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Speaking For Buddhas: Scriptural Commentary in Indian Buddhism by Richard F. Nance (review)

Speaking For Buddhas: Scriptural Commentary in Indian Buddhism by Richard F. Nance (review) anddeathareShintoandBuddhist"innameonly,"derivinginsteadfromfolkreligiosity, which allows for the rich variety of assimilation found today in the modern urbanworldofcontemporaryTokyo(p.183). GiventheimportantquestionsraisedbyHeineregardingthenarrownessofcurrentinterpretivemodelsinthestudyofJapanesereligion,thecontributionsofSacred High City, Sacred Low Citycannotbeoverstated.Takingasignificantstepinmoving WesternscholarshipbeyondthegazeupontheJapaneseother,Heinehasoffereda shiftinparadigmthatwillchangethedirectionofthisfieldforyearstocome.UndergraduateandgraduatecoursesonJapaneseculturalandreligiousstudiesoronthe confluenceofcontemporaryreligiouspracticeandmaterialconsumptionwouldbe wellservedbyaddingthistexttorequiredreading.However,oneimportantquestion thatstillremainsistheplaceoftextinJapanesesectariantraditions.IfallJapanese religiouslifeisfundamentallyderivedfrompre-sectarian,pre-writingfolkpractices, andisShintoorBuddhist"innameonly,"thenhowarewetounderstandthemeaninganduseofwritingintheformationofthesetraditions,andhowwouldthisrelate toidentifiabledifferencesbetweenJapaneseBuddhismandbothChineseandIndoTibetansystems?HavingmovedfromthetextualtothephenomenologicaldimensionsofJapanesereligions,isitpossibletoreturntothetextwithgreaterclarityand possibleinsightsintowhatisuniqueabouttheJapaneseuseofwrittenmaterials? Speaking For Buddhas: Scriptural Commentary in Indian Buddhism. By Richard F. Nance.NewYork:ColumbiaUniversityPress,2012.Pp.298.isbn978-0-231-15230-3. ReviewedbyMaria Heim AmherstCollege mrheim@amherst.edu InSpeaking for Buddhas: Scriptural Commentary in Indian Buddhism,RichardNance offersthefirstbook-lengthtreatmentoftheinterpretivemodelsandprinciplesguidingalargebodyofcommentarialliteratureproducedbyIndianMahynaBuddhists inthesecondhalfofthefirstmillenniuminnorthernIndia.Hechartstheconventions,protocols,andidealstheseauthorsinvokedintheireffortsto"speak"forBuddhas as they wrote commentaries on stra, vinaya, and abhidharma texts. He is concernedlesswithoutliningtheformallexicalandsyntacticprinciplesofBuddhist scholasticism,andmorewiththenormativeandrhetoricalassumptionsguidingexegetical practice. He shows that Indian Buddhist authors were preoccupied with questions about the nature of scripture and commentary as complex discursive events,astheyexploredthequalitiesofBuddhas'utterancesandwhatitcouldmean tospeakforandaboutthem.Nance'sprojectiswelcomeandoverdueinBuddhist andpremodernIndiantextualstudies,particularlywhenweconsiderthatintellectualprogressinmedievalSouthAsiawasforgedlargelythroughcommentarialinterpretationandtheelaborationofroottexts,andyetnotehowlittleattentionhasbeen giventohowtheseprocessesworkedandwereunderstoodbytheirpractitioners. Nance'sstudyisimpressiveinitsrangeofbothtextsconsideredandquestions posed.Thefirstchapter,"ModelsofSpeaking,"looksattwoprimerswidelyrecited PhilosophyEast&WestVolume63,Number4October2013660­664 ©2013byUniversityofHawai`iPress (according to the Chinese pilgrimYijing) at Nland, the atapañcatka and the Catuataka,forhowtheypraisetheBuddha'sspeechandmodelidealspeechfor Buddhists.HealsodipsintothePlisuttas(whichhetakesasrepresentativeofthe gamicliterature)onthenatureoftheBuddha'sspeech,andheconsiderstheproscriptiveprotocolsofmonks'speechinthePrtimokastra,stricturesthatgomuch further than the usual accounts of "right speech," and that demonstrate how seriouslyworriesaboutauthorityandmisrepresentationweretakeninnormativemonasticcontexts. The Buddha's speech (buddhavacana), according to the first verse of the atapañcatka,is"well-worded,ofgreatmeaning,trueandsweet;profound,plain, orboth;succinctordetailed"(p.16).Nancecarefullyparsesthisversetostructure histreatmentofthistext.TheseattributesarecommonlyseeninBuddhistcommentaries,andencompasswell-knowntropesofbeingexcellentinbothmeaning(artha) and phrasing (vyañjana), and capable of being stated in brief (sakiptena) or in detail(vistarena).Thesecondverseofthetextsuggeststhatthesequalitiesestablish evidenceoftheBuddha'somniscience(p.16),because,itwouldseem,utteringonly speechthatisatoncesweet,beneficial,and true relseremainingsilentaltogether --o aybepossibleonlyinaconditionofomniscience.Nancerightlyobservesthat --m one of the important and admired features of the Buddha's speech is the ways it "pointsintwodirectionsatonce":itisuniversallytrueandbeneficialforallwho hearitregardlessoftheircapacities,evenwhileit"isgenerally lwaysandevery--a --w --c where ell-suitedtotheparticularityoflocalcontext(s) ontextsthatmaydiffer astotime,place,language,speaker,andaudience"(pp.21,22). ThosewhoheartheBuddha'sspeecharesaidtohavetheprofoundsensethat "thisteachingisformealone"(inthewordsoftheCatuataka[p.20]),andexperiencethewordsasuniquelytailoredtotheirsingularcondition.AlthoughNancedoes notdiscussthisverse,theideaof"formealone"isinteresting.Itrelatestoanimportantthreadinthebook,namelythewaysthattheDharma heBuddha'sspeech s --t --i simultaneously"whatisresponsiveto,andwhatisdissociablefrom,thevicissitudes ofcircumstance"(p.123).TheinexhaustibleDharmaalwaystranscends,evenasit findsexpressionin,"evanescentteachingsofferedinparticularidioms,languages, anddialects,"and,Imayadd,isdirectedtoparticularindividualswhoexperienceit asspeakingtotheiruniqueandidiosyncraticconditions.Nancebeginstogestureto someoftheinterestingpossibilitieshere,butthereismoretoexploreinthesesources http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Philosophy East and West University of Hawai'I Press

Speaking For Buddhas: Scriptural Commentary in Indian Buddhism by Richard F. Nance (review)

Philosophy East and West , Volume 63 (4) – Oct 23, 2013

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Abstract

anddeathareShintoandBuddhist"innameonly,"derivinginsteadfromfolkreligiosity, which allows for the rich variety of assimilation found today in the modern urbanworldofcontemporaryTokyo(p.183). GiventheimportantquestionsraisedbyHeineregardingthenarrownessofcurrentinterpretivemodelsinthestudyofJapanesereligion,thecontributionsofSacred High City, Sacred Low Citycannotbeoverstated.Takingasignificantstepinmoving WesternscholarshipbeyondthegazeupontheJapaneseother,Heinehasoffereda shiftinparadigmthatwillchangethedirectionofthisfieldforyearstocome.UndergraduateandgraduatecoursesonJapaneseculturalandreligiousstudiesoronthe confluenceofcontemporaryreligiouspracticeandmaterialconsumptionwouldbe wellservedbyaddingthistexttorequiredreading.However,oneimportantquestion thatstillremainsistheplaceoftextinJapanesesectariantraditions.IfallJapanese religiouslifeisfundamentallyderivedfrompre-sectarian,pre-writingfolkpractices, andisShintoorBuddhist"innameonly,"thenhowarewetounderstandthemeaninganduseofwritingintheformationofthesetraditions,andhowwouldthisrelate toidentifiabledifferencesbetweenJapaneseBuddhismandbothChineseandIndoTibetansystems?HavingmovedfromthetextualtothephenomenologicaldimensionsofJapanesereligions,isitpossibletoreturntothetextwithgreaterclarityand possibleinsightsintowhatisuniqueabouttheJapaneseuseofwrittenmaterials? Speaking For Buddhas: Scriptural Commentary in Indian Buddhism. By Richard F. Nance.NewYork:ColumbiaUniversityPress,2012.Pp.298.isbn978-0-231-15230-3. ReviewedbyMaria Heim AmherstCollege mrheim@amherst.edu InSpeaking for Buddhas: Scriptural Commentary in Indian Buddhism,RichardNance offersthefirstbook-lengthtreatmentoftheinterpretivemodelsandprinciplesguidingalargebodyofcommentarialliteratureproducedbyIndianMahynaBuddhists inthesecondhalfofthefirstmillenniuminnorthernIndia.Hechartstheconventions,protocols,andidealstheseauthorsinvokedintheireffortsto"speak"forBuddhas as they wrote commentaries on stra, vinaya, and abhidharma texts. He is concernedlesswithoutliningtheformallexicalandsyntacticprinciplesofBuddhist scholasticism,andmorewiththenormativeandrhetoricalassumptionsguidingexegetical practice. He shows that Indian Buddhist authors were preoccupied with questions about the nature of scripture and commentary as complex discursive events,astheyexploredthequalitiesofBuddhas'utterancesandwhatitcouldmean tospeakforandaboutthem.Nance'sprojectiswelcomeandoverdueinBuddhist andpremodernIndiantextualstudies,particularlywhenweconsiderthatintellectualprogressinmedievalSouthAsiawasforgedlargelythroughcommentarialinterpretationandtheelaborationofroottexts,andyetnotehowlittleattentionhasbeen giventohowtheseprocessesworkedandwereunderstoodbytheirpractitioners. Nance'sstudyisimpressiveinitsrangeofbothtextsconsideredandquestions posed.Thefirstchapter,"ModelsofSpeaking,"looksattwoprimerswidelyrecited PhilosophyEast&WestVolume63,Number4October2013660­664 ©2013byUniversityofHawai`iPress (according to the Chinese pilgrimYijing) at Nland, the atapañcatka and the Catuataka,forhowtheypraisetheBuddha'sspeechandmodelidealspeechfor Buddhists.HealsodipsintothePlisuttas(whichhetakesasrepresentativeofthe gamicliterature)onthenatureoftheBuddha'sspeech,andheconsiderstheproscriptiveprotocolsofmonks'speechinthePrtimokastra,stricturesthatgomuch further than the usual accounts of "right speech," and that demonstrate how seriouslyworriesaboutauthorityandmisrepresentationweretakeninnormativemonasticcontexts. The Buddha's speech (buddhavacana), according to the first verse of the atapañcatka,is"well-worded,ofgreatmeaning,trueandsweet;profound,plain, orboth;succinctordetailed"(p.16).Nancecarefullyparsesthisversetostructure histreatmentofthistext.TheseattributesarecommonlyseeninBuddhistcommentaries,andencompasswell-knowntropesofbeingexcellentinbothmeaning(artha) and phrasing (vyañjana), and capable of being stated in brief (sakiptena) or in detail(vistarena).Thesecondverseofthetextsuggeststhatthesequalitiesestablish evidenceoftheBuddha'somniscience(p.16),because,itwouldseem,utteringonly speechthatisatoncesweet,beneficial,and true relseremainingsilentaltogether --o aybepossibleonlyinaconditionofomniscience.Nancerightlyobservesthat --m one of the important and admired features of the Buddha's speech is the ways it "pointsintwodirectionsatonce":itisuniversallytrueandbeneficialforallwho hearitregardlessoftheircapacities,evenwhileit"isgenerally lwaysandevery--a --w --c where ell-suitedtotheparticularityoflocalcontext(s) ontextsthatmaydiffer astotime,place,language,speaker,andaudience"(pp.21,22). ThosewhoheartheBuddha'sspeecharesaidtohavetheprofoundsensethat "thisteachingisformealone"(inthewordsoftheCatuataka[p.20]),andexperiencethewordsasuniquelytailoredtotheirsingularcondition.AlthoughNancedoes notdiscussthisverse,theideaof"formealone"isinteresting.Itrelatestoanimportantthreadinthebook,namelythewaysthattheDharma heBuddha'sspeech s --t --i simultaneously"whatisresponsiveto,andwhatisdissociablefrom,thevicissitudes ofcircumstance"(p.123).TheinexhaustibleDharmaalwaystranscends,evenasit findsexpressionin,"evanescentteachingsofferedinparticularidioms,languages, anddialects,"and,Imayadd,isdirectedtoparticularindividualswhoexperienceit asspeakingtotheiruniqueandidiosyncraticconditions.Nancebeginstogestureto someoftheinterestingpossibilitieshere,butthereismoretoexploreinthesesources

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Philosophy East and WestUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Oct 23, 2013

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