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Abstract

Buddhism in Bhutan accepts the mutually contradictory cosmologies of the Kālacakra and abhidharma systems, both of which are considered canonical and serve as the basis for important traditions. Many dzongs (fortress-monasteries) prominently display cosmological imagery of both these systems at their entrances, revealing the important place of cosmology in modern Bhutanese iconography and the equal attention that both these systems receive. Close inspection of such murals reveals a more complex relationship between the two models: each type of cosmological image adopts specific attributes normally associated with the other, such that abhidharma cosmoses use the visual language of Kālacakra paintings and vice versa. While textual sources allow one important type of analysis of this kind of cultural negotiation, such visual expressions provide unique and otherwise unknowable insights into the ways in which competing cosmologies can be compromised and mediated in the minds of practitioners.

In: Overlapping Cosmologies In Asia

Abstract

This book presents a new, transcultural, and interdisciplinary way to think about the history of cosmology in Asia. Building on the ubiquity of cosmological inquiry across cultures and recent advances in several academic disciplines, the book portrays a dynamic picture of cosmological ideas fluidly mixing and changing across cultural and linguistic boundaries in the premodern world. Even cosmologies that are typically understood as coherent systems of science or religion were neither monolithic nor static but rather subjects of regular negotiation, adaptation, and engagement between diverse individuals and groups. By further demonstrating connections across seemingly disparate approaches from the history of science, cultural history, religious studies, and art history, this book also shows that multiple paradigms, concepts, and practices can co-exist simultaneously in particular times, places, and objects. In other words, cosmologies are not singular and isolated objects in history; rather, they intertwine in complex ways based on any number of factors, including the historical transmission of ideas and objects, changing political or religious ideologies, and the practical needs of scientists, functionaries, artists, and ritualists. This book thus introduces multiple ways of understanding cosmologies and their overlapping in Asian history. Its ten chapters are organized by themes that highlight transmissions of knowledge, agents of interpretation, mathematical techniques, and religious imagery, showing how contributions by historians of culture, science, religion, and art can come together to create a broader picture of the many facets of cosmological thinking and their transformations.

In: Overlapping Cosmologies In Asia
The history of cosmology is often understood in terms of the development of modern science, but Asian cosmological thought and practice touched on many aspects of life, including mathematics, astronomy, politics, philosophy, religion, and art.
Because of the deep pervasion of cosmology in culture, many opportunities arose for transmissions of cosmological ideas across borders and innovations of knowledge and application in new contexts. Taking a wider view, one finds that cosmological ideas traveled widely and intermingled freely, being frequently reinterpreted by scholars, ritualists, and artists and transforming as they overlapped with ideas and practices from other traditions.
This book brings together ten diverse scholars to present their views on these overlapping cosmologies in Asia. They are Ryuji Hiraoka, Satomi Hiyama, Eric Huntington, Yoichi Isahaya, Catherine Jami, Bill M. Mak, D. Max Moerman, Adrian C. Pirtea, John Steele, and Dror Weil.