1999 June 26 conference
10. Marvelous Mutations: Modes of Transformation in Buddhism and Hinduism
Organizer: Sherry Fowler, Lewis & Clark College
This panel will present a variety of manifestations of transformation drawn from Hinduism and Buddhism. While the examples brought to the discussion are wide-ranging in terms of location and type, in all cases imagery of the fantastic or extraordinary helps to attract worshippers and enhance the numinous nature of the religion.
1) Sherry Fowler, Lewis & Clark College. "Unstable Identities: Images of Transformation in Japanese Buddhist Sculpture"
Art historians, upon viewing a Buddhist image, might begin by considering some basic questions, such as: what is it, what material is it, and when was it made, with many more to follow. The goal of this paper is to stop to consider the very first question--what is it-or should I say who is it? In Japanese Buddhist sculpture this question does not always have a single answer. As one example, I will examine a sculpture of the fifth century Chinese patriarch Baozhi (417-514) as an image that displays two identities simultaneously. This twelfth century sculpture of Baozhi, housed in the Kyoto National Museum, is a very interesting example of multiple identity in Buddhist imagery. The face of this unusual image is split vertically down the middle to reveal another face pushing forward. Baozhi was well known for his supernatural powers including the ability to manifest himself as Avalokitesvara (Kannon) and indeed this sculpture shows one of the most literal illustrations of identity transformation in sculpture. When identifying icons, one is usually tempted to follow the classification set up for important cultural properties and national treasures, but within that system there is only a single slot for the designation of identity which impedes consideration of the figure as a functioning icon within Japanese religious practice.
2) Elizabeth Kenney, Kansai Gaidai University. "Beasts among Buddhists: Some Very Special Animals in the 'Further Biographies of Eminent Monks'"
The seventh-century Chinese collection of biographies of Buddhist monks -seng chuan, compiled by Tao-hsuan (596-667), contains about seven hundred biographies of eminent monks. Some of these biographies mention animals who have an appreciation for Buddhist spirituality. Most of these animals are wild creatures--tigers, deer, monkeys. It is more unusual to meet a domestic animal who demonstrates an understanding of Buddhism. In this presentation, I first briefly present the stories of wild animals who display Buddhist sympathies. I then focus on the accounts of ordinary animals (dogs, geese) who turn out not to be so ordinary after all. In concluding, I consider these Chinese examples in the larger context of the Buddhist view of animals.
3) Catherine Ludvik, University of Toronto. "From Messenger to God: The Transformation of the Monkey Hanuman"
The monkey-god Hanuman, one of contemporary Hinduism's most popular deities, has a long history in Indian art and literature. He appears as one of the leading figures in the "Ramayana" epic of Valmiki, composed between the third century B.C.E. and the second century C.E., and its numerous retellings. In the course of time, Hanuman changes from an ideal messenger to an exemplary devotee to a god in his own right. The paper will begin by describing briefly the major stages in the transformation of the figure of Hanuman. and then discuss one or two scenes in which he appears in the "Ramayana" story, comparing the original Valmiki version with two of its retellings, the "Adhyatma Ramayana" (1490-1550) and the "Ramacharitamanasa" of Tulasi Dasa (ca.1575).