woman Who Sees Buddha Coming
If we were to think of one woman who was a household name in a good part of Asia around 6th century CE, it would be Sumagadha. A lay woman and lone believer in Buddhism in her household, she could access Buddha and his disciples through her vision. While the avadāna stories featuring Sumagadha are relatively well-known, some questions surrounding the pictorial treatment of the Sumagadha matter remain largely unsolved. What is the rationale behind the integration of Sumagadha avadāna into the pictorial programs embellishing Buddhist cave shrines? Why does the Sumagadha story appear so differently in caves of different parts of Asia? In one notable case, why is the Sumagadha scene placed next to the Ruru jataka? What is it that connects the queen who dreams of a deer to a woman who sees, through vision quest, the Buddha coming?
- WANG Qiyuan 王啟元 (Fudan): Zibo Zhenke’s 紫柏真可 (1543-1603) Integrity in His Late Years: With a Focus on His Involvement in the New Legal Cases of “Evil Books” and His So-called “Three Great Aspirations” (紫柏真可晚節：續妖書案與”三大負”)
Zibo Zhenke 紫柏真可 (1543-1603) is one of the most important Buddhist monks during the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and became a legendary figure emulated by Buddhist masters in the late Ming, thanks to the biographical record penned by his dharma friend Hanshan Deqing 憨山德清 (1546-1623), as well as his truly intriguing life events, such as his participation in the Buddhist printing, his wide acquaintances with social elites and his death in the imperial prison. This last episode, regarding his imprisonment, was the result of a series of complex political events and of the convoluted political milieu during the late Ming. In Hanshan Deqing’s rendering, however, this episode was incorporated into the famous narrative about Zibo Zhenke’s ‘Three Great Aspirations’ (Ch. sandafu 三大負). But Hanshan Deqing’s writing deliberately highlighted and omitted certain elements for various reasons, among which was his own involvement in the court affairs during the revival of Buddhism in late Ming. Hanshan Deqing’s narrative strategy reflects his complex attitude towards the collective endeavors of himself and Zibo in this period of Buddhist revival. 紫柏大師是晚明最重要的高僧之一，他的生平事跡因為憨山德清等法友的書寫，其刊刻經藏、結交權貴、圓寂詔獄的經歷，變成了晚明弘法高僧的榜樣與傳奇。這其中，紫柏晚節時的獄事牽扯整個晚明政壇的方方面面，但經過憨山德清的塔銘的總結，成就了紫柏著名的「三大負」因緣。但細究紫柏塔銘中晚節的書寫，存在刻意的強調與忽略並存的現象，其中缺失的一段正好是晚明佛教復興中久已被人忽略的一段結緣宮廷的經歷，這其中既有紫柏真可的努力，更有其塔銘寫作者憨山德清的參與。
- Albert Welter (Arizona): Secularizing the Sacred? Wang Yucheng’s 王禹偁 (954-1001) Biography of Buddhist Master Zanning 贊寧 (919-1001)
We often think of religious biography as sacred, but what of secular biographies of religious figures? While many will associate this phenomenon of secularizing the biographies of religious figures as “modern” (Freud’s Moses and Monotheism comes immediately to mind), how do we understand its occurrence in 10th-11th century China? Beginning from a premise that questions the universality of the modern distinction between “secular” and “sacred,” my presentation explores boundary crossing aspects of Chinese biographical writing. Sima Qian’s 司馬遷 (ca. 145-90 BCE) Shi ji 史記 (Records of the Historian) are usually counted as the primary template for secular historical writing in China, but his invention of the genre of biographies added a quasi-religious dimension. Because of the “secular” nature of Chinese historiography, Buddhist biography in China represented a hybrid form often incorporating religious or “sacred” elements into a secular structure. The biography I examine is Wang Yucheng’s 王禹偁 (954-1001) account of Buddhist master Zanning 贊寧 (919-1001). No fan of Buddhism, Wang Yucheng still heralded and celebrated Zanning as an exemplar among China’s contemporary scholarly community (not as a Buddhist!). His biography of Zanning is almost completely devoid of religious or sacred elements and is a tribute to Zanning as a secular figure and renowned literatus. I examine the backgrounds to Zanning and Wang Yucheng, along with Yucheng’s biography of Zanning, to explore the genre shifting nature of biographical writing in traditional China, within rival Buddhist and Confucian claims regarding the nature of culture (wen 文).
- YANG Jianxiao 楊劍霄 (Nanjing Normal U): Producing Xuanzang’s Image: The shaping of Xuanzang’s historical image and the establishment of Weishi School (製造玄奘的面孔——玄奘歷史形象的塑造與法相唯識宗的創立)
The standard narrative portrays Xuanzang 玄奘 (602-664) as the first patriarch of the Chinese Yogācāra tradition who, anchored in his Chengwei shilun 成唯識論 (Discourse on the Perfection of Consciousness-Only), promoted the Yogācāra thoughts following the interpretation of Dharmapāla (530-561). In truth, however, this narrative is an artificial construction by the faction ofKuiji 窺基 (632-682), as part of their attempt to construct the sectarian identity of the Chinese Yogācāra tradition. First, Xuanzang is not only sanctified, by the public, as an ideal monk who journeyed to the West in search of the dharma, but is also venerated, by Xuanzang’s own disciples in the Ci’en Monastery 慈恩寺, as an ideal monk-translator. Xuanzang was thereby turned into an object of faith that is essential to the formation of a new sect. Secondly, after Xuanzang’s death, two opposing groups were formed, one led by Puguang 普光(?–664?) and Fabao 法寶 (fl. 7thcentury), the other by Kuiji. Puguang and Fabao occupied a more prominent position in relation to Kuiji, who opposed and criticized the latter by favouring the Yogācāran commentators as the centre of their discourse over the Chengwei shilun that was so adulated by Kuiji. This historical background tells us that the Chengwei shilun was not unanimously honoured as the most authoritative writing among Xuanzang’s disciples. In fact, it was through Kuiji’s writing of the lineage of transmission of the Chengwei shilunthat a special relationship was established between Xuanzang and the Chengwei shilun. By erecting a lineage, Kuiji brought to fruition his project of forming a Yogācāra tradition. Lastly, the Yogācāra tradition started to form doctrines that distinguished itself from the other traditions, as well as distinct practices that further demarcated the boundary of itself as a unique tradition. 按照佛教史的常識理解，玄奘是一位開宗立派的唯識宗祖師，他以《成唯識論》為中心，進行護法一系唯識學的弘傳。然而這種常識理解其實經過了人為的刻意「製造」。製造玄奘面孔的背後，是窺基一系創立法相唯識宗的歷程。首先，玄奘作為公眾人物，以求法僧形象被神聖化。但在這背後，玄奘在慈恩寺的門人則進行著玄奘譯經僧形象的神聖化工作，以此為宗派形成提供信仰上的保證。其次，玄奘圓寂後，慈恩寺僧團又有普光、法寶與窺基兩系的對立。普光、法寶在當時處在中心位置，他們以「唯識論師」指稱弘傳《成唯識論》的窺基一系，並予以批判。由此可以推測《成唯識論》並沒有被奉為玄奘師門內的權威文本。實際上，正是窺基通過建立《成唯識論》的傳法譜系，製造了玄奘與《成唯識論》的特殊關聯。在建立繼承性譜系的基礎上，完成自身建構唯識宗的用意。最後，唯識宗內形成了包含排他性教理教義和特殊性修行生活的特有知識界限。
- YANG Qilin 楊奇霖 (Fudan): Sacred Biography and Archives: The Textual Sources for the Biography of Jebtsundamba II, With Comments on the Religious and Political Interactions that Involved the Qing Empire and the Khalkha Mongol (聖傳與檔案：二世哲布尊丹巴傳記的文獻來源——兼論清朝與喀爾喀蒙古的政教互動 [1723-1733])
By studying several Mongolian and Tibetan biographies of Jebtsundamba Khutuktu-s, this article points out that the elaborate description of the procedure of identifying the second Jebtsundamba Khutuktu is more than a hagiographical record but has connections with the historical archives in the Qing court. On the basis of this observation, the article will discuss the political-religious relationship between the Qing Empire under the reign of Yongzheng 雍正 (1678-1735) and the Mongol-Tibetan Buddhism. 通過梳理幾種哲布尊丹巴呼圖克圖的蒙藏文傳記，指出其中有關二世哲布尊丹巴靈童選定的種種細節，不全是宗教聖傳性質的書寫，而是與清宮檔案文獻存在聯繫。由此進一步討論清雍正一朝與喀爾喀蒙古佛教之間的政教關係。
- ZHANG Dewei 張德偉 (Ji’nan U): Whose Eminent Monks? Which Eminent monks?: A Revisit of Two Biographies to Cast New Light on Hanshan Deqing 憨山德清 (1546–1623)
Biographies of Eminent monks (gaoseng 高僧传) can be taken as Chinese styled genre of sacred biography that has played a significant role in indicating and shaping prominence of Buddhist masters. A number of biographies of eminent monks appearing in late Ming and Early Qing China when Buddhism experienced a major revival were included in the genre as expected, but it is worth noting that scholars in the field have tended to take the status of those masters as granted and to assume that the status was a faithful reflection of their concrete achievements within the saṃgha and beyond. Drawing inspirations from the study of sacred biographies by Philip Granoff and by Koichi Shinohara, in Indian Buddhism and in medieval Chinese Buddhism respectively, this paper seeks to counterbalance this prevailing model of studying Buddhism in late imperial China by shifting the focus to the way in which life stories and achievements of those masters have been narrated and retold over time, in hopes to find how and to what extent those narrations have joined to shape images of those masters and subsequently affect their reception by the contemporaries and later generations. Given the richness and complexity of the materials unique to late Ming China, this study may help enhance our understanding of sacred biographies in other places and eras.This paper examines two narratives related to Hanshan Deqing, one of the so-called Four Great Late-Ming Buddhist Masters, to see the use of such strategies over his rise to prominence. Deqing’s autobiography is the first subject to close reading, and our attention is especially given to the ambiguous points left in the account by the master himself as well as misinterpretations made by his disciples, purposefully or not. The second text is a biography Deqing composed about his arguably best friend Miaofeng Fudeng 妙峰福登 (1540–1612), a significant but long-overlooked Buddhist master. This text includes detailed records of multiple exchanges of thought between the two friends, but some of them were deleted or rewritten by Qian Qianyi 錢謙益 (1582–1664), a leading literati and self-claimed disciple of Hanshan Deqing, resulting in a reversal of their roles and a more favorable and dominating light cast on Deqing at the cost of Fudeng. This scrutiny of these two biographies reveals how their integrity were compromised, the motives of those otherwise mostly trustworthy “cheaters”, and the process of shaping Hanshan Deqing as an eminent monk in the way we receive him today.
- Shanshan (Alice) ZHAO (McMaster): Protection of the Dharma in Daoxuan’s Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks
Hufa 護法 was a new category that Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667 CE) added to the Xu Gaoseng zhuan zhuan 續高僧傳 (Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks) based on previous biographical collections and has specific historical and religious significance. Previous scholarly studies on Buddhist-state relationship and religious persecutions have covered many figures and cases from the hufa section. This paper examines why Daoxuan created the category of hufa and how he defined hufa through discussions of his biographical writings and evaluation (lun 論). I suggest that we pay more attention to the evaluation, because compared to the biographies, with which the real authorship is sometimes hard to judge, Daoxuan’s evaluation could reflect his notion of hufa better. Although most of the biographies under the hufa category record Buddhist-Daoist conflicts and/or anti-Buddhist imperial policies, I argue that hufa covers a broader range of activities. For Daoxuan, hufa is pursuit that transcends geographic boundaries and a quality that all Buddhists should be able to cultivate regardless of their religious specialties.
- ZHAO You 趙悠 (PekingU): Becoming Vimalakīrti on His Couch
There is a huge difference between the reception of the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa in Indic and in Chinese context. For the former, it is a source of Mahāyānist teaching occasionally quoted in treatises, while for the latter, so much more was recreated around the protagonist Vimalakīrti. In this paper, I argue that, by taking the scripture as a hagiographical writing, Chinese readers transformed Vimalakīrti from a bodhisattva who embodies paradox, to “Weimo”, a sage located in his own chamber. This setting thus became part of the configuration of an ideal Buddhist identity in East Asia, either lay or monastic. With textual and visual evidence, I will show how this process took shape and remains dynamic in modern eras.