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Jatakas contain important hagiographies of Bodhisattvas that have served as exemplars for Buddhist society. Different Jatakas became popular at different times and places. Some that were once very popular seem to have disappeared from public memory. One scene that is repeatedly shown in the terracotta and ivory objects made in Bengal between the 1st century BC to 3rd century AD shows a large yaksha abducting a woman whose ornaments are shown falling on the ground. Unsurprisingly, this scene has been interpreted by modern scholars as a depiction of Sita from the Hindu Ramayana. In time, the Ramayana story began to hold more social appeal, and Rama emerged as an exemplar instead. However, in this paper I argue that it is more likely to be a Buddhist jataka and I suggest which jatakas it may be connected with.
How do picture books present the lives of Buddhist religious achievers? Why do these representations matter? This pair of questions orients my study of the ways religious lives figure in contemporary literature for children. Building on path-breaking work by Derris (2012), DeWalt (2018), Eberhardt (2018), and Heller (2020) among others, the paper compares representations of Buddhist lives in the more than fifty picture books published in English this century. Using a modified version of the Lee & Lowe questionnaire, it aims to assess extent to which these materials reflect the diversity of their audiences whose multiple, intersecting identities include differences in ability, socioeconomic status, gender, and race/ethnicity. In these ways, the paper endeavors to contribute to scholarly discussions of the ways representations of sacred biographies matter for communities that create and circulate them today.
In this paper, I offer a new reading of the popular narrative of Princess Miaoshan in Chinese religion, placing it within the larger context of self-immolation as found in Buddhist narratives and the actions of self-immolators. The acts of extreme violence done to Miaoshan by her father and herself (she stabs the inside of her mouth with a hairpin in order to produce rain, for example) call out for interpretation. It would be instructive to examine not only narratives of self-sacrificing bodhisattvas from Buddhist scriptures but also popular self-immolators such as the charismatic figure Liu Benzun (855-907). Liu was the leader of a grassroots esoteric Buddhist movement that was active in western Sichuan at the end of the ninth century. His practice relied on the use of mantras and on intensive bodily practice for the welfare of others. Liu himself successively amputated or incinerated ten parts of his body. I will place the legend of Princess Miaoshan in conversation with that of Liu Benzun and other narratives relating to extreme body practices and self-immolation in Chinese Buddhism to see if we can arrive at a better understanding of her story.
The proposed paper intends to explore the tradition of asceticism as practiced in ancient Konkan, especially at the Buddhist complex of Kanheri/Krsnagiri (Black Mountain), situated in the outskirts of modern Mumbai. The discussion will open with a reassessment of the evidence documented at Padana Hill by Bhagwanlal Indraji in the 18th century, and then will examine the architectural and artistic remains from the caves at Kanheri which suggest a deep engagement of the resident monastic community in ascetic practices.
Later epigraphic and hagiographic sources will be also discussed to show how in the 9th-10thcentury Konkan went on to become one of the most important hubs for Buddhist esoteric teachings and ascetic training, with great masters learning at Kanheri/Krsnagiri before taking on prominent roles in the famous Mahāvihāra of north India.
I sketch how the use of metal and stone as artistic materials during the beginning centuries of Buddhist art in India affected the nature of the representations of the Buddha. I begin with Stupa 2 at Sanchi and Bhaja Vihara 19 (ca. 2nd-1st c. BCE), and work through John Marshall’s discussion of the narratives as found on Sanchi Stupa 1 (ca. 50 BCE-50 CE), and end with the Mohammad Nari Stele (4th c. CE). I thus cover some five or six centuries of the development of the Buddha image in South Asia. I argue that the use of metal and stone played a significant role in how the Buddha image developed and changed over this time period.
Yan Zhenqing’s 顏真卿 (709–785) renown as a calligrapher has largely overshadowed his accomplishments as a general, statesman, and upright official. A staunch loyalist of the Tang dynasty (618–907), even when he fell into the hands of the rebel leader Li Xilie 李希烈 (?-786), the outspoken Yan remained unswayed by enticements and threats, ultimately dying a martyr’s death. It is generally believed that Yan’s thinking was mainly the result of his Confucian background, yet his spiritual life was also deeply influenced by both Buddhism and Daoism. In fact, in adopting this type of eclectic outlook, Yan was simply carrying on a long family tradition, and amongst his many illustrious ancestors was Yan Zhitui 顏之推 (531–591), a famous scholar during the Northern and Southern Dynasties, noted for his erudition as well as his ability to penetrate various philosophies and assimilate them into his own system of thought.
By examining some of Yan Zhenqing’s works concerning the lineage of the Vinaya school in China, in this article I attempt to elucidate the role played by scholar-officials in the religious circles of the Tang dynasty, and to show how they managed to deftly juggle their multiple roles. With this purpose in mind, I make a detailed examination of the Fuzhou Baoying si Luzangyuan jietan ji 撫州寶應寺律藏院戒壇記 [Record of the Ordination Platform at the Vinaya-treasure Cloister of the Baoying si in Fuzhou], written by Yan in 771. It shows how a biography writing process merged the faith boundaries generally held to have separated the lay from the religious, or the sacred from the secular, and resulted in a joint force that shaped and reshaped multiple identities and networks, both sacred and secular.
Regarding the history of the Sino-Indian exchanges during the modern period, two aspects have received the most attention from scholars. The first surrounds Taixu 太虛（1890-1947）and his disciples, regarding their visit, exchange, study and research in India. The second concerns Daojie 道阶 (1866-1932), Deyu 德玉 (?-1948) and others who have practiced, built monasteries, and spread dharmain India. But in fact, other than these two groups, there have also been a decent number of monks who have visited, and even lived in India. It is these anonymous monks who formed the background for the modern Sino-Indian Buddhist exchanges. Among them, there was a Chinese monk who lived a long time on the twin śāla tree in Kushinagar where Buddha attained his nirvana; and came to be known as “Meditation Master Bird Nest” (Ch. Niaochao chanshi ; a.k.a. Shanxiu 善修). This article will analyze the biographies surrounding this legendary Chinese monk, based on such sources as Tan Yunshan’s 譚雲山 (1898-1983)Yindu zhouyou ji 印度周遊記 [Record of the Journey in India], Ruijiang’s 瑞江 Chao Tianzhu ji 朝天竺記 [Record of a Pilgrimage to India], Li Juncheng’s 李俊承 Yindu gu Foguo youji 印度古佛國遊記 [Travelogue in the Ancient Kingdoms of India], Jing Kemu’s 金克木 (1912-2000) Niaochao chanshi 鳥巢禪師 [Meditation Master Niaochao] (include in the Tianzhu jiushi 天竺舊事 [Ancient Affairs in India]), etc. These biographers of diverse backgrounds, in portraying Master Niaochao, focus on different elements in the life of Master Niaochao, including his perseverant faith, his refusal to accept money offering, his ability to communicate with nature and animals (e.g. snake), his interaction with Indian people (especially his clash with the British Indian court which was the key message of his self-narrative), while some compare Master Niaochao with Faxian 法顯 (337-422) — all these hagiographical operations turned a Chinese monk into a reincarnation of Hinduist Rāma. By studying non-elitist monks such as Master Niaochao, and the making of his hagiography, the author believe we could expand our perspective in our study of monastic biographies and deepen our appreciation for the complexity of the modern cultural and religious exchanges between India and China.
The Divyasūricarita (12thc., 14thc. ?) describes the lives and achievements of the twelve Vaiṣṇava Tamil saints (ālvārs) and of later Vaiṣṇava masters (ācāryas). The author, Garuḍavāhanapaṇḍita, was titular physician of the icon-god Raṅganātha of the Shrirangam temple (South India). He narrates inter alia the theft, by the gangster saint Parakāla (Tirumaṅkai-ālvār, 8th c.?), of a golden Buddhist icon from a sanctuary of Nāgapaṭṭanam to finance the construction of an enclosure wall and other buildings in the Shrirangam Vaiṣṇava temple. This paper examines the precedence of devotion over ethical norms, and how the belief in the presence of consciousness in all icons, Buddhist or Vaiṣṇava, overrides religious affiliations.
It is well known that Buddhist canonical texts, particularly in the Sūtrapiṭaka and Vinayapiṭaka, contain references to the heretics (Skt. tīrthika) among which the Jains (or Nigraṇṭha) are the most prominent. While in the Indian context, this is completely understandable because it was the Jains which were the most obvious and direct competitors of the Buddhists, the fact that non-canonical Buddhist sources in Chinese contain references to the Jains as well has not attracted the attention of scholars so far. This paper will collect some of these references to the Jains in the Chinese texts and will address some aspects of Chinese Buddhist “heresiology”, for example what function different groups and particularly the “naked heretics” of nijian (nigraṇṭha) had in such a discourse.
Buddhism was largely unknown in Latin-America when it was introduced to a mesmerized Argentinianaudience in the middle of the 20th century by one of the greatest literary writers of all times, Jorge Luis Borges. Uncannily mirroring the transmission of Buddhism along the Silk Roads at the turn of the common era, in which storytellers often retold the Buddha’s life, Borges also chose to narrate the Buddha’s biography rather than delve into doctrinal or philosophical aspects. This was a turning point in the history of the transmission of Buddhism to Latin America, yet to date there are no full monographs dedicated to this topic. In fact, studies about Buddhism in Latin America are extremely scant, as are studies about Borges’s views on Buddhism and his role in its transmission.
This situation is fortunately slowly changing as the academic interest in these issues grows. This paper strives to contribute to the two converging areas of Latin American Buddhism and Borges’s mediating role by first interrogating the role of the Buddha’s hagiography as a tool of religious transmission from a general perspective, to then focus on Borges’s narrative and interpretation. The aim of the second part is fourfold: 1. To analyze how the aesthetic approach allowed Borges to attempt to transcend the dichotomy between fiction and truth, and to blur the line between sacred and secular biography. (2) To situate the conferences that Borges gave about the Buddha and investigate their historical role in the development of Buddhism in Latin-America. (3) To analyze Borges’s interpretation of his sources and assess the role of Orientalism in his depiction of the Buddha and his understanding of Buddhism. (4) To briefly analyze the place of the narrative of the Buddha’s life story within Borges’s opus, a topic that I discuss more fully in a separate paper.
In brief, following the horizon of research inaugurated by Phyllis Granoff and Koichi Shinohara more than three decades ago, this paper investigates the religious and cultural significance of the Buddha’s life story in the transmission of Buddhism to Latin-America and engages with the current discussions about issues of truth vis-à-vis hagiographical accounts. It is my hope that this research will contribute to the discussion at large and allow for new and rich comparisons.
The paper theorizes the unarticulated link between the function of mendicants as media and products of connected lives, karma theory, and Jaina religious biography. The focus is on the articulation of the social and the karmic implications of the framed peregrinations, patterns of social interaction, and monastic career path of a Jaina mendicant. The argument of the paper is twofold. On the one hand it will argue that, like money, Jaina mendicants function as generalized media of social communication in Jaina social systems, to the degree that their life-courses correspond to the religious paradigm. On the other hand, it will argue that the Jaina theory of karmic matter offers conceptual means for an individual to reflect on and thus to constitute processes of social self-objectification in sequences of prescribed social interactions which fulfill both soteriological and social functions.
Dharmakīrti (ca. 600-660) was undoubtedly the most influential philosopher in the Buddhist epistemological tradition. Practically the entire pramāṇa-literature in South Asia was written either in the form of commentaries and sub-commentaries on his works, or as independent treatises also commenting on and inspired by his work. His impact remained decisive as long as Buddhism was alive in South Asia and continues in the Tibetan tradition to the present day. Thus, it is not surprising that traditional “Histories of Buddhism” such as those by Bu Ston and Tārānātha recount Dharmakīrti’s life in a considerable detail. Not surprising also is the fact that these biographies contain well-known Buddhist hagiographical topoi: recognition of the superiority of the Buddha and conversion to Buddhism, enduring a social ban from the original social milieu, revelation of a deity and wish-granting, excelling in studies and surpassing one’s own teacher (and what is less common, surpassing the founder of the tradition, Dignāga), secret study of heretical traditions and appropriation of their secret knowledge, engaging in and winning public debates, making many converts, gaining royal patronage, founding many monasteries, and finally miracles or auspicious signs at the funeral. However, next to these traditional biographies, one encounters also other approaches to Dharmakīrti’s life based on sporadic, bitter remarks by Dharmakīrti himself and some oddities in his work. These were used both by traditional commentators like Yamāri and modern scholars like E. Frauwallner to reconstruct Dharmakīrti’s life (or parts thereof) directly out of his work. In spite of similarity in approach and identity in data, Yamāri and Frauwallner sometimes reach diametrically opposed conclusions. These contradictory assumptions about Dharmakīrti’s life are bound to lead to new investigations of his work.
Yan Fahua 言法華 (?-1048/9) is a Chan Master living under the reign of the Emperor Rengzong 仁宗(r. 1022-1063) of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). He is known for his deranged character and his ability to prophesy through calligraphy. By studying the sources of the Song (960-1279) and the Yuan Dynasty (1171-1368) that bear on Yan Fahua, we could make out two systems of Yan Fahua’s biographical records. The first is the non-Buddhist system based on the Da Song Shangdu zuojie Jingde si Xianhua chanshi mingbei 大宋上都左街景德寺顯化禪師碑銘 [Stele of the Chan Master Xianhua in the Jingde Monastery in the Zuo Street in the Capital of the Great Song], in addition to the “Biography of Zhiyan” [Ch. Seng Zhiyan zhuan 僧志言傳], a biography that is based on the stele found in the Song shi 宋史[History of Song]. The other is the Buddhist system based on the biography of Yan Fahua found in the Chanlin sengbao zhuan 禪林僧寶傳 [Biographies of the Famous Chan Masters in Buddhist Monasteries] which is, in turn, based on the stele and the “The Monk Zhiyan of the Jingde Monastery in the Eastern Capital” [Ch. Dongjing Jingde si seng Zhiyan zhe 東京景德寺僧志言者] found in the Tiansheng guangdeng lu 天聖廣燈錄 [Extensive Records of the Lamp Transmission Compiled in the Tiansheng Era]. By comparing the sources of the two systems, we could have a clear runderstanding of the relationship between the biography of Yan Fahua and that of Feng Fahua 風法華. As for the political prophecies made by Yan Fahua, we could attribute them to the shaping hands of the elites at the time who appropriated the crazed calligraphic expression of Yan Fahua to suit their political aim, that is, to legitimize the impending enthronement of the Emperor Yingzong of Song 宋英宗 (r. 1063-1067).
The sixth century polymath Varāhamihira’s great achievement was to canonize the astral sciences (jyotiṣa/jyotiḥśāstra) as a legitimate Sanskritic discipline, despite an uneven and still poorly understood history of transmission that likely involved non-Brahmanical mediators. Two fourteenth century Jain prabandhas (Merutuṅga’s Prabandhacintāmaṇi and Rājaśekhara’s Prabandhakośa) remember Varāhamihira as a prototypical haughty Brahmin, and rival of the Jain monk, Bhadrabāhu. By establishing a conflict between Jain and Brahmanical astrologers, these tales no doubt sanction jyotiṣawithin the repertoire of Jain monastic services, while witnessing their relatively complete Brahmanization by the second millennium. But these stories also illustrate a tension within the astral sciences between prediction and observation that was recognized by Varāhamihira himself. Reflecting on the priestly-astral taxonomy rendered by these stories from the perspective of the longer history of the reception of jyotiṣa, I suggest that the success of this discipline depended in part on the evasion of the problems of prediction within a framework of royal patronage.
In north India today, the festival Rakṣābandhana is known as a day when sisters tie a thread to their brothers’ wrists to ensure their safety and wellbeing. In Hindu communities, a number of narratives have been attached to the festival, including a story of Indrāṇī tying a thread to her husband Indra’s wrist to offer him protection in a battle against the asuras, and an account of Draupadī wrapping part of her sari around Kṛṣṇa’s bleeding finger. Meanwhile, in Digambara Jain communities, the festival is celebrated not as a bond between brothers and sisters, but as a commemoration of the monk Viṣṇukumāra’s defeat of the evil king Bali, who was torturing 700 mendicants in Ujjain. Each year for the festival, in a lengthy worship ceremony, lay Digambaras, to request the protection of the medicant community, tie a thread to either the brooms of mendicants or their seats and listen to the story of the monk Viṣṇukumāra. This paper looks at how the story of Viṣṇukumāra became linked to Rakṣābandhana, examining the story’s development from the Vāsudevahiṇḍī, to the Harivaṃśapurāṇa, to modern tellings observed as part of the festival in Mumbai in 2016. Looking at these narratives of a Jain saint sheds light on forgotten histories of the Brahminical Rakṣābandhana festival. Ultimately, the paper shows that the dominant Brahminical narrative that was attached to the festival in the medieval period was not the story of Indra or Kṛṣṇa, but the story of Vāmana’s defeat of Bali.
The paper is written in honor of professor Phyllis Granoff’s pathbreaking publications that among much else recovered biographical practices associated with cultures situated in the Indian sub continent. While these practices are linked to mostly non Buddhist settings, they also illuminate others where different answers to human conundrums obtained. That is the case with a South East Asian kingdom, whose ceremonial center was called Arimadanapura, The City that Crushes its Enemies, and whose ideational universe was elaborated by recourse to the Buddha Gotama’s teachings in their Pali version. This investigation addresses professor Granoff’s suggestion, made explicitly in Monks and Magicians: Religious Biographies in Asia (1988) that studies of biographical ( and by extension autobiographical) genres deepen our understanding of religious communities in medieval India.
A late 11th century monarch left behind inscriptions unlike most others extant from the first millennium CE in South Asia. Kyanzittha, whose ceremonial title was Sri Tribhuwanadityadhammaraja, reigned in Arimadanapura from 1084 until his death probably in 1112 CE. The big stone inscriptions he set up in several locations within his kingdom form the subject of this article. The widespread practice of prasastis, panegyrics or poems penned by court poets on behalf of their patrons, filtered into other territories, including his domain. But unlike South Asian prototypes that usually employed prestige languages, mainly Sanskrit, Kyanzittha’s selfies were in the Mon vernacular, though the king reigned over a multi ethnic empire, whose predominant group by this time were the Burmese, with their own written vernacular. The paper flags an issue hitherto ignored in Burmese historiography – the perception of the king’s self, as verbalized in an astonishing personal reveal. That reveal considerably broadened the parameters of first millennium royal self glorifications as becomes evident when Kyanzittha’s inscriptions are compared with Sinhala versions of the genre.
The period under investigation was a time when as Sheldon Pollock argued about the Sanskrit metropolis, power became aesthetized. Kyanzittha’s autobiographical conception instantiates a similar though Pali rather than Sanskrit informed, subjectivity. Unraveling the royal statements uncovers an 11th century self consciousness, grounded in narratives, as self identities always are. For these narratives, given the kingdom’s orientation, the Buddha’s Word provided the vocabulary, and His biography life patterns. Autobiographies always and everywhere have a triple trajectory – linking the past to the present while squinting towards the future. This allowed Kyanzittha to insert his persona into the cosmic time frame, past, present and future – capacious enough to encompass his realm. These stupendous news were inscribed on stones scattered in various parts of the kingdom, integrating the transformed blessed realm into a Buddha Ksetra – a realm of well being governed by the dhamma, guaranteeing all subjects’ happiness as the king said. And, for good measure, all were promised stupendously happy future lives, since the king, as the inscriptions reiterated, was also in charge of heavens’ gates. What’s not to like?
In the reign of Maharana Amar Singh II of Mewar (1698-1710) poems attributed to the Brajbhasha poet Surdas were for the first time subjected to a process of selection that caused them to represent the childhood of Krishna alone—apart from any other aspects of the deity’s life story. Remarkably, this innovation happened in a visual environment, in a set of 50 miniature paintings tagged Sūrsāgar, that is, “Sur’s Ocean.” Thus it seems that the ocean itself was reformatted, emerging as this particular lake. After that point in time the poet came increasingly to be thought of as a specialist in Krishna’s childhood. Was this, in effect, his life? Was his biography leveraged onto the life-story of the deity he cherished most—an “in between” biography, in effect? We will approach these questions with substantial help from Phyllis Granoff’s study of the influential biography of Saṅkaradeva attributed to Rāmacaraṇa.
This paper presents a study of a twelfth-century Tibetan Buddhist master named rGwa Lotsāba gZhon nu dpal (1105/1110–1198/1202). This Tibetan or Tangut monk travelled to India to pursue Buddhist teachings and returned to preach in Central Tibet and the surrounding areas. He spent several years in Eastern Tibet collecting disciples and preaching the Dharma, establishing an effective network for the dissemination of Tibetan Buddhism in Eastern Central Asia. Recently, scholars have discovered that a significant amount of the Mahākāla documents found at the site of Kharakhoto are related to him. All of this points to the importance of his propagation of Tantric teachings during the Tangut Period. Taking into account his hagiography and the excavated documents, this paper aims to examine the life story of rGwa Lotsāba gZhon nu dpal, focusing on his experiences in India and Eastern Tibet and the role he played in the formation of the Mahākāla literature from Kharakhoto.
The present paper aims to discuss an interesting passage in Xuanzang´s Biography. In the entire research on Xuanzang, little attention has been paid to this special notice by Huili (cf. Da-tang Da-ci´en-si San-zang Fa-shi-zhuan: A Biography of the Tripiṭaka Master of the Great Ci´en Monastery of the Great Tang Dynasty. T50:245c21ff.).
One day in Nālandā, a Jain monk named Vajhara (or Vajra), who was “naked” (i.e. of the sky-clad Digaṃbara school) came unexpectedly into Xuanzang´s cell, namely at the time when the Chinese master was about to make the difficult decision whether he should undertake the dangerous journey back to China. Xuanzang often heard before that the Nirgranthas are particularly skilled at divination, he therefore asked the Jain saying “I am a monk from country China and have come here to study many years ago. Now I want to return home. Shall I be able to reach my home? Which choice – going back or staying here – is more auspicious? And how long could my life last?” Following Xuanzang´s wish, the Jain performed a divination ritual and then informed the Chinese Buddhist that he would definitely reach his homeland, although staying in India should be the better choice.
We can assume that Xuanzang’s encounter with the Jain Vajhara, which likely took place shortly before the master left India in 643 had a great impact on his final decision to travel back to China. This divination event in Nālandā was presumably so important to Xuanzang personally that he entrusted it to his close disciples like Huili lateron in China. Remarkably, Xuanzang himself did not mention it in his Datang-Xiyu-ji (Records of the Western Regions of the Great Tang Dynasty), which was written on behalf of the emperor. Theoretically, there are various aspects to investigate the above mentioned report by Huili, for example the Buddhist attitude towards the Indian tradition of divination etc. In the present essay, however, I first focus on Xuanzang’s relationship with the Indian “heretics” (waidao), especially with members of the Jain community. Because of the close and varied interrelationship between Jainism and Buddhism throughout history, this perspective can help us to understand the social and religious context of the Indian Buddhism in 7th century. In this regard, Xuanzang´s records of his personal observations and experiences will also be examined with special consideration.
在那爛陀的一天，玄奘的僧房裡突然來了一個名叫伐闍羅的“露形尼乾子”。“尼乾”是中文相對梵文nirgrantha 的音譯，而“子”則是putra 的意譯。在一般情況下，putra 意為“兒子”，但與某宗教團體相連的話，便意指其“信徒”。在印度，nirgranthaputra“尼乾子”是對耆那教信徒的統一稱謂，其出家人亦稱“比丘”。通過慧立的描述“露形尼乾子”，我們可以進一步得知，該比丘屬於耆那教兩大部派之一的“天衣派”（Digaṃbara)。該尼乾子造訪時，正值玄奘大師思索去留問題而難以決斷的關頭。故有下文：“法師舊聞尼乾善於占卜，即請坐，問所疑曰：玄奘支那國僧，來此學問歳月已久。今欲歸還，不知達不？又去住二宜,何最爲吉？及壽命長短? ” 於是，伐闍羅“乃索一白石畫地而筮。報法師曰: 師住時最好, 五印度及道俗不無敬重。去時得達,於敬重亦好, 但不如於住。師之壽命, 自今已去更可十年”。
What role does academic excellence play in Buddhist understandings of virtue? What do stories of supremely smart women say about the men who write and circulate them? This paper explores a royal Buddhist chronicle from Burma to examine what its celebration of scholastic women says about Buddhist values and practices in the Konbaung dynasty, the Southeast Asian country’s last kingdom. In this 1861 chronicle, the Sāsanavamsa, the author, Paññasāmi, narrates a series of amusing stories of women and girls besting those around them—even monks—with their sophisticated mastery of elaborate Pali grammar. I propose that this section of the Buddhist chronicle offers insights into a Buddhist imagination in which Burmese kings and monks promote Buddhist education to such a dramatic extent that even low-ranking women are masters of the linguistic complexities of the sāsana’s canonical language. While there is a relatively long tradition of scholars looking to the Sāsanavamsa for insights into Burmese Buddhist history, there has not been an academic study of this hallmark text’s atypical section on women. I examine this text’s curious scenes—of a mother correcting her twelve-year old daughter’s Pali declension paradigms, a maid accidentally seeing her boss’s penis, and a young girl shaming a monk for incorrectly using a first person pronoun with the third person verb termination—to consider the characterization of these uncommon female figures alongside the text’s sacred biography of male monastics.
The Japanese Tendai monk Ennin 圓仁 (794–864) travelled around China between the years 838–847. His travelogue, the Nittō guhō junrei kōki 入唐求法巡禮行記 [Record of Travel to the Tang in Search of the Dharma], is an important document that records firsthand experiences in China, including Ennin’s dialogues with his Chinese counterparts. Ennin was arguably an unofficial ambassador of the Japanese sangha and his travelogue shows that he communicated to the Chinese the state of Buddhism in Japan. Ennin heard stories about Saichō 最澄 (767–822), his teacher, in China, but also about the Japanese monk Ryōsen 靈仙 (759-827), who had travelled alongside Saichō. This paper will examine these and other accounts of Japanese monks, while also exploring Ennin’s own comments about holy figures from Japan.
The Gaoseng zhuan 高僧傳 (Biographies of Eminent Monks) contains many stories of monks curing people of illness. These stories are mostly concentrated in the section on ‘Miracle Workers’ (Ch. Shenyi 神異). The monks’ ability to heal not only exemplifies their supernatural endowment which contributed to their popularity among the people and the elites, but also showcases their ability to see the illness as the karmic effects of their previous actions or as the result of the influences from spirits; and to prescribe appropriate cures. In other sections in the Gaoseng zhuan, we could also find stories that narrate, in detail, how monks have cured the sick; and their acts of healing sometimes involve specific rituals and spells (Skt. dhāraṇīs). With the help of the sources of the Tang Dynasties (618-907), we could see that such rituals are derived from Buddhist scriptures and are related to tantric dhāraṇīpractices. In the Xu Gaoseng zhuan 續高僧傳 (Continued Biographies of Eminent Monk), however, in the section on the ‘Miracle Workers’, the acts of healing are no longer featured prominently; and whenever they appear, they are de-emphasized for their miraculous effects, while the monasteries tend to be represented as sanatorium. This change may indicate that as Buddhism became increasingly popular in China, the act of healing gradually came to be associated with tantrism, and that the stories about the miracles of healing are no longer emphasized in the monastic hagiography, while the monastery is increasingly perceived as a sanctuary for healing and self-cultivation.《高僧傳》多處描繪了僧人治病救人的事跡，這些事跡主要集中於“神異”部分，治病救人具有神異的屬性，而且醫治常人所不能醫治的疾病本身也是異域僧人傳法的或者被當權者賞識的重要手段。而僧人治病行醫不僅代表著神異的能力，突出表現為僧人可以看透因果、鬼神作為疾病的根本原因，從而對症下藥，治療疾病。而散見於他處的治療故事預示了治病救人是如何踐行佛教經文的，這些救治有時具有特定的儀式，並需要配合一定的咒語（陀羅尼），結合唐代文獻，我們可以看出相關做法本於經文的敘述、且有密教陀羅尼修行的蹤跡，從在僧人的修行實踐中得到驗證。而到了《續高僧傳》中，對於“神異”部分的高僧而言，治療故事地位不再突出，且不再強調故事的神異色彩。同時，寺院具有了藥館的屬性，這種變化可能意味著隨著佛教日益流行，治病救人的傳統更多與密教修行關聯起來，而神異色彩的療愈故事不再成為僧傳的重點，而寺院作為清修靜養之地的功能日益突出。
The Tang Buddhist monk Xuanzang’s (602-664) travel to India from 629 to 645 not only led to his successful career as a Buddhist teacher and translator, but also inspired Chinese storytellers, writers, and artists to create the Journey to the West, one of the most beloved Chinese classics across East Asia. This entire journey, however, was illegal as the Tang border was closed and international travel was forbidden in 629. When Xuanzang left for India in 629 with neither permit nor identity document, what legal risks did he undertake? Upon his return to China in 645, what legal consequences awaited him? Drawing on the Biography of the Tripitaka Master from the Great Ci’en Monastery (Da Ci’en si sanzang fashi zhuan大慈恩寺三藏法師傳) written by his close disciple Huili 慧立 (615-？), this paper examines the legal aspect of Xuanzang’s travel to India to understand the interplay of law, state, and religion in Tang China.
The historicity of sacred biographies, as accounts of past lives and deeds, has long been treated as the essential character of these narratives. Recent scholarship, however, has shown that their driving force was current circumstances and concerns, and that, beyond tracing (often imaginative) individual lives, they engaged with broader doctrinal, performative and political spheres. As narratives that play across the boundaries of past and present, real and imagined, local/personal and universal, they were also a salient device of sectarian and at times political legitimation throughout the Buddhist sphere.
My paper examines the role of local hagiographies and their intertwinement with narratives of the Buddha in the construction of sacred landscapes and imperial authority in a medieval Japanese esoteric Buddhist text. Entitled the Kinpusen himitsuden (‘The Secret Transmission of the Golden Peak’), the text was written in 1337 by Monkan Kōshin (1278-1357), a central guardian-monk of emperor Go-Daigo, at the refuge palace of the southern court in the mountains at the height of the imperial crisis. Dedicated to the emperor’s ritual practice, I argue that the text was to invest Zaō, the tutelary deity of Kinpusen, with the potency of the Buddha, and to transform the mountain into a palace and an emperor on the run into an enlightened Buddhist king.
In recent decades so much work on biographical literature has been done in many disciplines (e.g., religious studies and gender history) that one might well think there was little more to said. Both Michael Nylan and Marty Verhoeven still find the topic well worth pursuing in their respective fields, however. Nylan’s attention has been drawn to consider the propensity of scholars in Religious Studies to style proponents of classical learning as members of a “clerisy,” or quasi-clerics (Klerisei is German for clergy) forming a distinct class of learned or literary people constituting a social, cultural, or artistic vanguard more focused on sacred matters than on secular. To her mind, even if such characterizations prove helpful at points, they tend to slight questions about the disparate sources and types of authority commanded by well-trained classicists, and thus ultimately underplay or even distort important aspects of the lives reported. Ruminating on this has led her to pose some larger questions about the categories we bring to reading strategies in company with Martin Verhoeven, whose recent work has focused on the Platform Sutra and the Lotus Sutra. Verhoeven emphasizes that the early sacred biographies enjoin readers to derive meaning not only from words but from the works of humankind. This paper therefore asks how, if ever, we are to know that we understand the intended significance of a specific biography or set of biographies, given many early historians’ preoccupations with measuring human greatness in terms of events leading to massive disturbances to natural and human life forms, rather than with the long-term endeavors that contribute to developmental processes. Put another way, how are we to discover and circumvent the “forestructures of understanding” (in Heidegger’s phrase, the prejudices, beliefs, expectations, and memories that we bring to our readings) and what clues in the form of analogies, allegories, and metaphors do we find in the biographies themselves that will provide us with signposts to understanding “lives of merit” worth emulating today.
Everyday uses of digital technology and the potential of global audiences have changed several aspects of hagiographical productions over the last few decades. These changes—in formats, accessibility, and reader engagement facilitation—require new analytical approaches to the study of hagiography. Specifically, this analysis will examine innovations incorporated in the production of a multi-volume sacred biography of a Hindu guru named Pramukh Swami Maharaj (1921-2016), who was the leader of the BAPS Swaminarayan community. Uniquely, the author embeds Quick Response (QR) codes throughout the text. When readers scan a QR code with their mobile phone, a corresponding YouTube video appears and provides a video of the contextual information, a discourse explaining the story, or the guru himself narrating the story. This paper will consider the relationship of such technologies with the text as paratextual to understand the production, function, and reception of a story in a religious community. How can we understand the inclusion of these paratextual elements in the overall biographical process? What is the author trying to achieve, and equally as important, how can these innovations and the ensuing multi-sensorial experiences affect the act of engaging the text? I contend that technologies considered as paratextual elements allow us to trace larger theological, hermeneutic, and affective networks connected with hagiography. This relationship between text and paratext can potentially explain how hagiographies become operative and how authors and readers can negotiate meaning and emotion toward objects of value.
This paper examines the early history of Li’an Monastery 理安寺 in Hangzhou and the conceived images of his founder Fayu Foshi 法雨佛石 (1569-1636). Foshi was a charismatic religious leader and hardcore ascetic who attracted many literati followers. Fascicle Eight of the Li’an Monastery Gazetteer 理安寺志 contains more than 70 tribute poems written by his lay disciples. At the same time, Foshi also received four conventional hagiographies, in the format of “eminent monk records” 高僧傳, which portray Foshi as either a typical Chan master or a Pure Land practitioner. In contrast to these conventional hagiographies, the literati’s poems frequently praise Foshi for his extreme asceticism. In this sense, regarding the production of hagiography, there is a tension between the communally perceived actuality and culturally produced mentality. By comparing and highlighting the differences between these two types of sources, I argue the idiosyncratic tribute poems received by Foshi deviate from the typical Buddhist tropes and discourses, directly reflect Foshi’s charisma perceived by his followers, and better explain his cultic followings.
One of the best well-known Jain biographies of early-modern North India is arguably the Ardhakathanaka (“Half a Story”), an autobiography of Jain layman Banārasīdāsa who founded the Adhyātma, or spiritual, circle in Agra in ca. 1623. Banārasīdāsa’s lively and engaging account of his religious and professional peregrinations, infused with self-irony and self-criticism, has captured the attention of many scholars and students of South Asian religions and generated multiple studies and translations. What is less known, however, is that there is an alternative telling of Banārasī’s story, which his ideological opponent, Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjaka monk Meghavijaya (ca. 1653-1704) incorporated into his philosophical treatise titled the Yuktiprabodha-nāṭaka (“Drama of Awakening through Logic”). The Yuktiprabodha-nāṭaka represents an unusual specimen of polemical literature for at least two reasons. First, it is an attack on a specific individual and his belief system, rather than—as it normally is—on a set of ideas whose authors are only implied. Second, it is titled a play (nāṭaka) and contains dramatic elements. I argue that these two features remain in a complimentary relationship in that it is the genre of drama that enabled Meghavijaya to use Banārasī’s biography to discredit him and consequently debunk his religious beliefs. Drama necessitates the presence of a protagonist, and Banārasī plays this very part in the Yuktiprabodha, an unconventional play based on real events. This paper further discusses Meghavijaya’s elaborate technique of invalidating Banārasī’s Adhyātma doctrine and identifies a discrepancy between Meghavijaya’s presentation of Banārasī’s life choices and ideas and Banārasī’s own discussion of the same in his autobiography and other literary works, which I suggest reveals a dichotomy between Adhyātma religious ideology and practice.
Bats, which have most recently been connected with the transmission of COVID 19 to humans, have often had a bad rap. Bats have long aroused the imagination and interest of humans and folklore abounds in stories about them. While we know much more about Buddhist monks who were labelled “Mute Sheep Monks” (yayang seng 啞羊僧) there has been little written on a different type of monk, known as “Bat Monks” (bianfu seng 蝙蝠僧) that is often mentioned alongside the “Mute Sheep Monks.” In this paper, I explore the ambivalence of the “Bat Monks” and why the bat, in particular, was chosen as the animal to represent those monks which are described in Buddhist texts as: “One who resembles a monk but is not a monk, resembles a lay person but is not a layperson, the Buddha calls them bat-monks or bald laymen.” In order to better understand reference’s to “Bat Monks” within the history of Buddhism, I will include a broader history of the place of bats within Chinese religions and will also include a brief foray into their place within Japanese Buddhism.
Most of the monks that cause trouble in vinaya texts are either nameless or members of the Group-of-Six. Those in the first category are almost certainly literary fictions and were not historical people, and the same is being more and more suggested for those in the second category as well: each member of the Group appears to be a literary creation meant to embody or stand for one or another common monastic failing or fault—over eating, acquisitiveness, lasciviousness, etc. This paper will focus on another named figure who appears to have been a literary device used to criticize the practices of nuns that some monks did not approve of. His biography seems to have no other purpose than to represent nuns in an unfavorable light, as head-strong and overwrought. His name was Mūlaphalguna.
An untitled autobiographical text in Malayalam, known today as the Ātmakatha of Appatt’ Aṭīri, describes the conflicts and travails of its author in his attempt to survive and to save his family line in a hostile political environment. The tone is personal, diary-like, and dramatic. At its core lies an embedded prophecy uttered by Lord Śiva– a kind of history narrated in the future tense. Although this autobiography has affinities with historiographical texts in Malayalam from the eighteenth century, it has many unique features that give voice to a radically new sensibility against a backdrop of profound social and economic change.
The paper introduces a fragment of the Tangut version of the biography of the Tripiṭaka master Kumārajīva. The Tangut version of the biography, although historically incorrect, displays peculiar features of how Tangut Buddhist community understood the importance of Kumārajīva. After his image was mythologized by the Tanguts, the master epitomized the totality of Tangut Buddhism as of a combination of the Sinitic doctrinal scriptures combined with Huayan and Madhyamika thought and Tibetan esoteric practices.
Stories of saints and heroes must speak to their auditors to be effective. Thus over time, as circumstances change, episodes in sacred biography may be reinterpreted or even deleted, while new ones may be invented. This paper examines this process by tracing interpretative shifts surrounding two episodes in the life story of the Japanese Buddhist teacher Nichiren (1222-1282), who preached exclusive devotion to the Lotus Sūtra as the sole vehicle of liberation in the present degenerate age. (The presentation version may focus on only one episode.) One is Nichiren’s dramatic escape from beheading at the hands of hostile shogunal officials, thanks to the sudden appearance of a luminous object that streaked across the night sky, terrifying his would-be executioners. For centuries, this scene has featured prominently in written and illustrated biographies, plays, historical fiction, movies, and graphic novels about Nichiren. Since the late nineteenth century, however, its historicity has been challenged and continues to be debated, both among Nichiren Buddhists and others. Those eager to strip Nichiren’s biography of legendary elements invoke modern text-critical methods to question his authorship of passages in his writings referring to the incident. Defenders of the traditional hagiography argue that the terrifying “luminous object” was probably ball lightning or a meteor, thus illustrating how “supernatural” episodes in sacred biography may be recovered by—but at the cost of subordination to—science as a dominant legitimating discourse. A second episode illustrates how life stories may be reshaped to address changing historical circumstances. Early biographies held that Nichiren had refused an offer of official patronage from the shogunate if he would join priests of other sects in performing prayer rites to thwart impending attack by Mongol forces; only faith in the Lotus Sūtra, he argued, could save the country. But in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when European and American ships began to menace Japan, biographical treatments of Nichiren began describing how he had inscribed a mandala on a huge banner that, when unfurled, aroused the “divine winds” (kamikaze) that sank the Mongol fleet. This new episode in Nichiren’s life story prompted the use of actual banner mandalas in prayer rites to ward off foreign powers and inspired representations of Nichiren as a hero of the nation during Japan’s modern imperial period (1868-1945). However, with the rejection of militant nationalism following the end of the Pacific War, it has virtually disappeared from Nichiren biography.
Mahāvākyas are identity statements from the Upaniṣads which in the soteriology of Advaita Vedānta are the direct means of liberation. Since late medieval times, Advaita ascetics receive them as liberation mantras at their initiation into renunciation. In this paper I investigate how the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ascetic Jīva Gosvāmin (16th century), a follower of Caitanya the great cultural hero of Bengal, reinterpreted the Advaita doctrine of monism tied to the Upaniṣadic mahāvākya to subsume it under a new soteriology of devotion to the personal deity Krishna.
There are many sources on the biography of Xuanzang, the longest and the most elaborate of which is the Da ci’en si Sanzang fashi zhuan 大慈恩寺三藏法師傳 (A Biography of the Tripiṭaka Master of the Great Ci’en Monastery), followed by the ‘Biography of Xuanzang’ (Ch. Xuanzang zhuan 玄奘傳) in the fourth juan of the Xu Gaoseng zhuan 續高僧傳 (Continued Biographies of Eminent Monk) by Daoxuan 道宣 (596-667). But the difference between these two important sources is more than a matter of length and details. Comparing with the former, the ‘Biography of Xuanzang’ has exhibited distinct differences in many aspects, such as its manner of expression. This article will compare the two biographies in terms of three aspects. 有關玄奘生平的資料有多種，其中篇幅最大，內容也最詳細的是《大慈恩寺三藏法師傳》，其次是道宣《續高僧傳》卷四的《玄奘傳》。但這兩種有關玄奘的最重要的傳記，差異的不僅僅是篇幅，與《慈恩傳》相比，道宣的《玄奘傳》不僅在內容，同時也在表述的形式等方面都有一些不同。本文希望通過對比，分三個方面就此進行討論。
If we were to think of one woman who was a household name in a good part of Asia around 6th century CE, it would be Sumagadha. A lay woman and lone believer in Buddhism in her household, she could access Buddha and his disciples through her vision. While the avadāna stories featuring Sumagadha are relatively well-known, some questions surrounding the pictorial treatment of the Sumagadha matter remain largely unsolved. What is the rationale behind the integration of Sumagadha avadāna into the pictorial programs embellishing Buddhist cave shrines? Why does the Sumagadha story appear so differently in caves of different parts of Asia? In one notable case, why is the Sumagadha scene placed next to the Ruru jataka? What is it that connects the queen who dreams of a deer to a woman who sees, through vision quest, the Buddha coming?
Zibo Zhenke 紫柏真可 (1543-1603) is one of the most important Buddhist monks during the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and became a legendary figure emulated by Buddhist masters in the late Ming, thanks to the biographical record penned by his dharma friend Hanshan Deqing 憨山德清 (1546-1623), as well as his truly intriguing life events, such as his participation in the Buddhist printing, his wide acquaintances with social elites and his death in the imperial prison. This last episode, regarding his imprisonment, was the result of a series of complex political events and of the convoluted political milieu during the late Ming. In Hanshan Deqing’s rendering, however, this episode was incorporated into the famous narrative about Zibo Zhenke’s ‘Three Great Aspirations’ (Ch. sandafu 三大負). But Hanshan Deqing’s writing deliberately highlighted and omitted certain elements for various reasons, among which was his own involvement in the court affairs during the revival of Buddhism in late Ming. Hanshan Deqing’s narrative strategy reflects his complex attitude towards the collective endeavors of himself and Zibo in this period of Buddhist revival. 紫柏大師是晚明最重要的高僧之一，他的生平事跡因為憨山德清等法友的書寫，其刊刻經藏、結交權貴、圓寂詔獄的經歷，變成了晚明弘法高僧的榜樣與傳奇。這其中，紫柏晚節時的獄事牽扯整個晚明政壇的方方面面，但經過憨山德清的塔銘的總結，成就了紫柏著名的「三大負」因緣。但細究紫柏塔銘中晚節的書寫，存在刻意的強調與忽略並存的現象，其中缺失的一段正好是晚明佛教復興中久已被人忽略的一段結緣宮廷的經歷，這其中既有紫柏真可的努力，更有其塔銘寫作者憨山德清的參與。
We often think of religious biography as sacred, but what of secular biographies of religious figures? While many will associate this phenomenon of secularizing the biographies of religious figures as “modern” (Freud’s Moses and Monotheism comes immediately to mind), how do we understand its occurrence in 10th-11th century China? Beginning from a premise that questions the universality of the modern distinction between “secular” and “sacred,” my presentation explores boundary crossing aspects of Chinese biographical writing. Sima Qian’s 司馬遷 (ca. 145-90 BCE) Shi ji 史記 (Records of the Historian) are usually counted as the primary template for secular historical writing in China, but his invention of the genre of biographies added a quasi-religious dimension. Because of the “secular” nature of Chinese historiography, Buddhist biography in China represented a hybrid form often incorporating religious or “sacred” elements into a secular structure. The biography I examine is Wang Yucheng’s 王禹偁 (954-1001) account of Buddhist master Zanning 贊寧 (919-1001). No fan of Buddhism, Wang Yucheng still heralded and celebrated Zanning as an exemplar among China’s contemporary scholarly community (not as a Buddhist!). His biography of Zanning is almost completely devoid of religious or sacred elements and is a tribute to Zanning as a secular figure and renowned literatus. I examine the backgrounds to Zanning and Wang Yucheng, along with Yucheng’s biography of Zanning, to explore the genre shifting nature of biographical writing in traditional China, within rival Buddhist and Confucian claims regarding the nature of culture (wen 文).
The standard narrative portrays Xuanzang 玄奘 (602-664) as the first patriarch of the Chinese Yogācāra tradition who, anchored in his Chengwei shilun 成唯識論 (Discourse on the Perfection of Consciousness-Only), promoted the Yogācāra thoughts following the interpretation of Dharmapāla (530-561). In truth, however, this narrative is an artificial construction by the faction ofKuiji 窺基 (632-682), as part of their attempt to construct the sectarian identity of the Chinese Yogācāra tradition. First, Xuanzang is not only sanctified, by the public, as an ideal monk who journeyed to the West in search of the dharma, but is also venerated, by Xuanzang’s own disciples in the Ci’en Monastery 慈恩寺, as an ideal monk-translator. Xuanzang was thereby turned into an object of faith that is essential to the formation of a new sect. Secondly, after Xuanzang’s death, two opposing groups were formed, one led by Puguang 普光 (?–664?) and Fabao 法寶 (fl. 7thcentury), the other by Kuiji. Puguang and Fabao occupied a more prominent position in relation to Kuiji, who opposed and criticized the latter by favouring the Yogācāran commentators as the centre of their discourse over the Chengwei shilun that was so adulated by Kuiji. This historical background tells us that the Chengwei shilun was not unanimously honoured as the most authoritative writing among Xuanzang’s disciples. In fact, it was through Kuiji’s writing of the lineage of transmission of the Chengwei shilunthat a special relationship was established between Xuanzang and the Chengwei shilun. By erecting a lineage, Kuiji brought to fruition his project of forming a Yogācāra tradition. Lastly, the Yogācāra tradition started to form doctrines that distinguished itself from the other traditions, as well as distinct practices that further demarcated the boundary of itself as a unique tradition. 按照佛教史的常識理解，玄奘是一位開宗立派的唯識宗祖師，他以《成唯識論》為中心，進行護法一系唯識學的弘傳。然而這種常識理解其實經過了人為的刻意「製造」。製造玄奘面孔的背後，是窺基一系創立法相唯識宗的歷程。首先，玄奘作為公眾人物，以求法僧形象被神聖化。但在這背後，玄奘在慈恩寺的門人則進行著玄奘譯經僧形象的神聖化工作，以此為宗派形成提供信仰上的保證。其次，玄奘圓寂後，慈恩寺僧團又有普光、法寶與窺基兩系的對立。普光、法寶在當時處在中心位置，他們以「唯識論師」指稱弘傳《成唯識論》的窺基一系，並予以批判。由此可以推測《成唯識論》並沒有被奉為玄奘師門內的權威文本。實際上，正是窺基通過建立《成唯識論》的傳法譜系，製造了玄奘與《成唯識論》的特殊關聯。在建立繼承性譜系的基礎上，完成自身建構唯識宗的用意。最後，唯識宗內形成了包含排他性教理教義和特殊性修行生活的特有知識界限。
By studying several Mongolian and Tibetan biographies of Jebtsundamba Khutuktu-s, this article points out that the elaborate description of the procedure of identifying the second Jebtsundamba Khutuktu is more than a hagiographical record but has connections with the historical archives in the Qing court. On the basis of this observation, the article will discuss the political-religious relationship between the Qing Empire under the reign of Yongzheng 雍正 (1678-1735) and the Mongol-Tibetan Buddhism. 通過梳理幾種哲布尊丹巴呼圖克圖的蒙藏文傳記，指出其中有關二世哲布尊丹巴靈童選定的種種細節，不全是宗教聖傳性質的書寫，而是與清宮檔案文獻存在聯繫。由此進一步討論清雍正一朝與喀爾喀蒙古佛教之間的政教關係。
Hufa 護法 was a new category that Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667 CE) added to the Xu Gaoseng zhuan zhuan 續高僧傳 (Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks) based on previous biographical collections and has specific historical and religious significance. Previous scholarly studies on Buddhist-state relationship and religious persecutions have covered many figures and cases from the hufa section. This paper examines why Daoxuan created the category of hufa and how he defined hufa through discussions of his biographical writings and evaluation (lun 論). I suggest that we pay more attention to the evaluation, because compared to the biographies, with which the real authorship is sometimes hard to judge, Daoxuan’s evaluation could reflect his notion of hufa better. Although most of the biographies under the hufa category record Buddhist-Daoist conflicts and/or anti-Buddhist imperial policies, I argue that hufa covers a broader range of activities. For Daoxuan, hufa is pursuit that transcends geographic boundaries and a quality that all Buddhists should be able to cultivate regardless of their religious specialties.
There is a huge difference between the reception of the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa in Indic and in Chinese context. For the former, it is a source of Mahāyānist teaching occasionally quoted in treatises, while for the latter, so much more was recreated around the protagonist Vimalakīrti. In this paper, I argue that, by taking the scripture as a hagiographical writing, Chinese readers transformed Vimalakīrti from a bodhisattva who embodies paradox, to “Weimo”, a sage located in his own chamber. This setting thus became part of the configuration of an ideal Buddhist identity in East Asia, either lay or monastic. With textual and visual evidence, I will show how this process took shape and remains dynamic in modern eras.