Welcome to Scribd. Sign in or start your free trial to enjoy unlimited e-books, audiobooks & documents.Find out more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
4Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Gregory Schopen - The Learned Monk as a Comic Figure: On Reading a Buddhist Vinaya as Indian Literature

Gregory Schopen - The Learned Monk as a Comic Figure: On Reading a Buddhist Vinaya as Indian Literature

Ratings: (0)|Views: 171|Likes:
Published by Ɓuddhisterie2
Journal of Indian Philosophy, 35 (2007): 201-226
Journal of Indian Philosophy, 35 (2007): 201-226

More info:

Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Ɓuddhisterie2 on Sep 02, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

03/06/2013

pdf

text

original

 
Abstract
The difficulties involved in identifying, appreciating, and under-standing the intentional humor of ‘‘other’’ people far removed in time andculture are well known, and are–not surprisingly–encountered in readingBuddhist vinaya or monastic texts written in relatively early India. This isparticularly so, perhaps, because the expectation may well be that such textswere not intended to be funny, and the assertion that some were would seemto require some demonstration. But if it is conceded, or fully acknowledged,that Buddhist monastic literature written in India was first of all Indianliterature, then Indian literature and literary or aesthetic theory may providethe tools for at least one such demonstration–Indian literature, after all,encompasses several genres (the ‘‘farce’’ and the ‘‘satire’’) which were cer-tainly intended to be humorous, and Indian aesthetics explicitly recognizes the‘‘comedic.’’ Using these resources might at least allow us to see how somevinaya passages, which appear to make fun of certain kinds of learned monks,might have been read by their Indian audience.
Keywords
Vinaya
Æ
Indian literature
Æ
Indian humor
Æ
Buddhist humorAlmost any discussion of Indian Buddhist humor will encounter—and soonerrather than later—some very weighty matters. In part, of course, this is be-cause an Indian Buddhist humor is first of all, by definition, Indian—in factprobably far more Indian than Buddhist—and India has a large, sophisticated,and technical literature devoted to aesthetics and literary criticism in which
G. Schopen (
&
)Department of Asian Languages and Cultures,University of California-Los Angeles,Los Angeles, CA 90095–1540, USAe-mail: schopen@humnet.ucla.edu
 123
J Indian Philos (2007) 35:201–226DOI 10.1007/s10781-007-9019-3
The learned monk as a comic figure: on readinga Buddhist Vinaya as Indian literature
Gregory Schopen
Published online: 20 July 2007
Ó
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007
 
the comedic (
ha¯  sya
) is a recognized and theorized component (
rasa
).
1
Itsdramatic literature in particular, moreover, gives a prominent place to a stockcomic figure—the
vidu¯ 
 s
:
aka
or ‘‘buffoon’’—who has given rise to a good dealof learned discussion, both ancient and modern,
2
and that same literature haspreserved—although possibly poorly—a significant number of ‘‘farces’’(
 prahasana
) and ‘‘satires’’ (
bha¯ 
n
:
a
).
3
Indeed, as Richard Salomon has put it,‘‘satirical touches are found often enough, even in the great [Indian] classics,’’and he cites with approval A.K. Warder’s claim of ‘‘a flourishing tradition of satire in ancient and medieval
ka¯ vya
.’’
4
But humor, it seems, could also be inclassicalIndia—as elsewhere—subversive,evendangerous,andappearstohaveelicited on the part of at least some elites some unease or ambivalence. At leastthat is suggested by the legend at the end of the
Na¯ 
:
 ya
 s
a¯  stra
which explains howthe drama came down to the earth, and why Bharata’s sons, or those associatedwith the drama, are
 s
u¯ dras
. No sooner, it seems, had Bharata’s sons gainedknowledge of the
Na¯ 
:
 yaveda
then they began to annoy everyone with farcesdevoted to comedy (
 sarvaloka
m
:
prahasanair va¯ dhanto ha¯  syasa
m
:
 s
rayai
h
:
). Stillworse, they produced a work that caricatured the
R
:
s
:
is
(
:
s
:
ı¯ 
n
:
a¯ 
m
:
nya
_
n
 gakara
n
:
am
),andthelatter,beingdeeplyoffended,didwhattheeasilyoffended
:
s
:
is
and
 gurus
alwaysdo:theycursedthem,asaresultofwhichthedramaendeduponearthandthey ended up as
 s
u¯ dras
.
5
But in spite of their complexities, technicalities, andnuances these Indian literary and s´ a¯stric materials may be critical for under-standing Indian Buddhist humor, first because they are Indian, and second be-cause they are much closer in both time and culture than we are to our Buddhisttexts:theytelluswhatwritersandtheoristsclose—oratleastcloser—intimeandculture to our Buddhist texts thought would be funny. They provide, in otherwords, at least one possible solution—however partial or approximate—to anotherwise intractable problem that is repeatedly encountered in the study of other people’s humor.Very recently, and in specific regard to Buddhist
vinaya
, Oskar vonHinu ¨ ber has nicely put a persistent problem, met again and again, in almostany discussion of the humor of other people more or less removed in time andculture from the discussant:
1
See the old Sharma (1941). More recent work—e.g., Siegal (1987)—has largely tried to side-stepthe more technical, ‘serious’ literature on humor (see Gerow’s (1989a) review of Siegal) perhapsbecause it isn’t very funny.
2
For sources on the
vidu¯ 
 s
:
aka
see Siegal (1987, pp. 467–468), to which might be added thescattered references to the
vidu¯ 
 s
:
aka
in Bansat-Boudon (1992) and the discussion of this figurefrom a broadly comparative point-of-view in Otto (2001, esp., pp. 218–223), who resists what shecalls a ‘‘considerable resistance among some Sanskrit scholars to the idea of the
vidusaka
as acourt jester.’’ See also the paper by Gerow (2001).
3
See Devi (1995), De (1959); Schokker (1966, pp. 39–64) and Janaki (1973).
4
Salomon (1983); esp. 11, quoting Warder (1972, p. 167).
5
Ghosh (1956–1967, Ch. 36); Nagar (1981–1984, Ch. 36)—It is interesting to note that one of thevery rare references to drama in canonical Pa¯ li—pointed out long ago in Wijesekera (1941)—alsoseems to take aim at
prahasanas
and to suggest that those
na
:
as
, ‘‘actors,’’ who make people laughend up in hell; see
Sa
m
:
yutta-nika¯  ya
iv 306–308.202 G. Schopen
 123
 
‘‘
it is mostly extremely difficult to guess, what was felt to behumorous or hilarious in ancient texts such as the Buddhist canon or itscommentaries, which were both composed in a cultural environmentlargely lost to us. Consequently, many paragraphs which we are inclinedto read with a smile today, may have been a deadly serious matter tothose, who originally wrote them down.’’
6
The point here could hardly be better posed, and yet we may be able to dosomething other than just guess, especially if it be allowed that IndianBuddhist literatures are in fact that: ‘Indian’ and ‘literature.’ Neither attributeis, however, commonly recognized or brought to the fore, and those familiaronly with the Pa¯ li
Vinaya
might well be disinclined to call it, for example,literature. But the case is very different in regard to another Buddhistmonastic code, and was so from early on.Sylvain Le´ vi, the great French Indological polymath, knew very well bothSanskrit literature—his first major published work was the still cited
Le the´ atreindien
—and the Buddhist
Mu¯ lasarva¯  stiva¯ da
-
vinaya
, the
vinaya
we will bedealing with here. When he characterized the latter—and he did so severaltimes—the emphasis was overwhelmingly on its literary qualities, not itstechnical or doctrinal aspects, and his comparisons were almost always withIndian literary works. He said, for example:‘‘Ce Vinaya monstrueux, e´ crit avec art, m
^
ele et brouille tous les genres;les prescriptions ont souvent l’air de simples pre´ textes a `conter de longueshistoires familie `res, he´ roı ¨ ques, comiques, fabuleuses, romanesques
’’
7
He also described the hypothetical ‘author’ of this
Vinaya
, and, by extension,the work itself, as follows:‘‘Un e´ crivain dont la fougue verbale et l’imagination surabondantee´ voquent le souvenir de Rabelais, et du meilleur de Rabelais, a prispre´ texte des re´ cits ternes et desse´ che´ s qui se re´ pe´ taient dans les couventsa `l’appui des prescriptions de la discipline eccle´ siastique, pour en tirerune succession de contes qui veulent
^
etre e´ difiants, mais qui sont surtoutamusants, pittoresques ou e´ mouvants a `souhait. Le Vinaya desMu¯ lasarva¯stiva¯din’s est une espe `ce de Br
:
hatkatha¯ a `l’usage des moines.’’But nally, and perhaps most surprising to some, he called the
u¯ lasarva¯  stiva¯ da
-
vinaya
, without any hesitation, ‘‘un des chefs-d’oeuvre de lalitte´ rature sanscrite
8
—not be it noted, a masterpiece of Buddhist literature,but, in effect, of Indian literature.
6
vonHinu ¨ ber(2006,p.29).Seemuchthesamepoint,expressedmorebroadly,inGerow(2001,p.169).
7
Le´ vi (1908–1909, p. 78).
8
Le´ vi (1932, p. 23). It is impressive in the extreme to note that Le´ vi knew this
Vinaya
largelythrough its Chinese translation, with its attendant problems, and in Sanskrit only through the‘‘deliberate abridgements’’ of its narratives, ‘‘often very clumsily carried out’’ found now in the
Divya¯ vada¯ na
(see Bailey, 1950, pp. 166–167)—of the Sanskrit manuscript of it from Gilgit he knewonly a few leaves. It is also worth noting that Le´ vi’s impact on the study of religion generally isslowly being recognized; see on his influence on Mauss, Fournier (1994), and Strenski (1996).The learned monk as a comic gure 203
 123

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->