The Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism

9780231162708

Most interesting find:

Paul Copp’s new book, The Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism (Columbia University Press, 2014), focuses on Chinese interpretations and uses of two written dhāraṇī during the last few centuries of the first millennium.  Based on extensive research on the material forms that these dhāraṇī took, Copp departs from a tradition of scholarship that focuses on the sonic quality and spoken uses of these spells, drawing our attention instead to how written and inscribed dhāraṇī were used to adorn and anoint the body.  A central theme is Copp’s assertion that the diffuse dhāraṇī practices that appeared centuries prior to the flowering of a high Esoteric Buddhism in the eighth century were not simply a crude precursor to the later development of a fully systematized Esoteric Buddhism, but rather were a set of loosely related practices and ideas that continued to develop alongside Esoteric Buddhism.  Through rich descriptions of dhāraṇī use and interpretation, and liberal use of Dunhuang materials, he shows that dhāraṇī were ubiquitous in all sectors of Chinese Buddhism: before, during, and after the eighth century.  In this way Copp challenges the teleological view of early dhāraṇī-based practices as being but one stage leading to the eventual triumph of a comprehensive Chinese Esoteric Buddhism.  In addition, Copp demonstrates how material dhāraṇī practices were a product of both Chinese and Indic input.   Drawing on archeological evidence, he notes that the way in which dhāraṇī were actually worn reflects Indian precedents, while on the other hand Chinese textual records describe and prescribe the wearing of dhāraṇī in terms borrowed from Chinese practices of wearing amulets, seals, medicines, and talismans.  The book contains thirty-two illustrations of amulets, written dhāraṇī, dhāraṇī stamps, dhāraṇī pillars, and funerary jars that help the reader to better visualize and understand the material practices at the center of Copp’s work.

The following relates to The Mystic Store that “enables all buddhas and bodhisattvas to roam [among] and encompass [all beings] ”:

A1

This entry was posted in Spirituality, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism

  1. Mahasidhra says:

    “Through rich descriptions of dhāraṇī use and interpretation, and liberal use of Dunhuang materials, he shows that dhāraṇī were ubiquitous in all sectors of Chinese Buddhism: before, during, and after the eighth century. In this way Copp challenges the teleological view of early dhāraṇī-based practices as being but one stage leading to the eventual triumph of a comprehensive Chinese Esoteric Buddhism.”

    Very interesting.

    • Vajragoni says:

      Yes it is. Problem is though that there is such a wide selection of new scholarly works coming out that just when you think you’re going to have your fill for awhile–another one pops up! 🙂

      • Mahasidhra says:

        These scholarly works both attract me and frighten me! On the one hand, I want to be as informed as possible, but on the other, I’m worried that too much learning might negatively impact my practice. You’re probably in a stage where you already reached a good balance between the two.

        • Vajragoni says:

          My friend the learning curve never ends. Refinement is an ongoing process–it empowers one to constantly fine-tune their own capacity.

      • n. yeti says:

        It was once taught to me that the right foot on left leg first style (the posture attributed to Shakyamuni upon vanquishing Mara) is considered bad manners in some meditation halls during formal sittings because it is too arrogant or pretentious, as it is a posture reserved for Buddha. I did not know it was associated with the Ch’an lineages according to Xuanzang. Also I would be especially curious to know if it was linked with the Northern lineage of Ch’an.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*