Scriptural Authority A Buddhist Perspective Shi Zhiru Pomona College, Claremont, USA Like gold that is melted, cut, and polished, So should monks and scholars Analyze my words [before] accepting them; They should not do so out of respect.1 As other papers in this volume have already noted, there is a crisis of authority in modern religion, particularly in the West. One defining characteristic of modernity is a deep sense of rupture from the old, from the traditional, which is compounded by a heightened awareness of the subjectivity of self.2 Therefore, in the age of modernity, or postmodernity, critical and skeptical questioning of forms of religious authority is almost inevitable. While the crisis of religious authority is certainly enhanced in modernity, I would argue that the crisis of authority has always been part and parcel of religious innovation and transmission in Buddhist history. Critical self-reflection and skepticism of scriptural authority were present already in early Buddhism; at various junctures throughout Buddhist history, attitudes toward scriptural authority were often renegotiated in connection with major religious changes that in turn were usually prompted by larger social and historical changes. As the critical theorist Jürgen Habermas points out, "the term `modern' again
Buddhist-Christian Studies – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Sep 30, 2010
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