The Development of Buddhist Monastic Communities or the Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion

Thurs., Aug. 21st, 09:30-12:30

Bodily Care: An Identifying Marker in Buddhist Monasteries of Ancient India and China

Heirman, Ann (Ghent University, Ghent, BEL)

Buddhist monasteries in both Ancient India and China have developed in dialogue with their wider (Buddhist and) non-Buddhist environment. The importance of this constant dialogue on the Buddhist articulation of their monastic practices, precepts and identity has rightfully attracted the attention of Buddhologists studying the historical, institutional and social development of Buddhist monasticism. Still, some aspects of monastic life that are best studied within these interactive contexts have not yet received the attention they deserve. One such essential but often overlooked aspect of monastic life are the practices and objects regulating bodily care. This paper will critically examine the various practices and objects of bodily care, more specifically, this paper looks at their codification in various Vinayas of Ancient India and how they were subsequently understood and applied in the different cultural context of China. For monastic authors, bodily care primarily involves bathing, washing, cleaning, shaving and trimming the nails, activities of everyday life that are performed by lay people and monastics alike. In this sense, they are all highly recognizable and, while structuring monastic life, equally provide a potential bridge between two worlds that are constantly interacting with each other: monastic people and their lay followers.

As it will be shown, the dynamic processes of codification, implementation and recodification (in respectively India and China) of these Buddhist practices and objects of bodily care are both a result of and means for interaction with the lay community. Bodily practices might be viewed as relatively simple and elementary, but it is exactly through their triviality that they give us a clear insight into the structure and development of Buddhist monasteries. This paper displays how, over time, Buddhist monks and nuns have, through their painstaking effort into regulating bodily care, defined the identity of the Buddhist saṃgha, overtly displaying it to the laity.


Annoying Lay-People: Public Opinion and Vinayic Concerns in Tibetan Monasteries (12th to 20th Century)

Jansen, Berthe (Leiden University Institute of Area Studies, Leiden, NED)

In the vast corpus of Vinaya texts, the concern for the reputation of the Sangha is regularly expressed. Behaving badly in full view of the laity is one of the thirteen Saṅghāvaśeṣa dharmas (dge ’dun gyi lhag ma’i chos bcu gsum), listed in the Prātimokṣa. The reason commonly given is that if monks misbehave in their presence, the householders will lose faith in the Dharma. While this Vinayic worry over the Saṅgha’s good name is found throughout the Buddhist world, the kind of monastic behaviour that annoyed the lay-people varied according to the time and place. Public opinion was crucial for those monastic communities that were economically dependent on the laity. But how important was this there where monasteries became important players in the local economy? The Tibetan monastic guidelines (bca’ yig) also echo the Vinaya in this, but at the same time these texts, ranging from the late 12th to the 20th century, are often reactions to the realities on the ground. These works convey the problems that the monks sometimes caused in lay-society and how they were solved by certain figures in authority – sometimes with the help of the reasoning found in Vinayic texts, but also by coming up with purely pragmatic solutions. The monastic guidelines then are sources in which orthodoxy and orthopraxy come together.

In this paper, I will firstly explore the reasons for the emphasis on accommodating lay-people and further argue that these works show the way certain Vinayic concepts were adapted and transformed so as to fit the Tibetan context. Furthermore, the lay-people’s reactions to the monks and vice versa show the contemporary and local lay-sensibilities. The way that the monks responded with new rules and other measures demonstrates that – unlike what is sometimes argued – the relationship between the Tibetan monastery and society was not simply hegemonic, but one in which it was crucial to reach a consensus.


Friend or Enemy? A Critical Examination of the brāhmaṇa Presence in the Pāli Vinaya

Maes, Claire (Ghent University, Ghent, BEL)

It goes without saying that the various ascetic movements present during the formative stages of the early north Indian Buddhist monastic community (5th to 1st century BCE) had a significant influence on the development of both the early Buddhist monastic precepts and structures, and on the early Buddhist identity rhetoric.

Any study aimed at understanding the history of the early Buddhist monastic community must, therefore, necessarily try to reconstruct the nature of the interaction of the Buddhists with their ascetic others, and consider the questions how this interaction influenced the development of their organization, or also, how these ascetic others were perceived and dealt with and how already their mere presence affected the self-perception and definition of Buddhists.

The purpose of this paper is to contribute to our current understanding of the dynamic and dialectical role of the early Buddhists’ ascetic others by critically examining the various references made to brāhmaṇas in the Buddhist monastic code of the Theravāda school, the Pāli Vinaya. For brāhmaṇa ascetics constituted one important but difficultly understood category of ascetic others. Throughout the various narratives of the Pāli Vinaya brāhmaṇas are explicitly referred to quite frequently. First, to better apprehend the complex category of brāhmaṇas, the reference field of the denomination brāhmaṇa itself is critically scrutinized. For who exactly falls under the denomination brāhmaṇa; is the term having an unambiguous one-on-one correspondence, or is it an umbrella term denominating various different groups of people? Second, I ask to the narratological level of the Pāli Vinaya how it refers to these brāhmaṇa others and what it establishes with these very references. Finally, our findings are interpreted against the two current but diametrically opposed theories that the Buddhist movement either originated as a heterodox reaction against the culturally dominant Brahmanic tradition or that, conversely, it originated in the non-Brahmanic culture of “Greater Magadha”.

This critical examination of the brāhmaṇa presence in the Pāli Vinaya will both enhance our understanding of the dynamic and dialectical role of ascetic others, and throw some more light on the important but vexed question of the role brāhmaṇas played on the development of the early Buddhist monastic tradition.


Guṇaprabha, the Vinayasūtra, and the Changes in Buddhist Monastic Beliefs and Practices in 7th-8th Century India

Nietupski, Paul (John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA)

In the seventh and early eighth centuries north Indian Buddhist monasteries responded to widespread changes in local communities and reductions in state support by allowing new rituals and reformulated rationales in the monastic curriculum. Admission to the community was granted to a broader range of religious practitioners. These changes are described in the Vinaya texts of Guṇaprabha (ca. 550-630), Śākyaprabha (ca. seventh century), and Vinītadeva (ca. 630-700). The new parameters can be measured by the expanded definitions of the terms mantra and tantra, here not “esoteric,” or “antinomian” as known elsewhere in later centuries, but as elaborations of earlier Buddhist monastic beliefs and practices. These included medical therapies, problems of theft, or “taking what is not given,” worshipping non-Buddhist deities, engagement with emanated deities (sprul), engagement with women, and others. These definitions and discussions in the texts contribute to our understanding of Indian Buddhism of the seventh to eighth centuries, and the gradual changes in allowable theories and practices. The method is to use ca. third century CE Mūlasarvāstivāda monastic texts to define the key terms and ideas, and compare these definitions with those described by Guṇaprabha, Śākyaprabha, and Vinītadeva. Then, thirteenth to fifteenth century Tibetan Vinaya commentaries by Tsonawa (13th century), Butӧn Rinchendrup (1290-1364), and the First Dalai Lama (1391-1475) will be used to highlight retrospective understandings and changes implemented in Tibetan Buddhist monastic life. 


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