The Chinese Buddhist canon contains more material on ritual and liturgy than it does doctrinal commentary. Despite this fact, most research has focused on doctrinal commentary. This book reconceptualizes the historiography of East Asian Buddhism by shifting the focus of analysis from philosophical texts and doctrine to ritual and practice.
Concentrating on ritual and on the creation of new liturgical subjects and new liturgical communities, the author analyses 7th century manuals for performing ritual consecrations which were designed to install a deity in a disciple and to make that disciple a vehicle for divine action. These rituals have often been designated "tantric". In this book, they are examined from the perspective of subject formation in the practice of ritual, not from the perspective of sectarian identification in doctrine. The author argues that the new "tantric" rites are developments of earlier practices surrounding ordination and the use of visions. At the same time, the rites created new social bodies and new public subjects. A focus on such practices and subjects provides a new understanding of the role of liturgy and vision in Chinese Buddhism.
The book will be of intreested to academics the field of Buddhism, Chinese religion, Tantric Buddhism, ritual studies and theory and method in the study of religion.
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Charles D. Orzech is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina - Greensboro, US
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