Receptacle of the Sacred

Receptacle of the Sacred: Illustrated Manuscripts and the Buddhist Book Cult in South Asia

Jinah Kim
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 432
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt2jcbqv
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  • Book Info
    Receptacle of the Sacred
    Book Description:

    In considering medieval illustrated Buddhist manuscripts as sacred objects of cultic innovation,Receptacle of the Sacredexplores how and why the South Asian Buddhist book-cult has survived for almost two millennia to the present. A book "manuscript" should be understood as a form of sacred space: a temple in microcosm, not only imbued with divine presence but also layered with the memories of many generations of users. Jinah Kim argues that illustrating a manuscript with Buddhist imagery not only empowered it as a three-dimensional sacred object, but also made it a suitable tool for the spiritual transformation of medieval Indian practitioners. Through a detailed historical analysis of Sanskrit colophons on patronage, production, and use of illustrated manuscripts, she suggests that while Buddhism's disappearance in eastern India was a slow and gradual process, the Buddhist book-cult played an important role in sustaining its identity. In addition, by examining the physical traces left by later Nepalese users and the contemporary ritual use of the book in Nepal, Kim shows how human agency was critical in perpetuating and intensifying the potency of a manuscript as a sacred object throughout time.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95488-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Jinah Kim
  4. LIST OF MAPS AND FIGURES IN THE PRINTED BOOK
    (pp. xv-xx)
  5. LIST OF FIGURES AND DIAGRAMS ONLINE
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)
  6. INTRODUCTION: Text, Image, and the Book
    (pp. 1-20)

    This book is an art historical and material cultural study of the Buddhist book cult in South Asia, whose adherents consider a book not only a text but also a sacred object of worship. The core materials examined in this study are illustrated Buddhist manuscripts prepared during the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries in the ancient regions of Magadha, Aṅga, Varendra (Gauḍa), Vaṅga, and Samataṭa (present-day Bihar, West Bengal, and Bangladesh; see map 3–1). During this period of late Indian Buddhism, books containing important Mahāyānasūtras, especially thePrajñāpāramitā (Perfection of Wisdom) sūtra, were produced in abundance, some with...

  7. PART ONE. THE BOOK

    • 1 BUDDHIST BOOKS AND THEIR CULTIC USE
      (pp. 23-42)

      In today’s ritual worship of a Buddhist scripture performed in Kwā Bāhā, or the Golden Temple, in Patan, Nepal, a Vajrācārya priest invokes the goddess Prajñāpāramitā to come into a book (fig. 1–1). The contemporary ritual that takes place around a treasured thirteenth-century black-paper manuscript of theAṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā (Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses) sūtra, henceforthAsP, may not date back to the inception of the Buddhist book cult in the early centuries of our Common Era.¹ But it reveals an intriguing issue regarding the relationship between the goddess and the book. In this twentieth-century version of...

    • 2 INNOVATIONS OF THE MEDIEVAL BUDDHIST BOOK CULT
      (pp. 43-70)

      Opening an illustrated manuscript of theAṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā sūtra(AsP) now in the Asia Society, New York, we encounter six brilliantly painted panels on the first two pages (fig. 2–1).¹ Four decorative bands divide each folio into three compartments, and a rectangular panel is placed in the middle of each section. The colorful painted panels shine like studded jewels against the earthy color of palm leaf, although the pigments used on these panels are not luminous. Despite their miniature size, each panel measuring only roughly 2 by 2 inches, the paintings’ presence is visually powerful and commands our attention....

  8. PART TWO. TEXT AND IMAGE

    • 3 REPRESENTING THE PERFECTION OF WISDOM, EMBODYING THE HOLY SITES
      (pp. 73-112)

      The images in an illustrated manuscript of theAṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā sūtra(AsP) do not seem to be related to the text at all at first glance. Eight panels out of twelve painted panels in the illustrated manuscript of theAsPnow in the Asia Society, New York, depict the eight scenes from the Buddha’s life (see fig. 2–1), whereas the accompanying text does not narrate the stories from the Buddha’s life. Even more challenging to understand is the inclusion of a number of images that are identified by captions as specific images of specific localities, as seen in the...

    • 4 THE VISUAL WORLD OF BUDDHIST BOOK ILLUSTRATIONS
      (pp. 113-148)

      The two holes in a palm-leaf manuscript of theAsPare supposed to accommodate a cord or two metal sticks that bind the book together. There survive a few manuscripts with the original binding material of two metal sticks,¹ but almost no manuscript survives with its original cord. TheAṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā sūtra(AsP) manuscript now in the British Library (Or. 6902) shows how a manuscript could have been strung together with a cord, although the cord here is a twentieth-century addition to the manuscript (fig. 4–1).² If we think of 227 palm-leaf folios containing the text of theAsP...

    • 5 ESOTERIC BUDDHISM AND THE ILLUSTRATED MANUSCRIPTS
      (pp. 149-210)

      A new trend that emerges during the early twelfth century in the Buddhist book production circle is the active inclusion of more powerful forms of Esoteric Buddhist deities, belonging not only to the Phase Two Esoteric Buddhism (yoga tantra) but also to the Phase Three Esoteric Buddhism (yoginītantraoryoganiruttaratantra).¹ We start seeing the deities like Cakrasamvara and Heruka with their respective consorts, Vajravārāhī and Nairatmyā, in theAṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā(AsP) manuscripts, and the Guhyasamāja manifestations of fivetathāgathasand bodhisattvas, especially of Mañjuśrī, also appear frequently. These deities are often frightful andyogin/yoginī-like in appearance, and they do not...

  9. PART THREE. THE PEOPLE

    • 6 SOCIAL HISTORY OF THE BUDDHIST BOOK CULT
      (pp. 213-270)

      In discussing the iconographic programs of the manuscripts, we have assumed generic “makers,” “donors,” and “users.” What of the human agency of the patrons, the makers, and the users of these manuscripts? On the last folio of theAṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā(AsP) manuscript donated by a lay donor Rāmajīva (Ms A3), a yellow preaching bodhisattva sits in the center panel (fig. 6–1).¹ He sits in a relaxed manner and two white flowers shoot up on either side. The golden complexion and the preaching gesture suggest that this is an image of Maitreya. Attending him sit two hitherto unseen figures, clearly...

  10. EPILOGUE: Invoking a Goddess in a Book
    (pp. 271-286)

    In the early morning of June 30, 2004, the treasured thirteenth-centuryPrajñāpāramitāmanuscript of Kwā Bāhā was brought out for worship (see web 7–1).¹ Kwā Bāhā or Hiraṇyavarṇa Mahāvihāra, also known as “the Golden Temple” in Patan, Nepal, is famous for itsPrajñāpāramitā pūjāin which a book of an important Mahāyāna Buddhist scripture, thePrajñāpāramitā(Perfection of Wisdom)sūtra,² is vigorously worshipped. I was the sponsor of the ritual that day. For a person who has been trying to reconstruct the circumstances surrounding the ritual use of the illustrated Buddhist manuscripts from medieval South Asia based on archaeological...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 287-350)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 351-366)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 367-377)