Buddhist secular law: doctrines in context
Buddhism is, in many important respects, a cosmological religion. Buddhists have considered dharma to be the truth about the structure and dynamics of cosmic reality (including all physical and mental realities). They have also considered dharma to be the truth about how one can attain nirvana.that is, how one can achieve gsalvationh by breaking free of the ultimately unsatisfying character of all experiences that occur within cosmic reality. Finally, Buddhists have also considered that the dharma constitutes the cosmological principles that underpin the possibility for a relatively satisfactory and harmonious individual and communal existence. Given these points, it is not surprising that in early Buddhism, and in most subsequent Buddhist traditions, the basic cosmological and soteriological conceptions have been closely integrated with guidelines for proper behavior. In the case of the renunciant components of the community, these guidelines have been worked into a rather comprehensive legal system articulated in the Vinaya Pitaka and later vinaya literature. This legal system, which has developed and been adapted to changing locales and historical circumstances, has persisted for approximately 2,500 years, and is still used in monasteries and nunneries around the world.
In the case of the lay community, as we have seen in chapter 10, the guidelines have been worked into moral codes designed to guide the behavior of ordinary Buddhists. In most contexts, however, the Buddhist community has not developed a distinctively Buddhist legal system to deal with the secular aspects of social life in a more institutional and formal way. One exception developed in Southeast Asia, where a Theravada tradition of secular law began to emerge in Myanmar around the beginning of the second millennium c.e. and was subsequently diffused and adapted in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. The other exception was in Tibet, where a tradition of Buddhist secular law had its origins in the seventh century c.e. This tradition continued to mature for well over a millennium, during which Tibet experienced two periods of Buddhist theocratic rule (the thirteenth to fourteenth and the seventeenth to twentieth centuries). In the following excerpt, Rebecca French analyzes various ways in which Mahayana/Vajrayana notions of cosmology informed this Tibetan tradition of Buddhist secular law as it functioned during the decades immediately before the Chinese invasion of 1959.
buddhist secular law: doctrines in context
Rebecca Redwood French
A man is walking a narrow path in a sun-dappled forest. Before him on the path, amid the leaves and streaks of light, he suddenly sees a very large coiled snake. Shocked and afraid, he noiselessly turns to hide behind a tree and waits, anxiously aware of the great danger. In time, he ventures a look around the tree once more and refocuses his eyes. He focuses again. Then he comes back to the path and stares down at the snake. He sees that it is not a snake but a heavy, coiled rope in front of him. With a wave of relief, he bends down to pick it up and finds that the rope, worn with age, disintegrates in his hands into tiny strands of hemp. Tibetan Buddhist Parable
Among the basic Tibetan concepts that affect the law are those of reality and illusion, the role of karma and the nature of rebirth, radical particularity and nonduality. These concepts are interrelated; each builds upon and is structured by the others. For example, the tripartite nature of Buddhist reality is related to the level of gafflictionsh of the individual perceiver, and these afflictions are affected by the cyclical path of karma. Similarly, the awareness of the illusory nature of the world leads one to see interrelatedness rather than opposition. The role of these basic
ideas in the legal system of Tibet is illustrated in the Case of the Wandering Monk.
The Illusory Nature of Reality
For the Tibetan Buddhist, the parable in the epigraph above demonstrates an essential, core truth of this life: everything we apprehend in the world is mere illusion. Like a delicious meal conjured up by a magician, our present observed reality is entirely an illusory feast; it has no substance. Appearances or gmental obscurations,h as Tibetans call them, occur around us because we do not yet have the ability to see their insubstantiality. Because of our ignorance and grasping attitudes, we can see only the illusion.
The parablefs images of the snake, the rope, and the hemp represent the three levels of reality available to a sentient being in this world.
The first is an illusion that the man took to be real and responded to emotionally and physically. The snake is the level of appearance, the imagined aspect of reality. The second level, represented by the coiled rope, is the functional or relative aspect of reality. Finally, the tiny strands of hemp are the perfected aspect of reality, the essence of the composition of what lay before the man on the path. To see the snake, therefore, is to see an illusion. A person who cannot see the hemp does not see the world as it truly is in its perfected aspect.
In Buddhist belief, we suffer from attributing significance to the dreamlike appearances resulting from the preconceived notions and categories that we carry with us and constantly use to interpret the world. These categories of data, acquired through our senses, keep us ignorant of the true nature of reality. A Buddha, seeing the world as it actually is, sits down at the magicianfs table but finds no meal before him, walks down the path but finds no snake before him.only tiny strands of hemp.
This notion of illusion is of profound importance in comprehending the Tibetan view of reality, including legal reality. These realities are states of awareness for individual minds. In essence, what we see and experience daily is only one type of gis,h the type of gish our minds are capable of perceiving. Even though Tibetan judges and petitioners often commented that they could deal with a legal problem only in terms of a this-worldly or apparent reality, at the same time there was a general recognition that this-worldly facts were not ultimate or perfected facts. Disputes were engendered by mental afflictions that hinder one from
1. Editorsf note: The full story is recounted by the author in chapter 18 of The Golden Yoke.
2. Editorsf note: The six are the realms of the gods, demigods, human beings, animals, hungry ghosts, and beings in hell.
understanding the perfected aspect of the world. Any dispute was, therefore, comprehensible in an entirely different way by one with a more relative or perfected vision, one not afflicted by certain mental contaminations.
It was not an uncommon move in a dispute to make reference to another frame of reality in which the same circumstances could be understood differently. For example, an old manfs argument, gYou may think I am just a common beggar, but how do you know I am not an enlightened saint?h immediately shifted his beating of a small child from the this-worldly reality frame of child abuse to the perfected vision of an enlightened being helping a child to burn off bad karma from a previous life.1 Mitigation of punishment too was commonly argued with otherworldly reasoning.
Tibetans accept the presence of several simultaneously operating levels of reality, each giving clues to the next, each crafted of a degree of deceptive illusion except the last, each coexisitng with the other in a nonnirvanic space. If all a person knows of the world, legal or otherwise, is illusion, one must attempt to operate within these limitations as a legal actor with the knowledge that there are other levels of Buddhist reality. As Clifford Geertz puts it: gThe movement back and forth between the religious perspective and the common-sense perspective is actually one of the more obvious empirical occurrences on the social scene.
(Human beings move] more or less easily, and very frequently, between radically contrasting ways of looking at the world, ways which are not continuous with one another but separated by cultural gaps across which Kierkegaardian leaps must be made in both directions.h In Buddhism, an individual experiences rebirth into this world and begins the volitional production of both good and bad karma which will determine his or her future rebirth and chances for enlightenment. Avoiding wrong action, seeing the world without mental afflictions, and taking part in religious activities produce good karma in this life. At death the individual goes into an intermediate state and then is reborn into one of six realms.2 Every human has had countless previous lives and will have innumerable future lives unless enlightenment is achieved. This is the cyclical nature of rebirth, a chain-of-lives connecting past, present, and future.
Thinking about their own and othersf past and future lives comes very naturally to Tibetans; examples of this point of view abound in conversations. One Tibetan will tell you that the incarnation of his grandfather, who was a lama and is nowa nineteen-year-old boy, is coming to visit him to ask for advice; an elderly Tibetan will say that he is going home to do his mantras so that he will be reborn in America; a third will talk about the future low rebirth of a man who is a known thief.
Tibetan law, both philosophically and cosmologically, is situated in a present that expands into otherworldly realms of the past and the future. Since every act done by anyone at any time is the result of both previous karma and the present possible exercise of will, a crime could have its cause in a previous life, its commission in this life, and its punishment in a future life in a lower or more difficult rebirth. In the refugee community in India, for example, when one Tibetan child made strange noises and threw a picture of the Dalai Lama on the ground, her behavior was taken as an indicator that she had been a dog in her previous life and would be reborn in a hell realm. A parable told by a Tibetan official illustrates the same idea:
The throneholder of Ganden monastery was from Khams, and he was once asked by a layman, gHoliest one, why are all Westerners so very clever?h Then the monk said, gWhy do you think that they are clever?h And the man replied, gHoliest one, they have so many things!h So the throneholder of Ganden replied, gWesterners are not clever at all. They are fools because they engage their entire lives in working very hard to make things now for themselves. What they produce is only for this life. What we produce is for the next life, which is much more important.h The impact of these views on the legal system was significant.
In any dispute settlement proceeding, a good petitioner or witness was expected to be aware of future lives and their importance. Tibetans told stories of conciliators and judges asking parties about this directly, for such awareness indicated religious and moral depth. Judges were expected to consider the past and future lives of defendants when assigning penalties. Although self-responsibility for acts and choices in this life is an essential aspect of Buddhism, there is also a recognition that karma can dictate present circumstances. Thus, Tibetans would often comment that one did not always know the reasons for particular legal circumstances, because these were rooted in a past life. And if no punishment was forthcoming for a crime in this lifetime, the presumed repercussions of future karma served as a rationalization.
Cycling in and out of lives with not just one but infinite chances for
enlightenment reduced the impact of death but increased the possibility of perpetual suffering. A meritorious life now would result in less suffering in the next time around; an unmeritorious life now would result in more suffering, possibly even a rebirth in a vividly depicted hell realm. There are many stories of robbers and other criminals who, coming to the realization that they were destined for a future life of torture, converted and became religious mendicants.
Radical Particularity and Nonduality
The Tibetan world view is radically particularistic. This means that it focuses on the small component parts as ultimately real rather than the larger entity, the pieces of hemp rather than the snake. Persons are made up of infinitesimal units which are themselves in constant flux, much like the tiny strands of hemp. At its most essential, everything is in constant movement, changing its composition continuously, never stable, combining and recombining into the various accumulations that we mistake for permanent objects and individuals. Rebirth is the total recombination of millions of these units and karmic seeds. One consequence of this view is that no gself h exists in any deep sense in Buddhist philosophy, no ego or actor, no constant or permanent individuality. Tibetans believe that it is one of our common illusions to see human beings as having permanence, when they are merely combinations of tiny elements. In law, however, these notions of radical particularity rarely surfaced as a part of the legal commentary except perhaps in recitations of religious verse.
Nonduality, one result of radical pluralism in the Buddhist world view, is difficult for Americans to grasp. Nonduality eliminates binary opposition.a cornerstone of Western thought in both everyday and scholarly reasoning. At this most fundamental level two orders of truth (absolute and relative), two types of worlds (supramundane and mundane), two phenomenal levels (nirvana and samsara) do not make sense within the nondualist bounds of Buddhist philosophy. There is no actual duality of subject and object, no independent existence of anything anywhere at any moment. Any duality is an illusion.
Terms that present dualistic oppositions are used for explanatory purposes only. An enlightened being in the Mahayana context, a Buddha without mental afflictions, is not subject to the duality viewpoint of lower states of consciousness, does not see subject and object, existence and nonexistence. All Buddhas, all Bodhisattvas, and deities with this higher consciousness also realize that they are one and the same. Everything is composed of the same small parts, which are constantly realigning, forming new identities and entities. Thus, real wisdom in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy consists of comprehending the radical particularity of all existence, the nonsubstantiality of things, and the ultimate union and interrelatedness of all persons and things.
Lay Tibetans and most Tibetan nuns and monks understand basic conceptions such as radical particularity and nonduality as a sort of story about the constitution and composition of the world. These ideas perfuse Tibetan thought and discourse; they are reiterated in liturgy, incorporated into proverbs, employed as idioms and jokes, used as rationalizations, explanations, and morals. Although apparently contradictory and difficult for the non-Tibetan to comprehend, they form the background for all Tibetan jurisprudential concepts and legal rituals. The Case of the Wandering Monk
How did notions of reality and illusion, karma and rebirth, radical particularity and nonduality operate in the legal system of Buddhist Tibet? Listen to the following narrative of a case that came before a local headman from the area of Sakya in the 1940s:
There was a headman of a region named Tseten which had a well-known monastery. One of the monks in that monastery, when his teacher died, began to leave the monastery and wander about the countryside. That monk often left during the day, and at night he came back to the monastery to steal food from the private rooms of the other monks. There were many complaints about this monk, and so a case was brought to the headman of the area by the complainants who had been burglarized. Finally, the monk was caught and whipped and put in a jail cell in the main town of the area. The headman went to offer him food.
Then, this first time, the monk returned the stolen articles and had another man pledge as a guarantor that he would not do it again, and he was freed. But the monk continued to wander, and he returned many times to prison after this for stealing offenses. One time he escaped and went a long way away to Tsong Thopgyal, another time to the city of Gyantse, another time to Penam. He escaped several times when the jailers or guards slept and was recaptured. The first several times he was not chained in any way, and so he escaped easily. Then they put iron fetters on his legs during the night. These are the same fetters that we use on horses in the summer by put158
ting the front and back leg together. No one knew how he escaped with the fetters on, but he did. The punishments of whipping and prison had no effect at all on him.
So the headman from that area had real pity for this monk because he was like an animal. Again, the headman had to make a decision about the wandering monk who had stolen once more, but the decision was hard for him. So the headman asked an old jailer in the prison to speak to the monk. He told him to ask the monk why he stole and how to keep him from stealing in the future. And so the monk told the jailer why he stole. He said that he was used to enjoying all the foods in all the monasteries and families that he visited, but after a little while they kicked him out. Then he didnft know how to get more food, and so he stole. After this investigation into the reasons why the monk stole, the headman asked others to see if what he said was true. People said what he said was true, and the wandering monk had never killed or stabbed anyone.
When the headman was told these reasons, he made up a new program for the wandering monk. He decided to send him home and told his father to take his son back and give him food and work to do. But his family came to see the headman and said that they didnft want the monk because it would create a bad name for their household. And so the headman had to think again, for this was a very big problem.
Finally, the headman went to see the monk. He told him that if he kept stealing, no one would like him or even want to see him. He said that he was creating very bad karma, and this karma would cause a bad rebirth. Then the headman told the monk that he was to stay in the headmanfs house from now on. Since he had a big family, there was enough food, and the monk was to have food, clothes, and a salary. The headman said that he hoped the monk would do this and remain good; if he didnft, both the headman and the monk were in serious trouble because many people were very upset.
And so the wandering monk came to live with the headman. He changed greatly then, and all the people were very surprised. Because he was a healthy monk and good at working, he was put in charge of all the cattle, yaks and goats of the family. The monk stayed with the family and never stole again. In time, the wandering monk became so trusted in the area that during the irrigation supply time when water was distributed, he was asked to be the one to decide which farmer should receive the water first. At the core of this legal case are the underlying notions of karma, radical particularity, and illusion. All the Tibetan participants considered the previous life of this monk and reasoned that he was acting like an animal because he perhaps was an animal in a previous life. The story even hints that the monk was in some way a different sort of being, since he could get out of leg fetters, escape prison, and remain unaffected by whipping. His current self was not a constant; he was obviously afflicted
with several mental obscurations that caused his actions. The headman reasoned that the monk was not motivated to commit crimes; instead, raised in a communal environment, he had a view of the world which did not privatize food.
The headman did not deal with this case from a dualistic perspective of right or wrong, guilt or innocence, correct or incorrect rule application. Instead, with a keen awareness of the monkfs nature and future life, he moved beyond determination of guilt to investigate the unique causes and circumstances of the case, reveal the illusory nature of the crime, and fashion a unique solution. Such a result is particularist and does not produce a general rule. In the words of one Tibetan commentator, it was as if the headman could look past the snakelike illusion of the crime to the ropelike, relative reality of the monkfs nature. Figure 12. A yakedura in trance (Sri Lanka). Photograph by John Ross Carter.
The essay in this chapter was specifically written for this collection. It is based on research funded by a 1993 .1994 Fulbright grant. In addition to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, Jason A. Carbine would like to thank John Holt, P. B. Meegaskumbura, Udaya Meddegama, M. Tennakoon, S. N. Wijasingha, and the Reverends Dhammaloka and Sorata, who all helped in different but essential ways. chapter 12
Cosmology and Healing
Traditional Buddhist cosmologies recognize a virtually infinite number of cosmoses. These cosmoses come into being with many different domains and kinds of sentient life, and they persist for very long periods of time. Ultimately, they come to an end. In this Buddhist perspective, the cosmos in which we presently live is only one such cosmos.
One classic formulation asserts that each cosmos, including ours, consists of three realms. The realm beyond formincludes a series of very high levels populated by certain exceptional deities (brahma) who are associated with the most refined meditative states. The realm of form includes levels of less exalted but still highly regarded deities (also known as brahma deities) who are also associated with meditative states. The realm of desire contains six gpathsh or gcoursesh (the same six referred to in footnote 2 of chapter 11): deities (deva, devata), demigods or semidivine giants (asura), human beings, animals, hungry ghosts, and hellbeings. While all beings in the Three Realms are said to undergo gsuffering,h hungry ghosts and hell-beings are said to suffer especially virulent types of torments because of the bad karma they have generated in their previous lives.
Buddhist depictions of our cosmos.and other cosmoses.vary from
1. The Sinhalese constitute the largest ethnic group in the country. context to context. However, these depictions almost always crystallize around a clear hierarchical principle. The various domains and kinds of sentient life extend from the highest and most contemplative states through more or less pleasurable states down to the lowest and most abysmal hells. The different domains and types of sentient life ultimately demarcate different degrees of spiritual cultivation, moral activity, and karmic store.
A great deal of Buddhist art and architecture displays visual images associated with the various realms recognized in Buddhist cosmology and with the various figures (divine, human, and subhuman) that populate these realms. Likewise, many Buddhist rituals.very often overseen and conducted by lay Buddhist specialists rather than by monks.can be appropriately understood as an activation and deployment of cosmological components for the benefit of the Buddhist community and Buddhist individuals.
In the following essay, written specifically for this volume, Jason Carbine describes and analyzes a lay Buddhist healing ritual in which attention is focused not only on the Buddha and dharma (referred to as dhamma in this essay) but also on various kinds of sentient beings that populate the Theravada cosmos as it is understood in the highlands of Sri Lanka.
THE BUDDHA AND DHAMMA
Jason A. Carbine
This essay describes and then briefly analyzes one type of healing ritual commonly performed among Sinhala Buddhist communities in contemporary Sri Lanka.1 This ritual is a yaktovil, a lengthy (more than nine hours) and quite complex service that prevents malevolent supernaturals from overpowering a patient or patients by, among other things, bringing the patient(s) into the protective manifold of the Buddha and the dhamma (teachings). The discussion that follows derives from my personal observations of one such yaktovil performed in May 1994 in Sri Lankafs Kandyan highland area. The service was conducted by a group of six yakeduras local to the highland area. Yakeduras, the gones who
2. In Sinhala Buddhist understanding, Kali is considered to be a low goddess; her standing in the cosmic hierarchy is equal to or less than that of Suniyam (Suniyam will be discussed below). People usually view Kali as a fierce supernatural who is closely affiliated with the problems and dynamics of everyday living. However, she is often considered to have.at certain times and in certain contexts.a more pleasant but still very involved character, here identified as Bhadra Kali.
know the art of offering,h are the ritual specialists who assume primary control over, and authority in, patient diagnosis and the performance of the yaktovil.
There was only one patient for the May 1994 yaktovil. She was a young married woman who suffered from two supernaturals in particular: the bhuta (a disembodied spirit or ghost) of her deceased brother and Kadawara yaka, a nature divinity (yaka) considered to have authority over the bhuta. Together, the two supernaturals were thought to be responsible for the patientfs symptoms. These symptoms included various forms of psychosocial and physiological distress, ranging from troubled dreams and a self-imposed seclusion to an inability to eat solid foods.
My focus in the descriptive portion of this essay (the initial and longer of the two portions) will be to detail the ways in which the yakeduras employed the Buddha and dhamma to protect the patient from supernatural affliction. The concluding portion will draw from that description and offer some reflections on the social and cultural function of popular Buddhist practices.such as yaktovil.in the history of Theravada Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia.
Description of the Yaktovil
the ritual area
The yaktovil took place just outside a small village shrine (devalaya). The shrine was considered to be the gseath of the gpowerh and gauthorityh of all deities and of the goddess Bhadra (gauspicioush) Kali in particular. While Bhadra Kalifs presence was not explicit during the yaktovil itself, the shrinefs status as a place especially associated with her presence derived from the fact that the shrinefs presiding gsoothsayer,h a charismatic middle-aged woman, received her gwarranth for soothsaying from her.2
The ritual area was rectangular and demarcated on one of its longer sides by one of the walls of the village shrine itself. Four pyramid-shaped
3. Like Kali, Brahma was originally one of the great deities of Indian mythology who was absorbed into the Sinhala Buddhist pantheon. offering baskets, each made of banana tree.trunk wood, sat on a low bench resting against that shrine wall. Three baskets were placed there in honor of several yakas, including Suniyam and Kadawara yakas. Each basket was of a different size and shape. Suniyamfs basket, for example, was the largest (about five feet tall) and had three levels: a top coneshaped level, a middle square level divided into four sections, and a bottom square level divided into sixteen sections. The yakeduras stressed that the size, shape, number of levels, and number of sections in each level of each basket were important: each was designed for a specific supernatural or supernaturals. For instance, according to one performer conducting the rite, Suniyamfs basket was intended for his most beneficent form (top level), four lower forms (the middle level), and sixteen lesser male and female forms (bottom level).
Suniyamfs basket contained one important item that the others did not: an garrowh of Brahma.3 This arrow was a straight branch with one end fashioned into the shape of an arrowhead, and it was used by the yakeduras during the ceremony to help command and control certain supernaturals. A live chicken.to be given to the yakas during the ceremony as a gcraved-for-offeringh.was placed under the four offering baskets. The yakeduras also set a small offering table to the ghosts (pretas and bhutas) to the right side of the four offering baskets. A gflower altarh was positioned at the front of the ritual area, perpendicular to the shrine. It was an elaborate, rectangular-shaped structure standing about six feet high, four feet wide, and two feet deep. It was also made from banana tree.trunk wood, and it held offerings of fruit, vegetarian foods, white, blue, and yellow flowers, bundles of unripened coconut flowers, gweaponsh and other symbolic items emblematic of the higher deities (the guardian deities of Sri Lanka, who were considered to be the gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama, and Saman and the goddess Pattini), and a gprotection thread,h which the yakeduras said was wound around a bundle of bodhi-tree leaves. The yakeduras considered the flower altar, like the shrine itself, to be a seat of the power and authority of the higher deities as well as of the triple gem (the Buddha, dhamma, and sangha).
A small offering table, the flower-betel-leaf-offering-table,h was placed at the left side of the flower altar. In addition to flowers and betel leaves, the table held a mirror, make-up, and a hair brush. All of these items were in honor of Sri Kanta, the goddess of health and prosperity.
The side of the ritual area directly opposite the shrine was demarcated by a temporary fence constructed from rope and sticks. Standing just inside the fence were two small offering tables. One of the offering tables was for Bhadra Kali, and the other was for Suniyam Gambara Deviyo, an epithet designating the supernatural Suniyam as gprotector of the village.h Incense, flowers, and lighted lamps were placed on the two tables about half an hour before the yaktovil began. The back side of the ritual area was open. This was the area from which about thirty spectators, myself included, watched the ceremony. One final ritual offering item, an offering cup made of leaves, was assembled after the yaktovil began.
The yakeduras explained to me that the performance of the yaktovil was to follow the gthree watchesh of the night. These watches were the gevening watch,h which lasted from about nine in the evening to about midnight; the gmidnight watch,h which lasted from about midnight to about four in the morning; and, the gmorning watch,h which lasted from about four in the morning to about six or seven. The proper sequencing of ritual events according to the three-part time schedule was crucial: certain supernaturals were understood to be most active during certain hours of the night, and they were said to like receiving their offerings at the proper time. For example, as will be shown below, the gtimeh of the powerful deity Dadimunda, as well as of the other deities above him in the cosmic hierarchy, was the evening watch; Suniyam yaka preferred the midnight watch, and Kadawara yaka preferred the morning watch.
While the following description will remain sensitive to the dynamics and events of the three watches of the night, these watches will not be used as a frame by which to describe the yaktovil. Rather, I will focus on one very significant and central curative tactic used in the ceremony. As the yakeduras explained the ceremony to me, it was composed of different but often interacting gmethodsh (kramayas, which can also be translated as gsystemsh or gdoingsh) for the sake of curing patients. Some of these curative methods include the use of mantras, the proper presentation of food offerings to given supernaturals, and devotion to higher deities.
The particular curativemethod that concerns me here is the use of the power and authority of the Buddha and dhamma. The yakeduras understood the Buddha and dhamma to be morally, ethically, and cosmically powerful and thus to be potentially efficacious in curing and preventing illness. To illustrate this point, it will suffice to draw upon and present a few particular aspects of the ceremony.
Specifically, I will describe the yaktovil in three parts. The first part will focus on the use of the Buddha and dhamma to tap and orient the creative potential of the cosmic hierarchy. The second will describe the use of narratives about the Buddha, dhamma, and Buddha-related figures to provide a context for the patient to meditate and to establish a protective mental gboundaryh (sima) around herself. The third will describe the use of the Buddha and dhamma to create a protective magical boundary (also a type of sima) around the patientfs body.
Use of the Buddha and Dhamma:
The Cosmic Hierarchy
Generally speaking, the yakeduras considered the most powerful deities (Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama, Saman, and Pattini) to be protectors of the dhamma. They did not consider this to be true for the lower supernaturals, such as Kadawara yaka and the bhuta afflicting the patient. In fact, the yakeduras considered Kadawara and the bhuta to be attackers of the patientfs mind and body; the two supernaturals attacked the patient because they desired to consume her in various ways (for example, sexually and, more literally, as food). These desires indicated that the two supernaturals did not act, or want to act, in accordance with either the moral model articulated in the figure and life of the Buddha or the moral code (dhamma) that he taught. However, the yakeduras argued, with proper guidance from the more powerful supernaturals, and from the power and authority of the Buddha and dhamma, malevolent lower supernaturals could be warded off and/or tamed and transformed to accomplish the patientfs cure. For the ritual performers, then, the Buddha and dhamma were to be activated and employed within the context of the entire cosmic hierarchy to repulse the attacks of Kadawara and the bhuta causing the patientfs physical and mental illness and threatening to bring about her death.
The most explicit linkings of cosmic power with the Buddha and dhamma occurred during the appearances of the four supernaturals in
4. In the yaktovil context discussed here the termdeva was used to refer to two deities (Dadimunda and Suniyam) who are, in other Sinhala Buddhist contexts, called devata, or beings who hold a status between the higher gods and yakas. In keeping with the actual ritual usage, I have retained the term deva in my description. Also, the reader will recall the discussion above in regard to Suniyamfs offering basket; Suniyamfs gfour lower formsh and gsixteen lesser male and female forms,h according to the yakedura who furnished the information about that offering basket, were considered manifestations of his primary yaka form. Further, the yakedura also specified that Suniyamfs most gbeneficent formh was his deva form.
the yaktovil area. In order of appearance, these four supernaturals were: (1) Dadimunda, a deva (god/deity) understood to be a gcommanderh of yakas who acts under the authority of Vishnu, a supreme guardian deity of the Buddhist dhamma in Sri Lanka; (2) Suniyam, a supernatural situated just below Dadimunda in the cosmic hierarchy and considered to have two primary forms, one deva and one yaka; (3) the bhuta afflicting the patient; and (4) Kadawara yaka, who was understood to be presiding over the bhuta on the one hand and acting under the authority of Suniyam on the other.4 The appearances of the supernaturals were particularly significant in that descending and successive levels of the cosmic hierarchy (deva, deva/yaka, yaka, and bhuta) received elaboration and were shown to be ultimately subservient to the authority and power of the Buddha and dhamma.
In the final analysis, a direction of power obtained, wherein Dadimunda, Suniyam, Kadawara, and the bhuta, each representative of different levels of the cosmic hierarchy, became channels through which the cure of the patient was achieved. Dadimunda appeared in the yaktovil area first. At the beginning of the evening watch, yakeduras positioned themselves between the flower altar and the patient. They sang a characteristically drawn-out and melodious repetition of gNamo Namoh (gworship worshiph) and offered homage to the Buddha, dhamma, and sangha. They then called upon the authority, power, and virtues of the Three Gems to gpleaseh most if not all of the supernaturals of the Sinhala Buddhist pantheon so that they would come to the ritual area and help with the cure of the patient.
Upon the invitations that were in honor of him, Dadimunda entered a ritual medium (the soothsayer of the Bhadra Kali shrine) and powerfully danced his way into the ritual area. He approached the flower altar, shook his head back and forth, worshiped the flower altar, and turned to speak with the yakeduras, who had moved to the sides of the ritual area.
Dadimundafs attitude was one of protection and overarching be1nevolence. He half jokingly asked the ritual performers why the bhuta afflicting the patient had not responded to earlier offerings and efforts to make him leave, and he announced that he would indeed use his own authority to control the bhuta. Dadimunda signaled to the yakeduras to begin drumming again, and he danced. He then stopped and gave the patient and household members medicinal and protective prescriptions and, having stated his pleasure at the ritual structures, smells, and offerings, departed from the medium. The medium, dazed, slowly walked out of the ritual area.
Dadimundafs appearance verified and emphasized two important points regarding the active presence of divine agency in the yaktovil. First, as the yakeduras explained to me during and after the ceremony, Dadimunda recognized the authority of the deities above him in the cosmic hierarchy, particularly the authority of Vishnu who was (again, to reemphasize) considered the most important protector of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Dadimunda, so they said, had received a command from Vishnu to come to the ritual area and to help the yakeduras. Second, and more explicitly expressed in his actions, Dadimunda recognized that he should act to uphold certain moral ideals propounded by the Buddha. These ideals included a compassionate desire to assuage the patientfs psychosocial and physiological distress.
Suniyam appeared in the ritual area about two hours after Dadimunda, at the beginning of the midnight watch. One of the yakeduras instructed the patient to sit and fold her hands to her face. He then waved the arrow of Brahma at the offering baskets and.calling on the power of the Buddha and dhamma.commanded the yakas to focus their ggazeh on the offering baskets and the patient. Theyakedura then picked up the chicken, dangled it in front of the offering basket to Suniyam, and narrated its origin. Suniyam, in his form as a yaka, took control of the mediumfs body, and, sitting in a chair away from the patient, licked his lips and jumped into the middle of the ritual area.
He announced himself as Suniyam yaka, grabbed the chicken (but not the arrow of Brahma) from the yakedura, trampled over the patient, and danced violently around the area. Suniyam then threw the chicken at the ground in front of the offering baskets, crouched before the patient, licked his lips again, and shook his head in her face. The patient flinched with fright but remained seated. Suniyam, seating himself next to the patient, spoke to the gurunnanse (the chief yakedura).
Suniyam: I am Suniyam yaka! I accept the offerings! Happily! [the patient screams]
5. This and the other conversations presented below have been abbreviated for purposes of inclusion here.
gurunnanse: This patient is ill. She is sick because of an illness caused by the bhuta. Tell the bhuta to go away quickly.
g: Tell the bhuta to go quickly.
g: You will be pleased to do this.
g: [waves the arrow of Brahma) Say it!
S: I am pleased to help this patient!
g: You promise to do this!
g: You promise!
S: Yes! I promise!
g: You will protect this patient!
g: [waves the arrow of Brahma) You will protect this patient! Say it!
S: Yes, I will protect this patient.
g: And this house!
S: And this house!5
Ultimately assuring his acceptance of the offerings and swearing to command the bhuta to leave, Suniyam blessed the patient, careened his way toward the flower altar, worshiped it, and departed from the medium. Again, the medium, dazed, walked out of the ritual area. The meaning and efficacy of Suniyam yakafs appearance paralleled that of Dadimundafs. Suniyam recognized the authority of the deities above him in the cosmic hierarchy.He recognized the importance of curing and protecting the patient. Most significant, he also recognized the authority and power of the Buddha and dhamma. All these points were made explicit when, after promising to protect the patient, Suniyam worshiped the flower altar, which was clearly recognized by all concerned as the seat of the power and authority of the Buddha and dhamma and of the higher deities.
The bhuta appeared in the yaktovil area about two hours after Suniyam.Yakeduras stood over the patient while she held out part of the offering basket to the bhuta; at this point they narrated a story pertaining to the life of King Bimbisara. (This story involving a king to whom the Buddha preached will be discussed below.) At the conclusion of the
6. In Theravada mythology, Kakusanda and Kasyapa are, respectively, the twentysecond and twenty-fourth Buddhas in a standard list of twenty-four Buddhas who precede Gautama (the historical Buddha). Theravada mythology also considers the three of them, along with the Buddha Konagamana (twenty-third of the twenty-four) and the Buddhato- come, Maitreya, to be the five Buddhas of the present gera.h narration, the yakeduras intensified the rhythm of their drum accompaniment, and the bhuta took possession of the medium and semi-danced his way into the ritual area. He sat down beside the patient and had a discussion with the gurunnanse (who was holding and waving the arrow of Brahma). Their discussion concluded with an emphasis on the power of the Buddhas.
gurunnanse: By the Buddhas, you swear to leave. bhuta: By the Buddhas, I swear to leave.
g: (the Buddhas) Kasyapa, Gautama, and Kakusanda, say their names!6
g: Say their names!
b: Kasyapa, Gautama, and Kakusanda.
After repeating the names of the Buddhas, the bhuta left the ritual area and, significantly, gdepartedh from the patient. This meant, according to the yakeduras, that he consented to remove his malevolent influence.
Kadawara yaka was the last supernatural to appear in the ritual area. At about 4:00 a.m., the onset of the morning watch, the yakeduras prepared and offered his offering cup made of leaves. It contained meat, rice, and fish and was topped with flowers. The yakeduras sang poetic songs and intoned mantras, and Kadawara entered the medium. Much like the other supernaturals before him, Kadawara yaka danced his way into the ritual area and crouched beside the patient and spoke with the gurunnanse.
Kadawara: I have accepted the offerings! I am happy! I am truly sending away the patientfs illness. The younger brother has accepted his offerings. He has happily accepted his offerings. gurunnanse: By the Buddha, you swear that this is so! K: I swear. I am not doing any harm. I swear.
g: [waving the arrow of Brahma) You must go quickly by the power of the Buddha.
K: I am going, I am going, I am going! I said I was going by the Buddhafs power. Truthfully!
7. A caste system continues to exist in Sri Lanka, the only Buddhist country where this is the case.
At this point, there was a pause, and Kadawara yaka asked the yakeduras if they could dance. They answered yes, and a dance and song contest ensued. Kadawara could not match or keep up with the yakeduras in their rhythms and drumbeat and did not know the words to songs he claimed to know. Kadawara, now worn out, was addressed by the lowest-caste ritual performer.
performer: So what is it that you will do?
Kadawara: I will give protection to this place and patient. I will not harm. I accept your offerings.
After this proclamation, Kadawara departed.
With some resistance Kadawara acknowledged several crucial points. He acknowledged the authority of the Buddha. He acknowledged that he was delighted to help the patient. He acknowledged that he had indeed commanded the bhuta to leave the patient. Finally, he acknowledged that he would protect the patient. These acknowledgments were extremely significant, for it was clear at this point that Kadawara had been tamed, in the sense of being controlled by human and divine agency. Indeed, he was now subject even to the authority of the lowest-caste ritual performer. Further, Kadawara had been thoroughly transformed in that his power had been channeled for creative and protective gthis-worldlyorientedh (laukika) ends rather than destructive ones. Thus, the use of the Buddha and dhamma in the course of the yaktovil served to direct and orient the hierarchy of cosmic powers.from Dadimunda and the highest deities to the lowest yaka and bhuta.in a very positive way. It should come as no surprise that Kadawarafs transformation was one of the final events of the yaktovil.
Use of the Buddha and Dhamma:
Narratives and Meditation
Also important to the patientfs cure was a particular type of meditation known as grecollectionh (anusmrtiya) of the Buddha. The yakeduras intended this meditation to make the patient reflect upon a variety of stories concerned with the power and gmoralityh (sila) of the Buddha and dhamma. Three such stories were: (1) the Buddhafs life; (2) King Vijayafs arrival in Sri Lanka (a story recounted in the Buddhist mythohistory of the island); and (3) King Bimbisarafs efforts to curtail the sordid habits of a malevolent yaka.
During the recitation of the story of the Buddhafs life, one of the very first events of the evening watch, the yakeduras covered the patient with a white cloth associated with the purity and protective power of the Buddha. They then exhorted the patient to listen to, first in prose and then in poetic verse, the story of the Buddhafs final birth. The gurunnanse jokingly asked the patient, gWho is the Buddha? What did he do? How did he do it?h The audience and even the patient herself laughed. The gurunnanse answered his own questions with the important events in the Buddhafs life: his birth, his renunciation, his meditation and enlightenment (the conquering of Mara), his acceptance of a gift of milk-rice from the woman Sujata, and his attainment to the gsupreme blowing out.h This account of the Buddhafs life concluded with the proclamation that gBy the power of the virtues of the Buddha all illnesses will leave the patienth and with the benediction gLong life! Long life! Long life!
Sometime after the narration of the Buddhafs life, a yakedura again exhorted the patient to attentively listen to another story, a narration about the arrival of the first Sinhala king, Vijaya, in Sri Lanka. King Vijaya and his men arrived in Sri Lanka only to find themselves harassed by the yakini (female yaka) Kuveni and her minions. Vijaya and his men ultimately discovered that she could not harm them because of a protection thread that was given to them by the King of Gods, Sakka, on behalf of the Buddha himself.
Just before the bhuta entered the ritual area, the ritual performers recited another story, that of the morally righteous king, Bimbisara. Bimbisara was concerned for his people because they were being harassed and eaten by a yaka, and he ultimately protected his people by giving the yaka gifts of food. The yaka, happy with his gifts, offered to protect the people rather than eat them.
The yakeduras narrating the stories of the Buddhafs life, of King Vijaya, and of King Bimbisara stated that the patient, on hearing and reflecting upon the stories, became ghappy in the mindh or ghaving good thoughts.h They stated this was possible because the narratives were accounts depicting the potential for the alteration or prevention of mental and physical suffering, particularly through the power and morality of the Buddha and his teachings. The narratives, and the meditation upon them, were thus meant to remind and inculcate in the patient the notion that her protection against any malevolent supernatural stemmed from three things: her understanding of the nature and efficacy of the Buddhafs own meditation, her establishment in the Buddhafs dhamma, and the degree to which she herself followed the basic model of the Buddha and used her establishment in the dhamma to calm her mind.
Ultimately, the yakeduras stressed that the patient could create a mental boundary, thereby preventing Kadawara and the bhuta from harming her. She could do this by recollecting and reflecting on the narratives about the Buddha and Buddha-related figures. This point is crucial, because it should be understood that the Kandyan yaktovil was not simply framed by a Buddhist psychology. Indeed, the Buddhist meditative ethos for severing the ties to the cycle of rebirth.an ethos exemplified by and in the Buddha and his dhamma.was used to assuage the patientfs immediate physical and mental illness. True to the Theravada paradigm of liberation from suffering, the narratives were meant to provide the context for the patient to protect herself by the power of her own mind. Part III. Use of the Buddha and Dhamma:
The Protection Thread
In the previous section I pointed out that the story recounting the protection threadfs origin functioned as a meditative device for the patient. The actual protection thread itself, tied around the patientfs neck at the conclusion of the yaktovil, may have also served this function. That is, meditating on what the protection thread embodied (the power and virtues of the Buddha and dhamma) may have also provided the patient with a context for the cultivation of mental calmness. However, the physical employment of the protection thread accomplished something a bit different from the narrative of its origin: It established a physically efficacious magical boundary around the patient.
To take some license with the imagery, not inappropriate to the physically framing and encompassing function of the protection thread, it bounded the patientfs body within a shield of dhamma. This shield of dhamma protected the patient from possible mental and physical encompassment by the yakas and bhuta. Also important, it held off their gattraction,h their gsight,h and their gshadow,h all three of which are believed to play key roles in yaka- and bhuta-induced illnesses. As it was explained to me, the yaka or bhuta, attracted to a victim, directs its sight upon him or her and then physically goes toward him or her in such a way that its shadow forms a boundary around the victim, and this is howtheyakas or bhutas can exert their strongest influence over the victim. Thus, it is this encompassment that the protection thread aims to block.
According to the yakeduras, the protection thread accomplished its objective in two overlapping ways: first, and explicit in its origin myth, the thread physically embodied the power of the Buddhafs dhamma; second, as suggested by the same myth, the thread embodied the protective powers of the higher deities who act on behalf of the Buddha and dhamma. Both kinds of overlap may be more clearly understood from the following.
During the yaktovil, the patient held the protection thread on one end while the other end remained tied to the flower altar. As long as the patient held the protection thread, the protective power of the dhammaically oriented deities, and of the Buddha and dhamma, was said to flow from the flower altar to the patient. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the yakeduras untied the thread from the flower altar and used it to tie a rolled-up yantra (a protective design etched onto a copper sheet) around the patientfs neck.
Ultimately, the protection thread purified the patientfs body of any malevolent supernatural influence and then physically protected her from any further yaka or bhuta attack. Indeed, both Kadawara and the bhuta were said to fear the power of the protector deities, the Buddha, and the dhamma. They were also said to be unable to penetrate the newly established protective boundary even if they wanted, above all because the protection thread itself derived its efficacy from the power of the moral ethos of the Buddha and dhamma.
Concluding Remarks: A Brief Historical Perspective Enough has been described to demonstrate the pervasive presence and pragmatic function of the Buddha and dhamma in the yaktovil. It is significant that these pragmatic uses of the Buddha and dhamma are attempts to permeate the yaktovil with the power and efficacy of Theravada soteriology.a soteriology that is ultimately believed to show one how to break free from all forms of suffering. Indeed, the very power and efficacy of the yaktovil is seen in crucial ways to depend upon the nature of the Buddha and dhamma, both of which represent, embody, and exemplify Theravada soteriology.
There are many possible reasons whyyakeduras have incorporated certain Theravada soteriological symbols into yaktovil practice. Three stand out in particular. One reason is that the yakeduras simply perceive the soteriological symbols to be efficacious in combating malevolent supernaturals and also in bringing about patient cure. A second is that Sinhala Buddhist cultural pressure and prestige may prompt yakeduras to accept the social and cultural authority of Theravada soteriology and thus to legitimate their practices in terms of that soteriology. A third is that Theravada soteriological legitimization of a particular religious practice (such as yaktovil) may actually happen, so to speak, by default. As John Holt points out, religious practices, if they are perceived to be efficacious for everyday existential concerns and not directly opposed to Theravada soteriology, will be legitimated in terms of that soteriology. These three possibilities have, in all likelihood, occurred and will continue to occur.
However, my presentation of the presence and function of the Buddha and dhamma in the yaktovil are intended to show that the first possibility is crucial. The linking of the yaktovil with Theravada soteriology does not occur outside the context of the ways in which yakeduras understand the symbols to have, or to be capable of having, certain power. In other words, how and if the soteriological symbols can practically function in regard to an immediate existential concern (patient cure) determines their incorporation in the yaktovil. The incorporation and synthesis of particular Theravada symbols in the yaktovil itself serve to legitimate the authority of Theravada soteriology.
The yaktovil performance casts Theravada soteriology as a repository of power and knowledge that can be drawn on for the assuagement of everyday problems (such as illness). Indeed, in the yaktovil, the Buddha and dhamma come to morally and physically encompass and pervade the entire cosmos, from the realm of the highest deities to the level of the individual mind and body of the patient. It should be stressed that this constitutes a significant contribution to the construction of a larger social and cultural drive to maintain the Theravada meditative ethos and thus the institution (the sangha) that sustains that ethos. If the social and cultural prestige of Theravada soteriology does play a part in prompting yakeduras to incorporate the Buddha and dhamma into the yaktovil practice, one must certainly understand the yaktovil as itself (re)productive of such authority.
Popular religious practice (in the present study, exemplified by the yaktovil) and Theravada soteriology are thus engaged in a mutually interactive process of legitimation. The Theravada soteriology provides a source from which particular symbols may be drawn and used to legitimate and substantiate not only the immediate power and efficacy of the yaktovil but its social and cultural status and prestige as well. At the same time, the yaktovil, with its incorporation of such symbols, legitimates both the Theravada soteriology and the institution that preserves that soteriology as repositories of authoritative meaning and knowledge necessary not only for a patientfs health and harmony but also for the health and harmony of society at large. The contemporary presence of the Theravada tradition in South Asia, and presumably in Southeast Asia, derives in great part from the ways in which people have creatively and actively used the symbols of the Buddha and dhamma to solve the problems of everyday living. Indeed, a Sinhala Buddhist curative practice has given the Buddha himself an enduring life, a life rooted in the continuing human drive to transform life itself.
The essay in this chapter is an abbreviated form of Richard Gombrich, gA New Theravadin Liturgy,h Journal of the Pali Text Society 9 (1981): 47.73. Copyright c 1981 by Richard Gombrich. Used by permission.
Devotional Rituals: Recent
Innovations (Sri Lanka)
Devotion is a dimension of religious expression that has been intrinsic to Buddhism since the very earliest strata of Buddhist tradition that we can discern. The term bhagavan (gblessed oneh), which has strong devotional connotations, was one of the earliest ways of referring to the Gautama Buddha. As Buddhism developed, various other Buddhas and bodhisattvas also became objects of devotion. Devotional practices were perennially prominent among Buddhist renunciants and perhaps even more important among members of the Buddhist laity. Though the Theravada school of Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia has sometimes been identified as a Buddhist school in which devotion has been severely if not completely muted, this is clearly not the case. The fact is that devotion, particularly devotion to the Gautama Buddha, played a prominent role in early Theravada contexts, and it came increasingly to the fore in an important corpus of Theravada literature produced in Sri Lanka in the early centuries of the second millennium c.e. The significant role of devotion has strongly persisted there and in other Theravada contexts up to the present day.
As Theravadins (and other Buddhists as well) have searched for new modes of religious expression and experience that resonate with people living in the late twentieth century, new experiments in the cultivation of devotional practice have been undertaken. The following essay by Richard Gombrich describes a fascinating liturgical experiment of this 180 LAY PRACTICES
kind: a new Theravada liturgy in Sri Lanka. Gombrich supplements his description with a translation of the devotional words actually employed in the ritual process.
We shall here present a text acquired orally, though we have also made use of printed pamphlets. Theravada Buddhist liturgical texts are few, and those used in Sri Lanka have hitherto been entirely in Pali. The text presented here is partly in Pali, partly in Sinhala. In content there is nothing radically new, but the religious service at which this text is used has a distinctive flavour which ever larger numbers of Sinhalese Buddhists find appealing.
The service has been invented and the text assembled, and in part composed, by a young monk called Panadure Ariyadhamma. The service he calls an Atavisi Buddha Puja (gWorship of the Twenty-eight Buddhash), or simply a Buddha Puja, has become popularly known as a Bodhi Puja, and we shall see that this reflects a misunderstanding. So far most of the public performances of this Buddha puja have either been conducted by the Ven. Ariyadhamma himself or have used tape recordings of him, so that it is not yet possible to say whether the service can become popular without his participation as its leader. Not only does he have a most pleasing appearance and personal presence; his voice is extremely mellifluous and he chants in a musical way which contrasts strikingly with the usual clerical drone.
When you mention the Ven. Ariyadhamma to people, his voice is usually the first thing they talk of. Those who know him personally, however, are devoted to him for more solid reasons: he radiates calm and kindness, and appears in his conduct to come as close as possible to the Buddhist ideal. He does not collect possessions, and every month when he has been conducting Buddha puja and the congregations in homage have presented him with masses of goods (mainly sets of the eight requisites, the conventional offering to a monk on such an occasion) he gives it all away to other monks. He does not even own proprietary rights in any monastery. He devotes himself to the religious life, both to preaching and to meditation (necessarily concentrating on the two activities in alternating periods), but without losing sympathy for other people and interest in their problems. In contrast to most modern monks who are in the public eye, he keeps himself totally apart from secular public affairs: when we asked him whether he took any interest in politics he replied that his lack of involvement in politics was so complete that that he did not even want to say he was against politics. He says that he is completely free of lay responsibilities, and now fills a frame he made for himself.
When we interviewed him, in September 1978, he explained that he does not normally give interviews and tries not to receive personal publicity. But he does not object to the publication of a few factual details. He conceived the desire to become a monk when quite young, but at first his parents did not approve of the idea and it took some time to bring them round to it. Before that, he had a job as clerk with the Anuradhapura Preservation Board, which looks after the ancient capital. He studied Buddhism both at school and at Buddhist Sunday school, and began to learn Pali.
He also took up meditation while still a layman; he studied it at the famous meditation centre at Kanduboda. The greatest day of his life arrived on 22 December 1966, when he finally entered the Order in the presence of all his relations and 39 monks at a meditation centre in a Colombo suburb. He was ordained into the Amarapura Nikaya by the Ven. Kudavalle Vangisa Nayaka Thero. The happiness he felt on that occasion was past all description. His higher ordination took place at Kanduboda with its incumbent, the Ven. Kahatapitiye Sumatipala, acting as sponsor at the ceremony and the Ven. Kudavalle Vangisa as tutor. After that he went and stayed, practising meditation in a cave by himself, at a forest hermitage, Kaludiyapokuna Arannasthana, at Mihintale near Anuradhapura.1 He still goes there for periods of meditation. But in so far as he has any permanent base it is in a village monastery at Jaltara, near Hanvalla in the Low Country of south-western Ceylon.
He first evolved his distinctive formof Buddha puja around 1972, and celebrated it quietly with a few people in Jaltara. But its fame quickly spread. He conducts isolated services, like the one in honour of a monkfs birthday which we have here recorded; but what are famous are the series of services held daily for a fortnight or a month at about 6 p.m. This time coincides with the traditional hour for the evening offering to the Buddha, but it is presumably chosen because it is convenient for people who have to go to work. The Ven. Ariyadhamma conducted such a series of Buddha puja successively at Divulapitiya, in Kandy, Negombo,
2. Editorsf note: The Y.M.B.A. is the Young Menfs Buddhist Association, patterned after the Young Menfs Christian Association introduced by Western missionaries. Chilaw, Nuwara Eliya, Matale, and Galle. From Kandy on, these are all fair-sized towns, and the services were held not at monasteries but at Buddhist gcentres,h such as the Y.M.B.A., or even at normally secular premises.2 This was necessary to accommodate the increasing crowds which assembled, despite the Ven. Ariyadhammafs avoidance of newspaper publicity. (He does not allow his sermons to be advertised in advance in the daily papers, as are others likely to be of wide interest.) At Matale in 1977 the crowds reached fifty or sixty thousand; at Galle in 1978 the month-long series drew crowds which the police finally estimated at a hundred thousand.
It is time now to characterize the service, and in so doing to justify the use of the word gserviceh and to explain its popularity. Traditional Theravada Buddhism has certain set ritual forms for the clergy such as the higher ordination ceremony and corporate fortnightly confession, but nothing remotely analogous for the laity. An ordinary Buddha puja is an offering to the Buddha made by an individual. At every temple the incumbent is responsible for seeing to it that it is made thrice daily. The individual making the offering usually recites (murmurs) certain Pali verses. If others are present, they are supposed to participate in spirit; they empathize, and thus gain merit. But their empathy takes no liturgical form. When monks and laity come together for religious purposes, their roles are complementary. Thus, when people come to the temple to hear a sermon, the monk preaches and the laity listen, participating only by occasional exclamations of gSadhu!h (which is often shortened to gSa!h).
The monk administers the five precepts to the laity by having the laity repeat them after him; he faces the laity, is seated on a higher level, and is treated with the greatest formal respect. Against this background, the new Buddha puja has four striking features. First and foremost, there is constant active participation by the congregation, for they chant or recite the entire liturgy themselves, in unison, either with the monk conducting the service or after him. In the former case, of course, the monk temporarily appears but as a member of the congregation, and this is the second striking feature: the monk conducting the service sits as a member of the congregation, like them facing the Buddha image in an attitude of humility. Before the Buddha he thus appears merely as primus inter pares. Afortiori the same position is adopted by any other monks present, so that they simply participate as members of the congregation, whereas if any other monks besides the preacher attend a traditional sermon they sit on the higher level facing the laity and do nothing at all.
The third feature of this Buddha puja is that not all of it is in Pali; it includes Sinhala. And the final feature to which we draw attention is the heightened dramatic content and emotional tone.
Few preachers ever make the slightest effort to involve their audiences emotionally (unless it be to instill in them fear of the consequences of wrong-doing), and indeed one could well argue that since Buddhism stresses the danger of the emotions and the necessity for their careful control, it is absolutely appropriate for Buddhist events to take place in an atmosphere of calm, even flatness. But the Ven. Ariyadhamma is not at all afraid of emotion. He told us that when Maha Pajapati, the Buddhafs stepmother, became a nun, she said to him: gYou are now my Buddha mother and give me the milk of immortalityh; the story makes him weep with emotion. The words which are constantly on his lips, as well as featuring prominently in his service, are such words as loving-kindness, compassion, pity, and above all comfort, consolation.
He also frequently mentions evenness of temperament, both as a quality of the Buddha and as a condition for others to aspire to. But it is perhaps his peculiar genius to realize that between the layman walking in off the street and this ideal state of calm there lies a gap which requires some emotional bridge. Not innovating, but bringing into unusual prominence an element from the tradition, the Ven. Ariyadhamma stresses loving-kindness, both the parental love which the Buddha felt for all creatures and which we may legitimately still project onto him, and the love, of the same quality, which we in our turn must cultivate. In recalling these qualities of the Buddha, he said to us, peoplefs thoughts become broader and open out like a flower blossoming. The main message of the sermon we heard was that everyone should meditate daily on the qualities of the Buddha and practise loving-kindness. The climax of his Buddha puja likewise expresses the receiving of consolation and the giving of love.
The sermon leads into a pair of Sinhala verses, chanted three times, saying that the one consolation for lifefs troubles lies in the Buddha and ultimately in nirvana. In the first of the verses the word sanasilla, gconsolation,h is anaphorically repeated in each line of the quatrain; the second verse culminates in the word sanasima, gconsolationh again. Immediately after this the leading monk expresses in the most concise way possible, with four words of Sinhala prose, the essence of Buddhist loving-kindness: May all beings be happy!h The congregation repeats the words.
The monk, with superb histrionic insight, repeats them three more times, each time more quietly, and each time the congregationfs response is more muted. The murmur of the fourth repetition is followed by profound silence, as everyone attempts to suffuse his own thoughts, and thence the whole world, with loving-kindness. The silence is finally broken, on the monkfs cue, with a loud exclamation of gSa!h and everyone breaks into a loud, fast repetition in a monotone of the Metta Sutta, the scriptural and thus the traditional liturgical form given to the same sentiments. Reciting the Metta Sutta in a monotone is a return to comparative banality, but after the deep emotion which preceded it the tone sounds triumphant and represents a return to the daily round with new vigour and confidence.
The first salient feature of the Buddha puja, the large part played in it by the congregation, is what impels us to call it a gservice,h using a term with an originally Christian denotation. When we see the officiating monk facing the altar and merely heading the congregation, rather than addressing them de haut en bas, we are again reminded of the Christian form.
The switch from the ancient language to the vernacular can remind us of Protestant Christianity, and indeed of Roman Catholicism since Vatican Two. And if we are set on such comparisons, we could even find analogues in Christianity to the heightened emotional tone. But the Ven. Ariyadhamma assures us, convincingly, that there has been no direct Christian influence. He has never attended a Christian service and does not know what they are like. But in them, he says, people sing hymns to music, whereas he does not consider that in his service there is any music. The importance of this point for him presumably resides in the fact that music is forbidden to monks.
He told us that in forest hermitages it is common for the monks to chant in unison, and he has merely extended the practice. We may comment that for monks in a hermitage to ignore status differences is quite another matter from giving such equality ritual expression when it comes to interaction between monks and laity; but that is a dimension with which he is not concerned. The use of Sinhala he likewise does not see as at all radical, perhaps with more justification, since Buddhism has no ideological opposition to the use of vernacular languages.quite the contrary. The attempt to bring religion nearer to the people, and especially to respond to demands by an educated urban middle class for more participation in the religion to which they are nominally affiliated has everywhere produced the same result. Finally, scrutiny of the text will showthat its sentiments are indeed truly and distinctively Buddhist and that the Ven. Ariyadhamma has merely chosen, notably in the Sinhala verses he has composed, to stress that side of the tradition which seems to him (no doubt rightly) to be most accessible to lay religiosity.
The service lasts two to three hours, but the set part (given below) takes up only about an hour. Most of the rest of the time is taken by the sermon proper, which always occurs at the same point in the service and ends by leading into the climax of the service mentioned above. Even during the sermon the monk maintains his untraditional position facing the Buddha image(s) with his back to the laity. The rest of the time is accounted for by other little speeches the monk makes.
The main one of these comes after the first section of the service, the taking of the three refuges and eight precepts (though not the usual eight); in it the monk speaks about the occasion for the service and dedicates the merit accruing from it. A similar speech very near the end of the service distributes the merit to all participants and those connected with them, as is customary; it has the function of a kind of valedictory blessing. It remains to comment on two points. The interest of the first resides in its illustrating an important principle of scientific method: that you cannot find what you are not looking for. This Buddha puja, as its full title indicates, is strictly for all the 28 Buddhas recognized in the Pali tradition.
This multiplicity has no importance for the text or message of the service, and the Ven. Ariyadhamma himself said that philosophically all the Buddhas were the same. When one of these Buddha puja is held, 28 pictures of the Buddha are put up in a row over a long flower altar; devotees queue up to offer flowers on this altar just before the service starts; and even so long an altar can barely hold all the offerings. Thus the multiplication is useful in the ritual. But this was not its origin. We were told by lay supporters that making offerings to the 28 Buddhas was an old custom.
In our research in the Up Country we had come across offerings only to the 24 Buddhas, never the 28. We asked scholarly Sinhalese friends, and they too knew of no such old custom.We then met a monk who was conducting an Atavisi Buddha puja on the Ven. Ariyadhammafs instructions. He too asserted that the 28 Buddhas were traditionally worshipped, and to corroborate this he said that very day at midday when food is offered before the Tooth Relic at the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy it is offered in 32 parts, for the 28 Buddhas plus the 4 Buddhas so far born in our eon (who thus figure twice). We had just read H. L. Seneviratnefs admirable book, Rituals of the Kandyan State, which gives a minutely detailed account of those very offerings but makes no mention of the 28 Buddhas or 32 parts; we were accordingly sceptical.
But we were able to go to Kandy and ask the official in charge of the daily offerings. The monk was right. Every day 32 measures of rice are cooked for the morning and midday offerings, and 32 curries prepared. Seneviratne could not see 32 portions because no doubt the figure is purely conceptual and rarely or never empirically observable. In our ritual too the number is essentially conceptual: despite what has been said above, at the first Buddha puja we attended there was restricted space for the flower altar and we counted only 12 Buddha images; at the second there were 29.28 pictures (identical prints) plus the main image (a statue).
The second point concerns the widespread misunderstanding which somewhat irks the Ven. Ariyadhamma. Some of his Sinhala verses express the traditional worship of the Bo or Bodhi tree which stands in the compound of nearly every Buddhist temple, often adorned with little pennants. The tree, being of the kind under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment, symbolizes that Enlightenment. The popularity of his verses about it has led some people to infer that he is laying stress on the cult of the tree. Not only have they misnamed his service Bodhi puja, i.e. gworship of the Bo treeh; they have revived such extravagant customs as watering the tree with perfumed milk.
For example, a layman whom we met at the house where the Ven. Ariyadhamma was passing the rains retreat in 1978 told us that his mother had seen in his sisterfs horoscope that the sister was about to pass through an unlucky period, so every day for a week she had watered a Bo tree with cowfs milk with saffron and sandal in it and given the merit to her daughter, and all had passed off well.Watering the Bo tree was most meritorious in the dry season, when the tree most needed it, he added. Rather more sophisticated, a monk present on the same occasion said that these popular customs were beside the point, but the merit from this service was particularly offered to the deity living in the Bo tree. (Every major tree is thus inhabited by a spirit.) But the Ven. Ariyadhamma assured us that he envisaged no such special regard for the Bo tree deity; his attitude to all the gods is that there must be mutual respect, but he asks no favours of them and merely follows the normal custom of offering merit to all of them without distinction. As for watering the tree, he remarked that our respect is due to the Knowledge, not the Tree.
We have in our possession two somewhat different printed versions of this service, neither of them published commercially. One is a small pamphlet that says on the back that it has been produced in accordance with the Ven. Ariyadhammafs instructions. The second pamphlet has
3. This last set of distinctions (n, c, m) is only roughly indicative, and refers primarily to the monk.
a cover that says that it contains the form of service used by the Ven. Ariyadhamma on the occasion of the birthday of the Ven. Pategama Vimalasiri of the Jetavana Pirivena (monastic college), Colombo, and is produced by those who supported that event. It is this latter pamphlet which contains the form of the service closer to the one we heard, though there were some deviations from its text too. We attended two of these Buddha puja. The first, on 16 September 1978, was conducted at a house in southern Sri Lanka by another monk who was deputizing for the Ven. Ariyadhamma that day. There were extra prayers for the Ven. Ariyadhamma, and at the end the merit of the service was transferred to him.
The version given here comes from our tape recording of a service conducted by the Ven. Ariyadhamma on 23 September 1978 at the International Buddhist Centre, Wellawatte, Colombo 6, on the occasion of the 79th birthday of the incumbent, who was unfortunately not well enough to attend.
M.monk, i.e. spoken by the monk (here Ariyadhamma) only C.congregation, i.e. spoken by the congregation only U.unison, i.e. spoken by monk and congregation together R.responses, i.e. spoken first by the monk, then repeated by the congregation
n.normal tone, i.e. with the cadence of normal speech c.chanted in a melody pattern
MSn Say gSadhu.h
All do so.
4. g . . . with full attention achieve it.h These last two words in the Pali echo the last words of the Buddha. Their meaning is very general, but in context the reference is to achieving nirvana.
MSn Say gNamo . . .h
CPc Homage to the Blessed worthy, the fully enlightened Buddha.
May the venerable incumbent and the other venerable members of the great Order accord their gracious permission. RPc I take refuge in the Buddha / the Doctrine / the Order (three times each).
MPc The taking of the three refuges is completed. CPc Yes, venerable sir.
RPc I undertake the rule to abstain from taking life / from taking what is not given / from sexual misconduct / from lying / from malicious speech / from harsh speech / from idle chatter / from wrong livelihood.
RSc May these eight moral principles, ending with that of livelihood, with the triple refuge, cause us to enter the paths, attain the results, and see nirvana.
MPc Keep the eight moral principles, ending with that of livelihood, with the triple refuge, fully and well, and with full attention achieve it.4
There is a pause and Ariyadhamma gives a 61.2.minute address on the occasion; he praises the incumbent and especially dedicates the merit of this service to him and to another monk of the same temple who has recently died.
UPc He broke through the tangle of defilements and their roots by the power of the unlimited perfections He attained, and by that He acquired worthiness and is called gWorthyh (araho); placing Him in my heart I worship the immaculate Buddha. UPm Homage to the Blessed worthy, the fully enlightened Buddha.
Thus is the Blessed worthy, the fully enlightened Buddha, perfect in wisdom and conduct, well, knower of the world, supreme charioteer of men, who have to be broken in, teacher of gods and men, Buddha, Blessed. I take refuge in the Buddha for life, till I attain nirvana.
Well stated by the Blessed one is the Doctrine, plainly apparent, timeless, a thing to come and see, conducive, possible for the intelligent to realize themselves.
I take refuge in the Doctrine for life, till I attain nirvana. Of good conduct is the Blessed onefs Order of disciples, of upright conduct, of proper conduct, of straight conduct; the four pairs of men, the eight individuals, they are the Blessed onefs Order of disciples; fit to be called upon, to be invited, to be given gifts, to be worshipped in gesture, the supreme field of merit for the world. I take refuge in the Order for life, till I attain nirvana. The Buddhafs knowledge is knowledge of ill / of the arising of ill / of the annihilation of ill / of the path leading to the annihilation of ill / of penetration of the truth / of penetration of the Doctrine / of penetration of etymologies / of penetration of realization / of the level of othersf spiritual attainments / of latent tendencies / of the miracle of the pairs / of the attainment of great compassion / of omniscience / without impediment. I bow my head to the fully enlightened Buddha who has these Buddhaknowledges. That Blessed one is thus worthy; worthy indeed is that Blessed one. I take refuge with the worthy one; I bow my head to the worthy one.
This formula is repeated for each of the Buddhafs qualities; for gworthyh substitute in turn the fully enlightened Buddha; perfect in wisdom and conduct; well; knower of the world; supreme charioteer of men, who have to be broken in; teacher of gods and men; Buddha; Blessed.
RSc My lord, the reverend king Buddha, was remote from defilements. He did no sin even in secret. He was free from all sins. He was worthy of all offerings, both objects and acts, made by all the worldfs inhabitants. The great wonder is the quality of the reverend king Buddhafs compassion. Though one mass together the compassion of a million mothers and a million fathers, one can make no comparison with the compassion of the reverend king Buddha. Thus infinite, possessing measureless qualities, unequalled, equal to the unequalled, god to the gods, to me the lord, my own Buddha mother, my own Buddha father, the orb of dawn to the darkness of delusion, a great raincloud to the fire of the defilements, peaceful in His movements, restrained in His conduct, protector to the unprotected, refuge to those without refuge, to the reverend king Buddha,
5. The other four items are mustard seed, arrow-grass, broken rice, and jasmine buds. 6. The conventional gEnglishh translation for Bodhi is gBo treeh rather than gEnlightenment tree,h but it is good to be reminded of the metonymy. We revert to gBo treeh below because gEnlightenment treeh is too cumbrous. from the reverend king Buddha called Tanhamkara to the reverend king Buddha called Gautama, thus to the twenty-eight reverend king Buddhas I make this offering of lamps.may it be offered. I make this offering of fragrant smoke / of fragrant flowers / of five items ending with puffed rice5 / of cool water / of evening refreshment / of four sweets / of betel leaves / of medicine.may it be offered. Aspiring to the peace of nirvana and liberation from the ill of worldly existence I make all these offerings to the twenty-eight reverend king Buddhas. (Three times:) May they be offered. UPc I bow to the good Buddha, senior in the world, bull among men.
I bow to the good Doctrine, leading out of the world, well taught.
I bow to the good Order, supreme field of merit. I bow to the good Enlightenment tree,6 fig tree worshipped by the world.
Free of craving, free of hatred, free of delusion, without defilement, I worship the clever Enlightened one, who taught in many a way.
I worship every stupa, wherever it may be established, the corporeal relics, the great Bo tree, every image of the Buddha always. Seated at whose foot the Teacher defeated all His foes and attained omniscience, that Bo tree I worship.
Here are these great Bo trees, worshipped by the world protector; I too will bow to them: king Bo tree, worship be to you! MSn Out of veneration for the glorious great reverend king Bo tree at Anuradhapura:
USc The Bo tree bearing golden leaf buds,
The Bo tree bearing dark leaves,
The Bo tree which supported the back of Gautama, lord of seers,
Let us too worship the glorious great Bo tree.
The Bo tree which sprang up on Indiafs soil,
The Bo tree sent to blessed Ceylon,
The Bo tree which supported the back of Gautama, lord of seers,
Let us too worship the glorious great Bo tree.
The Bo tree which sprang up on Indiafs soil,
The Bo tree the Elder Sanghamitta brought with her, The Bo tree which supported . . .
Let us too . . .
The Bo tree which sprang up on Indiafs soil,
The Bo tree planted in great Meghavana park,
The Bo tree which supported . . .
Let us too . . .
The Bo tree which sprang . . .
The Bo tree planted . . .
The Bo tree visible within the golden fence,
Let us too . . .
The Bo tree which sprang . . .
The Bo tree planted . . .
The Bo tree worshipped by thousands of people,
Let us too . . .
I pass to and fro on this enclosure,
I tread on the roots and leaves of the Bo tree; Forgiving me, it does away with my sin;
The king Bo tree grants me permission.
The king Bo tree lives on the top level;
On the second level gleam flowers and lamps;
On the level of the sand worships a great crowd; In the future we shall see nirvana.
UPc With lamp kindled with camphor, destroying darkness, I worship the Enlightened one, lamp to the triple world, dispeller of darkness.
With fragrant perfume, I worship the one who is Thus, fragrant of body and face, fragrant with infinite virtues. At the blessed lotus feet of the lord of seers I offer this colourful, fragrant heap of flowers.
May the reverend one accept the water we have prepared; out of compassion may He receive the best.
This verse is repeated in turn for evening refreshment / medicine / betel leaves.
Forgive me my transgressions committed through carelessness in body, word or thought, O Tathagata of great wisdom. This verse is repeated, addressing in turn O Doctrine plainly apparent, timeless and O Order of good conduct, supreme.
RSc For all the faults which have occurred through the three doors of my mind, body, and speech, from infinitely remote worldly existence until this moment, from the jewel of the Buddha, the jewel of the Doctrine, and the jewel of the Order may I receive pardon. For the second time, may I receive pardon. For the third time, may I receive pardon.
RPc May this merit of mine bring about the destruction of my defiling impulses.
RSc May all the elements of merit I have accumulated.keeping the moral principles, worshipping in gesture, making offerings to the Buddha, worshipping the Bo tree, contemplating the virtues of the twenty-four Buddhas.accrue to my parents, my teachers, my elders, to all. And I empathize with all the elements of merit from everyone, with respectful veneration, with respectful devotion. And may there come to me through the power of all this merit release from decay, death, and all the sorrows of worldly existence, and realization of the very bliss of nirvana. May I see nirvana. MSn Say gSadhu.
All do so
Here follows the sermon. It begins with a unison chanting of the three refuges, first in Pali and then in a close Sinhala paraphrase; however, this does not form a set part of the service, so we omit it. The sermon concluded with a close Sinhala prose paraphrase of the following two verses, and their recitation follows without any break. RSc To see the Lord Buddhafs image is consolation to the eyes; To bow before the Lord Buddha is consolation to the limbs;
To think of the Lord Buddhafs virtues is consolation to the mind;
To take the path the Lord took is consolation for becoming.
In life there is truly trouble every day
And to death we approach ever a little closer;
Only doing good is at least some palliative;
Nirvana it is that is the comfort for us all.
RSc May all beings be happy. Thrice repeated.
MSn Say gSadhu.h
All do so. Then follows the Metta Sutta.
7. The rest of the service is a normal conclusion to a pinkama (merit ceremony) especially to a pirit (protection) ceremony, to which some of the verses specifically refer. For example, rakkham bandhami, gI bind protection,h refers to tying thread on onefs wrist as an amulet after the monks have recited the protective texts over it. The text from here on is not in the pamphlets, and one could argue that it is not part of the Buddha puja proper; but some such conclusion to round off the occasion is indispensable. 8. These verses are commonly recited by monks to acknowledge any act of homage to them by the laity; all the monks present joined in its recitation, the only point at which there was a general monk/lay distinction.
UPm By this statement of truth may you always fare well; by this statement of truth may the world always be happy; by this statement of truth may the Teaching long endure. May there be every blessing; may all the deities afford protection; by the power of all the Buddhas may you always fare well
This verse is twice repeated, substituting for Buddhash first gDoctrine,h then Order.
By checking evil influences of constellations, devils, and ghosts by the power of protective texts, may they lay low your misfortunes.
May all living creatures who are ill be free from ill, who are fearful be free from fear, who are grieving be free from grief. May they give gifts with trust, may they always observe the moral principles, may they take delight in developing their minds, at their passing may they become deities
I bind comprehensive protection7 by the power of all the Buddhas, who attained power, of the Isolated Buddhas, and the worthies.
May the gods of the sky and earth and the nagas of great power empathize with the merit and long protect the Teaching. This verse is twice repeated, substituting for gTeachingh first ginstruction,h then gme and others.
Ariyadhamma distributes the merit accruing from the occasion to all participants and their relatives and wishes that all may attain nirvana; all assent with a loud gSa.h
MPc If one habitually makes respectful salutation and always waits on onefs elders, four things increase: onefs length of life, good looks, happiness, and strength.
By this may you successfully achieve long life, health, heaven, and finally nirvana.
The essay in this chapter was taken and adapted from William R. LaFleur, Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 3 .10, 44, 172, 221.23. Copyright c 1992 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press.
Death and Beyond (Japan)
In many Asian cultures in which Buddhism has held sway, it has coexisted and interacted with other religious elements that have played crucial roles in many areas of communal and individual life. However, in practically all such situations, Buddhism has assumed the primary role in matters that concern dying, death, and the fate of the deceased. Even in situations in which Buddhism has not been the primary religious force (for example, in many East Asian contexts), Buddhist communities have often provided the religious officiants.usually monks. who preside over funerary activities. Most important, these Buddhist officiants have mediated the beliefs and practices that enable people to deal with the crises posed by death. These crises include especially the human hopes and fears about what is gbeyondh for the departed and the living alike.
Buddhists over the centuries have developed many different beliefs and practices associated with death and its aftermath. As we have seen in chapter 9, special funerary ceremonies have been deployed for highly respected monks. And different rituals have also been used for older laypeople who die natural deaths on the one hand and for members of the community who die in tragic or violent circumstances on the other.Typically, however, Buddhist funerary practices for lay members tend to deal with the issues of attachment and desire in a much more central way than do funerals for monks, which tend to focus most explicitly on making merit. In general, Buddhists assume that members of the laity are markedly more attached than monks and that the worldly desires of a dying (lay) person do not end with his or her death. Indeed, in the Buddhist perspective, death may be the occasion for such attachments and desires to intensify, thereby causing adverse karmic consequences for the deceased and bringing misfortune on the living. This is one reason why, in some Buddhist cultures, the dying are exhorted to make their last thoughts fall on the life and virtues of the Buddha or on Buddhist exemplars.
In modern Japan, where abortion has become a widespread practice since the end of World War II, a very distinctive pattern of death-related beliefs and practices has emerged. Traditional notions concerning unnatural death have been taken up and adapted in Buddhist contexts, and new rituals have been generated through which guilt and grief can be assuaged. In the following piece, William LaFleur focuses on some of these rituals that, the reader should be aware, have raised a great deal of public controversy among contemporary Japanese, Buddhists and non- Buddhists alike.
MEMORIALIZING ONEfS MIZUKO
William R. LaFleur
The Crowd Out Back
The quiet, hill-nestled, seaside city of Kamakura, only two hours from Tokyo by train, is a natural stop for tourists. It combines beauty with history. During the thirteenth and much of the fourteenth centuries, it served as the de facto headquarters of the Japanese government, precisely at a time when a new wave of Buddhist influence from China was having a profound religious, aesthetic, and architectural impact on Japan. The beautiful temples of Kamakura are well maintained and remarkably intact. They, as well as a number of important Shinto shrines in Kamakura, can be reached on a walking tour.although most tourists nowadays make their visits by piling in and out of buses that make the temple rounds.
Tourists in Kamakura, both Japanese and foreign, are virtually certain
1. Kannon, a figure originally known in India as Avalokitesvara, was initially male. In eastern Asia its iconography underwent a progressive feminization, so that in Japan today many think of it as the Buddhist gGoddessh of mercy. to stop to see what is commonly referred to as the gGreat Buddhah at Kotokuin, a 37.7-foot high cast-iron image of Amida Buddha seated outdoors in a pose of tranquil contemplation. A good number of people are invariably found there.strolling the enclosed plaza to admire the image, squeezing through a narrow door into the interior of the icon for an inside view, and taking snapshots of individuals or groups in front of the very photogenic, always accommodating, giant figure in seated meditation. The Great Buddha of Kamakura is, many would claim, one of the gwondersh of East Asia, and for that reason it is on the itinerary of most Europeans and Americans touring Japan.
Only two blocks away, however, is a Buddhist site that relatively few non-Japanese will include on their guided tours. Having once seen the Great Buddha, you must follow a back street to find it, a temple named Hase-dera. Like much in Kamakura, it has a history reaching back to the medieval period. Japanese with a special interest in medieval history or art go there to see the wooden image of Kannon, the figure who is considered by Buddhists to be a cosmic source of compassion.1 The wooden Kannon at Hase-dera Temple is an image about which a good deal of lore has accumulated over the centuries, much of it of historical interest to some tourists.
If you are not Japanese, you will probably never get beyond the Great Buddha, and in the event you do go down the side street to see Hasedera, you will more than likely return after a quick view of its Kannon. But that is unfortunate because, as a matter of fact, one of the most interesting and revealing scenes in todayfs Japan consists of what is taking place in the cemetery that is gout back,h behind the Kannon of Hasedera. The Buddhist cemetery there stretches in tiers up the slope of the hill behind the temple. And the careful observer will note that it is to that cemetery, not the Kannon image, that the majority of Japanese visitors to Hase-dera now throng. Many of them will spend more time there than anywhere else in Kamakura.in spite of the fact that tour books and guides make only a passing reference to the cemetery. In 1990 one could obtain a small leaflet of information about the Hase-dera in English. Bearing a 1983 date, it tells about the Kannon image, tries to correct the impression.easily gained from the image itself.that Kannon is female, and gives a fair amount of legendary de1 tail about its history. Then, in what is little more than a note appended at the end, there is reference to activities taking place in the templefs cemetery. It reads:
The Kannon is a Buddhist deity whose special task is to help raise healthy children. Many people come and set up small statues, representing their children, so that he can watch over them. More recently, parents have set up statues for miscarried, aborted or dead-born babies, for the Kannon to protect. These are called Mizuko-jizo and in the Hase-dera there are about 50,000 such Jizos. Mothers and fathers often visit the Mizuko-jizo to pray for the souls of the children they have lost.
It is this casual, almost passing, reference to gaborted babiesh that tells why there is a constant stream of people to the cemetery tucked behind a temple that is itself much less well-known than the nearby Great Buddha.
At one time, what was remembered here were mostly miscarried or stillborn infants; now, however, it is certain that the vast majority are the results of intentionally terminated pregnancies. At Hase-dera in 1983 the tally of the miscarried, stillborn, and aborted was already about fifty thousand; since then it has risen much higher. Hase-dera, however, is only one of a growing number of Buddhist temples in Japan that offer such services.
Many of these temples began by offering other kinds of services to their parishioners. In recent years, with the rise in the number of abortions, their priests found that more and more people were looking for some kind of religious service specifically attuned to the needs of parents who had had abortions, such religious service being a rite through which such people obviously seek to assuage the guilt or alleviate the distress they are feeling about abortion. These temples have responded with the provision of mizuko kuyo, the now common name for such rituals, which have recently shown phenomenal numerical growth.
For temples such as Hase-dera, it appears that the provision of rites for aborted fetuses was an additional service that was at least initially subordinate to the more traditional rituals of the temple. In recent years, however, this augmentation has progressively become a major service of the temple, and people come from all over the greater Tokyo metropolitan area to Hase-dera because they feel somehow compelled, rightly or wrongly, to gdo somethingh about the abortions they have had. The mizuko kuyo of Hase-dera meet a certain public demand.
2. Jizo is central to the Japanese Buddhist way of handling the human pain and moral conflicts associated with abortion. A more complete appellation is gJizo Bosatsu,h a phrase meaning gThe Earth Store Bodhisattva,h although many Japanese familiarly refer to him as gJizo-Samah or gMr. Jizo.h He is considered to be a special protector of deceased infants and children and is known, along with Kannon, for demonstrations of compassion and altruistic help to others.
Purple Cloud Temple
There is another kind of temple, however, for which the mizuko kuyo is the original and only reason for the templefs existence. Such temples are relative newcomers to the scene and have been the object of most of the public criticism of mizuko kuyo in Japan. There are some striking differences. Unlike Hase-dera, the place described below began its existence as a memorial park to provide rites almost exclusively for deliberately aborted fetuses. It occupies ground dedicated for that purpose, advertises itself as such in the public media, and provides no other observable public service.
A good example of this kind of institution is a place named Shiun-zan Jizo-ji, on the outskirts of the city of Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture, approximately two hours from Tokyo by train. Its name rendered into English is gThe Temple of Jizo on the Mountain of the Purple Cloud.h2 This institution also has a branch office in the city of Tokyo. The main temple in the Chichibu mountains.here abbreviated to gPurple Cloud Templeh.can best be understood if I describe what I saw on my own visit there.
Although a bus passes by it, the temple is most easily reached from the city of Chichibu by car or taxi.approximately a thirty- or forty-minute drive. There is no mistaking the place once it has been reached. It occupies a sequence of adjacent hillsides, all of which are carefully tiered and set with narrow walking paths and row upon row of nearly identical, small, stone images.statues of Jizo. These are very similar to the ones seen in the cemetery at Hase-dera, except that virtually all those at Purple Cloud Temple are newly chiseled and carefully installed. Their gray granite is still precise in outline and shiny on the surface, not worn down by the elements.that is, they do not have the Buddhist imagefs famed reputation for showing the attractive signs of great age or antiquity.
There is something very striking about the scene.but also perplexing, perhaps even disturbing, to someone who does not know exactly what is going on there. Unlike most Buddhist institutions which have a prominent, architecturally impressive temple building as the center of focus, the gtempleh on this site is a diminutive, modern building and almost insignificant in the midst of the carefully honed hills with their multitude of Jizo images. Inasmuch as the images constitute a gcemetery,h it is clear that here the ordinary pattern for temples has been reversed. That is, although in most Buddhist institutions.Hase-dera, for instance.the temple building itself stands forth prominently and has a cemetery gout back,h Purple Cloud Temple immediately presents itself as in fact a cemetery, and its gtemple,h by contrast, serves much more as a kind of business and promotion office. Although it calls itself a gtemple,h in layout and architecture it is really what the Japanese call a mountain bochi.a cemetery or memorial park.
Also striking to the first-time visitor is the uniformity of the stone Jizo images on this site. Row upon row upon row.they are the same in basic shape. They differ only very slightly in size; most are approximately two feet in height. The stone is cut so as to suggest that each image wears the foot-length robes of a Buddhist monk, who is also tonsured. There is no cut in the stone to suggest even a hint of a hairline or hair; these figures are perfectly bald. Their eyes are almost completely shut, in the manner found in most Buddhist images, a manner that denotes the meditation and tranquility into which the figure has become absorbed. To anyone able to recognize the signs, there can be no doubt that these figures are, at least in some sense, monks who are aspirants to the highest goals of Buddhism. The robes, the tonsure, and the eyes closed in meditation all combine to make this clear.
At the same time, however, something else comes quickly to mind. These are diminutive figures.child-sized. The visage they present, while that of tranquility, could also be seen as one of perfect innocence. And even their lack of hair connotes something of childhood, if not infancy. The statue which on first sight may have suggested a monk now prompts something of a double take; the monk is really a child. More precisely, it is also a child.
The figurefs accoutrements make this certain. Virtually every one of the stone Jizo images wears a large red bib.of the type usually worn by an infant or a young child. Then, as if to push the identification with childhood beyond doubt, Jizo images are frequently provided with toys. Whole rows of them at Purple Cloud Temple are provided with pinwheels, whose brightly colored spokes spin audibly in the wind. But individual statues are given individual toys as well.for instance, the kind of miniature piano a child might play with. For some of the images, sweaters or even more elaborately knitted garments and hats are provided. And, of course, flowers are placed by each one. The double-take effect.seeing in the figures both monk and child simultaneously.is important, because the image is meant to represent two realities at the same time. For the visitor to Purple Cloud Temple who does not understand such things, there is a readily available brochure, which says:
A Jizo image can do double service. On the one hand it can represent the soul of the mizuko [deceased child or fetus] for parents who are doing rites of apology to it. At the same time, however, the Jizo is also the one to whom can bemade an appeal or prayer to guide the child or fetus through the realm of departed souls.
Jizo is quite remarkable in that it is a stand-in for both the dead infant and the savior figure who supposedly takes care of it in its otherworld journey. The double-take effect.one moment a child and the next a Buddhist savior in monkish robes.is intentional. Visits to places such as the temple at Purple Cloud are in no way limited to adults. In fact, one finds there a surprisingly large number of children. They join their mothers.and sometimes fathers or grandmothers. in putting flowers in front of the Jizo images, in washing down the granite stone with water carried over from a nearby faucet, and in saying simple prayers before the sculptured stones. At Purple Cloud Temple there is even a small playground in the middle of the cemetery where children can be seen enjoying themselves.
To note the presence and play of these children is also to call attention to the relatively ghappyh mood in this kind of place. The atmosphere is far from lugubrious. The red-bibbed images on the hills, the gentle whirring sound and bright appearance of the thousands of upright pinwheels, the presence and play of well-dressed children.all these combine to provide a lightness of feeling that would probably be totally unknown, even incongruous, in the cemeteries of Europe and America. In the garb provided for some of the images, in the toys they are given, and in the pins and medallions attached to them there is a playfulness.even a gentle levity. In fact, the notion that Jizo is a savior who very much enjoys playing with children goes back some centuries in Japanfs religious history.
The non-Japanese who might chance to visit such a place would probably at first have their perplexity compounded with the feeling that all of this is a type of religious kitsch or, at least, is rather ginappropriateh for a place dedicated to memorializing the departed dead. An hour spent walking around the stones and carefully observing the Japanese and their activities might, however, bring the visitor to quite different conclusions. especially if the intent of the activities were explained. The sense of kitsch arises because two things are conflated here that we in the West usually want to separate as much as possible.that is, the cemetery and the nursery. But such temples are, after all, cemeteries not for adults but for children.children who, even though dead, are assumed to be, in ways explained below, still galiveh and related to this place.
Consequently, a sense of play is deemed entirely appropriate, as are the toys that make that possible. These cemeteries are the concrete embodiment of human imagination directing its attention to beings who, while no longer in the same world with us as they once were, still are present in our memories and projections. In the minds of most Japanese, the cemetery is the place par excellence that links this world with the gotherh world; it is the mode of contact between the metaphysical and the physical. And when it is the departed children or aborted fetuses that are being remembered, it is the Jizo image and cemeteries such as these that provide such a tangible, empirical contact point with the gotherh world in which they are thought to reside.
Levity, it is worth noting, is not altogether absent from the cemeteries of the West. The inscriptions on occasional tombstones and even the designs of some memorial architecture show that clearly.However, what reinforces the tendency of the Japanese to make their Jizo cemeteries places of lightness and play is the sense that the deceased children gon the other sideh are, if anything, eager to enjoy a few happy moments with the family members who come out from their otherwise busy lives to visit them. The promotional literature provided by the Purple Cloud Temple makes it clear that most of the time spent by such children in the gother worldh is far from happy; since they are quite miserable there, the visit from their families is especially appreciated. Thus, the whole experience is modeled after that of reunion rather than separation and, as such, the proper thing is to demonstrate the joy rather than the sorrow of the occasion. Loving attention to the dead is shown by washing down the memorial image.an ancient Buddhist practice. providing fresh flowers, and bringing the occasional new toy or garment. These activities and the recitation of simple prayers are expected. But beyond these there is the sense of an active communication, emotional if not verbal, between the living family and the departed child. Loving communication is a part of the dynamics involved in the
3. Editorsf note: This paragraph introducing the text of the brochure has been inserted by us.
mizuko kuyo ritual. But other dynamics exist as well.dynamics that can be discerned in the full text of the brochure that is made available at the Purple Cloud Temple. Entitled gThe Way to Memorialize Onefs Mizuko,h the full text reads as follows:3
1. The mizuko resulting from a terminated pregnancy is a child existing in the realm of darkness. The principal things that have to be done for its sake are the making of a full apology and the making of amends to such a child. In contrast to the child in darkness because of an ordinary miscarriage or by natural death after being born, the child here discussed is in its present location because its parents took active steps to prevent it from being born alive in our world. If the parents merely carry out ordinary memorial rites but fail to make a full apology to their child, their mizuko will never be able to accept their act.
Think for a moment how even birds and beasts, when about to be killed, show a good deal of anger and distress. Then how much more must be the shock and hurt felt by a fetus when its parent or parents have decided to abort it? And on top of that it does not even yet have a voice with which to make complaint about what is happening.
It often happens that the living children of persons who have repeatedly had abortions will in the middle of the night cry out: gFather, help!h or gHelp me, Mommy!h because of nightmares. Uncontrollable weeping or cries of gIfm scared! Ifm scared!h on the part of children are really caused by dreams through which their aborted siblings deep in the realm of darkness give expression to their own distress and anger. Persons who are not satisfied with this explanation would do well to have a look at two publications of the Purple Cloud Villa; these are entitled Mizuko Jizo-jifs Collection of the Experiences of Departed Souls and The Medical Dictionary of Life.
2. The next thing to do in remembering the mizuko is to set up an image of Jizo on the Buddhist altar in onefs own home. That will serve as a substitute for a memorial tablet for the mizuko. Such a Jizo can do double service. On the one hand it can represent the soul of the mizuko for parents doing rites of apology to it. Simultaneously, however, the Jizo is the one to whom can be made an appeal in prayer to guide the fetus through the realm of departed souls. Such Jizo images for home use can be obtained from the Purple Cloud Villa but can also be purchased at any shop specializing in Buddhist art and implements. As long as one performs this worship with a pure heart it is bound to have a positive effect.
Some prices follow. Jizo images made of metal are either 3,000 yen for silver ones or 4,000 yen for gold. Add 1,100 yen to the price of either of these if home delivery is desired. These are prices as of September 1984. 3. Inasmuch as the Jizo image on the Buddhist altar also does double duty
4. Editorsf note: The Heart Sutra is a very concise rendition of a Mahayana teaching on Emptiness and the Perfection of Wisdom. Versions of it have been historically significant in many parts of Asia.
as a memorial tablet for a terminated fetus, it is allowable.after asking permission of the Jizo.to give it a place on the altar lower than the memorial tablets for onefs parents and ancestors. Also it does not matter greatly whether it is to the right or the left on the altar. 4. The next thing of importance is to set up a stone Jizo image either in the cemetery of the Mizuko Jizo Temple or at onefs own family temple. Such will serve as substitute for a grave-stone for the aborted child and will constitute an eternal, ongoing ritual of apology and remembrance. Such action will undoubtedly have a good effect.a fact shown in things published in our monthly periodical gThe Purple Cloud.h The expenses involved in setting up a stone Jizo Buddha at our place are fully detailed in our publication gConcerning the 10,000 Jizos.
If requested, we will be pleased to send it. 5. The following pertains to the number of images needed if a person is the parent of more than one mizuko. One of each on the home altar and in the cemeterywill suffice if all the mizuko were produced by a single couple. whether married or not. If, however, the father of a later mizuko was different than an earlier one.and, of course, also had a different family registry. separate Jizo images will be required. An exception to this could be made if a woman were to discuss this candidly with her second husband and get his permission. Then it would be just as in the case of a woman bringing along into her second marriage the children begotten in an earlier one. In such as case if she requests that the deceased ancestors understand the situation, it is allowable for all her mizukos to be collectively remembered with a single image.
6. When at your home altar you are giving a daily portion of rice and water offering to your deceased ancestors be sure to include the mizuko too. and let them know of their inclusion. Also pray for the well-being of your mizuko in the other world.Dothis by standing before the Buddhas there and reciting either the Heart Sutra4 or the Psalm to Jizo used at the Jizo cemetery in Chichibu. In addition to that, if as an ongoing remembrance of your mizuko you write out in longhand a copy of the Heart Sutra once a day, you will at some point along the way receive the assurance that your child has most certainly reached Buddhahood.
Until you receive such an assurance you should continue to perform these rites of apology and remembrance. 7. To make amends for the fact that you never had to pay anything for the upbringing and education of a mizuko you should give to the Buddha every day an offering of 100 yen for each of your mizuko. However, if you have had as many as ten terminated pregnancies, there may be hardship in laying out 1,000 yen every day; in such cases it is permissible to give only 300 or 500 yen.or even to give more or less depending on onefs income. This is an expression of apology to the child for not having given it a loveDEATH
filled upbringing. Therefore, you should put your love into these acts of remembrance, not being stingy with your time and resources. Once you get into the habit of thinking how much easier it would be simply to make a 10,000 yen contribution once a month, you are missing the whole point. It is far better to put a daily offering on the altar table every day and then on a special, designated day pay a visit to the Jizo Temple at Chichibu and make a contribution to the temple. Alternatively, you could do it while making the 88-temple pilgrimage on the island of Shikoku or the pilgrimage to the 100 Kannon sites in western Japan.
8. When a person has awakened to the value and importance of remembering mizuko, one gains a much deeper faith and makes efforts to live as a bodhisattva, setting onefs mind to performing at least one act of goodness each day. Also vowing to go on pilgrimage to Shikoku or the Kannon sites is an excellent way to be total and thoroughgoing in onefs act of apologizing to and remembering the mizuko. It is important to be of a mind to do more than enough; to be of the opinion that one has already done plenty is just the kind of attitude that evokes a bad effect. 9. Children that are miscarried, born dead, or die shortly after being born differ, of course, from those whose lives are cut short by being terminated by their parents. Nevertheless, they too are mizuko and, when one gives consideration to his or her responsibility for the fact that these too did not enter life successfully, it would seem good to provide them too with mizuko rites as one would in the case of aborted fetuses.
10. Households whose members think about the seriousness of karmic laws related to abortion are also households which can take advantage of such occasions in order to deepen the faith of those within them. By continuing to perform adequate rites of apology and memorial, such persons later are blessed with the birth of fine, healthy children. Or, as an extension of good fortune, there are many instances of people really thriving. Some persons find that their own severe heart diseases are cured or that the rebelliousness of children or neuroses go away. When on top of all that there is increased prosperity in the family business, there is good cause for lots of happiness.
Why not find out more about this by simply paying a visit to the Jizo Temple in Chichibu?
This brochure makes no mention of the extenuating circumstances of life that may have necessitated the abortion. It makes no attempt to present any sympathy for the plight of parents. Instead all the emphasis is on the fact that those parents have willfully sent such a child into the nether realm where it now languishes. The text simply assumes that the fetus, at no matter what stage it was aborted, had sufficient presence of mind to feel anger at its parents and somehownowhas the full consciousness of a child able to comprehend and even mull over such things.to
5. Editorsf note: This final paragraph is a concise restatement by us of points made in a more extended way by the original author.
the point of feeling resentment. Also the text makes much of the fact that what occurred in the act of abortion is unnatural. Great stress is placed on that.
This is so because it taps into one of the oldest patterns of Japanese cultural life. Rich documentation, from historical and literary sources, as well as from the notes of anthropologists and sociologists working in Japan, gives abundant evidence that the concept and cultural role of tatari (the exacting of revenge or a penalty by a god, spirit, or deceased person who has been wronged by living humans) is old and probably antedates all the written records we have. What such materials suggest. and the point of special importance here.is that from early times in Japanese culture there was a deep sense that persons who had died gunnaturalh deaths were virtually certain to feel tremendous resentment vis-a-vis the living and would, unless somehow pacified, wreak havoc on the living.
The mizuko-related activities that the brochure recommends are obviously designed to placate, through remembrance and apology, the presumed resentment of the aborted child and the danger of retribution that it poses. But it is also clear that the activities recommended by the brochure are designed to achieve this first purpose in ways that will at the same time deepen the Buddhist commitment of the parents and siblings, improve their lives, and encourage their practice of the bodhisattva path.
Buddhism in the West
The essay in this chapter was taken from Philip Kapleau, Zen: Dawn in the West (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1979), 171.83. Copyright c 1979 by Zen Center, Inc. Used by permission of Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
An American Example
It is perhaps most appropriate to end this collection by focusing on a theme that has been implicitly embedded in the preceding essays. This theme.a perennial one from early in the history of Buddhism. is the transmission of Buddhist traditions to new lands and peoples. Indeed, the preservation and spread of Buddhism has largely depended upon the degree to which it has been adapted artistically, conceptually, and ritually to new cultural and social contexts. A concluding point that we wish to make, then, is a basic but fundamental one: To understand why Buddhism has a glifeh at all, we must consider and reflect seriously on the fact that many Buddhists.monks, nuns, and laypeople alike.have been deeply committed to preserving the integrity of their vision of the Buddhist dharma, while making it accessible and accountable to a community with its own distinctive (and often contrary) cultural sensibilities.
For instance, early and medieval Chinese Buddhism was involved in a great deal of controversy surrounding the ethos of the monastic life itself. Many Chinese who opposed Buddhism contended that Buddhist renunciation was a foreign tradition that eroded the traditional Chinese family by trivializing or negating any concern for filial piety. Against this accusation, Chinese Buddhist monks and apologists advanced the argu210
1. Unfortunately, good scholarly discussions of immigrant Buddhist communities in the West are few and far between. Perhaps the best book presently available is Paul David Numrich, Old Wisdom in the New World: Americanization in Two Immigrant Theravada Buddhist Temples (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996). ment that renunciation was actually the highest and best form of filial piety: Despite the fact that renunication removed the son or daughter from certain familial obligations, it provided an opportunity for the monk or nun to generate a great deal of merit and to dedicate that merit to the ultimate well-being of his or her parents. Clearly, these apologists sought to sustain their vision of Buddhism while at the same time making Buddhist traditions accessible and accountable in the new Chinese context.
Let us consider an example historically and culturally less distant than the early and medieval Chinese one: the transmission of Buddhist traditions to the West over the past century or two. While radically different in time and place from the transmission of Buddhism to early and medieval China, this transmission to the contemporary West has been equally complicated and problematic. The process has involved communities of people from many Asian nations who have brought with them their Buddhist traditions and practices.1 And it has also involved the gconversionh of many Western natives. Both the immigrants and the converts have had to contend with the problems that English and other Western languages have posed for doctrinal and textual transmission. Further, issues associated with the Enlightenment and modernity, which have challenged Buddhism in many Asian lands, have also conditioned the expansion and appeal of Buddhism in the West.
The following excerpt, which is much more confessional and apologetic than any of our previous selections, represents one moment in the expansion of Buddhism to a native Western population, more specifically, to one in theUnited States.Written by a very influential convert to Buddhism who founded the Rochester Zen Center in New York State, this presentation of Zen chanting seeks to transmit the authorfs vision of the dharma in a form that preserves its religious integrity yet remains both palatable and accountable in the American cultural setting. Obviously, the authorfs tradition and approach varies from those of other Buddhists, but he provides explicit insight into some of the complexities and problems that arise when transmitting, transforming, and yet preserving the Buddhist tradition to which he is committed. His essay highlights crucial processes in which many other Buddhists have also engaged: making certain religious claims and arguments, searching for
2. Editorsf note: Zazen is a form of meditation that is an important practice in many Zen traditions.
3. Editorsf note: Bodhidharma (ca. 480 .520) is considered the founder of the Zen tradition.
evidence from the tradition, and, most important, engaging in active and creative communication with others.
TRANSMITTING THE DHARMA
There are many who, having been exposed to Zen only through academia, find themselves after entering a Zen center gaping in confusion at the buddha and bodhisattva figures, the chanting and the rituals. Zazen, yes, they tell themselves, that is to be expected.but this?2 Yet the twenty-five-hundred-year-old living and growing discipline called Zen Buddhism is a full-bodied spiritual tradition in which such devotions play a vital role. Indeed, it is artificial to speak of Zen devotions as separate from zazen. Bowing with hands together upon entering and leaving the zendo (the place where Zen practice is carried on), doing prostrations before buddhas and bodhisattvas and making offerings to them, taking part in regular confession and repentance ceremonies.these acts when performed no-mindedly refine the emotions and purify the mind, gradually softening the sharp corners and rigid outlines of the personality. And because they all serve to gpruneh the ego-I, they hasten awakening. Sincere devotional practices also help to liberate our inherent compassion so that it may work freely in everyday life.
Ceremonies performed for centuries in traditional Buddhist countries have now taken root on American soil. At the Zen Center these observances have been adapted to our Western culture through a process of natural evolution. In addition to rites of passage.funerals, weddings, and ordinations.the calendar of ceremonies includes the Buddhafs birthday, death day, and day of enlightenment; Bodhidharmafs death day;3 Founderfs Day; New Yearfs Day; and, each month, a confessionrepentance ceremony and a ceremony dedicated to the aid of starving people throughout the world. Equally significant are the celebrations held each year at Thanksgiving.celebrations that, because they are a deep expression of gratitude, fit ideally into Zen devotions and add substance to a home-grown American Buddhist holiday.
At a time when many followers of traditional Western religions appear to have no significant understanding of or relationship to rites and ceremonies, it is well to remember that formality need not be an empty shell. For where gratitude, reverence, and other genuine spiritual feelings are present they can be deepened and made more significant when expressed through a formal pattern, just as movement can be made more meaningful when turned into dance, or sound into music. No element of Zen devotions occupies a more central role than chanting. There is hardly a Zen temple or center where men and women do not assemble in the main hall at least once a day and chant sutras and the words of the masters who have realized the highest truth.
Chanting forms the focal ground on which every ritual, ceremony, and rite of passage is performed, setting a tone through which participants acquire a heightened awareness of and receptivity to what is being enacted. Each day at dawn the thunderous beat of the large standing drum breaks the zazen silence to signal sitters to file into the main zendo for chanting. After this initial, booming call, the drum player sweeps his wooden sticks over the brass beads along the drumfs rim, producing a deep, rushing sound. Then the sharp strikes to the wooden rim itself. gclackety clack, clackety clackh.building in tempo before leading into a final rhythm on the face of the drum.
After the drum ends, with no gap the large keisu (pronounced gkaysuh), or bowl-shaped gong, is struck, its deep resonance filling the zendo. The keisu player sits poised before it, deftly holding a large padded cylindrical striker in both hands to intone the introductions to the different chants and to punctuate the chanting after all have joined in. He gdropsh the heavy striker onto the rim of the gong, aware that contact which is either too hard or too soft, or aimed at either the incorrect angle or the wrong point on the keisu, will fail to release the full and rich body of tones coiled within the instrument. In Zen it is said, gDonft strike the instrument; let it be struck.
After each chant has been introduced, the wooden-fish drum comes in. It begins slowly, gthump . . . thump . . . thump,h gradually building in speed, like a departing train, as the individual voices blend into a single sonorous drone. As with the keisu, the drum player with his padded stick does not gbeath the instrument but rather, by handling the striker lightly, simply guides it, with the effect that the instrument in a sense gplays itself.h The sound of this fish-shaped, hollowed-out drum is deep enough to ride underneath the vocal chanting, thus setting a cadence that can be followed by all.
A chanting service blends a wide range of diverse elements. The strong, clear voice of the lead chanter is heard alone to introduce the chants, evoking a response in the full gchorush of between fifty and three hundred chanters. The pulselike throb of the wooden drum offers a counterpoint to the vibrant ring of the bowl-gong even as they mesh to contrast and harmonize with the drone of chanting. During chanting the whole body is relaxed. The energy for the chanting comes from the lower belly with the sound resonating in the head cavities. In Zen there is no swaying or rocking during the chanting; it is carried on in an erect and stable posture with the hands in the lap.
Each chanter takes his or her own lowest natural pitch.a note in the lowest part of onefs range that can be maintained easily without strain. while at the same time blending in with the dominant pitch to form a harmonious unity. The particular words of the chants emerge from onefs basic pitch; thus the words flow together into a drone issuing from the hara (the lower abdomen). The pitch does not rise and fall in a singsongy way. Zen chanting is a unique way of engaging the deepest level of mind. It circumvents the intellect to awaken understanding and energetically expresses feeling without emotionality.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of chants: sutras and dharani. In the category of sutras, which are the purported words of the Buddha, may be included the words of the masters. T
he advantage of chanting these in onefs own language is that when repeated regularly the truth of the words is hammered home to the subconscious mind, thereby instilling greater understanding and faith. No conscious effort need be made to grasp the meaning, for it is absorbed spontaneously, unchecked by the rational mind. The mind state created by the chanting.involvement to the point of self-transcendence.is of primary importance. A dharani is an extended mantra, a rhythmic sequence of sounds that expresses, through its unique spiritual vibrations, the essential truth transcending all duality. The power of such a formula to evoke unseen forces when chanted wholeheartedly depends to an extent on the sound itself, but even more on the mind state of the chanter. Thus a dharani will carry greater potency when uttered by one pure in faith, concentrated in mind, and responsive in heart. The structure of a dharani is not insignificant; it must be rhythmic, melodious, and the outgrowth of genuine religious experience. Since no one yet has managed the difficult task of making suitable English chanting versions of them, no mantra or dharani is presented here except for the mantra at the end of the Heart of Perfect Wisdom sutra.
4. Editorsf note: Samadhi is a state of intense meditative concentration that is an essential component in many forms of Buddhist meditation. Chanting must be distinguished from reciting. The latter may be nothing more than repetition of an account or passage. Chanting, however, is generated deep in the belly, and when performed egolessly has the power to penetrate visible and invisible worlds. Mind is unlimited; energetic chanting done with a pure mind, with single-minded involvement, is another form of zazen, another mode of learning the buddha-truth in a direct, nonconceptual way. Performed in this manner, chanting is also a means of strengthening samadhi power and of helping to bring about awakening.4
At the Rochester Zen Center most of the chants are in English; the most well-known are The Four Bodhisattvic Vows, Heart of Perfect Wisdom, Chant in Praise of Zazen, and Affirming Faith in Mind. These chants are set forth to open this section on devotions. While there are other English translations of these works, what distinguishes those that appear here is that they were adapted specifically for chanting, rendered with an ear for euphony and cadence.
The Four Bodhisattvic Vows
The Four Great Vows of a bodhisattva comprise the most widely recited chant in Mahayana Buddhism:
All beings, without number, I vow to liberate.
Endless blind passions I vow to uproot.
Dharma gates, beyond measure, I vow to penetrate. The Great Way of Buddha I vow to attain.
The content of these chanted vows commonly poses difficulties forWestern students, who over the years have expressed two main objections. Students of Christian background complain that, having left Christianity and its missionary spirit, the last thing they want in Zen is more of what they misconstrue in the first of the Four Vows as gsaving.h Others ask, gHow can I vow to liberate all beings when I havenft yet liberated myself ? And if I do liberate myself, how would it be possible to liberate all other beings?h One serious aspirant put it this way in a letter: gWhat troubles me about the Four Vows is that I cannot honestly commit myself to them. To myself I have to add, eas far as the limitations and weaknesses within me permit,f which destroys the value of saying the
Four Vows. I would like to be able to affirm these vows, but in all sincerity I cannot.
The problem behind both of these objections is that of seeing the Four Vows as an external formula that must be learned and somehow, against all odds and reason, lived up to. In the first of the Four Vows, that which is traditionally translated gto saveh is chanted as gto liberateh at the Rochester Center. This difference of expression avoids the moralistic and un-Buddhistic implication of redemption from sin, and more truly reflects the spirit of the original. Understood correctly, this vow is a statement of the purpose and scope of onefs practice, an affirmation that onefs zazen is not for oneself alone but for all humanity. The remaining three vows outline the mind state by which one is empowered to aid the numberless beings through countless realms.
The expression gall beingsh is not hyperbole. Zen awakening reveals unmistakably that all is one.oneself.and that oneself is all. Whatever happens to any one being inevitably affects every other being. Thus when one awakens, everything is charged with the same awakening. This was affirmed by Zen master Dogen (1200 .1253) when he said: gWithout enlightening others there is no self-enlightenment.
In Zen a bodhisattva is anyone who has vowed, out of his great compassion, not to enter nirvana until all beings have entered.that is to say, he naturally puts the welfare of others before his own. He does continue to develop himself, however, for no one who needs help himself can truly help another. The vow stresses that having dedicated himself to those in need, he will not turn back.
The bodhisattvic vows, then, are far more than mere positive thinking. In the same sense that the peach stone vows to become a peach, the acorn an oak, the infant a man, the man a buddha, the Four Vows are a reaffirmation of our innate vow to become what we intrinsically are. whole and complete. Seen in this light they are nothing less than a call to Self-awakening, to Self-liberation.
Heart of Perfect Wisdom
The Heart of Perfect Wisdom, chanted daily in Buddhist monasteries and centers throughout the world, is considered the most potent for piercing the delusive mind. It is the kernel, or core, of the Buddhafs teaching, the condensed message of the wisdom sutras he gave over the course of twenty-two years. Also referred to as the Heart sutra, it is to be grasped not through the intellect but with the heart.that is,
5. Editorsf note: Prajna wisdom refers to the highest form of wisdom that constitutes the content of enlightenment as understood in the Zen tradition. through onefs own deepest intuitive experience. Thus gperfect wisdomh here means transcendental wisdom, as well as the path leading to the attainment of this wisdom and the text of the teaching conducive to its realization.
In the Heart sutra the Buddha is speaking to Sariputra, a chief disciple noted for his wisdom. The Buddha recounts how the Bodhisattva of Compassion realized through deep samadhi that the human personality is merely the product of five skandhas (literally gaggregatesh).form, feeling, perception, tendencies, and consciousness.that are fundamentally empty of real substance. The Buddha then discloses the illusory nature of the eighteen realms of sense, made up of the six sense organs, the corresponding six types of sense data, and the six acts of sensing; the twelve links in the chain of causation; the Four Noble Truths; and even the dualistic conception of nirvana and samsara. The Sanskrit mantra at the end of the sutra may be rendered into English as follows:
It is difficult to translate the word svaha exactly; it is a word of exultation, meaning ghail.h
The Sanskrit mantra at the end is pronounced:
Pah-rah som gd-tay
[An upside-down e, d, is pronounced like the u in fun.] Heart of Perfect Wisdom
The Bodhisattva of Compassion
from the depths of prajna wisdom5
saw the emptiness of all five skandhas and sundered the bonds
that cause him suffering.
6. Here refers to the level of transcendental wisdom. 7. Editorsf note: Dharmas refer to the constituent elements into which all reality can be analyzed.
Form here is only emptiness,6
emptiness only form.
Form is no other than emptiness,
emptiness no other than form.
Feeling, thought, and choice,
are the same as this.
Dharmas here are empty,7
all are the primal void.
None are born or die.
Nor are they stained or pure,
nor do they wax or wane.
So in emptiness no form,
no feeling, thought or choice
nor is there consciousness.
No eye, ear, nose,
tongue, body, mind;
no color, sound, smell,
taste, touch, or what
the mind takes hold of,
nor even act of sensing.
No ignorance nor end of it
nor all that comes of ignorance:
no withering, no death,
no end of them.
Nor is there pain or cause of pain
or cease in pain or noble path
to lead from pain,
not even wisdom to attain,
attainment too is emptiness.
So know that the bodhisattva
holding to nothing whatever
but dwelling in prajna wisdom
is freed of delusive hindrance,
rid of the fear bred by it,
and reaches clearest nirvana.
8. Editorsf note: Prajna Paramita is usually translated as gperfection of wisdom.h 9. Editorsf note: A koan is a kind of riddle developed and used in the Zen tradition to vex the rational mind and to evoke amental breakthrough along the path to enlightenment. 10. gAdulterated mass-appeal Zenh refers to the practice of combining the koan with the reciting of the Pure Land formula, or nembutsu: gI put my trust in the Buddha Amida.h All buddhas of past and present,
buddhas of future time
through faith in prajna wisdom
come to full enlightenment.
Know, then, the great dharani
the radiant, peerless mantra,
the supreme, unfailing mantra,
the Prajna Paramita,8
whose words allay all pain.
This is the highest wisdom
true beyond all doubt,
know and proclaim its truth:
para sam gate
Heart of perfect wisdom.
Master Hakuinfs Chant in Praise of Zazen
One of the great lights of Japanese Buddhism is Zen master Hakuin (1686 .1769). Although his teaching stands in the tradition of the old masters of China, he effectively adapted it to Japanese culture, creating a living Zen that was accessible to laymen even while it was rooted in the pure heritage of his own monastic orientation. Hakuin is perhaps best known for his revitalization of the koan system and for the koan he himself devised, still widely used in training: gWhat is the Sound of One Hand?h9
Even in his own day Hakuin was widely respected and beloved, especially by the common people, whose lot in the feudal society of his day was a bitter one. They came to him in great numbers seeking relief from their heavy burdens of poverty and oppression.
High government officials also received his teaching, and in his bold and colorful replies to letters from them we find him inveighing against proponents of an adulterated mass-appeal Zen10 and gdead sitting and silent illumination.h
Hakuinfs chief concern, naturally, was the training of his monks and disciples and the development of qualified successors. He himself says in one of his letters that he seldom had less than five hundred monks and laymen training under him.
A man of extraordinary versatility and inexhaustible energy, Hakuin was not only a vivid and powerful writer, he was also a respected painter and calligrapher and an accomplished poet and sculptor. Brilliant Zen master, Renaissance man.this is the author of the gChant in Praise of Zazen,h still regularly intoned in Zen temples in Japan, at the Zen Center in Rochester, and elsewhere. Perhaps nowhere else is there to be found so spirited and eloquent a testimony to the power of zazen. Zen Master Hakuinfs Chant in Praise of Zazen
From the beginning all beings are buddha.
Like water and ice,
without water no ice,
outside us no buddhas.
How near the truth
yet how far we seek,
like one in water crying gI thirst!h
Like the son of a rich man wandfring poor on this earth, we endlessly circle the six worlds.
The cause of our sorrow is ego delusion.
From dark path to dark path wefve wandered in darkness. how can we be free from the wheel of samsara?
The gateway to freedom is zazen samadhi;
beyond exaltation, beyond all our praises,
the pure Mahayana.
Observing the precepts, repentance, and giving, the countless good deeds, and the way of right living all come from zazen.
Thus one true samadhi extinguishes evils;
it purifies karma, dissolves obstructions.
Then where are the dark paths to lead us astray? The pure lotus land is not far away.
Hearing this truth, heart humble and grateful,
to praise and embrace it, to practice its wisdom, brings unending blessings, brings mountains of merit. And if we turn inward and prove our True-nature. that True-self is no-self,
our own Self is no-self.
we go beyond ego and past clever words.
Then the gate to the oneness of cause-and-effect 220 BUDDHISM IN THE WEST
is thrown open.
Not two and not three, straight ahead runs the Way. Our form now being no-form,
in going and returning we never leave home.
Our thought now being no-thought,
our dancing and songs are the voice of the dharma. How vast is the heaven of boundless samadhi!
How bright and transparent the moonlight of wisdom! What is there outside us,
what is there we lack?
Nirvana is openly shown to our eyes.
This earth where we stand is the Pure Lotus Land, and this very body the body of buddha.
Cabezon, Jose Ignacio, ed. Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992. A collection of essays critically addressing issues of sexuality and gender as they relate to Buddhist history, culture, texts, and symbols.
Kitagawa, Joseph M., and Mark D. Cummings, eds. Buddhism and Asian History. New York: Macmillan, 1989. A collection of essays on Buddhist history and culture. Of particular importance are the first two essays of the collection, both by Frank Reynolds and Charles Hallisey. One essay, gBuddhist Religion, Culture, and Civilization,h offers a useful threefold periodization of Buddhist history: Buddhism as a sectarian religion, Buddhism as a civilizational religion, and Buddhism as a cultural religion. The other essay, entitled gThe Buddha,h discusses various conceptions and representations of the Buddha, Buddhas, and Buddhahood. All of the essays in Buddhism and Asian History are also available in Mircea Eliade, ed. The Encyclopedia of Religion. New York: Macmillan, 1987.
Robinson, Richard H., andWillard L. Johnson. The Buddhist Religion. 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1996. A useful historical introduction. Strong, John S., ed. The Experience of Buddhism: Sources and Interpretations. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1995. An anthology of textual materials that innovatively integrates a large number of Buddhist historical and cultural developments. Strongfs selections cover such areas as myth, history, doctrine, daily practices, notions of community, and religious experience. Other Important Secondary Sources
Bantly, Francisca Cho. Embracing Illusion: Truth and Fiction in the Dream of the Nine Clouds. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996. A study
of a Korean novel that deals creatively with Buddhist notions of reality and illusion.
Bartholomeusz, Tessa J.Women under the Bo Tree. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Discusses aspects of the history and identity of Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka.
Collins, Steven. Selfless Persons: Imagery and Thought in Theravada Buddhism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982. A systematic exploration of the doctrine of gnot-self h (anatta), and of the related issues of personality and continuity, as found in the Theravada tradition. .... Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. An important study that investigates the nature and meaning of nirvana and other good things in what the author identifies as the Pali imaginaire.
Dobbins, James C. Jodo Shinshu. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989. Studies dimensions of the history and development of Pure Land Buddhism in medieval Japan.
Faure, Bernard. The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991. Explores the dynamics of the Chfan tradition with a special focus on the relation between its rhetoric and practice.
.... Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996. An investigation of the thought world. the gimaginaireh. of the medieval Japanese Soto Zen master Keizan Jokin (1268 .1325).
Goldstein, Melvyn C., and Matthew T. Kapstein, eds. Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival and Cultural Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. A series of essays that explore certain dimensions of the Buddhist revival in Tibet following the imposition of Chinese rule and the destruction suffered during the Cultural Revolution. Gombrich, Richard F. Theravada Buddhism. London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1988. An introductory text tracing the social history of Buddhism in India and Sri Lanka.
Gross, Rita M. Buddhism after Patriarchy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993. A discussion that proposes a feminist history, analysis, and reconstruction of Buddhism.
Holt, John Clifford. Buddha in the Crown. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. A study and analysis of the transitions and transformations of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in the Buddhist traditions of Sri Lanka. .... The Religious World of Kirti Sri. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Examines the role of paradigmatic discourses, art, and gvisual liturgyh in the religio-political activity of an important eighteenth-century Sri Lankan king.
Kasulis, T. P. Zen Action, Zen Person. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1981. An accessible introduction to Zen Buddhism. Ketelaar, James Edward. Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990. Investigates dimensions of the religiopolitical persecution of Buddhism in Japan during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Kieschnick, John. The Eminent Monk. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997. A discussion of monastic behavioral norms present in medieval Chinese Buddhist hagiography.
Klein, Anne C. Meeting the Great Bliss Queen. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. A cross-cultural exploration focusing on Buddhist and feminist notions of the self.
LaFleur,William R. The Karma ofWords. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983. Analyzes the interaction between Buddhism and the literary arts in medieval Japan. In the process, LaFleur develops an interpretation of what he calls the medieval Japanese gepisteme.h Lopez, Donald S., ed. Curators of the Buddha: The Study of Buddhism under Colonialism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. A collection of essays offering critical approaches to the cultural history of Buddhist studies in the West.
.... Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and theWest. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. Interrogates constructions of Tibetan Buddhist culture and identity that have emerged during the course of interactions with the West.
Malandra, Geri H.Unfolding a Mandala: The Buddhist Cave Temples at Ellora. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993. A study of architectural and iconographic elements that developed roughly between the early seventh and early eighth centuries at an important site in western India. Numrich, Paul David. Old Wisdom in the New World: Americanization in Two Immigrant Theravada Buddhist Temples. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996. A sociological analysis identifying and analyzing important problems and possibilities associated with the growth of Theravada Buddhist communities in the United States.
Orzech, Charles D. Politics and Transcendent Wisdom: The Scripture for Humane Kings in the Creation of Chinese Buddhism. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998. A critical examination of the relations among religion, politics, and cosmology in the period from the fifth to the eighth centuries in China.
Ray, Reginald A. Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Probes certain images and functions of forest saints and their traditions in the development of the Buddhist community in India.
Schopen, Gregory. Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997. A collection of essays highlighting the importance of material remains for any attempt to reconstruct the history and culture of Buddhism in South Asia.
Streng, Frederick J. Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1967. An exploration of the concept of emptiness as it was employed by the Mahayana Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna (second century c.e.). The author uses Nagarjunafs notion of emptiness to problematize and offer a perspective on the relationship between religious awareness and conceptual or symbolic expression.
Strong, John S. The Legend and Cult of Upagupta. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992. A work that draws on historical, ethnographic, and literary sources dealing with the Buddhist saint Upagupta to survey the presence and life of a Sanskrit tradition in South and Southeast Asia. Swearer, Donald K. The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995. An introduction to cultural and social dimensions of Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia. The authorfs survey gives particular attention to the structure and dynamics of popular religion, of political legitimation and integration, and of urbanization and modernization.
Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja. The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984. An examination of the cultural and social dynamics relating to the forest saint tradition as it is found in parts of South and Southeast Asia (especially Thailand). Teiser, Stephen F. The Ghost Festival in Medieval China. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. Explores cultural values and orientations in a widespread Buddhist ritual practice in medieval China.
.... The Scripture of the Ten Kings. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994. A study of the production and life of a noncanonical text that highlights medieval Chinese Buddhist attitudes and practices concerning purgatory.
Trainor, Kevin. Relics, Ritual, and Representation in Buddhism: Rematerializing the Sri Lankan Theravada Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. A practice-oriented historical study that explores the relation between relic veneration and the gpresenceh of the Buddha. Williams, Paul. Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. London: Routledge, 1989. Examines doctrinal features of the Mahayana tradition associated with the themes of wisdom and compassion. Wilson, Liz. Charming Cadavers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. Analyzes South Asian Buddhist stories that tell how monks eradicated desire through encounters with disfigured female bodies. Introductions to and Translations of Primary Sources Carter, John Ross, and Mahinda Palihawadana. The Dhammapada. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, paperback edition. An important Pali text and its commentary.
Cone, Margaret, and Richard F. Gombrich. The Perfect Generosity of Prince Vessantara: A Buddhist Epic. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977. The story of the Buddhafs penultimate birth as it is preserved in the Pali Theravada tradition. Crosby, Kate, and Andrew Skilton. The Bodhicaryavatara. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. A work by the seventh- to eighth-century Buddhist poet-scholastic Santideva focusing on the nature and meaning of the bodhisattva and the bodhisattva path.
Garfield, Jay L. The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. A translation of and commentary on a Tibetan version of a highly influential work written by the Mahayana Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna (second century c.e.).
Gomez, Luis O. The Land of Bliss: The Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless
Light. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996. Sanskrit and Chinese versions of the shorter and longer Sukhavativyuha Sutras, which are sacred texts of the Mahayana tradition.
Hakeda, Yoshito S. Kukai: Major Works. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972. Eight major works of an important Japanese Buddhist monk who lived during the eighth and ninth centuries. Khoroche, Peter. Once the Buddha Was a Monkey. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989. The Jatakamala, a Sanskrit telling of previous lives of the Gautama Buddha.
Leighton, Taigan Daniel, and Shohaku Okumura. Dogenfs Pure Standards for the Zen Community. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996. Treatises on monastic life and practice written by the Japanese Zen master Dogen (1200 .1253).
Lhalungpa, Lobsang P. The Life of Milarepa. New York: Viking Penguin Books, 1992. The biography of a popular Tibetan Buddhist saint who lived during the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
Lopez, Donald S., ed. Buddhism in Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995. A large selection of translated texts representing a cross-section of practices from several Buddhist contexts.
Obeyesekere, Rajini. Jewels of the Doctrine: Stories of the Saddharma Ratnavaliya. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991. Fifteen stories from a Sinhala work written in the thirteenth century by a Sri Lankan monk. Olson, Grant A. Buddhadhamma: Natural Laws and Values for Life. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995. A rendition of central teachings in the Pali canon written by the contemporary Thai monk Prayudh Payutto. Reynolds, Frank E., and Mani B. Reynolds. Three Worlds according to King Ruang. Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1982. A royal text from Thailand that focuses on cosmology.
Strong, John S. The Legend of King Asoka. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. A study and translation of the Asokavadana, a second-century Buddhist narrative from northwest India that records a version of the life and religious activities of King Asoka.
Thurman, Robert A. F. The Tibetan Book of the Dead. New York: Bantam Books, 1993. A manual for negotiating the travails of dying, death, and transmigration.
Tsai, Kathryn Ann. Lives of the Nuns. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994. A collection of biographies of Chinese Buddhist nuns from the fourth to sixth centuries.
Watson, Burton. The Lotus Sutra. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. A Mahayana text that has played a prominent role in East Asian Buddhist history and culture.
.... The Vimalakirti Sutra. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. A popular Mahayana text, especially in East Asian traditions, that deals with the activities of a lay exemplar.
Yampolsky, Philip. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. New York: Columbia University Press, 1967. A text that claims to be the teachings of Hui-neng, an important figure in the Chinese Chfan and Japanese Zen traditions.
Robert E. Buswell is professor of East Asian languages and cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles. His contributions to Buddhist studies include Paths to Liberation: The Marga and its Transformations in Buddhist Thought, coedited with Robert M. Gimello (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1992).
Jason A. Carbine is an advanced graduate student in the history of religions program at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His contributions to Buddhist studies include gDiscord and Concord in Buddhist Perspective,h coauthored with Robert A. Yelle and Frank E. Reynolds in Joseph B. Gittler, ed., Ideas of Concord and Discord in Selected World Religions (Stamford, CT: JAI Press, expected 2000).
Rebecca Redwood French is associate professor of law at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her contributions to Buddhist studies include The Golden Yoke: The Legal Cosmology of Buddhist Tibet (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995).
Richard Gombrich is professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University. His contributions to Buddhist studies include The Perfect Generosity of Prince Vessantara: A Buddhist Epic, translated with Margaret Cone (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977).
Hanna Havnevik is associate professor of history of religion in the Department of Culture Studies, University of Oslo. Her contributions to Buddhist studies include Tibetan Buddhist Nuns: History, Cultural Norms, and Social Reality (Oslo: Norwegian University Press, 1989).
Philip Kapleau is now retired and living at the Rochester Zen Center in New York. His contributions to Buddhist studies include The Three Pillars of Zen, which has been published in a number of editions.
Hiroko Kawanami is lecturer in religious studies at Lancaster University. Her contributions to Buddhist studies include a work in progress,Worldly Sanctity: The Life of Burmese Buddhist Nuns.
Charles F. Keyes is professor of anthropology at the University of Washington. His contributions to Buddhist studies include Thailand: Buddhist Kingdom as Modern Nation-State (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1987). William R. LaFleur is professor of Japanese studies in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His contributions to Buddhist studies include The Karma of Words: Buddhism and the Literary Arts in Medieval Japan (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983).
James Bissett Pratt (d. 1944) taught atWilliams College, where he became professor of intellectual and moral philosophy. The Pilgrimage of Buddhism and a Buddhist Pilgrimage (New York: Macmillan, 1928) constitutes his major contribution to Buddhist studies.
Frank E. Reynolds is professor of history of religions and Buddhist studies at the University of Chicago. His contributions to Buddhist studies include Three Worlds According to King Ruang: A Thai Buddhist Cosmology, cotranslated with Mani Reynolds (Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1982). Juliane Schober is associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Arizona State University. Her contributions to Buddhist studies include her edited volume, Sacred Biography in the Buddhist Traditions of South and Southeast Asia (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997). Donald K. Swearer is professor of religion at Swarthmore College. His contributions to Buddhist studies include Ethics, Wealth, and Salvation: A Study in Buddhist Social Ethics, coedited with Russell F. Sizemore (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990).
S. J. Tambiah is professor of anthropology at Harvard University. His contributions to Buddhist studies include a trilogy on Buddhism in Thailand: Buddhism and the Spirit Cults inNorth-East Thailand (1970),World Conqueror andWorld Renouncer (1976), and The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets (1984), all published by Cambridge University Press. Holmes Welch (d. 1981) taught at Harvard University, where he became a lecturer in Chinese studies. His contributions to Buddhist studies include a trilogy on Buddhism in China: The Practice of Chinese Buddhism, 1900. 1950 (1967), The Buddhist Revival in China (1968), and Buddhism Under Mao (1972), all published by Harvard University Press.
Taiko Yamasaki is a professor in the Department of Esoteric Buddhist studies at Shuchi-in University in Kyoto, Japan. His contributions to Buddhist studies include Shingon: Japanese Esoteric Buddhism (Boston: Shambhala, 1988).