The Religious World of Kirti Sri: Buddhism, Art, and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka

The Religious World of Kirti Sri: Buddhism, Art, and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka

The Religious World of Kirti Sri: Buddhism, Art, and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka

The Religious World of Kirti Sri: Buddhism, Art, and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka

Synopsis

In this interdisciplinary inquiry, John Clifford Holt seeks to uncover how Buddhism was understood and expressed during the waning years of indigenous political power in Asia's oldest continuing Buddhist culture. Holt focusses on King Kirti Sri Rajasinha and how, despite powerful and persistent Dutch colonial threats and a deeply suspicious Kandyan Buddhist Sinhalese aristocracy, he successfully revived Sinhalese Theravada Buddhism. As Holt demonstrates, Kirti Sri succeeded in formulating his vision of an orthodox Buddhism in a number of ways: through the patronage of monastic sanha and re-establishing traditional lines of ordination, translating the Pali suttas into Sinhala, sponsoring public Buddhist religious rites, and refurbishing almost all Buddhist temples in the Kandyan culture region. The ultimate aim of Holt's study is to describe and interpret Kirti Sri's articulation of a normative Buddhist world, the essentials of which remain normative for many Buddhists in the Kandyan region of Sri Lanka today. Scholars and students will find The Religious World of Kirti Sri is an indispensable resource for the understanding of orthodox Buddhism at this important historical juncture, as well as the present day.

Excerpt

The Religious World of Kīrti Śrī has been written primarily for undergraduate and graduate students of religion, particularly those who have found Buddhism to be a fascinating subject. My colleagues in the disciplines of the history of religions, social history, and art history, as well as those in the fields of Buddhist studies, South Asian studies, and Sri Lankan studies, may also find some novel interest in this book.

Unlike many previous and more conventional approaches that Western religion scholars have taken in the study of Buddhism, this book is not concerned primarily with philosophical ideas or philological issues Germane to a specific school or authoritative text of South or East Asian Buddhism, though some interesting philosophical notions from literary and artistic sources will be considered throughout this book. Nor is this book solely a social history of the political dynamics that affect cultural transformations within the context of Buddhism's oldest continuing historical tradition, though social history and cultural renaissance are the fundamental venues and significant consequences of the events that will be considered. Rather, this work is primarily an interdisciplinary examination of what it meant for various people, lay and monastic, to be Buddhists during the advent of European colonialism and before indigenous Sinhalese reactions to Western intellectual and political hegemony began to foster the contours of what has become a "modern" Buddhist (yet sometimes reactionary) religious perspective. It is an exploration of "classical" Buddhist world views, especially the one revived and represented by a harried and insecure king, Kīrti Śrī RU+010, during the middle of the eighteenth century in Kandy, an up-country . . .

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