Becoming the Buddha

Becoming the Buddha : The Ritual of Image Consecration in Thailand

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Becoming the Buddha is the first book-length study of a key ritual of Buddhist practice in Asia: the consecration of a Buddha image or "new Buddha," a ceremony by which the Buddha becomes present or alive. Through a richly detailed, accessible exploration of this ritual in northern Thailand, an exploration that stands apart from standard text-based or anthropological approaches, Donald Swearer makes a major contribution to our understanding of the Buddha image, its role in Buddhist devotional life, and its relationship to the veneration of Buddha relics. Blending ethnography, analysis, and Buddhist texts related to this mimetic reenactment of the night of the Buddha's enlightenment, he demonstrates that the image becomes the Buddha's surrogate by being invested with the Buddha's story and charged with the extraordinary power of Buddhahood. The process by which this transformation occurs through chant, sermon, meditation, and the presence of charismatic monks is at the heart of this book. Known as "opening the eyes of the Buddha," image consecration traditions throughout Buddhist Asia share much in common. Within the cultural context of northern Thailand, Becoming the Buddha illuminates scriptural accounts of the making of the first Buddha image; looks at debates over the ritual's historical origin, at Buddhological insights achieved, and at the hermeneutics of absence and presence; and provides a thematic comparison of several Buddhist more

Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 30.48mm | 657.71g
  • Princeton University Press
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 0691114358
  • 9780691114354
  • 1,651,097

Review quote

"Wide-ranging... Although this study concentrates on one ritual in one region of Thailand, Donald K. Swearer extrapolates from the relatively small area of focus to illuminate a large area of debate."--Catherine Newell, Journal of the Siam Society "A thorough and magisterial study... This book will be essential reading for anyone interested in Buddhism, Buddhist 'theology,' images, and the material culture of religions."--John E. Cort, Religious Studies Reviewshow more

Back cover copy

"In Becoming the Buddha Donald Swearer has provided a multifaceted historical, ethnographic, and comparative study of an image consecration ritual that lies close to the very heart of popular Buddhist piety. Drawing on more than four decades of textual research and field experience in northern Thailand, Swearer provides compelling descriptions and probing analyses that will command the attention of scholars in Buddhist studies and ritual studies for many years to come."--Frank Reynolds, co-translator of Three Worlds of King Ruang: A Thai Buddhist Cosmology "Reading Becoming the Buddha was an exciting, note-taking, eye-opening experience that stimulated my thinking about the field and about my own work. This book is the product of a mature scholar whose many years in the field and whose prolific writings have made him one of the world's top authorities on Thai religion and culture, and yet it retains a freshness in the approach it takes, the topic it tackles, and the conclusions it upholds. There is nothing like it in print that I know of. I have every confidence that it will become, in a few years' time, a much referred to, often quoted, classic."--John S. Strong, Bates College, author of The Legend and Cult of Upagupta "This is the first major book-length study of image consecration for Indian or Southeast Asian Buddhism that is accessible to a general readership. The scholarship behind it is enormous. Donald Swearer has collected a great range of texts and translated them adeptly while also incorporating ethnographic materials that are not only excellent but at times quite delightful."--Richard Davis, Bard College, author of Lives of Indian Imagesshow more

Table of contents

List of Illustrations xiii Preface xv Note and Abbreviations xvii PART I INTRODUCTION 3 CHAPTER 1. BUDDHA AND BUDDHA IMAGE 9 The Power of Images 10 The Buddha Image in Northern Thailand 12 Scriptural Accounts of the First Buddha Image 14 The Buddha Image: An Art Historical Perspective 24 CHAPTER 2. MEETING THE BUDDHA: TEMPLE, IMAGE, AND RELIC 31 Wat, Reliquary, and Buddha Image 31 Reliquary and Image: Correlative Signs of the Buddha's Presence 35 Buddha Image and Wat: Nature and Function 40 Consecration and Renewal 42 CHAPTER 3. CONSTRUCTING A BUDDHA IMAGE 46 Bronze Image Manufacture in Northern Thailand 46 Texts 50 Tamra Kan Kosang Phraphuttharup (Manual for Making a Buddha Image) 50 Anisong Kan Kosang Phraphuttharup (The Meritorious Blessing for Making Buddha Images) 60 Yan Phraphuttharup (Buddha Image Yantra) 63 Analysis 68 PART II CHAPTER 4. THE RITUAL: OPENING THE EYES OF THE BUDDHA 77 The Setting 79 The Bodhimanda 79 Offerings to the Guru 83 The Ritual Process 86 Preliminaries 86 Paritta and Image Consecration 88 Texts 90 Buddhajayamangala Atthagatha (The Auspicious Victory) 90 Dasa Parami (The Ten Perfections) 91 Sukho Buddho (Happiness Is the Buddha) 92 Jinapanjara Gatha (The Victor's Cage) 92 Paritta and Abhiseka 93 Opening the Eyes of the Buddha 94 Sermons: Ordaining the Buddha 96 The Performative Power of Meditation and Holy Monks 99 The Third Watch of the Night 102 Texts 107 Mangala Udana Gatha (Stanzas of Auspicious Joy) 107 Yo Kho Ananda (O Ananda) 107 Buddhanussati (Remembering the Buddha) 107 Making the Buddha Present 108 Appendix 4.1 Paritta and Suat Mon 115 Appendix 4.2 Monastic Biographies: Luang Pu La , Luang Pu Waen, Khruba Phrohm 118 CHAPTER 5. INSTRUCTING THE IMAGE 122 Introduction and Analysis 122 Texts 129 Pathom Somphot (The Buddha's Supreme Enlightenment) 129 Anisong Pathom Somphot (The Meritorious Blessing for Copying or Listening to the Pathom Somphot) 137 Sitthat Ok Buat (Siddhattha's Renunciation) 138 CHAPTER 6. EMPOWERING THE IMAGE 152 Introduction and Analysis 152 Texts 156 Buddha Abhiseka (Consecrating the Buddha) 156 Suat Boek Phranet (Opening the Eyes of the Buddha) 164 PART III CHAPTER 7. THE BODY OF THE BUDDHA: POPULAR BUDDHISM AND BUDDHOLOGICAL THEORY 175 Buddhas: Past, Present, and Future 176 Buddha-body and Dhamma-body 184 Buddha Images, Kings, and Power 192 Texts 197 Tamnan Ka Phu'ak (The Chronicle of the White Crow) 197 Tamnan Phra Sila (The Chronicle of the Stone Buddha Image) 205 CHAPTER 8. CONSECRATION TRADITIONS IN OTHER BUDDHIST CULTURES: REASSESSING THE BUDDHABHISEKA 211 Auspicious Eyes: Enlivening the Image 212 Dhammicization: Image and Reality 218 Transformation: Sadhana 222 Syncretization: Buddha, Gods, and Ancestral Spirits 224 Conclusion: Stories and Saints, Icons and Images 230 Appendix 8.1 Hindu or Buddhist? 232 EPILOGUE: IF YOU MEET THE BUDDHA, KILL HIM! 235 P. A. Payutto (Phra Dhammapitaka) 238 Sacred Objects, Efficacious Deities, and Miracles 239 Buddhad sa Bhikkhu 242 Who Sees Me Sees the Dhamma 243 Everyday Language/Dhamma Language 244 Phra Bodhirak and Santi Asok 246 Notes 249 Glossary of Selected Pali and Thai Terms 299 Selected Bibliography 303 Index 321show more

About Donald K. Swearer

Donald K. Swearer is the Charles & Harriet Cox McDowell Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Swarthmore College. His recent books include "The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia" and "The Legend of Queen Cama".show more

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