Attracting the Heart

Attracting the Heart: Social Relations and the Aesthetics of Emotion in Sri Lankan Monastic Culture

Copyright Date: 2010
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    Attracting the Heart
    Book Description:

    An idealized view of the lifestyle of a Buddhist monk might be described according to the doctrinal demand for emotional detachment and, ultimately, the cessation of all desire. Yet monks are also enjoined to practice compassion, a powerful emotion and equally lofty ideal, and live with every other human feeling—love, hate, jealousy, ambition—while relating to other monks and the lay community. In this important ethnography of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Jeffrey Samuels takes an unprecedented look at how emotion determines and influences the commitments that laypeople and monastics make to each other and to the Buddhist religion in general. By focusing on "multimoment" histories, Samuels highlights specific junctures in which ideas about recruitment, vocation, patronage, and institution-building are dynamically negotiated and refined. Positing a nexus between aesthetics and affect, he illustrates not only how aesthetic responses trigger certain emotions, but also how personal and shared emotions, at the local level, shape notions of beauty. Samuels uses the voices of informants to reveal the delicately negotiated character of lay-monastic relations and temple management. In the fields of religion and Buddhist studies there has been a growing recognition of the need to examine affective dimensions of religion. His work breaks new ground in that it answers questions about Buddhist emotions and the constitutive roles they play in social life and religious practice through a close, poignant look at small-scale temple and social networks. Throughout, Samuels makes the case for the need to account for emotions in making intelligible the behavior of religious participants and practitioners. Drawing on a decade of fieldwork that includes numerous interviews as well as an examination of written and visual sources, Attracting the Heart conveys the manner in which Buddhists describe their own histories, experiences, and encounters as they relate to the formation and continuation of Buddhist monastic culture in contemporary Sri Lanka. The book will be of interest to scholars and students of religion, Buddhist studies, anthropology, and South and Southeast Asian studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6062-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Series Editor’s Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Notes on Romanization and Naming Practices
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Dramatis Personae
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. Introduction: Buddhism and Social Relations in Contemporary Sri Lanka
    (pp. xxi-xxx)

    One evening in late May 2004, I made yet another of countless ascents to Polgoda Vihara: a hilltop village temple in upcountry Sri Lanka. Because of some unforeseen car problems, it was already dark by the time I arrived. Leaving my car by the side of the driveway leading to the temple, I began a brief but tiring uphill walk. As I came around the bend in the road, the temple came dimly into view. To my left, I could see the shadows of about ten to fifteen young novices. They were sitting on the steps that lead up to...

  8. 1 Narada Thero: Affective Bonds and the Making of a Social Service Monk
    (pp. 1-20)

    During one afternoon in April 1999, I—along with Thilak, my research assistant—met Venerable Narada. Thilak and I received directions to Narada’s temple from Thilak’s wife, who had been working with Narada at the local high school at the time. After a journey that stretched well over two hours because of the heavy traffic that normally follows in the wake of the country’s schools letting out each afternoon, we arrived at the foot of a narrow, steep driveway that, we were told, leads to the temple. Beside a concealed gateway(torana), there was no sign of a temple from...

  9. 2 Aesthetics of Emotions and Affective Bonds: Monastic Recruitment in Two Sri Lankan Villages
    (pp. 21-42)

    Unquestionably, one of the most popular Sinhalese films in 2004 wasSūriya Araṇa(English title:Fire Fighters) by the renowned director Somaratne Dissanayake. The film tells the tale of a hunter and his ten-year-old son as they lay sole claim to the bordering jungle’s bounty by frightening others with conjured up stories of the forest’s many wandering ghosts.

    Problems for the hunter and his son crop up when an old monk and his young novice student set up their monastic residence in one of the jungle’s small caves. Besides threatening the hunter’s career by being spiritual exemplars, the two monastics—...

  10. 3 Aesthetic-Affective Social Networks and Monastic Recruitment
    (pp. 43-62)

    Venerable Sumedha, who was so instrumental in drawing new recruits to Polgoda Vihara, left the Madavala temple in Anurādhapura in 1994. Since that time, however, Polgoda Vihara has enjoyed a continuous flow of new recruits from the area, with every subsequent year bringing more and more ordinands to Narada’s temple. When I asked Venerable Narada in 2003 to explain to me why new recruits continue to come to Polgoda Vihara from the Huruluväva-Madavala area, he mentioned that it had much to do with village social dynamics. Along with noting how he stays in contact with families from the area by...

  11. 4 Learning to Be Novices: Monastic Education and the Construction of Vocation
    (pp. 63-83)

    Drawing children to thesanghais only one dimension of Narada’s social service enterprise. The second one is educating them as Buddhist monastics in the hope of sending them out, as well-trained novices and fully ordained monastics, to the temple’s ever growing number of branch temples. In examining Buddhist monastic education and training in this chapter, my concern is the very processes through which lay children become Buddhist monastics. Although the formal monastic curriculum that novices follow in the first five years of their schooling (including the texts that they read and memorize) is important to the learning process, I...

  12. 5 Temple Building as Social Service: Family, Community, and Emotion
    (pp. 84-106)

    During a sermon following the ordination of seventeen boys in October 2004, Venerable Narada spoke at length about his work as the head monk of Polgoda Vihara to the crowd who had assembled at the temple to celebrate the ceremony. Addressing the crowd, Narada said,

    I have ordained about a hundred and eight boys in this temple here. With these seventeen, it will become one hundred and twenty-five. A hundred and twenty-five boys have ordained in this preaching hall. These seventeen young monastics are not alone. They are connected to the larger group here. They will have a huge number...

  13. Conclusion: Social Relations and the Aesthetics of Emotion
    (pp. 107-110)

    In the preceding chapters I have discussed Buddhism as a human activity by attending to the range of emotions, social bonds, and shared aesthetic sensibilities that draw and hold together communities of Buddhists. Although such an examination does not necessarily preclude the importance of Buddhist texts, I have focused largely on the emotional textures and multi-moment histories of groups of laypeople and monastics with the goal of recovering and highlighting specific conjunctures in which ideas about vocation, patronage, recruitment, and institution building are dynamically negotiated and further refined. I maintained that overlooking emotion and its place in Buddhist practice and...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 111-144)
  15. References
    (pp. 145-160)
  16. Index
    (pp. 161-168)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 169-170)