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AAR Annual Meeting
Atlanta, GA
November 21-24, 2015

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Religions in Chinese and Indian Cultures: A Comparative Perspective Group

Statement of Purpose: 

This Group addresses two significant gaps in the current scholarship on Chinese and Indian religious traditions. The first gap is on historical scholarship. India and China have been the two mother cultures of South Asia and East Asia. Historically, the two were connected through the transmission and transformation of Buddhism from India to China. This remarkably fruitful incorporation and assimilation of a foreign system of thought and cultural practice into another well-established civilization is one of the first of its kind in the human history of cross-cultural exchanges, especially at such a magnitude. Unfortunately, there has been inadequate scholarly attention paid to how Indian Buddhism — and its central Asian variants — introduced new issues and imaginations to the Chinese people and how the Chinese managed to appropriate the alien tradition into their own intellectual milieu, hence deeply enriching and reshaping the indigenous Chinese culture. Second, we also seek to redirect some of the attention of the comparative study of religion and philosophy away from the default Western-centered approach. India and China are profoundly important civilizations, both historically and contemporarily. Despite the historical connection of Buddhism, the differences in their cultural products — whether religious, linguistic, philosophical, artistic, or material — are so striking that comparing them would highlight the true richness, plurality, and diversity of human creativity and cultural productivity.

Call for Papers: 

Monasticism and Its Cultural Contexts

The institutionalization, in the form of the Buddhist sangha, of the already existing patterns of renunciation in ancient India transformed the expression of asocial individuality into a community of common purpose. The sangha developed as a community of ordained monks or nuns leading highly disciplined and regimented collective lives in pursuit of a doctrinally significant awakening, supported by the lay community. This led to dynamic and often dialectic patterns of interaction with other norms, doctrines, social formations and loci of power. The entry of Buddhism into China led the sangha to have an even more radical impact on society, in a civilizational context where renunciation of familial ties was a radical idea. Clearly Buddhist monasticism’s evolving and distinct forms of organization have had a major impact on religious lives in both India and China. It was also controversial, and was often challenged within both Indian and Chinese cultural contexts.

This year’s panel seeks to look at forms of religious life in India and China through the lens of the sangha. Papers can cover various aspects of the issue: the changes in the nature of the sangha over time and cultural context(s); non-Buddhist developments, like the various Advaitic, Śaiva and Śrīvaiṣṇava orders of renouncers or orders of Daoists such as Lingbao and Quanzhen, etc., that functioned as responses or even direct challenges to Buddhist conceptions of monasticism; patterns of resistance to or alternatives to the sangha model of spiritual life.

An ideal proposal will be comparative in its coverage, involving India and China, but historical, conceptual or some combination of both in its methodology. To name a few possibilities, papers could address some form of monastic practice across Indian and Chinese contexts; the intellectual, political or institutional competition between Buddhist and other monastic organizations; textual critiques of renunciation and renunciatory communities; or particular challenges that faced the sangha in different contexts. Topics can be within a Buddhist context, or comparatively with other Indian and Chinese traditions, or even entirely on other traditions.

If you have questions, please contact the co-chairs.

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members
Some people contacted the co-chairs prior to their submissions to inquire about whether their proposals fit the parameters of the CFPs.
ChairSteering Committee