managing monks: administrators and administrative roles in indian buddhist monasticism (south asia...
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SOUTH ASIA RESEARCH
series editor Patrick Olivelle
A Publication Series of The University of Texas South Asia Institute
and Oxford University Press
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Administrators and Administrative Roles
in Indian Buddhist Monasticism
jonathan a. silk
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Silk, Jonathan A. Managing monks : administrators and administrative roles in Indian Buddhist monasticism / Jonathan A. Silk. p. cm. (South Asia research) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-19-532684-0 1. Monasticism and religious orders, BuddhistIndiaGovernmentHistory. 2. BuddhismIndiaDoctrinesHistory. 3. Buddhist literatureIndiaHistory and criticism. I. Title. BQ6160.I4S55 2008 294.3657dc22 2007029120
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper
Understanding is possible only in context; things signify only in relation to other things. Despite this indisputable and obvious fact, far too many studies of Buddhism attempt to approach its worlds of thought and practice without regard for their institutional contexts. Some relevant studies do, of course, exist, with medieval China and Sri Lanka having been particularly well treated. Indian Buddhism, on the other hand, as so often seems to be the case, has generally received less thorough attention. I therefore offer the present attempt at a systematic examination of the administrators and administra-tive roles of Indian Buddhist monasticism without apology. A more comprehensive and synthetic appreciation of the management of these institutions will no doubt be possible in the future. For now, what I offer in the following pages is nothing more than a beginning.
An anonymous reader who vetted the manuscript for the publisher suggested that this book will be considered as the Indian counterpart to Jacques Gernets famous Les aspects conomiques du bouddhisme dans la socit chinoise immediately after publication, in spite of the fact that the evidence from China is infi nitely richer than that from India. To have ones work compared to a masterpiece is a great honor. But with due gratitude for the readers praise, I did not aspire to produce an Indian parallel to Gernets work, if this is even possible with the resources available. Rather, while Gernet explored the interface between monastic institutions and
surrounding society, particularly with respect to economic relations, my focus has been much more narrowly set instead on those who direct the internal workings of the monastic organization itself. Toward this end, I have been particularly interested to discover who was tasked with taking care of the day-to-day running of the monasterywho was to make sure that monks had food available to them, that teachers had an audience, that meditators had a quiet place to sit. In modern parlance, I have been less interested here in the sermon itself, or in issues of church and state, than in who is charged with advertising the preachers appearance, preparing the hall, setting up the chairs, making the coffee, and buying the cookies. This interest, of course, did not evolve in a vacuum.
The project which has now resulted in the present book began as a chap-ter of my 1994 doctoral dissertation, which centered on the Ratnaras i-sutra .That Mahayana scripture is concerned to a considerable extent with practical aspects of the cultivation of the Buddhist path. As evidence of this concern, the text contains a lengthy discussion of the monastic administrator called vaiyapr
tyakara . In my efforts to understand what the sutra has to say about this
fi gure, I devoted one chapter of the dissertations introduction to this term. When I returned to this material some years later, I came to feel that a fuller and more contextualized understanding of this administrator and his role, and thus a more complete understanding of the sutra as a whole and the polemics in which it is engaging, could only be attained through a wider sur-vey of the administration and management of Indian Buddhist monastic insti-tutions. I chose to carry forward this investigation by means of a census of the central terms for monastic administrators or managers as they appear in the literary and inscriptional sources relevant to Indian Buddhism. I thus studied materials preserved in Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, and Chinese, seeking to come to terms with the range of vocabulary employed for those with managerial or administrative responsibilities. One of the things I discovered is the wide range of usages of even seemingly identical titles. This, of course, is only to be expected. By their very nature, administrative terms are local and particular; we would expect that the ways a term is used in one time and place will not map perfectly or congruently onto the ways the same term is used in other circumstances. The process of canonization and transmission undergone by our main sourcesscriptural materials, sutras, and the texts of monastic rules and procedures, the Vinayashowever, has permanently erased from view the original temporal and geographic localizations of these texts and the communities whose views and practices they refl ect. What we have available to us for the most part is a literary corpus within which original distinctions of time and place have been leveled. Our much less abundant inscriptional
sources and accounts of Chinese pilgrims to India, as well as older manu-script materials, allow us to correct for this erasure only in small measure. I have been able to go only as far as the sources will allow. I nevertheless hope and expect that future research will refi ne and correct the picture I have drawn here.
It would be an error if my treatment of the variety of sources available to me and my attempts to discover within diverse descriptions some common threads were to lead to the conclusion that traditional sources were confused, or that the terms and titles in question did not have concrete or clearly delim-ited meanings and uses in specifi c communities. It is much more likely instead that the diversity of depictions that has reached us hides the individuality of what were, in the beginning, distinct local usages. In addition, and from an-other perspective, it may be that different genres of literature, or different types of sources, employ terms in, once again, distinct ways. But this cannot be always and entirely the case. If it were, the administrator discussed in the Ratnaras i-sutra would be unrelated to the administrators whose roles are de-scribed in the Vinayas, for instance. We would then have to hypothesize that the Ratnaras i-sutra belonged to a community not governed by a Vinaya, which is to say, that it was composed in a nonmonastic community, something which is demonstrably untrue. There must be some relation between the worlds of the scriptures and those of other genres of Buddhist literature, inscriptions, and so on. I believe that further studies will be able to help us gain a clearer and more nuanced understanding of such problems. For the present, however, while I have remained aware of the dangers of confl ationand have duly sought in my presentation to avoid forcing one sources understanding upon anotherI maintain my faith that this type of study, gathering together a wide range of material and attempting to make some sense of it, constitutes a real contribution to our knowledge of Indian Buddhist institutions. It is not perfect, it is not complete, and it is doubtless not always correct. It is, however, an attempt to survey a fi eld hitherto rarely plowed. To follow that metaphor for a moment, i