Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks: Collected Papers on the Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Texts of Monastic Buddhism in India

By Gregory Schopen | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THE COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE for the Study of Buddhist Traditions of the University of Michigan is very pleased to be able to present this collection of papers by Professor Gregory Schopen as the second volume in its series. Through his meticulous studies of a wide range of neglected or forgotten sources, many of which are carved in stone, Professor Schopen has effected a major shift in the direction of Buddhist Studies, a shift away from the sometimes excessive focus upon the rarefied categories of the scholastic productions by monastic elites, and a shift toward a recognition of the importance of the materiality of "popular" practice. These practices not only occupied the concerns of a much larger segment of the Buddhist communities of India, both monastic and lay, but served as the inevitable context for the formulation and elaboration of scholastic doctrine.

Professor Schopen's work, published over the last fifteen years in a wide range of scholarly journals, has been focused broadly on two issues in the history of Indian Buddhism: monastic life and the rise of the various movements that we refer to as the Mahāyāna. Monastic Buddhism in India is the subject of the current volume. Professor Schopen's highly influential papers on the rise of the Mahāyāna, which have called into question both the coherence of the category as well as its date, are currently being edited for publication as the next volume in our series.

The present volume provides an essential foundation for a social history of Indian Buddhist monasticism. Challenging the popular stereotype that represented the accumulation of merit as the domain of the layperson while monks concerned themselves with more sophisticated realms of doctrine and meditation, Professor Schopen problematizes many assumptions about the lay-monastic distinction by demonstrating that monks and nuns, both the scholastic elites and the less learned, participated actively in a wide range of ritual practices and institutions that have heretofore been judged "popular," from the accumulation

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