Boundary of the Body: The Monastic Robe and Revival of the Vinaya in Medieval China and Japan
Modern scholarship often compares Buddhist monastic rules to legal codes or treats them mainly as nominal prescriptions. The reality, however, was more complex than what appeared on paper. The speaker proposes a new understanding of the Vinaya which sees it as a vital device and site for the formation of a religious self, in tandem with the habitual cultivation of the human body in everyday monastic living. Given that the body of a monastic is almost always clothed, the apparently disproportionately large number of rules in the Vinaya about monastic robes should not be surprising. This talk focuses on the practice of robing monastics in the Vinaya revival in Song China and Kamakura Japan. The formative power of the Vinaya on the individual body and on the collective community hinges on the mediacy of the robe. By tracing the trajectory of the commentarial tradition and material culture of the Vinaya from Song China to Kamakura Japan, the speaker will show how Buddhists negotiated the tension between fidelity to the Vinaya and their localized ephemeral social reality.
Harvard Buddhist Studies Forum Lecture Series