AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 395

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Session 395: Religion Buddhism I

The changes of the ritual music and the status of nuns in Drikung Kagyu Samtenling Nunnery
Yan-Fang Liou, Academia Sinica, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

In the Tibetan Buddhist system of deity, there are many female deities. By contrast, the status of the nuns is very low in practice. The nuns have a few chances to gain Buddhist knowledge, and they just learn basic ritual music. However, the status of nuns is rising gradually in the present generation. Drikung Kagyu Samtenling Nunnery is founded in 1997. It is located in North India. In 2006, it has changed from a traditional nunnery to a Buddhist college, and there is a new ritual, Zawa. Zawa was firstly held in the Drikung Kagyu College that belongs to the monks. Now the nunnery has the same college system and ritual. “Zawa” in Tibetan is “root” that means the texts of Buddhist scriptures. Because the nunnery is a Buddhist college now, they have the classes of exoteric sect’s Buddhist scripture and debate. The texts of scriptures are very complex so they recite a part of the texts together every morning through the ritual Zawa. Zawa keeps the ritual form and music of esoteric sect and adds the texts of exoteric sect. In the past, they practiced the Buddhist rules by praying to esoteric sect’s deities. In Zawa, the exoteric sect’s texts of the Buddhist scriptures are in the main position, but the esoteric sect’s power and music of religion are auxiliary. By gaining Buddhist knowledge of exoteric sect, these nuns can become a teacher as monks. The nuns attend to the ritual “Zawa” symbolizes their sacred status is rising.

Sources and Sentiments in Sugata Saurabha, a mid-20th CenturyNarrative on the Buddha's Life from the Kathmandu Valley
Todd T. Lewis, College of the Holy Cross, USA

Every Buddhist community in Asia has transposed a local tradition of the life of Shakyamuni, the Buddha, into their own artistic expressions and vernacular narratives. The particular editorial and doctrinal choices made in these redactions from classical sources afford insight into the history of cultural adaptations characteristic of each of these communities. This paper presents an overview of this process in the case of Sugata Saurabha, a life of the Buddha from the Newar community of Kathmandu, Nepal. Written in the 1940-s by one of Nepal's greatest modern poets, Chittadhar Hridaya, Sugata Saurabha has been a cultural landmark for modern Newar Buddhists, providing a learned narration of the great sage's life and also a repository of details about Newar culture through the author's casting the Buddha's life details in his own Nepalese context. Drawing from the work on my recently published co-translation of this work (Oxford University Press, 2009), my paper will discuss the text in its Newar context: as a product of the author's contact with classical sources such as the Lalitavistara, as well as with modern Hindi translations of the Pali Canon published by Rahul Sankrityayana, publications of the Mahabodhi Society, and other sources. The paper will also trace connections with Sugata Saurabha and the author's location in mid-century Nepal.

The growth of a Buddhist informal sector in China: what consequences for the growth of alternative civility?
Andre Laliberte, University of Ottawa, Canada

This paper discusses the variety of attitudes expressed by Buddhist associations in China relating to public interest. If the democratisation literature often assumes that religious revivals in authoritarian societies support more vigorous civil societies, it also frequently assumes that some religions are more germane to democratic development. There has been much research on this regarding Protestantism and Catholicism but little on Buddhist political orientations. Discussion of Buddhist political attitudes starts by noting the different strands of Han Buddhism in the PRC: aside from state sponsored associations, many vaguely related groups, some with widely divergent interests and visions, strive to influence civil society. Lay Buddhist groups (Jushilin), religious entrepreneurs, charity associations, and societies for Buddhist studies thrive outside of the local Buddhist associations. This institutional diversity, in turn, points to the variety of agendas that can be promoted under the guise of Buddhism. Some associations demonstrate their concern for the public interest via the provision of social services, others are more preoccupied with increasing their wealth and spiritual influence, and still others focus on the survival of their view of the tradition in the context of late capitalism. The paper argues that underlying this variety of interest lay conservative political attitudes shared by most associations and groups: a stable society serves the interests of all these groups. And herein lies a paradox: the quiet attitude of these groups spares them too much state interference and allows for a relatively benign kind of informal pluralism to develop.

The Indigenization and formation of the Theravada Buddhist community in Contemporary Malaysia
Yun Huang, Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan

This paper focuses on Theravada Buddhist temples, societies, and devotees in Malaysia to determine the process of the formation of the multi-ethnic Theravada Buddhist community. In Malaysia, many of the Theravada Buddhist temples have a long history with various memberships of Sangha, comprised of monks from Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. That said, the devotees of almost all Theravada Buddhist temples are predominantly English-educated and/or English-speaking Chinese. The Theravada Buddhist temples, despite retention of cultural legacies of Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, carry out manifold activities in their own way. This paper examines how the Chinese participants and the Sangha membership have engaged in developing Theravada Buddhist temples, societies in cooperation with each other, focusing in particular on the societies which are established by local devotees, practitioners. Many of such societies are founded by local devotees after 1980 without the support of Sangha. There exists the committee to organize various retreats,related religious activities as well as inviting the monks who may have deferent backgrounds, from various Buddhist traditions. It is in this way that such Buddhist societies become indigenised and form a distinctive socio-religious community. This research will demonstrate how the Buddhists of the Theravada tradition organize their community and how multi-ethnic participants interact with each other in that process.

Media and Buddhism: Towards a Systematic Research Agenda
Miklos Sukosd, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Media and Buddhism: Towards a Systematic Research Agenda Miklos Sukosd, Ph.D. Associate Professor Journalism and Media Studies Centre The University of Hong Kong Tel: (+852) 2241 5071 Fax: (+852) 2858 8736 E-mail: sukosd@hku.hk http://jmsc.hku.hk Can concepts of Buddhist philosophy be applied for the analysis of a particular area in modern society, the mass media? Can contemporary social science utilize Buddhist concepts as we try to understand special roles, uses, effects and importance of mass media in the 21st century? If they can be applied, what are their potential areas and modes of use and how relevant could they be? This paper proposes a systematic research agenda in eight areas: 1. Karma and consumerism: the environmental consequences of commercial media culture and advertisements 2. Emptiness of media images 3. The attention economy and colonization of consciousness: external media power vs. internal mind power (meditation) 4. Ahimsa, loving kindness, and peace journalism 5. From religious rituals to media rituals: an anthropological approach 6. Buddhism in contemporary media: empirical research opportunities 7. Buddhism in contemporary media: towards proactive strategies 8. Buddhist media theory as an alternative to commercial and authoritarian media theories