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By James A. Benn

Burning for the Buddha: Self-Immolation in chinese language Buddhism is the first book-length research of the speculation and perform of "abandoning the body"(self-immolation) in chinese language Buddhism. even if mostly missed through traditional scholarship, the acts of self-immolators (which incorporated now not in basic terms burning the physique, but in addition being wolfed by means of wild animals, drowning oneself, and self-mummification, between others) shape a permanent a part of the spiritual culture and supply a brand new viewpoint at the multifarious dimensions of Buddhist perform in China from the early medieval interval to the current time. This ebook examines the hagiographical bills of all those that made choices in their personal our bodies and areas them in old, social, cultural, and doctrinal context.Rather than privilege the doctrinal and exegetical interpretations of the culture, which think the crucial significance of the brain and its cultivation, James Benn specializes in the ways that the heroic beliefs of the bodhisattva found in scriptural fabrics comparable to the Lotus Sutra performed out within the realm of non secular perform at the flooring. His research leads him past conventional limitations among Buddhist experiences and sinology and attracts on a wide variety of canonical, ancient, and polemical assets, a lot of them translated and analyzed for the 1st time in any language. targeting an point of non secular perform that used to be obvious as either severe and heroic, Benn brings to the skin a few deep and unresolved tensions in the faith itself and divulges a few hitherto unsuspected points of the continually moving negotiations among the Buddhist neighborhood and the state.Self-immolation in chinese language Buddhism used to be arguable, and Burning for the Buddha supplies weight to the feedback and protection of the perform either in the Buddhist culture and with out. It locations self-immolation within the context of chinese language Mah?y?na idea and explores its a number of non secular, social, and ancient roles. those new views on a major mode of Buddhist perform because it was once skilled and recorded in conventional China give a contribution not to in simple terms the learn of Buddhism, but in addition the learn of faith and the physique.

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Extra info for Burning for the Buddha: Self-Immolation in Chinese Buddhism (Studies in East Asian Buddhism)

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After 420) proposed to 28 Burning for the Buddha offer his body. The villagers tried to persuade him not to do it, but he ignored their pleas. That very night, he sat alone in the bush and called out this vow to the tiger: “With this body of mine I will ¤ll you with food and drink, causing you to abandon your hateful and harmful intentions from now on. ”30 As presented in the biography, Tancheng’s vow illustrates the premeditated nature of his action and his conscious imitation of scriptural models.

Chapter 5 examines cases of self-immolation during this often tumultuous period. In Chapter 6 I survey the later history of self-immolation from the Song dynasty until the early Republic—that is to say, from the tenth century to the early twentieth. The variety of cases that have been preserved for this long period of history shows that self-immolation continued to be a well-attested 18 Burning for the Buddha form of Buddhist practice that was still open to reinterpretation. In particular I note the types of self-immolation that were performed at major critical and traumatic points in Chinese history, such as the loss of North China to the Jurchen Jin in 1126, the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, and the end of Imperial China in 1911.

Most obvious among them is the fact that Sengqun is referred to by locals as a “transcendent,” a term with a long history in China but more usually associated with Taoism by the ¤fth century. 56 It is recommended in a number of texts associated with longevity, such as Ge Hong’s 葛洪 (283–343) Baopuzi 抱朴子 (The Master Who Embraces Simplicity), for example. Another early fourth-century Taoist text, Taishang lingbao wufuxu 太上靈寶五符序 (Explanation of the Five Talismans of the Most High Numinous Treasure, DZ 388) provides a fairly typical recommendation of the practice: You attain the Tao by avoiding all grains.

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