China & Inner Asia: Table of Contents
Organizer: Eric Reinders, University of Colorado, Boulder
Chair and Discussant: Paul W. Kroll, University of Colorado, Boulder
Many studies of Asian religions in the West have focused rather narrowly on ideas, giving rise to disembodied and "immaterial" images of Buddhism or Daoism, in which ordinary lived experience is at best tangential. Conversely, some studies of material culture in China lack concern for the doctrinal and religious projects of clerics. This panel explores the mutual relevance of materiality, on-the-ground practices, and seemingly abstract ideas about spiritual transcendence. We explore the "nitty-gritty" of Chinese religionand the potential religious meaning of the ordinaryby focusing on some of the daily formalities of running monasteries: cleaning, maintenance, and dealing with visitors and outside authorities.
Both cleaning and greeting are related to the division of space: the monastery was a site of purity, in contrast to a relatively impure zone surrounding it. Cleaning purifies the site and thereby accentuates the distinction between sacred and profane spaces. Greeting outsiders is crucial to that difference because the gate is the transition point between those spaces; outsiders bring in physical and other forms of pollution. Greeting is the most formalized moment which enacts the relationship between a pure inside and an impure outside.
Two papers address cleaning: Livia Kohn on physical/spiritual interplay of washing the Daoist clerics body, and Eric Reinders on shared modes of cleaning the body and other objects in Buddhist monasteries. Two papers discuss greeting: Thomas Hahn on guest ritual in Daoist monasteries, and Tanya Storch on bowing as negotiation between Buddhist monks and secular authorities.
Livia Kohn, Boston University
Daoist monasticism began in the sixth century on the basis of ascetic immortality practices combined with the regulations for lay priests of the Daoist community and the monastic institutions of Buddhism. As do comparable institutions in other religions, so too it strives to create a perfect life while maximizing the opportunities for individual realization, in this case the attainment of immortality. As a result, the daily life of Daoist monasticism is highly formalized, with almost every move tightly regulated. This not only sets the reclusive life apart but also provides maximum opportunity for spiritual attainment while at the same time creating an intense control over all bodily functions.
One example of this formalization is found in daily rites of cleanliness, called "washing and rinsing" in relevant texts of the early Tang dynasty. These rites involve a number of specific utensils (water basins and jugs, ladles, willow branches, and ashes), apply various regulations and prohibitions (e.g., against loud gurgling and making bubbles), and demand the chanting of suitable prayer incantations (such as, "Our teeth have been cleaned this morning so that all living beings may benefit!").
Looked at in this context, these rites of cleanliness in Medieval Daoist monasteries not only allow a fascinating glimpse of the daily life of the time, but also show how even the most ordinary of activities, such as washing ones hands, is transformed into a spiritual discipline and an act of saving the world.
Eric Reinders, University of Colorado, Boulder
Much of the disciplinary literature of Chinese Buddhism explicitly addressed the need to clean: to wash bowls, basins, clothes, mats, towels and socks; to sweep the floor; to wash the feet, face, hands; to brush teeth; and to bathe Buddha images. This paper takes four objects in need of a bath: the monks bowl, his robes, his own body, and the images of Buddhas and bodhisattvas. How were these objects cleaned, and what religious meanings were assigned to these acts of cleaning? Was there any shared meaning or mode of washing? Was there, for example, any discursive interplay between cleaning a Buddha image and a monk bathing himself?
To investigate the general and specific meanings of cleansing Buddhist objects, I use: two guides to monastic practice dating from the early Tang, the Jiaojie luyi (Admonitions on Discipline) and the Xingshichao (Guide to Practice) compiled by Vinaya master Daoxuan; and a Tantric text, the Supohu tongzi qingwenjing (Sutra of the Questions of the Young Suvahu), translated by Shanwuwei; as well as a variety of historical records and scriptures concerning the merit of washing images.
We would expect the practical discourse on cleaning to overlap and blend with the more metaphorical discourse on spiritual purification, and with the more political discourse on the institutional purity of the Sangha. The metaphor of cleansing, indeed, pervaded both meditation guides and anti-Buddhist polemics. I end this paper with some reflections on the impulse to cleanse, purge, and otherwise persecute dirt.
Thomas H. Hahn, University of Heidelberg
According to Yoshioka Yoshitoyo, knowing how to treat a guest (chih ke or tien ke) in the monastic traditions of Taoism is a knowledge only bestowed on and nourished by senior monks. In his account of his stay at the White-Cloud Temple in Peking in 1940, Li Chung-i, the guest prefect in charge of visitors, was in fact only second in rank to An Shih-lin, the prior. This is all the more astonishing as on first sight monks dealing with the "outside," or the "other," as I would like to call it in differentiation to the homogeneous world order behind the monastery gates, could be regarded as relatively light a task. They provide for safe spiritual and physical passage of strangers into the realm of the monastic precincts. They also make sure that guests do not disturb the monastic agenda as it is carried out on a day-by-day basis. Yet exactly these duties allow the rank of guest prefect to stand out in the monastic hierarchy. Positioned at the crossroads between the profane and the sacred, in terms of both spatial and spiritual ramifications of their duties, the "knower of guests" has an important office to fill.
In my presentation I would like to trace the historical roots of this office and give a detailed "job description" by quoting examples from travelogues, monastic sourcebooks and administrative handbooks from the collectanea Tao-tsang.
Tanya Storch, University of Florida
This paper concerns Buddhist monastic bowing rituals and the rituals of greeting secular authorities. First, I describe obeisance as it was practiced in Southern Chinese monasteries during the Liuchao period. This discussion provides insight into the religious and philosophical meaning of those rituals, and describes certain conflicts between the Sangha and the Imperial court over guest ritual as religious conflicts in the ritual sphere. Then, I introduce the results of my recent field-work study on how modern Buddhists in the Peoples Republic of China are greeting their secular authorities. I conclude by setting a distinctive parallel between the way in which "bowing to the secular" vs. "bowing to the sacred" was interpreted in medieval China, and the way in which it has been handled in modern times.