On the Very Idea of Religions (In the Modern West and in Early Medieval China) Author(s): Robert Ford Campany

Source: History of Religions, Vol. 42, No. 4 (May, 2003), pp. 287-319 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3176635 Accessed: 14/06/2010 00:39
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Well into the nineteenth century,there "were"only four religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and a fourth variously named Paganism, Idolatry, or Heathenism.1Today a researchercan claim, "We have identified nine thousand and nine hundreddistinct and separate religions in the world,
Some of the positions taken below to some extent resemble those argued by Stephen R. Bokenkamp in an as yet unpublishedpaper, "The Silkworm and the Bodhi Tree: The Lingbao Attempt to Replace Buddhism in China and Our Attempt to Place Lingbao Daoism," of which I received a copy only at a late phase in the writing of this essay. My remarkshere were first delivered in sketch form at a symposium at HarvardUniversity in May 2000, and then more elaborately at the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies in Washington, D.C., in April 2002, and I am grateful for the opportunityto present them in both venues. I am also grateful to Bokenkamp, John McRae, and Michael Satlow for critical comments on an earlier draft of this essay. 1 For an overview, see JonathanZ. Smith, "Religion, Religions, Religious," in Critical Termsfor Religious Studies, ed. Mark C. Taylor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), pp. 275-80; on the extension of this typology to colonial frontiers, see David Chidester, Savage Systems: Colonialism and Comparative Religion in Southern Africa (Charlottesville:University of Virginia Press, 1996), pp. 32, 238-41; on the mid-Victorian shift from classification to diffusion and then development as the major tropes-or, as the Scot John Ferguson McLennan put it in 1863, "the divisions, the movements, and the progress of mankind"-see George W. Stocking, Jr., Victorian Anthropology (New York: Free Press, 1987), pp. 165-66. Otherearly classificationsfavoredtypes of religion ratherthan named religions; e.g., see David Hume, The Natural History of Religion, ed. H. E. Root (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1957), which deploys a binary "polytheism"/ "monotheism"not very far from what JonathanSmith has identified as the most basic classification of religions and groups, "theirs"vs. "ours"(see "Religion, Religions, Religious,"

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On the Very Idea of Religions

increasing by two or three new religions every day."2Whatever shifts in human life and communities might be related to these juxtaposed classifications, what is clearly paramount is that massive changes have occurredin the criteria and systems of classification themselves and in the awareness of the classifiers. Taxonomic map is not religious territory. What is involved when we invoke the categories "religions"or "a religion" (as distinct from "religion"in the generic sense and from "the religious," taxa with which I will not deal here)? To what extent are these categories helpfully invoked in the study of specific non-Westerncultures and periods-for example, early medieval China? In approachingthese questions I will assume five axioms: 1. Discourse on religions is first and foremost a linguistic affair, whatever concepts or theories end up being invoked. We normally focus on "theories"and "methods"that operate at high levels of abstraction,but at the working end of religious studies much is decided at the more concrete are level of the language in which descriptionsand interpretations couched and research questions framed. We must therefore attend closely to that language and its implications. While some have criticized the category "religions,"they have typically failed to include scrutinyof the languages both of moder scholarship and of the other cultures being studied.3 2. Language and concepts are metaphoricalin character,in the sense richly developed in the work of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson over the past twenty years.4Underlying the metaphorsin which even the most
p. 276, Map Is Not Territory:Studies in the History of Religions [Leiden: Brill, 1978], pp. 241-42, "Whata Difference a Difference Makes,"in "ToSee Ourselves as Others See Us": Christians, Jews, "Others" in Late Antiquity, ed. Jacob Neusner and Ernest S. Frerichs [Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1985], pp. 15-16); and Chantepie de la Saussaye, Manual of the Science of Religion, trans. Beatrice S. Colyer-Fergusson (London: Longmans, Green, 1981), chaps. 7-8, which deploys and discusses a variety of classification schemes. 2 The statementis attributedto David B. Barrett,editor of the WorldChristian Encyclopedia, in Toby Lester, "Oh, Gods!" Atlantic Monthly (February2002), p. 38. 3 See, e.g., Robert D. Baird, Category Formation and the History of Religions (The Hague: Mouton, 1971), pp. 134-42. A refreshing recent exception is Timothy Fitzgerald, "A Critique of 'Religion' as a Cross-CulturalCategory,"Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 9, no. 2 (1997) 35-47, though I do not by any means agree with some of his conclusions. On the other hand, Fitzgerald's "Religious Studies as Cultural Studies: A Philosophical and AnthropologicalCritiqueof the Concept of Religion,"Diskus 3 (1995): 35-47, criticizes the use of "religion" mainly for its conceptual fuzziness. I would respond that, while scholarly usage of the term is certainly vague and ambiguous by turns, the discourse on "religions"is structuredaccording to certain prominent metaphorsthat are not fuzzy at all but that may be problematic in other ways, as we will see below. 4 See especially George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), and Philosophy in the Flesh: The EmbodiedMind and Its Challenge to WesternThought (New York:Basic, 1999); George Lakoff, Women,Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987); and MarkJohnson, The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987). Also of note is Earl R. MacCormac,Metaphor and Myth in Science and Religion (Durham, N.C.: Duke

Other cultures may. however. 52. Fernandez. 56-93. 1991). earlier people's claims-an assumption JonathanZ.ed. The Meaning and End of Religion. E. it is impossible for terpretations. 1976). t] was a borrowing from Japanese and that the term had been coined recently in Japanese to translate the Western "religion" (cited in Smith. are contingent on the shape of Western history. The Meaning and End of Religion (New York: Macmillan. p. thought. the agendas driving the questions asked and the materials selected must derive from knowledge communities contemporaneous to the scholar. as well as the fact that. Contraryto Cantwell Smith. Smith has summarizedas "a morality of regard for local inEven if such a project were desirable.History of Religions 289 apparentlyneutraldescriptive statementsabout religions are couched will be found implications that silently but powerfully determine the questions we ask and the assumptions we make about the natureof religions. including the fact that the language of research is not the many same as the language of the sources.. pp. see James W. Discourse about religions is rooted in Western language communities and in the history of Western cultures. and institutions. "The CulturalBasis of Metaphor"in Fernandez. I take it that the helpfulness of the category "religions"is not to be measured by the extent to which people in the target culture and era-here. Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 5 See Wilfred Cantwell Smith. rather.'" has been noted for almost a century now. necessitating translation-hence interpretation-at every turn(a responsibility abnegatedby the fantasy that we might somehow simply present the texts pristine and whole to our readers). p. As Jonathan Smith put it recently. For an importantset of essays that build on metaphoranalysis but also suggest revisions and extensions. Particularly importantfor my purposes here is the essay by Naomi Quinn. . at least until time travel becomes possible. Soothill noted as early as 1919 that the moder Chinese term zongjiao [. Calif. Smith. lack closely equivalent demarcations. early medieval China-would have recognized it as one of their own. 4. 3. prima facie. 1990). 7 JonathanZ.: StanfordUniversity Press. It would do so only if one assumed that the sole legitimate task of historical scholarship on religion is to recover and repeat. 1963).5 To speak of "religions" is to demarcatethings in ways that are not inevitable or immutable but. That premoder Chinese "lacked a word for 'religion(s). As Wilfred Cantwell Smith famously arguedfour decades ago. 6 W. 58). it is a term created by scholars for their intellectual purpose and University Press."7 reasons. in the language of the original documents. constitute a reason for moder scholars not to use the term. it is not the case that "religion"(in either its generic or its specific sense) is simply "ourword for" a universally existent entity or a universally recognized category. Beyond Metaphor: The Theory of Tropesin Anthropology (Stanford. "'Religion' is not a native term.6 does not.ed. and do..

P. as a way of betterunderstandingboth the contours and limitations of the category "religions" and the contours and limitations of the early medieval Chinese discourses on analogous topics as well as the natureof the fit. Drudgery Divine. It is a second-order." p. This. 86-87. 9 A recent work that."10 least if one of our problems is the extent to which our categories match other cultures' and the discovery of the difference that a categorical difference of makes to our (mis)understanding them. or lack of fit." Harvard Theological Review 89 [1996]: 402). though not on the topic of religion(s). Perhaps this is what Smith means to allow for in his more recent comment. . on analysis. 5. neither will ours be if ours are themselves the other member of the comparison ratherthan being taken as the inert. Poole. Edward Slingerland is also doing important work in this area. Hence we must pay close attention to two cultural and temporal sets of linguistic usages and their metaphoricalimplications. that sound comparisons are triadically structured(see Drudgery Divine. leads to my final axiom. with JonathanSmith. is itself likewise liable to critical modification. 2002). revision. pp. Religions. On the Epistemology of the Senses in Early Chinese Thought(Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.. concept. 52. 281.290 On the Very Idea of Religions thereforeis theirs to define. between the two. 33. then. 117)."8But use of this category without regardto whether Chinese usages work differently constitutes a sort of category blindness to aspects of the historical evidence and can enable the illusion that the category is universal and natural. "Religion. and juxtapose these results. be the only ones subject to rejection or revision."itself a culturally and historically conditioned variable.9 Such an inquiry has the purpose not of ruling out Westernusages simply because they are Westernbut of clarifying certainaspects of both membersof the comparison and the natureof the differences between them. 51. That early medieval Chinese discourses lacked one-for-one "versions" of the Westerncategory "religions"does not mean that they lacked some usages that are analogous-ones that do something like the same work. but I would insist that the "thirdterm. "Metaphors and Maps: Towards Comparison in the Anthropology of Religion. to which I would simply reply that dual classifications may not. as Smith points out. that "comparisonprovides the means by which we at 're-vision' our data in order to solve our theoretical problems. To pursue this latter goal is to stop short of affirming. 99. Compare this statement in F J. fixed "thirdterm.. p. and possible rejection as a result of the process of comparison. 10 Smith. To become aware of the peculiar shape and implications of our category "religion" is to see more 8 Smith. Religious. ones invoked in the sorts of contexts in which "religions" would be invoked in moder Western discourses. "So classify we must-though we can learn from the past to eschew dual classifications such as that between 'universal' and 'ethnic' or the host of related dualisms" ("A Matterof Class: Taxonomies of Religion." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 54 (1986): 414-15: "Neither phenomenologically whole entities nor their local meanings are preserved in comparison"-to which I would reply that if their local meanings (for my purposes read: categories) are not preserved. is exemplary in its careful attention to Chinese metaphors and the differences from Western analogues in their implications is Jane Geaney."It may be.

" "magic. creating in three keystrokes an entity that.pt."was years ahead of its time and has yet to be adequately heeded or responded to even by scholars specializing in "Daoist" studies. 6. Sivin returnsto the problems posed by such categories. Biology and Biological Technology. the form that any possible answer can take. The Oxford English Dictionary traces "ism" to the Greek -ismos.. His classic article "On the Word 'Taoist' as a Source of Perplexity" (History of Religions 17 [1978]: 303-30). ON RELIGIONS AS ENTITIES (OF CERTAIN METAPHORICALLY IMAGINED KINDS) The most basic aspect of how religions are imagined in Westerndiscourse is that they are construed as entities. Nathan Sivin [Cambridge:CambridgeUniversity Press. This "religion holism. 106. By adding "ism" to a root noun or adjective that does not yet designate a religion. amounts to a kind of shorthand.to deny any initial 11One scholar in the field of Chinese thought and religion who has long been admirably sensitive to such issues. "A Critique of 'Religion." and "religion. such that aspects or partsof the whole must resemble each other more strongly than they resemble any outside aspects or parts. One prominentway in which Western discourse reifies religions is by the deceptively simple use of the morphological device of the English suffix "ism" and its European equivalents. Science and Civilisation in China. as well as to the unconsidereduse of such categories as "science.As pointed out by JonathanSmith: To raise the issue of the settingof early Christianities [note the plural!]is to ask at the outsetthe questionof comparison and.'" p. Medicine..12has given rise to serious misunderstandings. in addition to its sudden existence as a thing among other things. of misplaced concreteness. ed. a form for the nominalizationof action verbs. or "substantialistfallacy . we form new. 8). In his recent introductionto an older essay by Joseph Needham and Lu Gwei-Djen on the history of Chinese medicine. p. Daoism.History of Religions 291 clearly the ways in which it implicitly shapes not only the answers to our historical and interpretivequestions but also the very form of those questions and. vol. questioning the vague use of the taxa "Taoism"and "Taoist. 12 Fitzgerald. observing. and defines one of its chief uses as "formingthe name of a system of theory or practice. is furtherimplied to have the propertyof systematicity and thereforeto be a well-integrated and clearly demarcatedwhole. therefore. they are reified." in Joseph Needham and Lu Gwei-Djen. 6. "These ["isms"] are fixtures in the sorts of history of philosophy that are more interested in disembodied isms than in the activity of particularhumanbeings" ("Editor's Introduction.11 But it is also a sleight of hand. abstractentities. rampantin the study of Chinese religions (where we have the big three of Confucianism." as I will call it. 2000]. thereby."The use of such suffixes." as Timothy Fitzgerald has characterizedit.a convenient way to generalize over vast numbers of particulars. and Buddhism) and elsewhere. . and by adding "ist" we denote things or tendencies that belong to these entities." is Nathan Sivin.

institutional. pp. Of which an exemplary study may be found in Devin DeWeese.Y. 21-46." denotecomplexpluralphenomena."13 Without furtherspecification." Christianity.Each of these generic terms "Greco-Oriental. an apparententity named by some such name as "Daoism" seems to exist simply in a kind of contextless stasis.: Cornell University Press. ChristianizingDeath: The Creation of a Ritual Process in Early Medieval Europe (Ithaca. not simply state that." of The traditional "Gentile. Paxton.rhetorical. 16 See Miyakawa Hisayuki. 14 13 . Calif."'6 subjects of inquiry. will not suffice. ed.292 On the Very Idea of Religions Much will dependon the framingof the issue. a dynamism once suggested by the Greek root -ismos but now completely drained from our "isms. Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of the Treasure Store Treatise (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 17 Considerations of the "sinification"of "Buddhism"should now take as their starting point the pertinent reassessment of the shape of this category in Robert H. "The Confucianization of South China." "Pagan. as well as the question of how it was understoodto have happened (and portrayedas having happened) by people closer to the events. such processes occur. it is precisely the manifold ritual. ArthurF Wright (Stanford. In other words.: Stanford University Press.N. postulationof "uniqueness. We should ask how. 117-18. The presupposition "holism"is not "phenomenological.and narrativeprocesses at work be"Budhind such nominal forms as "Islamization. 1-25.theoretical it whichhas done muchmischief in the studyof religiousmateripresupposition als." is a major."in The Confucian Persuasion. 1994). pp. 1990).perduringthing whose permutationswe simply trace throughtime. but the trope of reification leaves us with few tools for doing so. At least these last-mentioned nominalizations have the virtue of implying processes by their morphology. Drudgery Divine."14 "Christianization. 15 A sensitive in study of how dying and death were gradually "Christianized" medieval Europe and came to be performedas ritual processes differently than they had been before "Christianization" may be found in FrederickS. purposesof comparison. 1960). We can write its history. social. For they mustbe and with respectto some largertopic disaggregated each component compared of scholarlyinterest." "Jewish." vagueterminology "Early etc.conservative. Sharf."15 and "Sinification"17 that ought to be dhicization. Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tiikles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition(University Park: Pennsylvania State Press." "Confucianization. 2002). but the very form of the name suggests that "Daoism"is one unitary." Smith. with respectto this or thatfeature. pp.modes betweenthemselvesthanbetween of Christianity differmoresignificantly may of some mode of one or anotherLate Antiquereligion. nowheremoreso thanin the questionof Christian "origins. One importantline of questioning obscured by reifying and essentializing usages is that of how it happened-in an exuberance of detail befitting the intricacy of the subject-that such and such a group came to live their lives (or some aspect of their lives) differently by conforming their usage to new dictates.Thatis to say.

"X. "the Xist tradition."implies a holism. nor the changes (often dramatic)in what is transmitted. unity.g. 1989). 1992). How Societies Remember (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.g. in works such as Maurice Halbwachs."When we speak of "the Buddhist tradition" or "the system of Buddhism. 1973). 87-125.20 continues despite postmodern attentions to fragmentation. thinking To speak of "the Xist system" or "the system of Xism" implies-what else?-systematicity. 20 Clifford Geertz. or destroyed. used." 19Good resources for the study of such processes are to be found. Again. the essay was first published in 1966. Lewis A. e." since the English language in which it is possible to form the word "Daoism"did not yet exist). ed. "Religion as a Cultural System.perduringthings. Social Memory: New Perspectives on the Past (Oxford: Blackwell. and the people who made. deliberate. and continuity that ought not to be taken for granted."or else to the "ists" formed from these: "tradition"and "system. structuressuch as temples and tombs.nor the hugeness of what is forgotten. pp. e." with emphasis on continuous transbut mission throughtime (in the first case) or on principled. Coser (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. and trans. or lost. images. contestation. rooted in Durkheim's definition of religion and enshrined in Clifford Geertz's famous essay first published in the mid-1960s.. "the Buddhist tradition of celebrating the Buddha's birthday"or "the Buddhist system of transference of merit.History of Religions 293 So pervasive is the habit of reification that we do well to remind ourselves that "religions" do not exist as things in the world. Anything else is an idea. imagine and construct them as such in the ways we speak. and rigorous coherence (in the second). The pertinent res include texts. Only slightly less abstractand more metaphoricalare two nouns often attached to the adjective "religious" to form phrases naming the same purportedentities named by the "isms.. possibly along with cultural others (though certainly not early medieval "Daoists" or "Buddhists. they are so because we. It is curious that when Geertz sets out to explicate the first phrase of his definition of "a religion. So. This habit of thought and speech. and all that is nonsystematic in culture and religion. nor the contestations over what is transmittedand rememberedand who decides." which runs "a system of 18 As opposed to. if "Daoism"or "Buddhism" are unitary. On Collective Memory."18 seem to mean what we mean we when we simply say "Buddhism. and other artifacts. 1992).nor the content of what is transmitted.organized." in The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic. To call a "religion. James Fentress and Chris Wickham. or suppressed. It does not broach the actual means of transmission. Paul Connerton. or otherwise came into contact with these. not because they are naturalexistents we find in the world alongside the res we characterizeas "belonging to" them. it is the actual processes and practices of rememberingand transmitting that are obscured by the usage "the Xist tradition"19 by the way of and about "religions"that the phrase implies. .

trans. and sometimes the hiding serves a latent ideology or set of interests. "The History of 'Religious' Consciousness and the Diffusion of Culture: Strategies for Surviving Dissolution. . like categories.. i. p." with all of the attendantholistic tendencies. respectively. given the predominance of structuralist approaches. Ontario:Mosaic.and unwieldy phenomena. The discourse of religious "traditions"and "systems" is quasi-metaphorical at best. . for that would be impossible. (In the last section I suggest alternatives. thus affordingus handles on complex.That is no longer true. abstract. for certain purposes." as opposed to Lease's petri dish model. A critique of a metaphor.) All metaphors..g. Phyllis Brooks (Stanford.this element of the definition could simply be taken for granted.23 The very first stage of Chinese Buddhism-that tiny exotic plantflowering on the ruinsof the Hanempire. does not consist in showing that it is somehow "wrong"but in pointing out what it hides and noting the importance. 293.. p. 24 Erik Ziircher." Gary Lease. such as "A constitution is necessary in order that the parts or elements of the religious enterprise might function" (is there an actual "religion." he exclusively devotes himself to what is meant by "symbol" and says nothing whatsoever about what it means to speak of a "system" of symbols. advance to a final stage.."A New Look at the Earliest Chinese Buddhist Texts.24 21 Note. throughthe meeting of the fundamental needs for which any religion arises. e. 22 The title of the magisterial history by Isabelle Robinet. the prominent use of "religious system. or encodes an uninvoked but silently looming model or set of expectations based on the resemblance implied in the metaphor. xv..e.. highlight certain aspects of things and obscure others. since "tradition"and "system" in such formulationsremain highly abstract. quoted passages on 463 and 469.."in From Benares to Beijing.then. but ratherto urge that we become alert to the evidence-distorting and thought-limitingimplications of certain particularmetaphors with which we have become numbingly familiar. 23 Robinet. Koichi Shinoharaand Gregory Schopen (Oakville. to showthecoherence its developof mentand its constantabsorptionand integrationof outside contributions.294 On the Very Idea of Religions symbols which acts to. of attending to these hidden aspects. RELIGIONS ARE LIVING ORGANISMS (OFTEN PLANTS) Taoism: Growth of a Religion22 I In thishistoryof Taoism havetried. all italics in lists are added.. 1997).: Stanford University Press. and throughthe articulationof its essence or system-will . Calif. that has anything approximatinga working "constitution"?)and "any religion which advances throughthe first two stages . 1991).. What it hides might turn out to be something well worth seeing. My point in what follows is not to urge that we eschew metaphorentirely. the claim by a religion to be able to provide in a total understanding.. ed.21In 1966.Other forms of speech about "religions" are more metaphoricallyrich." Historical Refiections/Reflexions historiques 20 (1994): 466-69.

additionally. Ingested food is transformedinto a building block of the organism that is indistinguishable from others. Even at microscopic levels there are clearly identifiable. Furthermore. however. 27 Jean and Its Place Seznec. (3) Living beings. Foreign agents are mostly recognized as such and are quickly broken down and assimilated or expelled (or else the organism sickens and dies). Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism (New York: HarperCollins. 23. authors often turn to organismic metaphors for religions when they want to portray their changing fortunes over time. manytracesof the HelChristianity astrological lenistic and Orientalreligions . p. of course.29 As suggested by these few examples. (1) They locate agency in religion-entities themselves ratherthan in the people (whether individuals or groups) who participate in. 28 Erik Ziircher. Conn. 331.History of Religions 295 in Buddhism the courseof time was blendedwiththatof Whenthis southern the north. BarbaraF Sessions (Princeton. Studies in Chinese Buddhism. Religions-seen-as-organisms assume a life of their own. p. 277. (2) Seen as organisms. 39.25 of In the East whereit [Manichaeism] flourishedat a time when therewere no to longeranyrealManichaeans be foundin the West.." p.28 brought and TheChineseBuddhist textsthaton the basisof internal external evidence may be ascribed to the "embryonicphase" of Chinese Buddhism. religions take on a tacit teleology. p.J. fully matureform toward which they are striving-again quite independently of human agents. 29 Ziircher. were intertwinedat its very roots for it to be ableto riditself of themcompletely.: Yale University Press. p. while radically dependent on their environments. organisms have unique genetic codes that act as the master blueprintsin every cell of the organism. directing all growth from a uniform structure. 26 Kurt Rudolph. organismic metaphorsprovide a way of imagining a religion's appropriationof outside elements. "A New Look at the Earliest Chinese Buddhist Texts. N.. The Survivalof the Pagan Gods: TheMythological Tradition in Renaissance Humanism and Art. 25 ArthurF Wright. interfaces where organisms stop and their environments start. 1990). 1987).living beings are holistically integrated. thwart. And. There are at least three costs to using such metaphors. (Leiden: Brill. Somers (New Haven. oppose. ed. trans. or otherwise act to shape the natureand fortunes of the putative religion-entities in question.if porous. The Buddhist Conquest of China. 1953). 43. 2d ed.we see at least thefull maturity sinicizedBuddhism. 1972).27 At first it [Buddhism] must have lived on amongthe foreignerswho had it withthemfromtheirhomecountries. or their decline.26 too itself contained elements.: Princeton University Press. support. are nevertheless clearly bounded entities. their flourishing. Robert M. . there must be a predictable.

Christianity poused it. p.30 can see what a close affinityreligion orWe bears to religion holism. Weller (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. "Purityand Strangers:Shifting Boundaries in Medieval Taoism. reprint. Littleneedbe saidof the extentto whichChristianity withJudaism. Meir Shaharand Robert P."in UnWeller. The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton.34 maintained cultural continuity Daoism constructed its detailed bureaucraticarrangementonly to transcend it throughmeditative unity with the transcendentDao and to tease it with a of celebration eccentric immortality. 1996). 1982). Empire to Commonwealth:Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity (Princeton.J. seeing religions as comparableto organisms encourages us to imagine them not only as entities. 332. It should be self-evident that none of ganicism the featuresjust listed are true of any collective human enterprise. "Introduction: ruly Gods: Divinity and Society in China. sharply bounded. however. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.. the authorsmake the point that "Dao30 Reading passages based on organic metaphors for religions. every component of which shares the same fundamental essence as every other part. enshrined in Goethe's musings on the Urpflanze and perhaps best summarized in E. . S. 1993). 1996). but as entities of particularkinds: autonomous agents going about the business of fulfilling their developmental teleology.. 10. 32 Rudolph.35 The first example aptly illustrates the pitfalls of ascribing agency to religions-as-persons: the first two clauses of the sentence seem to imply that the two religions are autonomous actors. RELIGIONS ARE PERSONIFIED AGENTS succeededwhen Constantine esWhere Manichaeism failed. 76.: Princeton University Press. Russell. 33 Kristofer Schipper. Form and Function: A Contributionto the History of Animal Morphology (1916.J. Gods and Society in China. 31 Garth Fowden. N. N.: Princeton University Press. the ensuing clause of the very same sentence attributesthe latterreligion's success to a ruler's policy. 34 Rodney Stark. and holistically and functionally hyperorganized life-forms. ed.32 Taoismof the middle ages saw itself as universal.296 On the Very Idea of Religions In sum. In a passage leading up to the last example. and clearly demarcated.31 It [Manichaeism] knew how to adapt to Chinese tradition in its missionary practice. 35 Meir Shahar and Robert P. 59. p. one of which failed and the other of which succeeded. living beings that completely transformingested substances into parts of themselves unrecognizablefrom other parts.33 to Jews offeredtwice as muchcultural Christianity continuity the Hellenized as to Gentiles. p. one is powerfully reminded of the long Western tradition of reflection on the morphology of organic forms. p.." T'oung Pao 80 (1994): 63.

but impersonal agent. p. 1. Its ideas had been dis- cussedincessantly decadesandhadlost theirfreshness. 40 Ziircher. p.36 for RELIGIONS ARE ARMIES.37 in Buddhism well entrenched eastern was Iranian areas. 1980). Ratherthan seeing the tension between the bureaucraticand antibureaucraticas resulting from many textual and ritual skirmishes over time by multiple historical agents with multiple agendas addressingmultiple contexts. it also obscures the interests and agency of the persons and groups actually responsible for them-and especially in this case one surmises that struggles over power and status were key contexts prompting the adoption of one or another idiom. RELIGIONS ARE MARKETABLE COMMODITIES Philosophic Taoism had lost some of its appeal. The Religions of Tibet. now they ism" constructedelaboratebureaucratic wish to show that "Daoism" harbors anti. Gnosis on the Silk Road: Gnostic Parables. 38 Hans-Joachim Klimkeit. . THEIR SPREAD AND SUCCESS ARE WARFARE It [Manichaeism] could hold its ground even more successfully and more per- in manently the East.. 38."that is teleologically portrayedas doing X only to transcendX by proceeding to do Y..in specific situations. we are asked to see it as the work of a single. 37 Rudolph (n. This sentence is how they resolve the tension. 331. 28 above). 22-23. The marketable commodity metaphorat least implies that persuasion is involved in religious life.or extrabureaucratic types as well. This is a secondary metaphor:the use of "infiltrate" deto scribe a clandestine military or intelligence-gathering maneuver stems from a primary metaphorinvolving liquids and the breakdownof filters designed to exclude foreign agents. but they have their advantages. 26 above). p. It is as if "Daoism"is a whimsical child at work on a sand castle or a painter addressing her canvas. 1993).History of Religions 297 hierarchiesfor the gods. that some people are trying to win others over to their 36 Wright. Buddhist Conquest (n. "Daoism. bureaucratic or antibureaucratic. p. 39 Giuseppe Tucci.39 It [Buddhism] musthaveslowly infiltrated fromthe North-West. Geoffrey Samuel (Berkeley: University of California Press. 5. trans. Hymns and Prayers from Central Asia (New York: HarperCollins.38 The Buddhist Conquest of China The assumption of earlier occasional infiltrations of Buddhist elements into Tibetis an obviousone to make. pp.40 These last two metaphors for "religions" are not much more satisfying than the ones discussed above. The metaphor utterly obscures the actualprocesses thatoccurredto bring aboutthe presence of such conflicting imagery and figures. intentional..

and the sociologist Rodney Stark has recently written a deeply market-basedanalysis of "the rise of ChrisThe martial metaphor goes further. Some such constructions. Such a view alleviates the frustrationof those who seek authorsand 'originalversions' of mythical texts.picturing interreligious or tianity. societies. in some contexts. nations. since it drains agency from the act of narration. 18."41 religious-culturalencounters as pitched battles or guerilla maneuvers. for example. all such usages occur when scholars want to speak at a high level of generality and abstraction. and at such levels their use is perhaps inevitable. like the metaphorssurveyed above. and Scholarship (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Stark. Theorizing Myth: Narrative. which I will mention only in passing: religions are substances (usually liquid or viscous. or groups that are containers (leading to several unhelpful but commonly used ways of narratingthe passage of religions across cultures and societies). to imagine writing a 41 Pierre Bourdieu. religions are containers (of people. artifacts. trends. a clientele of agents makingchoices. messy phenomena by analogies to things simpler and more familiar. both of these metaphors hide the agency of actual human beings and the issues at stake in their struggles. p. variantsbeing the productof an impersonalprocess whereby that structure explores its own variables until exhausting the available possibilities.298 On the Very Idea of Religions points of view. religions are the contents of cultures. and diffusion). (It is impossible. and values). makes the marketmetaphor the cornerstone of his approach. However. 42 Bruce Lincoln. in an exceedingly rareforay into the topic of religion. and at times we understandablyturn to them for the verbal and conceptual economy they offer. Now. Pierre Bourdieu. "Genese et structuredu champ religieux." Revuefrancaise de sociologie 12 (1971): 295-334. metaphorsreduce complex. in which questions of authorshipare irrelevant." What Bruce Lincoln has recently observed of the treatmentof stories classified under the taxon "myth"applies also to this sort of usage: "Myth is often treated as an anonymous and collective product. with the common tropes being spread. and religions are buildings. Ideology. Indeed. but the price for this is unacceptably high. treatingmyth as a logical structurethat essentially writes itself. 1999). by its very structurethis metaphorforces us to recall that thereis a humanpopulationinvolved. It is admittedly hard to arrive at alternatives that allow one to make generalizations of any kind. gathering it all up into a vague. collectivized "ism. are perhaps quite harmless or trivial. ideas. influence [on which more below]. 149. Levi-Strauss has done this in a most sophisticated and challenging fashion. Compare the similar statement about shifts in the meanings of words on p. . and that much is at stake in those choices."42 There are other key metaphorsfor religions.

short for Huangdi [i. ideas.]. pp.]--usually translated "Treatise on Buddhism and Daoism.i." but the Shi and Lao of the title are truncationsof the names of Sakyamuni and Laozi.Along the way I will also comment on how Western translatorshave dealt with such passages. this is an area that warrantsmuch more research.43 But we use such locutions at the price of positioning ourselves to forget about some of the most importanthuman aspects of the historical processes we seek to understand and portray. and Laozi.That is a very high price to pay. partial names.) And in singling out a few sentences from some colleagues' works I do not by any means suggest that I myself have successfully eschewed such expressions in my own writings. A similar usage occurs in the title of what we might term a "lineage" or "school" of texts. SOME EARLY MEDIEVAL CHINESE METAPHORS Do we find anything in early medieval Chinese discourses remotely analogous to Western patterns of discourse on "religions. 6-8. although in my most recent book I do attempt alternative strategies whose success I leave for others to judge. Huang Lao [j :]. 2002)." the contextclearlyreas the quiresthatwe understandfo gathering andnominalizing whole set of up 43 See the brief discussion in Robert Ford Campany."theruination rejectionof Buddha. . . included a section on religion titled Shi Lao zhi [Xt. and practices. 1.History of Religions 299 short encyclopedia entry on the historical relationship between two traditions without frequentrecourse to such constructions. and my findings are preliminary. This type of synecdoche is also seen not in titles but in the context of ongoing discourse: and but Literally. To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth: A Translationand Study of Ge Hong's Traditionsof Divine Transcendents(Berkeley: University of California Press." and if so. the Yellow Thearch(a figure of ancient myth). or titles of founding or paradigmaticfigures are sometimes used synecdochally to refer nominally to what in Western discourse would be called an entire "religion" or "tradition. compiler of an official history of the Toba Wei (the Wei shu). what predominantmetaphors are at work and what are their implications? Below I provide a mere sampling of statements drawn from a small number of texts.-. Wei Shou [f5 4] (506-72). FOUNDER OR PARAGON SYNECDOCHE The names."For example. putative authorof the Daodejing and (in some circles) cosmic deity.

and (in some cases) line numbers of the passage in question. I begin with the treatise. Conn. 265. The Five "Confucian" Classics (New Haven. trans..Y. A St : Z 9 ? PM RP r*1 the "[TheDukeof] ZhouandConfuciusareidenticalwiththe Buddha.$] (ca. and the numbers following the comma indicate the volume and (after the colon) the page. but one that simply translatesit as "Buddhism. 47 T 2102. Keenan.). known as the Mouzi lihuo lun [4-i ftfi 3e] ("Master Mou's Treatise for the Removal of Doubts"). and 364-65. see Ziircher.Buddhist Conquest. 48 Keenan.."45 2. see Michael Nylan.")48 Elsewhere the interlocutor asks why."in Mizuno Seiichi and Nagahiro Toshio.texts in the Chinese Buddhist canon are referredto as follows: the numberfollowing the letterT indicates the serial number assigned to the text in the Taisho edition (Tokyo: Taish6 shinshi daiz6kyo. 16:68-69 (Kyoto: Kyoto University Research Institute for Humanistic Sciences. in dialogue format.300 On the Very Idea of Religions (Leon Hurvitztranslates.: Yale University Press.E. the Duke of Zhou. spect to outerandinner. 52:17a. "Wei Shou. since the people who constituted the intellectual and cultural paragons of society at the time-the "forest of classicists" (rulin [{ft$t]. Ziircher. Keenan rendersfodao here as "the Way of the Buddha". ru being a designation often translated as "Confucians"[a habit that merits reconsideration])49-did not regardthe 44 The Chinese text with Hurvitz's translationappearin Leon Hurvitz. 1924-35). 13-15. 2n. 79. T 2102.44 R9. by an unknown author. pp." understandable masks the Chinese metaphorand its differencefrom the Western"ism. pp. 45 Sun Chuo ("Essay in Clarification [i. or scriptures are. How Master Mou Removes Our Doubts: A Reader-Response Study and Translation of the Mou-tzu Li-huo lun (Albany. The term first occurs in the question: "If the dao of Buddha is so venerable. Unko sekkutsu no kenkyu. Here and throughout. as rarely in this text. Erik Ziircher an choice.46 When. . for a recent translation and study. p. N. and it is uncertainwhat its particular practices. 2001). register(s). the term used in every case is "the dao-way or path-of Buddha"(fodao [fiJ$]). and Confucius practice (xiu [f1]) it?"47(John P. why did not Yao. Treatise on Buddhism and Taoism: An English Translationof the Original Chinese Text of Wei-shu CXIV and the JapaneseAnnotation of TsukamotoZenryu."). probably the most ubiquitous way of nominalizing what we would call "religions" was to speak of one or multiple "ways"or "paths"-one or more dao [L]. Shun. Buddha This is merelyto namethemwith rewith [the Dukeof] ZhouandConfucius. 52:2b26..Buddhist Conquest. 1951-56). it is a matter of the foreign whatwe-would-call-religion nominalized. "WAY" OR "PATH" (DAO [m] AND ITS COMPOUNDS) In early medieval Chinese discourse.: SUNY Press. L {?(RP L. 300-380 c. 46 On the uncertainprovenance of this text. 49 For a recent and well-informed discussion of the significance of this term in early texts. values.. phenomenawe would habituallycall "Buddhism" "TheBuddhistsuppression. Yudaolum [j _-ii] of the Path [or Way]"). p.. see John P. 1994).

the YellowEmperor. Keenan. why then do you assert that Daoism and Buddhism are different paths and that the latter is superior? The implied author. p."54 and the "[He]had alwayshonored Wayof Buddha. Master Mou holds it in such high esteem..wasthemodestbeginning theinfluxof theWayof theBuddha. 26-27.then.i0t o -Tf+R> 5 IJztt o "Inboththe daos it is a single 'intentionless action. fodao was also the expression of choice for denoting more specifically the path to enlightenmentestablished by the Buddha.[XiangKai] spokeof the Wayof Buddha. and terminology of "intentionlessaction" (the famous wuwei). in the moder Western idiom: both Daoism and Buddhism employ the concept. value. p. 66.")52 In Wei Shou's treatise we find such usages as the following: of "This. pp. but they differ at the level of species."53 "Inthe time of Emperor Huan. pp. 51 T 2102.'Whythendo you discriminate andrankthem. goes on to pose analogies with the uses of the terms "vegetation" and "metal":things may belong in common to these genera. He then clinches the analogy with this line: "If this is so of the myriad things. . Again quoting ibid.History of Religions 301 "dao of Buddha"as venerable duringhis visit there. 52 54 53 Quoting the translation of Hurvitz (n. 44 above). 55 Once again quoting ibid. 52:6b15.50 The term dao is also used to summarilynominalize multiple "ways" in the following passage: L."55 Of course.sayingthey [thedaos] aredifferent?"51 Or. how can daos alone [be different]?"(Keenan renders dao in the first question above as "teachings. 157-58.. Master Mou. [Laozi]. 46. 52:5c12."both of which hide the Chinese metaphor implicit in dao and set up a too-easy equivalence between it and the familiar Western tendency to reduce religions to "doctrines.WINA i ."while rendering the latter one as "doctrines. a set of teachings and practices more delimited than the more general usage seen 50 T 2102.

1976). 53 ff.Buddhist Conquest (n."59 Again. 53:81b). arguing that monks were obliged to perform obeisance to the ruler. defending the pro-Buddhistposition. these uses of shendao are exceptional. use the term shendao [Lt$iE](divine path. 59 T 2102. 52:80a3-5. the officials Yu Bing [J 7<Ju] He Chong [fiJ C] and debated the issue of whether the Buddhist sangha was autonomous with respect to the polity. and "Among [those on] the paths of ghosts and spirits there is also eating. 28 above). or way of spirits) in both the singular and plural to nominalize bodies of practice that seem analogous to what is meant by "religion(s).302 On the VeryIdea of Religions above. has flourthoughthe Law [see the sectionbelow on this metaphor] alternately ished anddecayedit has not been spoiledby bogusandwanton[practices]. or path to divinity. as in the case of fodao.theirshendaoarehardto distinguish.") "Themyriadquarters differin theircustoms. 60 As in statements such as: "The paths of humans and of spirits are different"(T 2122. The statements are repeated in another compilation. pp.1985). and for a translationof the documents see pp. 49:520c-521a. see Zurcher. but one cannot attain satiety" (T 2082.300 instances of the termfodao.trans. 53:521b13). and TsukamotoZenryti."58 from its first appearance Han times down to the present.alin "Moreover. and Yu. In the fifth-century Celestial Master scripture Inner Explanations of the Three Heavens (Santian neijie jing [_I rt /g ]). 51:792c14). 106-10.61 or the inscription-lined pathway leading to a prominentperson's tomb."56 In the year 340 C. The term's more standardmeanings in religious discourses include the paths of rebirth as spirits as opposed to humans."(Ziircher.57Both He. 1:340 ff. See also Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer. where fodao is clearly being used to nominalize the entirety of what we in English would refer to as "Buddhism.A History of Early Chinese Buddhism:From Its Introductionto the Death of Hui-yiian. T 2036.60the way of serving spirits. 52:79b26.again ignoring the metaphoricstructureof such an expression. 58 T 2102.Leon Hurvitz(Tokyo: KodanshaInternational. which offers a mythic "history"of what we would term "religions"in China up until its 56 A computer-assisted search of the Chinese Buddhist canon turns up over 7.E. rendersshendao as "spiritualdoctrine. .Das Hung-Ming Chi und die Aufnahmedes Buddhismus in China (Wiesbaden: Steiner. 57 For the political as well as ideological backgroundof the debate. pp. a way of characterizinga religious path or method as superior. 160-63. "The way of Buddha (fodao) is a divine way (shendao)" (T 2121. 61 As in the statement. As a shendaoit has lastedlongerthanany other. the overwhelming majorityof which exhibit this narrowerusage...

daozang(the Daoist canonof thezhengtong in Tu[1436-49])arecitedby theirserialnumber Wang reignperiod Indicesto theAuthors Titlesof Booksin TwoCollections Taoist and chien. 1:4b. At thattime. abbreviated HY. Yanjing as The 1925).. and "the Great Way of the Pure Contract"(qingyue dadao [..Early Daoist Scriptures(Berkeley: University of CaliforniaPress. Mt . the rule of the Six Heavensflourished the Three and andTeachings wereput into practice.. 25 (Beijing: Literature. p. . and central to the scripture'sagenda-as we will see below-is to narratethe history of these daos' interrelationshipsso as to clarify their respective statuses and identities (and so as to privilege the one championed by the scripture's authors). so they sent envoys into the Western Kingdoms to copy and bring back Buddha scriptures. 209.4X .ed. 62 HY texts in the Zhengtong 11096. Combined of IndexSeriesno. translation given here is that of Stephen R. We find such statements as the following: -."63 Then.History of Religions 303 own time. after narratingthe Buddha's birth. and Buddhism" familiar from textbooks on Chinese religions over the past century but "the Great Way of Intentionless Action" (wuwei dadao [. the ThreeWaysintermingled and becameconfused. he [LordLao] issued the ThreeWays to instructthe people of heaven. in its version of the most common story of how the "way of Buddha" was introduced to China-that of the dream of Han Emperor Ming-the scriptureobserves: .Daoism.. religious plurality is similarly a matter of various daos. "the Way of Buddha" (fodao [f M-]). Early Daoist Scriptures..As a result. Hereandthroughout. the text observes: Later.the people becamemixed and disordered.tk ])."62 Ways These "ThreeWays" are not the "Confucianism. Then [or: because of this] they built Buddha stiipas and temples.and so [the Way of Buddha? Buddhastuipas temples?]covand eredand spreadacrossthe Central and Kingdom.t X ]).. t?^ J tA 4AB L TdPYt i ft -iK "His officials interpretedthis dream to mean that this was the perfected form of the Buddha. 1997). l:3a." 63 HY 1196. i?b ^ T "Atthis time. the Wayof Buddhaflourished once more.E . slightly emending Bokenkamp. Sinological Harvard-Yenching University. except that I have capitalized differentlyto conform with passages below and have added "and Teachings"in the last phrase. "Atthis. :.- m. p. followedby fascicle andfolio page numbers. 212.11. An alternaterendition of the last clause would be: "and the Three Ways were taught and put into practice. Bokenkamp.K ..

effects." 66 HY 1196.: "Now the three Ways are but differentbranchesextendingfrom the same root.such is not its sense in the contexts under survey here."In any case.. 222." Action"andthe "Way thereareotherswho upholdthe "[Wayof] Intentionless All whichfollows the Wayof Buddha. p.. modifying Bokenkamp. . 67 HY 1196. it is used ratherto nominalize things that seem analogous to what we would 64 HY 1196. 1:7a. attributedto daos. Early Daoist Scriptures. we read: "Today. p.and each had his own particular objectof veneration. and the only actions. Early Daoist Scriptures. when this scripture wants to indicate that multiple "ways" have a common source. 1:5b._M i . These threeWays are equallymethodsof the Most High LordLao. 65 I note what seems to be an unexpected whiff of Tillichian "ultimate concern" in the unusual expression youshang [t f& ] in the last line of the passage-the normal sense of you being "to concern oneself with" and that of shang being (here) "uppermost. partially quoting but emending Bokenkamp. and Lingbao provenance personify dao as an ultimate cosmic deity or force with wishes and commandments for humanity. Shangqing.All have been abolished!"66 Finally. . slightly modifying Bokenkamp."64 There is an odd vagueness as to the intended subject of the second sentence: perhapsit is the "way of Buddha.65 Elsewhere. covering and spreading an area (perhaps). 218." that are said to have "covered and spread across the Central Kingdom. lt-m ?_R ^-t "iatx. to provide a more literal reading."67 What are the implications of the dao metaphor?Although many scriptures of Celestial Master. in the direction of increased literalness. .304 On the Very Idea of Religions those of the Centermingledwith outsiders.. intermingling and becoming confused: these are the actions. of these [deof BannersandFlowers.. Early Daoist Scriptures. it resorts to a differentmetaphorcommonly used in Chinese discourses for this purpose: that of trunk or root versus branch."or perhaps the "Buddhastupas and temples. thoughthereare some who reverethe "Wayof Five Pecks of Rice. pp. flourishing. 214-15. in a passage lamenting people's tendency to continue "revering" or "upholding"(feng [I]) daos for which there is no longer any need." of viantways] areold matters the Six Heavens. 1:9b.. All threefind thoughthey differin theirteachingsand transformative theirsourcein the trueWay.

alone or (like dao) in compounds. in part as a corrective to the tendency to use Western-derivedcategories to analyze non-Western societies but not the reverse. fundamentalto Buddhist discourse. and practices associated with the Indian sage. p. they may deviate or be correct. upheld.""METHOD[S]. Robert E." "a path taken by those who are misguided.68or the wrong path may be taken. All of the following instances are drawnfrom Wei Shou's sixth-century treatise. "LAW. whether it divides or rejoins. 44 above). 69 The path metaphor..ed. "Introducin tion. institutions. laid down. strayed or deviated from. abandon. they may flourish or decline. ratherholistic in at least two senses: a path. or lost." in Paths to Liberation: The Mdrga and Its Transformations Buddhist Thought. 1-9. People seek. it clearly seems thatfa is meant not in the limited and rathertechnical sense of the teaching attributed the Buddha's discovery to and teaching but in a much broadersense approximatingwhat is meant by "Buddhism"in modem discourses. and they are nonorganic. "Path"metaphorsare. the verbs are verbs of doing." etc. the "Hereupon essence of the Law was greatly manifestedin the Middle Plain. In translations of imported scriptures this term was (like dao) often employed as a technical equivalent of the Sanskrit dharma. unless broken. referring to the sum total of teachings. imagined as agents.History of Religions 305 call "religions. See Robert E. appears almost a hundredtimes in the Taisho canon. xing [f]) more than one path at a time unless the paths have merged to form one. communities. the expression midao [AL:_]. set forth." "REGULATIONS" [':]) OR (FA Another common nominalizing idiom.. paths may be issued. But note. not copulae. In each. 1992)." "a misguided way."70 68 For example.69 3. Gimello. rather than simply being contained in them. or they may remain distinct or become intermingled and confused. is so richly developed in that tradition that some have called for its appropriationas a cross-cultural category. however. Imagined as the objects of human agents' actions. Buswell. 50. These are very weak senses of agency. thatpeople's relationto daos is not one of passive containment. Jr. and it is not possible for an individual to walk-practice (the double sense of a common verb in such contexts. meaning "to lose one's way. follow. used more often to refer to what we would term "Buddhism"than to "Daoism" (but also used for the latter as well). but in contexts such as the ones collected here its use is clearly more generalizing than that. 70 Hurvitz (n. followed. Buswell and Robert M." "a path of confusion. or sheer belonging. or deviate from daos. runs continuously from beginning to end. and Robert M. is the use of the termfa [si]. membership. . depending on context. finally. pp."It does so by imagining them as paths. Gimello (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. travel.

.306 On the Very Idea of Religions "He both loved the Yellow Thearchand Lao[zi] and held highly the Law of Buddha." was used in contexts where "Daoism"would be used and for "Buddhism" in Westerndiscourses."Now.similarlybukkyo/fojiao[% f'] for "Confucianism. reducing the totality of aspects of what we would call a "religion" to one aspect.. Very seldom is agency of any kind attributedto fas." The fa metaphor is synecdochal. 52."73 The readerwill furtherrecall the statement already extracted above from the Inner Explanations of the ThreeHeavens... "THETEACHINGS X" (X [I] ) At some point in the moder era. and. pp. regulations concerning what to do. 73 Ibid."71 the of "Throughout time of persecution the Law it [a stoneviharawith an imover the tombof the monkHuishi]still stoodwhole.. writers of Japanese and Chinese began to use expressions of the form "X jiao" to denote what Euro-Americanswere calling "religions. p. a reminderthatfa was used not only to nominalize the repertoireof practices and understandingsimported from India and Central Asia: a ^_ M noa tk - ^. as Cantwell (less commonly) rujiao [f't] Smith and others noted long ago."Thus. first and foremost. they are never personified. literally "the teaching[s] of or aboutthe dao. for example. probably(in Chinese) as a back-formation from a Japaneseneologism that. other Europeanlanguages. In the Chinese Buddhist canon. one finds over four thousand instances of the juxtaposition of the termsfo andjiao. OF 4. premodernChinese discourse almost completely lacks this formulation used in this way. 71 72 . like the Japaneseshikyo (Chinese zongwas created to translate "religions" and its equivalents in jiao [7#]).. to my knowledge. But that aspect is not creedal. Ibid. 69. but ratherpraxeological. p. We also see "founder synecdoche" here. dokyo/daojiao [L-W].h^ ff?- "ThesethreeWaysareequallymethods[or laws] of the MostHighLordLao. 62-63. a set of norms or regulations-implying. but more than ninety-nine percent Modifying ibid. as it typically is in the West."72 age the "When Law of Buddhawas suppressed.

. one could alternativelytranslate:"The Buddha taught and led by means of compassion and humaneness. the ambiguity of the syntax usually permits other. Here I will merely sketch a 74 See Zurcher (n."Only with extreme raritydo such compounds seem to gather up and nominalize everything that one might mean in EuroAmerican discourse by a term such as "Buddhism. 76 Link. Jiaos are not personified. they render a compound meaning "the teaching of X. One such instance appearsin the perhaps early fourth century Treatise for the Rectification of Unjust Criticism (Zhengwu lun [TI-E4i']) by an unknown author:74 ArthurLink translates:"Buddhismguides men by means of compassion and love. as we have seen. or else (in " cases like mingjiao [ what it is a teach'] "the teaching of names"77) about. p.History of Religions 307 of these simply mean something like "the Buddha taught"or "the Buddha's teaching [that]. plural "religion"-like entities in Chinese discourses as well as among "religions" in Western discourses. 5. normally teachers are portrayedas bringing about certain effects in people by means of teachings. 75 T 2102. 57 above). and Tsukamoto(n. "Cheng-wu lun: The Rectification of Unjustified Criticism."and even when one does find such cases. 178-79. pp."76taking the stringfojiao as the compound subject of the sentence and renderingit in its moder sense. and only seldom is any agency meting aphorically attributed to them (although the Zhengwu lun statement might constitute an exception). Buddhist Conquest. 77 On the sense of this term in the early medieval period. 160." even more distortively as "Xism"). 86-87. p. METAPHORS FOR THE INTERRELATIONSHIPS AMONG THE THINGS SO IMAGINED A full treatmentof the subject under discussion here would include attention to metaphors for the relationships among metaphorically construed. But. 15. rather than teachings somehow acting of themselves. ArthurE." Western translators sometimes render jiao as "doctrine" (or."Oriens Extremis 8 (1961): 136-65. see Ziircher."Even if one insists on readingfojiao as a nominal compound. nonreifying readings. Link. 52:8c17-18. But the meaning of the term emphasizes not-unlike "doctrine"(with its basis in doxa)-the attitude of the "believer" but the source of the teaching. it would surely be better to render the sentence along the lines of "The Buddha's teaching leads by means of compassion and humaneness. 28 above). the one who taught it. pp. taking the string as subject and verb.

here a mouthpiece for Zhuangzi. one common Chinese metaphor for showing the cobelonging of two bodies of tradition is the organic imagery of root and branch. This is merely to name them with respect to outer and inner. Buddha with [the Duke of] Zhou and Confucius.This dyad is used in Sun Chuo's [?^4] (ca..C." fangwai [) 'j'] andfangnei [)t gP]. S ^0rt ^ SI the are "[TheDukeof] ZhouandConfucius identicalwith the Buddha. (2) their differences are merely matters of relative location or function.see Ztircher. 52:30b6 ("One who has gone forth from the household is a 'guest from beyond the realm'"-cf. "Sun Cho's Yii-tao-lun:A ClarifiMonumentaSerica 25 (1966): 169-96. Schmidt-Glintzer(n. freeing themselves from convention and taking the fashioner of things as their 78 T 2102. p.) Yudaolun [Pj-iji ]. 300-380 c. 79 On the Yudaolun." interlocutors' discourses include T 2102. 84all. pp. pp. and here it was the outer position that was conceded to be superior. and (3) one of the things in question is usually suggested to be the superior member of the dyad. 132-33. and we find it sprinkled throughoutthe apologetic writings of the Buddhist monk Huiyuan and of This terminology had a pedigree stretchhis anticlerical interlocutors. and so on-in other words. triad. ."78 versus The language of that which is "outsidethe realm (or the quarters)" that which is "inside the realm.308 On the Very Idea of Religions few preliminaryobservations on anothertopic on which more researchis needed."usually with the understanding that inner is the hierarchically superior position. One of these other metaphors portrays the relationship between two bodies of teaching as one of "inner"and "outer. Ziircher (Buddhist Conquest." The hierarchicaleffect is very clear in such statements as "How could mattersfrom beyond the realm possibly be embodied within the realm?" (79c5). We already saw this dyad in one of the statementsillustrating "foundersynecdoche" quoted above: 4 IM LEBPERPJRL .E. Link and Tim Lee.E. Other. and 84b8. pervaded early medieval polemical discourses. in which Confucius. 59 ff. emphasis added.Buddhist Conquest. and ArthurE. Examples in Huiyuan's and his cation of the Way. often the metaphoreffectively casts the interrelationshipsamong the plural things as hierarchical. 57 above). 75a20). 52:17a. 98) observes that a noted monk was characterized as a "gentlemanfrom beyond the world" (fangwai zhi shi)-not because he was of foreign origin (he was not) but because he was in touch with things "from beyond the realm. 320 ing B. nonorganic metaphors work similarly to say three things at once: (1) the two (or more) things are in some ultimate sense really the same.). 34c20. characterizes people who pay no attention to proper ritual and custom. As noted above.79 back to a passage in the "InnerChapters"of the Zhuangzi (ca. although the assertion of sameness appears benign or generous.

we are told.80 Early translatorsof Buddhist sutrasoften usedfangwai to characterizethe goal of Buddhist practice. Sakyamuni the lordof transformation by death.Laozi was bornfromhis mother'sleft armpitandis lord of the left. lifedeath-were employed simultaneously to link and hierarchically distinguish traditions. 82 See Graham. 133.Buddhist Conquest. asserts that "each path in the end returns without distinction to the True Way."were alike "awakened"or "enlightened"(jue [t]) and that although they left different "traces"in their teachings and practices.The Celestial MasterScriptureof the Inner Explanations of the ThreeHeavens offers a cosmologically and mythologically rich example of this trope. Chuang Tzu:Basic Writings(New York:Columbia University Press. people living in yin areas.]). pp. In this respect the differences between the teachings of Laozi and Sakyamuni are those between the laws of left and right [f--ttt C EB~83 Despite this clear dichotomy. Sakyamuni bornfromhis mother'sright was and and armpit is lordof the right. civilized "China") as yang and those of the outer barbariankingdoms as yin. 91. See also Zurcher. Graham. are at a deeper level actually the same was to speak in terms of "traces"or "footprints"(ji [I] or [jl. p. see T 2126. for example.History of Religions 309 companion." 80 The passage appears in the sixth chapter. 54:247a. .82 Finally. 1:9b. Bokenkamp. 222-23. various binary classifications-left-right.1991). p. Once again the pedigree for this strategy stretches back to the Zhuangzi. p. Another early medieval strategy for asserting that two traditions. The left is the side of the yang breathsthatgovernthe Azure Palacewith its Registersof Life. C. Chuang-tzu: The Inner Chapters (London: Mandala/HarperCollins. Early Daoist Scriptures (n. as wandering "beyondthe realm"or "beyondthe guidelines" (fangwai) as opposed to inferior types such as Confucius. 89."81 visible differences in teaching and practice are thus made to seem trivial-though they were hardly trivial to the authors who left records of debates between rival proponents. Sun Chuo. To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth (n. for alternate translations. which explicitly traces it to the Zhuangzi. yin-yang. 52:17a13-14. 83. see Burton Watson.As a result. and Campany. who here confesses himself doomed to remain "within the realm" (fangnei). 43 above). 133. and A.f~i JJ t]] The state of "awakenedness. The scripturebegins by characterizingthe pneumas (qi [ ]) of the Central Kingdom (i. require extremely strict prohibitions. 62 above). despite many surface-level differences.. 1964). pp. p.as we saw above. "that ) was the same by which they left traces" (qi suo yiji zhe [. For a later Buddhist author's comment on this hierarchicaltaxonomy. 83 HY 1196. the same scripture. asserts that both sets of sages. "Confucian"and "Buddhist.Therightis the side of yin breaths the black records of the Registers of Death. Later we read: is Laoziis the lordof living transformation.e. 201. 81 T 2102.

On this point. as well as that one must produce lineage heirs)? Why must monks wear such strange clothing and beg for their food? Why must Buddhists value renunciation and giving over the accumulation of resources and taking pleasure in sumptuousness? Why does Buddha prohibit the eating of meat while permitting the eating of grain (contraryto one understandingof longevity regimens at the time)? The only strictly doctrinal question that I can find in the treatise is the one concerning rebirth."having been safely classified as inferior yet necessary for softening the tough natureof barbariansin outlying lands. when the term xin [fa]-the logue to "believe" or "belief"-is used. repressthe wondrousand anomalous. not propositions or doctrines and not people's inner attitudes toward these (which is not to say that mattersof mental attitudewere ignored in Chinese religious texts and closest anapractices). the following passage from Mouzi lihuo lun is instructive: "Youslanderthe divine transcendents.4] (here. at least in the early medieval period. For one thing.310 On the Very Idea of Religions The "way of Buddha. 6. 52:6b27-28. but in such contexts dushi [)1 t] usually indicates not what "the dao of Buddha"will do to the world but what the practitionercan do for himself by means of "the dao of Buddha.84And for another. 85 T 2102." This complex of assumptions is strikingly absent from Chinese discourses. In my judgment. practices that go against the value of filiality (in that filiality dictates that one's body is the legacy of the family and must not be willfully injured or diminished. anddo not believe [or trust]thatthereis a dao of not dying." . They include such matters as these: How can you speak so differently from Confucius and still take our indigenous classics seriously? Why are the Buddhist scriptures so lengthy when compared with the Chinese classics? Why did the Buddha's body have thirty-two marks?Why must monks shave their heads and practice celibacy. may be ascribedto the same originatingforce as this scripture'sown tradition. method. Hence "belief" and "faith"become synecdoches for religions in general. "believe that only the Buddha Tao can save the world" is a possible translation. why do you trustexclusivelyin the way of Buddhaas a meansfor deliveringoneself fromthe world?]"85 84 An easy way to confirm this statement is to scan the content of the questions posted to "MasterMou" by his interlocutor in the Mouzi lihuo lun. "thatthere exists") has in the Chinese. and participants are summarily labeled as "believers. or path. Keenan (p. it usually connotes not assent to propositions but trust or confidence in a teaching. ON "BELIEF" AND "BELIEVERS": AN EXCURSUS It is well known that Western discourses on "religions" commonly take belief-an inward assent to doctrinal propositions or else lists of such propositions themselves-as their key defining feature. the actualtopics of debates among rival proponents for the most part concern practices and values. 161) errs in his translationof both key phrases: "refuse to believe in a way to avoid death [emphasis added]"misses the syntactical force the verb you [.Why do you believe that only by the dao of Buddhacan one attaindeliverancefrom the world?[or.

weak reification. and metaphorical construction of general entities roughly corresponding to our "religions. 1988) exemplifies an approach to the vexed question of "belief" that is commensurate with the complexity of people's actual relations to the stories and assertions current in their cultures. though the degree of reification is perhaps less than it is in Western discourse." what is indicated by the term is not affirmationor denial of a set of propositional doctrines but confidence in one way of attaining an ultimate goal and lack of confidence in another way. a welcome improvement over the on/off toggle-switch approachusually taken. differences in how people have actually participatedin what we would call their "religions" in the two contexts of early medieval China and early moder Europe. But the crucial differences are that zhe follows only verbs or verbal phrases (so that nothing equivalent to the simple "Buddhist"or "Daoist"is possible) and that there is no invocation of "belief "-the range of verbs is much wider. This nominalization implies reification. . With very rareexceptions. to imagine that one is traveling on a way. or spreading. Although we do find nominalization. It is one thing. Paula Wissig (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. declining. anotherthing to imagine that one is comprised in a container. normally it is people (individuals or groups) who are spoken of as doing things with respect to the entities. We might speculate that the differences correspond to. in much the way that Lakoff and Johnson suggest Westerners live in time differently than they otherwise might because they imagine time as money. 3."the metaphors are different and carry different implications. in early medieval Chinese there is a suffix. as here.History of Religions 311 Even. it is one thing to picture a way or a teaching "spreading" 86 Even in many Western contexts. or translate into. Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? An Essay on the Constitutive Imagination. zhe [t]. In sum. when it seems to be a question of "belief. verbs of action attributedto the entities are intransitive verbs and connote things like flourishing. one suspects that such a statement would hold true. trans.86 Finally. Only seldom are these entities metaphorically pictured as agents. for example."or "believers" (as Western discourse tends to frame things). which works somewhat similarly to the English-ist and its equivalent Europeanforms. We do find a tendency in early medieval Chinese texts-especially in certain types of contexts (as will be seen in the next section)-to refer nominally to entities that seem to correspondroughly to the ones named "religions" in Western discourse. What can we conclude from this survey? 1. when it comes to speaking of the "members"of "religions. the language tends to emphasize practice or some mode of active participationratherthan either simple membershipin a container-like set or assent to a set of core doctrines. 2. Paul Veyne.

pp. entail a degree of teleology-not so much with regard to the inevitable direction of the history or development throughtime of the dao itself as with regardto the goal of the practitioner who "practices"or "walks" it. Ronald L. CONTEXTS OF REIFICATION AND METAPHORICALCONSTRUCTION Even from the brief survey just conducted.in Readings in Ritual Studies. Nor do the Chinese metaphors imply the high degree of holistic integrationimplied by the Westernorganic metaphors. it is evident that Cantwell Smith cannot have been right to say that "Fundamentallyit is the outsider who names a religious system. ed. Cantwell Smith was astute to note that "religion as a systematic entity. as it emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 5 above). 4. 88 Robert Ford Campany. p. ed.: Prentice-Hall. The Meaning and End of Religion. reifying. . and to conceive of them in metaphorically specific ways are 87 Smith.Y.It is a likely hypothesis. N. repr. Grimes (Upper Saddle River. unlike the way in which "religions" have often been pictured in Western discourse. argued by Cantwell Smith and ripe for further research.: SUNY Press."87Such conceptualizations do not depend on whether the speaker is a religious "insider"or "outsider. is a concept of polemics and apologetics"89and that "religions" tend to be given names and treated as entities when cultural boundaries are crossed and when multiple."as I have argued elsewhere in the case of "theoretical"analyses of ritual. 197-231. The dao metaphor does. Chinese texts assume that what we term "religions" are fully commensurable and easily mappable one to another."in Discourse and Practice. and so on. It is the observer who conceptualizes a religion as a denotable existent. are spoken of in Chinese texts by no means implies that they are total. that the tendency to nominalize and reify "religions.88 However. 129. The way in which daos. "the way of Buddha.even when they are as sharply differentiatedas fangwai versus fangnei. jiaos. and so on. pp. thought-encompassing"systems" in the sense of conceptual frameworks."daos. The Meaning and End of Religion (n. 86-103. Frank Reynolds and David Tracy (Albany. to consider the typical sorts of contexts in which such nominalizing.however. We would be better served by translations(when they are possible) that preserve the metaphorsstructuringChinese discourse than ones that directly map a term such asfodao. 43. 89 Smith. N."onto the English "Buddhism"and its Western-languageequivalents. metaphorical constructions are called for in the first place.J. We must go further. anotherto imagine an army fighting a war on hostile territory. however. 1992)."Xunzi and Durkheim as Theorists of Ritual Practice. 5. p. or new traditions are encountered. rival.312 On the Very Idea of Religions or "flowing" across a terrain. 1996).

the texts arise at the boundaries and borders between one set of teachingspractices and another.History of Religions 313 most in evidence where there is heightened awareness of religious plurality and difference-and therefore also. It is much more obviously the case in a treatise that takes the form of the Mouzi lihuo lun.or a scripturelike the Santian neijiejing. with its litany of requests for explanation and justification of strange. (London: Versa. The point is simple but bears elaboration. Imagined Communities:Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Naturalism. religious rivalry and competition for resources. In a social context in which there is but one predominantway of doing the importantthings of life. ideas. Such situations. Early medieval China and early modem Europe were two such contexts. in other words. In early medieval China. "religions")begin to be invoked. where a difference is being encounteredand negotiated. define or create their own communities. where we have the story told of how the alien teachings and practices of the Sakya sage were introduced to the CentralRealm-how the foreign practices and ideas came to be imported into "China. nominalizations and reifications (one or another "ism. . 1991). for most human groups are at least aware of others on their margins who do things differently. This is so even in a text such as Wei Shou's Shilao zhi. a relatively low quotient of "imaginedness" in these communities. as probably in most other such contexts. writes as if it is possible to weigh both on the same scale and implies that two (or more) particularthings are membersof a common genus. to some extent. such social environments were probably much rarerthan we often think. patronage. a cosmogonic-mythic narrativereframingof religious difference. the nominalizations and metaphoric imagery of such texts would be largely unnecessary.90Even in early times. or. 2d ed. with attendantattempts to classify and narrateso as to bring some conceptual and rhetorical order to the confusing field of players. Metaphorical expressions that gather up multiple texts. at an even more abstract. They do so for this simple reason: people must come together to do these practices and to learn how to do them. there is.generic level."fodao. and persons and picture them as a "path"or a "teaching"are used in contrastive situations. very often.and prestige. even when favoring one side over the other. In contexts where such differences become acute.and they are always framed from the point of view of someone who."and how "Chinese"responded. it was the attempt to negotiate such differences that created the need for reification in the first place. practices. 90 In the sense specified by Benedict Anderson. Absent a startlingdifference that demands to be accounted for. religious practices themselves. foreign practices and understandings. where religious plurality is not only evident but also the locus of some particularproblems.

as Cantwell Smith himself might have predicted. In the West. Z. the Chinese debates were largely about how to do things.If myth is ideology in narrativeform. arose in a context of innovation. This type of contrast is largely absent in China. in China and elsewhere."and they are occasioned. and authors' stances are not neutral." In a surprising number of cases. "analogous" will mean not "theirversion of our X" but "a Y that.314 On the Very Idea of Religions of course. Students of the history of Western discourse on "religions" have repeatedly noted that it. and fresh contact (often in colonial situations) with foreign ways. as we have seen. But Western discourse on "religions" is strongly contrastive in another sense as well: to name a "religion"in Westerndiscourse is to imply a strong sense in which it is a "religion"as opposed to other. involve contestation. the answer will turn out to be in the affirmative. As moder scholars go about the work of "comparing religions. 209. the history of the 91 See Lincoln (n. diversity. and scholarshipis myth with footnotes. performs something like the same function as our X does (or did) in its own context. too.on "faith" (essentially an attitude of mind-heart-soul)rather than mere "religion.by confrontationswith difference. not about the unseen contents of minds and hearts. On the other hand. there are analogues to Westerndiscourse on "religion(s). when he concluded that there were no analogues to "religions"in premodernChina and that the reason was an actual emphasis. but they would take us beyond the scope of this essay. Cantwell Smith was doubly wrong." One other point bears making here. . 42 above)." at least weakly implying a distinction from daos of Y. non-"religious" kinds of things." they ought to ask whether people in the contexts they study engage(d) in any analogous practices-where. So much could also be said of the Chinese terminology of dao and jiao. It may even be found that moder Euro-Americansare not the only ones to have developed writing practices analogous to footnotes. to speak of one "religion"is also to imply its distinction and difference from (and also partial similarity to) other species in the same genus. on interiority. involving as they do the shape of "religion"as a generic category. they assert the ultimate nondistinction of two or more "paths.91then other people's myths will bear being placed on a par with the myths of the writers' own traditions. in this or that context. p." On the one hand. then. though its development must await anothercontext: such discourses as these are analogous to the "comparative religion" born in early moder Europe and by now exported around the globe. and so on. even when these are used in the singular in phrases such as "the dao of X.even when. The reasons for this profoundtaxonomic difference are well worth investigating. once again.

ax to grind. The question was usually whether one may pursue such self-cultivational activities at court (thus justifying monks' refusal to bow to rulers) or only in private settings. partakes of the path metaphor and essentially means "misguided trust. and conference panels are not value-neutral." "supersti"witchcraft"and "heresy. ." etc. and they make a real difference in the distributionof academic prestige." "the dao of the left." "East Asian Buddhism.History of Religions 315 ways in which it has been differentiated from other categories of phenomena. But that is hardly to suggest that Westerndiscourse on such mattersis valueneutral. In the West. and the language does not suggest that practice of the dao is a fundamentally different category of activity than other areas or forms of life."and so on. or belief has taken a wrong way. since the institutional context in which it would have made sense did not exist-the debate did take the form of arguing whether two spheres or realms are involved and whether they should remain distinct (fangwai/fangnei). at least relative to the Chinese cases mentioned here. 93 It is noteworthy that the moder Chinese expression usually used to translate this term. defining "Daoism" may be crucial not only to some practicing Daoists (since Western recognition may play a crucial role in legitimating or altering the shape of communities and practices under study) but also when it comes to establishing who in the academy is qualified to speak about it.")This sort of contrast. just as defining "religion"is crucial when it is matter of deciding who may speak about it and in what terms (one thinks of the old and still-ongoing debate about the sui generis natureof "religion").too. in other words."("Popularreligion" is always a borderline catethings gory-it is religious but is the kind of religion least like "ours.92 In Western discourses."always implied to be differentkinds of tion." whereas "unlike-us" are the "other" categories of "magic. and the ramificationsfor that history of the institutional clashes between church and state in Europeansocieties. 92 When the problem of what we could call "religion vs. confidence. is largely absent in Chinese discourse. where every party to the discourse has a clear. and a clearly religious. mixin [_ftl]. but the crux of the issue always came down to a specific set of protocols or practices (should monks be compelled to bow to rulers during court ceremonies?)."implying that one's faculty of trust. publication lists. which speaks of "deviantdaos. Our discourses on the "isms" structuringour collegiate curricula.One has only to scan any recent announcement of academic job openings to see the taxonomies ("Daoism. journals. and the interestedness shows itself in an unexpected way-in the matter of the construction and maintenance of Western disciplinary and academic boundaries. without implying that such daos or such sacrifices are another kind of thing than daos or sacrifices proper." "licentious sacrifices.job searches.) at work. "like-us. Moder. nontheological Westerndiscourse on "religions"is known for its apparent or attempted neutrality with regard to its objects of discourse. "religions" are."93 from "religions. relatively speaking. the state" was debated in early medieval China-a context in which no such locution was ever developed.

6-7."96 Taking our cue from Anderson. and "Being Lue: Uses and American Ethnological Society. For a recent critiqueof Anderson's approachto ethnicity. meet them. 95 But did it have any expressions that operated analogously. pp. ." Journal of Asian Studies 60 (2001): 999-1001." Proceedings (1967). Abuses of Ethnic Identification."95 may thinkof the French of the ancienregimeas a class. or even hear of them." but "thelordof X. in what "styles"-this imagining takes place.They would also vary according to situation and interlocutor."94 Anderson immediately notes that the importantquestion is that of how-to use his language.the word "refer"as used three sentences ago invites the misunderstanding that so general an imagined community as fodao 94 Anderson. might invoke such a term? 96 Anderson. 6. but these ties were once imaginedparticularistically-as defnets initely stretchable of kinshipandclientship. 153-69. in contexts where we. just as ethnic identifications are known to vary according to whom a subject is speaking and what the topic and context of discussion are. pp. 97 See Michael Moerman. not "a memberof the aristocracy.p. I suspect that they will often be more particular.97 Furthermore.Until quiterecently."Peoplesof the Gourd:ImaginedEthnicities in Highland Southeast Asia. see FrankProschan." Anderson notes that all communities of larger than face-to-face-contact size are "imagined" in the following sense: "the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members."or "aclientof the Duc de de Z. how else might we think and speak of them? I close with two brief suggestions. Such communities might or might not be as general as "the way of Buddha"(fodao).""theuncleof the Baronne Y. albeit one that does not affect my argumenthere. To the question"Whois the Comtede this X?" the normalanswerwouldhave been. He writes: Javanesevillagershave alwaysknownthatthey are connectedto people they have neverseen." in the felicitous phrase Benedict Anderson has applied to the similarly abstract entities known as "nations. It is at least worth exploring whether such alleged things as "Daoism" and "Buddhism"are helpfully seen as "imagined communities. or where contemporaryJavanese. "Ethnic Identification in a Complex Civilization: Who Are the Lue?" American Anthropologist 67 (1965): 1215-30.the JavWe anese languagehad no word meaningthe abstraction "society. yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion. Annual Spring Meeting. butsurely aristocracy today it was imagined way only very late. we would search our texts for indications of the imagined communities to which they refer.316 On the Very Idea of Religions FROM RELIGION-ENTITIESTO REPERTOIRESAND IMAGINED COMMUNITIES: TWO SUMMARY PROPOSALS Instead of thinking and speaking of religions as entities.

Our discussion of the contexts of nominalization and reification furthermore shows the importance of "others" against whom an "our X" (where X will metaphorically be portrayed as a tradition. As we observe such processes at work.98Processes of the (again often retrospective) constructionof lineages and the selection and arrangingof scripturalcanons are places where the process of community-imagining can be observed especially clearly. 99 Again. we will notice common touchstones.) can be demarcated.""Being Lue") on the relativity of ethnic-identity claims to the conversational situation and the presence of certain types of interlocutors with certain interests is quite significant in this regard. and other artifacts and activities. or otherwise picturing an imagined community as a thing with certain properties. way. ways. comments on 5. constructed. reifying. ideas.History of Religions 317 somehow just exists and retains unity and coherence independently of references to it. especially if we are to avoid inadvertentlyinventing new imagined communities ourselves. rituals. practices. rather than as simply given. used. and texts may be fit without remainder. as tool kits or repertoires used variously by individuals in negotiating See recently the provocative comments in Willi Braun. absent a perceived plurality of communities. one thing is surely clear: there is no core "essence" that could constitute whatever coherence such communities do display.is to imagine them as repertoiresof resources. etc. things referredto again and again-certain words.99For. Moerman's work ("Ethnic Identification. This is why the antiholistic use of the plural. as in JonathanSmith's and others' references to "Christianities. It may be that some imagined "others"are strictly necessary for the claiming of an "own"identity and coherence. and classification by latecomers as they tell the stories of communities they are in the process of imagining. ratherthan treating them as fully integrated systems and as containers into which persons. 98 . figures. highlighting certain aspects of the past and creatively forgetting others. cannot be overstated. or texts-but how these are portrayed. Ann Swidler has recently shown in considerable empirical detail that people relate to elements of their culture in this way." a much is more textually and historically accurate scholarly practice. or posited in texts.We will often observe strategies of communityimagining at play in texts stemming from contexts of close contact with perceived others. Above all. stories. there is little occasion for nominalizing." Bulletin of the Council of Societies for the Study of Religion 28 (1999): 3-8. and interpreted may vary so dramaticallythat the mere notation of references to them gains us very little. Another way to think and speak of religions. group. "Amnesiain the Productionof (Christian) History. We should think of the coherence of such imagined communities as something repeatedly claimed. and so on. organization. Much of this claiming concerns the past: the importanceof retrospective selection. portrayed.

Hymes. 79. and 99 ff.. p. 104 See esp."102 scenes as they negotiate their lives. shifting the cultural framing of a problem in midIt discourse. 101These ideas are introduced in ibid. Compare the post-Geertzian formulations of Robert Hymes. pp. Local Religion. and that people avail themselves of action.318 On the Very Idea of Religions their lives.105 also runs counter to the tendency to think of religions as "conceptualsystems" (Emile Durkheim).106 And if we imagine religions as repertoires 100Ann Swidler. or "theoreticalschemes" (Robin Hortin) outside of which "members"of said religions cannot think. p. pp.. when their lives are uncertain-another statement that could easily be extended to how people use their religions. in part because each model describes something about the real constraintsof life and institutions or. people resort to these models in their discourse about meanings and values even when they reject certain implications of each model as implausible. 106 A tendency helpfully analyzed and criticized by Terry Godlove in his essay. "In What Sense Are Religions Conceptual Frameworks?" Journal of the AmericanAcademy of Religion 52 (1983): 289-305. and Models of Divinity in Sung and Modern China (Berkeley: University of California Press. Swidler finds of cultural repertoiresthat they are not accessible to everyone in the same degree and that people use different amounts of culture even when they have equal access to it. varying ways on various occasions. pp. 2001). ibid. 5-12.. Way and Byway: Taoism.. Talk Love: How Culture Matters of (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2002). Swidler shows us agents using culture's repertoirein complex.. adopts the metaphorof repertoire. too. 103 See esp.. . 52 ff. 24 ff. in Swidler's case.. "systems of symbols" (Geertz).104 All of this runs contrary to the Geertzian emphasis on culture as allencompassing ethos and on religions as "cultural systems". because each scene is especially good for deciding or talking about one particularaspect of that area of life and no one scene suffices for all of it. 105 See esp.. love). rather(more correctly). about the lines of action individuals pursue in the context of those constraints and institutions. 132-33. ibid. even when these scenes multiple carry contradictoryimplications regarding a particulararea of life (such as. ibid.0l? Swidler has found of cultural repertoires-and I see no reason why the same may not be said of religious repertoiresthat they are organized around certain concrete "scenes or situations of often narrativein nature. pp. 102 Ibid. people use culture more in situations of flux or novelty.100Importantquestions for research include not only what is in a given repertoirebut also how and in what circumstances any given piece in the repertoireis performed on some occasions and by some actors but not others.103A repertoiremay contain different and indeed contradictory models of certain areas or aspects of life because these models answer different sets of questions. 34.

And when religions are metaphorically imagined as doing things. as hard-sided. . 1997). with its situation of new religious imports and plurality. and even a culture as different from the modem West as that of early medieval China. at least not in the same way that people and their textual and visual artifacts and performances do. But. because picturing them in all these ways falsifies the actual state of things and skews our research questions in unfortunateways. if we are to go on speaking of religions. Indiana University 107 Catherine Bell. syncretist. as organisms. If possible. the new metaphorsshould avoid picturingreligions as really existent things in the world.History of Religions 319 used by people in these ways. clearly demarcated containers of people and things. my argumentis not that we should cease speaking of religions in cultures that lack an analogous vocabulary because they lack that vocabulary. Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions (New York:Oxford University Press. we should at least find new metaphors for doing so.generated analogous usages."107 we imagine religions and cultures as repertoires.then everyone-not merely those who study religions but also those who participate in them-is potentially in the position of bricoleur. for. 259. and comparativist. it becomes harder to see the agents who really and nonmetaphorically do things: people. In sum. p. we may even begin to deconstructthe gap posited by the modem study of religion between itself and its objects"the difference between those who sufficiently transcendculture and history [and religion(s)] to perceive the universal (and scientific) in contrast to those who remaintrappedin culturaland historical [and religious] particularity and are therein so naturally amenable to being the object of If study. Religions do not exist. as I have shown. and as agents. matters are not that simple.

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