The Protective Buddha: On the Cosmological Logic of Paritta

In: Numen
View More View Less
  • 1 Hebrew University

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):

$30.00

Abstract

Paritta — ritual chanting — is a central institution in Theravāda Buddhism, with deep roots in all historical forms of Buddhism in Asia. Nevertheless, no study provides a convincing framework for how the protective potency of the Buddha and his words is understood. Earlier strands of scholarship highlighted the psychological aspects of ritual chanting that were thought to have a positive effect on participants. Later scholars emphasized the role of paritta in the training of monks. These studies do not explain “how paritta works,” that is, for example, why, according to the views encapsulated in the texts themselves, bringing the Buddha to mind can act against demons or change reality. This article offers a close reading of the central texts of the genre in order to conceptualize the metaphysical understanding they employ. It thus provides insights regarding the unique ontological position and cosmological function of the Buddha according to the texts.

  • Alper, Harvey P. 1989. Mantra. Albany: State University of New York Press.

  • Anālayo, Bhikkhu. 2015. “Brahmavihāra and Awakening: A Study of the Dīrgha-āgama Parallel to the Tevijja-sutta.” Asian Literature and Translations 3(4): 127.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Aronson, Harvey. 1980. Love and Sympathy in Theravāda Buddhism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

  • Blackburn, Anne M. 1999. “Magic in the Monastery: Textual Practice and Monastic Identity in Sri Lanka.” History of Religions 38(4): 354372.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Blackburn, Anne M. 2001. Buddhist Learning and Textual Practice in Eighteenth-Century Lankan Monastic Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Blackburn, Anne M. 2011. “The Text and the World.” In Robert A. Orsi (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Religious Studies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 151167.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Collins, Steven. 1995. Nirvana and other Buddhist Felicities: Utopias of the Pali Imaginaire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • De Silva, Lily. 1981. Paritta: A Historical and Religious Study of the Buddhist Ceremony for Peace and Prosperity in Sri Lanka. (Spolia Zeylanica, Vol. 36). Colombo: Department of Government Printing.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Eckel, Malcolm D. 1992. “The Power of the Buddha’s Absence: On the Foundations of Mahāyāna Buddhist Ritual.” Journal of Ritual Studies 4(2): 6195.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fiordalis, David. 2008. “Miracles and Superhuman Powers in South Asian Buddhist Literature.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan.

  • Foucher, Alfred. 1917. The Beginnings of Buddhist Art, and Other Essays in Indian and Central-Asian Archaeology. Paris: Paul Geuthner.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gethin, Rupert. 2011. “Tales of Miraculous Teachings in Early Indian Buddhism.” In Graham H. Twelftree (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Miracles, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 216234.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gombrich, Richard F. 1991 (1971). Buddhist Precept and Practice: Traditional Buddhism in the Rural Highlands of Ceylon. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gornall, Alexander. 2014. “How Many Sounds are in Pāli? Schism, Identity and Ritual in the Theravāda Saṅgha.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 42: 511550.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Greene, Paul D, 2004. “The Dhamma as Sonic Praxis: Paritta Chant in Burmese Theravāda Buddhism.” Asian Music 35(2): 4378.

  • Gunaratna, V. F. 1999 (1975). “Forword.” In Piyadassi Thera, The Book of Protection, Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1121.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hallisey, Charles. 1988. “Devotion in the Buddhist Literature of Medieval Sri Lanka.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago.

  • Handelman, Don. 2008. “Afterword: Returning to Cosmology: Thoughts on the Positioning of Belief.” Social Analysis 52(1): 181195.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harrison, Paul. 1992. “Commemoration and Identification in Buddhānusmṛti.” In Janet Gyatso (ed.), In the Mirror of Memory: Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 215238.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harvey, Peter. 1993. “The Dynamics of Paritta Chanting in Southern Buddhism.” In Karel Werner (ed.), Love Divine: Studies in Bhakti and Devotional Mysticism, Surrey: Curzon Press, 5384.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Huntington, Charles W. 2006. “History, Tradition, Truth.” History of Religions 46(3): 187227.

  • Huntington, John C. 1987. “Pilgrimage as Image: The Cult of the Aṣṭamahāprātihāriya, Part II.” Orientations 18(4): 5668.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jaini, Padmanabh S. 1965. “Mahādibbamanta: A Paritta Manuscript from Cambodia.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 28(1): 6180.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Keyes, Charles F. 1983. “Merit-Transference in the Kammic Theory of Popular Theravada Buddhism.” In Charles F. Keyes and E. Valentine Daniels (eds.), Karma: An Anthropological Inquiry, Berkeley: University of California Press, 261286.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kinnard, Jacob N. 1999. Imaging Wisdom: Seeing and Knowing in the Art of Indian Buddhism. London: Routledge.

  • Lindquist, Galina, and Don Handelman (eds.). 2011. Religion, Politics and Globalization. New York: Berghahn Books.

  • McDaniel, Justin T. 2004. “Paritta and Rakṣā Texts.” In Robert E. Buswell, Jr. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Buddhism, Vol. II, New York: Macmillan Reference, 634635.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McDaniel, Justin T. 2006. “Liturgies and Cacophonies in Thai Buddhism.” Aséanie 18: 119150.

  • McDaniel, Justin T. 2011. The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk: Practicing Buddhism in Modern Thailand. New York: Columbia University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ñāṇamoḷi, Bhikkhu (trans.). 2005. The Minor Reading (Khuddakapāṭha): The First Book of the Minor Collection (Khuddakanikāya). Oxford: The Pali Text Society.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nattier, Jan. 2003. “The Ten Epithets of the Buddha in the Translations of Zhi Qian.” Annual Report of the International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology at Soka University for the Academic Year 2002, 6: 207250.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Padoux, André. 1990. Vāc: The Concept of the Word in Selected Hindu Tantras. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

  • Piyadassi Thera. 1975. The Book of Protection. Sri Lanka: Mrs. H. M. Gunasekera Trust.

  • Rahula, Walpola. 1993. History of Buddhism in Ceylon: The Anuradha Period, 3rd Century BC–10th Century AC. Dehiwala, Sri Lanka: The Buddhist Cultural Centre.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ray, Reginald A. 1994. Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Ruiz-Falqués, Aleix. (forthcoming). “The Revealed Aphorism: Kaccāyana 1 in the Light of Grammatical Theology.”

  • Salomon, Richard. 2011. “An Unwieldy Canon: Observations on Some Distinctive Features of Canon Formation in Buddhism.” In Max Deeg, Oliver Freiberger, and Christoph Kleine (eds.), Kanonisierung und Kanonbildung in der Asiatischen Religionsgeschichte, Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 161207.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Samuels, Jeffrey. 2005. “Texts Memorized, Texts Performed: A Reconsideration of the Role of Paritta in Sri Lankan Monastic Education.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 28(2): 339367.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schopen, Gregory. 1975. “The Phrase “sa pṛthivīpradeśaś caityabhūto bhavet” in the Vajracchedikā: Notes on the Cult of the Book in Mahāyāna.” Indo-Iranian Journal 17: 147181.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Shulman, Eviatar. 2017. “The Buddha as the Pole of Existence, Or the Flower of Cosmos.” History of Religions 57(2): 164196.

  • Shulman, Eviatar. (forthcoming). “Contemplating the Buddha in the Jātakas.” Religions of South Asia.

  • Skilling, Peter. 1992. “The Rakṣā Literature of the Śrāvakayāna.” Journal of the Pali Text Society 16: 109182.

  • Skilling, Peter. 1994. Mahāsūtras, Vol. I. Oxford: Pāli Text Society.

  • Skilling, Peter. 1997. Mahāsūtras, Vol. II. Oxford: Pāli Text Society.

  • Smith, Brian K. 1989. Reflection on Resemblance, Ritual, and Religion. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

  • Spiro, Melford E. 1970. Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and its Burmese Vicissitudes. New York: Harper & Row.

  • Swearer, Donald K. 2004. Becoming the Buddha: The Ritual of Image Consecration in Thailand. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tambiah, Stanley J. 1968. “The Magical Power of Words.” Man, New Series 3(2): 175208.

  • Tambiah, Stanley J. 1970. Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in North-East Thailand. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Tambiah, Stanley J. 1984. The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Trainor, Kevin. 1997. Ritual, Relics, and Representation in Buddhism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Walshe, Maurice (trans.). 1995. The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom.

  • White, Eric. 2017. “Contemporary Buddhism and Magic.” In Michael Jerryson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook for Contemporary Buddhism, New York: Oxford University Press, 591605.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Yalman, Nur. 1964. “The Structure of Sinhalese Healing Rituals.” In E. B. Harper (ed.), Religion in South Asia, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 115150.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 419 200 17
Full Text Views 52 27 1
PDF Downloads 41 16 1