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A History of Myanmar since Ancient Times by Michael Aung-Thwin, Maitrii Aung-Thwin (review)

A History of Myanmar since Ancient Times by Michael Aung-Thwin, Maitrii Aung-Thwin (review) From at least the third century <small class="caps">b.c. </small>, Buddhist ritual focused on <i>stupas</i>, stylized replicas of the mounds of earth in which early Buddhists interred relics of the Buddha. Beginning in the first century <small class="caps">b.c. </small>, Buddhist monks in western India began manipulating the physical shape of monastic <i>stupas</i> to make them appear taller and more massive than they actually were. Buddhist monks used these manipulations to help assert authority over the Buddhist laity. Employing theories of practice, materiality, and semiotics, I argue that physical manipulations of the shape of <i>stupas</i> by Buddhist monks led to the progressive detachment of the primary signs of Buddhism from their original referents. Where earlier <i>stupas</i> were icons and indexes of the Buddha encased within indexes of his presence, later <i>stupas</i> were symbols of the Buddha and Buddhist theology. This change in the material practice of Buddhism reduced <i>stupas</i>’ emotional immediacy in favor of greater intellectual detachment. In the end, this shift in the meaning ascribed to <i>stupas</i> created the preconditions from which the Buddhist image cult and Mahayana Buddhism emerged in the first through fifth centuries <small class="caps">a.d </small>. The development of Mahayana Buddhism and Buddha images signified a return to iconic worship of the Buddha. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Asian Perspectives University of Hawai'I Press

A History of Myanmar since Ancient Times by Michael Aung-Thwin, Maitrii Aung-Thwin (review)

Asian Perspectives , Volume 53 (2) – Jul 21, 2015

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Publisher
University of Hawai'I Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 University of Hawai'i Press.
ISSN
1535-8283

Abstract

From at least the third century <small class="caps">b.c. </small>, Buddhist ritual focused on <i>stupas</i>, stylized replicas of the mounds of earth in which early Buddhists interred relics of the Buddha. Beginning in the first century <small class="caps">b.c. </small>, Buddhist monks in western India began manipulating the physical shape of monastic <i>stupas</i> to make them appear taller and more massive than they actually were. Buddhist monks used these manipulations to help assert authority over the Buddhist laity. Employing theories of practice, materiality, and semiotics, I argue that physical manipulations of the shape of <i>stupas</i> by Buddhist monks led to the progressive detachment of the primary signs of Buddhism from their original referents. Where earlier <i>stupas</i> were icons and indexes of the Buddha encased within indexes of his presence, later <i>stupas</i> were symbols of the Buddha and Buddhist theology. This change in the material practice of Buddhism reduced <i>stupas</i>’ emotional immediacy in favor of greater intellectual detachment. In the end, this shift in the meaning ascribed to <i>stupas</i> created the preconditions from which the Buddhist image cult and Mahayana Buddhism emerged in the first through fifth centuries <small class="caps">a.d </small>. The development of Mahayana Buddhism and Buddha images signified a return to iconic worship of the Buddha.

Journal

Asian PerspectivesUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Jul 21, 2015

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