Special Issue "Exploring Buddhist Traditions in Literature"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 September 2021) | Viewed by 6144

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Vesna Wallace
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
Interests: South and Inner Asian Buddhist traditions
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Buddhist traditions across Asia and beyond have developed their rich literary traditions that encompass diverse literary genres on every possible Buddhist topic. Buddhism’s rich literary heritage provides scholars with the opportunity to explore Buddhist traditions through literature by means of various approaches. This Special Issue welcomes explorations of the connections between the genres, styles, and subject matter; the interaction between the historical and emergent literature and a given Buddhist culture and thought; the interplay between the Buddhist literature and art or performance studies; the intertextuality, appropriations, and adaptations; innovative interpretative approaches to selected literary source/sources; epistemology of Buddhist literature; phenomenology of Buddhist literature; Buddhist metaphors and religious experience; Buddhist literary aesthetics; lay Buddhist literature; Buddhist literature and authorship; transnational Buddhist literature; monastic life in the literature; and any other topics related to the SI theme.

This Special Issue of the Religions journal will supplement various anthologies of Buddhist literature in translation.

Prof. Dr. Vesna Wallace
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Buddhist literature and culture
  • Buddhist literature and arts
  • literary appropriations and adaptations
  • Buddhist metaphors and religious experience
  • Buddhist literature and authorship

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Article
Pleasure and Poetics as Tools for Transformation in Aśvaghoṣa’s mahākāvya
Religions 2022, 13(7), 578; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13070578 - 22 Jun 2022
Viewed by 236
Abstract
Why does Aśvaghoṣa (c. second century C.E.), the first known author of a Buddhist literary work, choose a literary genre (mahākāvya) with erotic scenes and elaborate poetic language to present the truth that leads to liberation? This question, which has puzzled and [...] Read more.
Why does Aśvaghoṣa (c. second century C.E.), the first known author of a Buddhist literary work, choose a literary genre (mahākāvya) with erotic scenes and elaborate poetic language to present the truth that leads to liberation? This question, which has puzzled and fascinated scholars since the first known translations of Buddhacarita and Saundarananda, is often answered by turning to a statement Aśvaghoṣa makes, which suggests that such methods are necessary to reach his worldly audience, who are interested only in pleasure and not liberation. Dismissed as mere sugarcoating for “the bitter truth” of the Buddhist doctrine, the impact of the pleasures and poetics of Aśvaghoṣa’s work upon the reader has rarely been explored. Methods emphasizing a hermeneutic approach to scholarship, focused on interpreting what such works have to say, has meant less attention to what these works do to transform readers (their poetics). However, new attention to the literary aspects of Aśvaghoṣa’s mahākāvya, a genre of long-form narrative literature known for its poetic features, as well as recent scholarship on the Sanskrit courtly culture for which it was produced, suggest pleasure is a central feature. In this article I argue that comparative analysis of the dramatic structure of Buddhacarita and Saundarananda demonstrates that Aśvaghoṣa uses his ability as a dramatist to employ rasa, pleasurable aesthetic experiences, staged to gradually transform the minds of readers. I argue that as the plots of Buddhacarita and Saundarananda unfold, and the Buddha and his brother Nanda go from erotic and ascetic scenes to the sites of liberation, readers are engaged and moved in ways that refine their perceptions, introducing forms of concentration and insight not unlike the Buddhist practices depicted in these works. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Buddhist Traditions in Literature)
Article
Nomads and Vagabond Monks: From the Text to the Reader in 18th Century Inner Asia
Religions 2022, 13(1), 85; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010085 - 17 Jan 2022
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Abstract
Buddhist Studies scholarship in general, and its (re)turn to the literary specifically, is overwhelmingly concerned with texts and authors. But what can this research into “Buddhist texts” and “Buddhist authors”, however robust, ever reliably tell us if not accompanied by comparative inquiry into [...] Read more.
Buddhist Studies scholarship in general, and its (re)turn to the literary specifically, is overwhelmingly concerned with texts and authors. But what can this research into “Buddhist texts” and “Buddhist authors”, however robust, ever reliably tell us if not accompanied by comparative inquiry into the destabilizing tactics of readers? This article first highlights analytical resources for a comparative history of reading Buddhist literature in Inner Asia by looking to the work of Michel de Certeau and Roger Chartier. I then turn to a case study of collaborative reading that developed across the contiguous monastic and imperial networks binding together Tibetan, Mongolian, Manchu, and Chinese readers at the turn of the 18th century. Focused specifically on letter exchanges between the polyglot scholars Güng Gombojab, Katok Tséwang Norbu, and Situ Paṇchen, I underscore how collaborative reading developed to open the literary heritage of trans-Eurasia beyond the technical abilities or material access of any single reader. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Buddhist Traditions in Literature)
Article
The Debate of a Paṇḍita Dog with a Monk: Critique of Buddhist Monastics in üg Genre Works of Agvaanhaidav
Religions 2021, 12(12), 1104; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121104 - 15 Dec 2021
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Abstract
It is in the nineteenth century that the üg genre of Mongolian literature became a favorite literary form for Mongolian writers. Most works written in this genre are didactic teachings on compassion for domestic animals, the ills of the transient nature of sa [...] Read more.
It is in the nineteenth century that the üg genre of Mongolian literature became a favorite literary form for Mongolian writers. Most works written in this genre are didactic teachings on compassion for domestic animals, the ills of the transient nature of saṃsāra, and a critique of misconduct among Buddhist monastic communities in Mongolia. Through the words of anthropomorphized animals or even of inanimate objects, the authors of the works belonging to the üg genre expressed their social concerns and criticism of their society. One of such authors was a Mongolian monk scholar of the nineteenth century by name Agvaanhaidav (Tib: Ngag dbang mkhas grub), who in his works of the üg genre strongly advocated the development and preservation of the spirit of Mahāyāna Buddhism in Mongolia, and of the Geluk monasticism and scholarship in particular. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Buddhist Traditions in Literature)
Article
Death for a Buddhist Dreamer: Identity and Mortality in Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen’s Autobiographical Dream Narrative
Religions 2021, 12(11), 938; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110938 - 28 Oct 2021
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Abstract
This article examines the role of dreams in the life of the Tibetan Buddhist master Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147–1216). Focusing on The Lord’s Dreams (Rje btsun pa’i mnal lam), Drakpa Gyaltsen’s only autobiographical text, along with the first biography of him [...] Read more.
This article examines the role of dreams in the life of the Tibetan Buddhist master Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147–1216). Focusing on The Lord’s Dreams (Rje btsun pa’i mnal lam), Drakpa Gyaltsen’s only autobiographical text, along with the first biography of him written by his influential nephew Sakya Paṇḍita Kunga Gyaltsen (1182–1251), this paper explores the work of dreams in negotiating issues of identity and mortality. It argues that dreams were important sources of knowledge about the past, the future, and the dead in this context, creating intermediate spaces in which access to these times and individuals became possible. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Buddhist Traditions in Literature)
Article
Tracing the Life of a Buddhist Literary Apologia: Steps in Preparation for the Study and Translation of Sokdokpa’s Thunder of Definitive Meaning
Religions 2021, 12(11), 933; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110933 - 27 Oct 2021
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Abstract
This article discusses Buddhist apologetics in Tibet by examining the formation, revision, and reception of the most renowned literary apologia ever written in defense of the Old School of Tibetan Buddhism: Sokdokpa Lodrö Gyeltsen’s early 17th-century magnum opus the Thunder of Definitive Meaning [...] Read more.
This article discusses Buddhist apologetics in Tibet by examining the formation, revision, and reception of the most renowned literary apologia ever written in defense of the Old School of Tibetan Buddhism: Sokdokpa Lodrö Gyeltsen’s early 17th-century magnum opus the Thunder of Definitive Meaning. It reconstructs in broad strokes the history of the Thunder’s reception from the early 17th century to the present and relates this to details in different versions of the Thunder and its addendum to shed light on the process by which this work was composed and edited. By considering this work’s peculiar context of production and history of reception alongside passages it presents revealing how it was conceived and revised, this analysis aims to prepare the ground for its study and translation. In so doing, this discussion attempts to show how a broadly historical approach can work in tandem with a fine-grained philological approach to yield fresh insights into the production and reception of Buddhist literary works that have important ramifications for their understanding and translation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Buddhist Traditions in Literature)
Article
Bliss beyond All Limit: On the Apabhraṃśa Dohā in Tantric Buddhist Texts
Religions 2021, 12(11), 927; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110927 - 25 Oct 2021
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Abstract
The Apabhraṃśa dohā is a literary medium from Indian antiquity, with early examples appearing in Kālidāsa’s plays around the 5th century and continuing in later Hindi-language Jain and Bhakti works in the early modern period. However, it was within Tantric Buddhist texts and [...] Read more.
The Apabhraṃśa dohā is a literary medium from Indian antiquity, with early examples appearing in Kālidāsa’s plays around the 5th century and continuing in later Hindi-language Jain and Bhakti works in the early modern period. However, it was within Tantric Buddhist texts and traditions that the dohā truly came into its own as a literary genre. Particularly within the “Yoginī Tantra” strata of the Tantric Buddhist canon, Apabhraṃśa dohās appear in notable and formulaic ways, used within ritual contexts and other significant junctures, signaling the underexamined use of this literary form and its language of composition. This paper examines the use of dohās attributed to the mahāsiddha Saraha as they are used in the Hevajra Tantra, the Buddhakapāla Tantra, and some associated texts. In doing so, this paper demonstrates that as a literary genre, Apabhraṃśa dohās perform a similar function to mantras and dhāraṇīs, but are unique in their attention to phonology and discursive meaning. By examining the uses of these dohās during particular moments of Tantric Buddhist ritual syntax, this paper will then reflect on the later trajectory of these verses after the death of institutional Buddhism in India, and the reasons for their survival. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Buddhist Traditions in Literature)
Article
The Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā and the Sky as a Symbol of Mahāyāna Doctrines and Aspirations
Religions 2021, 12(10), 849; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100849 - 09 Oct 2021
Viewed by 540
Abstract
The Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā is a Mahāyāna dharmaparyāya and is the eighth chapter of the great canonical collection of Mahāyāna Buddhism, the Mahāsaṃnipāta. The text is lost in the original Indic, but survives in Chinese and Tibetan translations, with several passages of the Sanskrit [...] Read more.
The Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā is a Mahāyāna dharmaparyāya and is the eighth chapter of the great canonical collection of Mahāyāna Buddhism, the Mahāsaṃnipāta. The text is lost in the original Indic, but survives in Chinese and Tibetan translations, with several passages of the Sanskrit version preserved as quotations in later commentaries. It has been regarded as an authoritative canonical source throughout the intellectual history of Mahāyāna Buddhism, but scant scholarly attention has been paid to this important text. Thus, this paper aims to provide a concise yet comprehensive introduction of the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā, including its textual history, its basic structure, and its reception in Indian, Tibetan, and East Asian Buddhist traditions. It also examines how the fundamental concepts of Mahāyāna Buddhism, such as emptiness, endlessness, and imperishability, are signified in the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā by the image of the sky (Skt. gagana), the central metaphor of the text. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Buddhist Traditions in Literature)
Article
The Multiple Dialectics of a Text and Author—A Study on Seng Zhao’s Non-Complete Emptiness (Bu zhenkong lun)
Religions 2021, 12(7), 462; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12070462 - 24 Jun 2021
Viewed by 1094
Abstract
In discussing the arrival of Buddhism to China, Erik Zürcher describes the meeting of “a jungle of Buddhist metaphysics” with other local philosophies and practices. This period was a transformative encounter with wide-ranging ramifications, including for textual traditions. Non-complete Emptiness (Bu zhenkong [...] Read more.
In discussing the arrival of Buddhism to China, Erik Zürcher describes the meeting of “a jungle of Buddhist metaphysics” with other local philosophies and practices. This period was a transformative encounter with wide-ranging ramifications, including for textual traditions. Non-complete Emptiness (Bu zhenkong lun 不真空論), written by Seng Zhao 僧肇, is one product of this encounter. While explaining the principle of emptiness, Non-complete Emptiness incorporates Daoist and Confucian terminologies and elements. Nevertheless, the text is considered formative for the development of Buddhist writing and practice during the critical period of Buddhism’s assimilation into China in the third to fifth centuries AD. This study of Non-complete Emptiness looks at the philosophical and cultural relevance of the text. It suggests a methodological solution to some of the tensions that have arisen from Seng Zhao’s notion of emptiness. The article begins by looking into the historical and hermeneutical tendencies in the scholarship of Non-complete Emptiness. The following section provides a textual and cultural analysis of the text and its author, viewing the sage as an “open entity”, to understand Seng Zhao’s idea of emptiness. This analysis suggests that a multiple dialectic approach should be followed to improve the understanding of the text’s Buddhist message and Seng Zhao’s position as a scholar-monk in medieval China. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Buddhist Traditions in Literature)

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Essay
Doxographical Appropriation of Nāgārjuna’s Catukoi in Chinese Sanlun and Tiantai Thought
Religions 2021, 12(11), 912; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110912 - 21 Oct 2021
Viewed by 544
Abstract
This article reconstructs the Chinese “practice qua exegesis” which evolved out of the doxographical appropriation of the Indian Buddhist catuṣkoṭi (four edges), a heuristic device for conceptual analysis and a method of assorting linguistic forms to which adherents of Madhyamaka ascribed [...] Read more.
This article reconstructs the Chinese “practice qua exegesis” which evolved out of the doxographical appropriation of the Indian Buddhist catuṣkoṭi (four edges), a heuristic device for conceptual analysis and a method of assorting linguistic forms to which adherents of Madhyamaka ascribed ambiguous potential. It could conceptually clarify Buddhist doctrine, but also produce deceptive speech. According to the Chinese interpreters, conceptual and linguistic forms continue to be deceptive until the mind realizes that all it holds on or distinguishes itself from is its own fabrication. Liberation from such self-induced deceptions requires awareness of the paradox that the desire to leave them behind is itself a way of clinging to them. Chinese Sanlun and Tiantai masters tried to uncover this paradox and to disclose to practitioners how the application of the catuṣkoṭi, on the basis of such awareness, enables proper conceptual analysis in exegesis. From this approach followed the Chinese habit of construing doxographies in which hermeneutical and soteriological intent coincide. Understanding the inner unity of doctrinal manifoldness in the translated sūtra and śāstra literature from India via exegesis also made it possible to apprehend the ineffable sense of liberation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Buddhist Traditions in Literature)
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