Implications for Theory and Method
Why Kīrti Śrī sought legitimacy, and how, by his various appeals to symbolic discourse of Buddhist kingship, and by his articulation of a classical Buddhist world view expressed through painting, he ultimately succeeded, are subjects for a separate historical analysis of social and religious dynamics. There are, however, other serious implications of this work that are more political, philosophical, or methodological in character, implications that transcend the historical context of the specific issues that have been scrutinized here. One of these is discussed as the focus of this chapter, and a second is considered in the postscript, chapter 6.
The first of these theoretical issues is indeed methodological in character. It has to do with the types of sources selected and examined in attempts to answer some very basic questions about religious meaning. In both the past and the present, the systematic study of the history of religions, and, in particular, the study of Buddhism, has been focused almost exclusively on interpretations of sacred literature. What it means, or has meant, to be a Buddhist, or what constitutes the Buddhist religious identity, has been understood through an almost complete reliance on the translations and exegeses of written texts deemed, by Buddhist tradition, to be normatively authoritative either because these texts are