Laity - L 8 LAITY The laity in Buddhism makes up two of the...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–5. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
Background image of page 5
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: L 8 LAITY The laity in Buddhism makes up two of the four con- stituent parts of the SANGHA (monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen) and the great majority of Buddhists. The ordained differ from the laity by virtue of their re- nunciation of the householder’s life and observance of a strict code of behavior, which make them worthy and deserving, a pure and holy “field of merit.” Laypeople acquire merit through giving food, clothing, shelter, and other material support to the ordained, and merit- making by laity to the ordained has been a central as- pect of lay life in all Buddhist societies. Prohibitions on the ordained acquiring individual wealth, as well as prohibitions on sexual activity, make the ordained de— pendent upon laity for their living and the perpetua~ tion of a religious order. The textual legacy Laity in early Buddhist texts are referred to as upfisaka (laymen) and updsikfi (laywomen), devoted followers of Buddhist teaching, and they are distinguished from ordinary householders. Lay followers should take proper care of the monks during the retreats, hear the dharma expounded at that time and on the monthly Posadha (Pall, Uposatlia) days, take the three refuges, follow the first five film or moral rules (refraining from taking life, stealing, unchastity, lying, and tak- ing intoxicants), offer robes to the monks at the end of the rainy season, undertake PILGRIMAGE, and ven~ erate STUPAS containing relics of the Buddha. The Sigalovfida-sutm (Discourse to Sigala) urges laity to re- vere their parents, spouses and children, friends and companions, and religious teachers. Instructions specifically for women direct them in various texts to 9 G H 445 8 be capable in work, to manage servants well, to be physically attractive to their husbands, and to man— age his fortune well. THERAVADA Buddhism has traditionally empha— sized a strong distinction between the ordained and the laity. The nika‘yas Show that laity can reach the first three stages of sanctity (sotfipanna, sakaddgdmi, and anfigfimi), but they cannot become arhats. Instead, they aim for a better rebirth. Recent studies suggest, nevertheless, that the Santa Pitalca also contains a sec- ond, contrasting View on the laity, holding that laity can attain enlightenment. The Mahfivagge Mandapey- yakathd depicts the Buddha teaching the FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS and the eightfold path to the laity, and the Nakulapitfi-sutta (Discourse to Nakulapité) has the Buddha teaching a layman about the five aggregates and the error of confusing these with the self. With the appearance of early MAHAYANA in the first century, new concepts and practices developed, widen— ing the laity’s scope. The cardinal idea of emptiness undermined all conceptual oppositions, including that between monastics and laity. The idea of the BOD- HISATWA who purposefully remains in the world to save others further undermined the dichotomy sepa- rating the ordained and laity, and the idea of the lay bodhisattva emerged. The quintessential example of the lay bodhisattva is the layman VIMALAKTRTI, in the Vimalakfrtinirdes’a (The Teaching of Viamalakfrti), composed between the first century B.C.E. and first century CE. Vimalakirti expounds on the nature of emptiness, exhibiting his wisdom to an immense assembly of holy men and bodhisattvas. He ridicules their doctrinal abstrac— tions and pretensions to a higher status than the LAITY . mam. .. Loypersons dip lotus flowers in holy water and sprinkle if on themselves at Phro Knew Monastery, Bangkok, Thailand, W91. 43 Don rForber 2003, Ail rights reserved. Reproduced by permission. laity. Other sutras continue the themes of this work, sometimes introducing laywomen as the protagonists. Two such examples are Vimalakirti’s daughter in the Candrottardddrikévyfikaranausurm (Discourse on the Prediction Made about the Girl Candrotrani) and Queen Srimala in the érimélédew‘simbeneficial-511nm: (Lion’s Roar of Queen Srimfilfi). Other Mahayana texts present filial piety as a kind of Buddhist morality, in a concession to the promi- nence of this principle especially among the laity in East Asia. The central role of the priesthood in funer“ ary and ancestral rites in East Asian Buddhism stems from the elevation of filial piety as an ethical ideal in such works as the [Membrane—351ml. Laity in Theravada countries Lay life in Theravada countries is greatly influenced by the custom of men entering a Buddhist monastery for a period of time, later returning to lay life. Nearly all Burmese men and about half the men in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia have spent at least one rains- retreat, and often much longer, as an ordained monk. 44s This means that the laity of several Theravada coun— tries has significant personal experience of monastic life, unparalleled by any comparable custom in coun- tries Where Mahayana predominates. This custom cre— ates close ties between laity and the ordained and expands the range of religious experience for lay men. Women are excluded because the tradition of valid 0R7 DINATION for NUNS is believed to have died out. Lay practice revolves around the precepts and merit-making activities. Laypeople observe the five ba— sic precepts already discussed, and on holy days they may take a further five: refraining from sex, eating af- ter noon, perfumes and adornments, seeing public en~ tertainments, and the use of grand beds. Giving food to monks on a daily basis is a Widespread practice, as is contributing to such ceremonies as a man’s ordina— tion, New Year’s, an abbot’s promotion, meals for monks, presentation of robes, cremations, and to gen- eral monastery fund-raising or repairs. Donations may take the form of money, items involved in a particu- lar ceremony, or they maybe things monks are allowed to own, such as bedding, a razor, an umbrella, or a nee— ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BUDDHISM clle and thread. Founding and supporting schools and hospitals is also religiously meritorious. The perfor- mance of meritorious giving thus creates and strengths ens the connections between monastic and lay society. Laity in Mahdyfina countries In East Asia ritual merit transfer is the basic motif structuring the relation between laity and the ordained. In essence, descendants make gifts to monastics, who transfer the merit to descendants’ ancestors in order to ensure them a better REBIRTH or a more comfort- able existence in the other world. Merit transfer has also become institutionalized in the mid—summer GHOST FESTIVAL, based on the Ullambanaasfitm. A wide variety of devotional practices are performed by lay Buddhists in China, Korea, and Japan, includ— ing veneration of such sacred objects as Buddhist im— ages, relics, and stupas; copying and reciting sutras, prayers, and formulas; use of Buddhist rosaries, MU— LETS AND TALISMANS; pilgrimage; and participation in cults and rites for particular buddhas and bodhisattvas, including Sakyamuni, Mnmm, AMITABHA, Avalokir teévara, Ksitigharba, Bhaisajyaguru, Samantabhadra, Acala, and others. 7 Chinese laity formed societies for reciting the Bud- dha’s name, for study, and for publication as early as the Six Dynasties (222—589). The tradition of the learned layman in China had a prototype in Pang Yun (born ca. 740), “Layman P’ang,” Whose Chan sayings were later collected as Pong jushi yulu (The Recorded Sayings ofLaymcm Pang). He gave away his house and sank his possessions in a boat, taking up a wandering life and studying under several Chan masters, though not becoming a monk. A Buddhist revival in the late Ming dynasty (1368—1644) grew out of a lay movement of provine cial gentry, who underwrote the founding of monas- teries, sponsored the clergy, and enthusiastically practiced Buddhist devotions. Gentry went on pil- grimage to Buddhist monasteries, composed poems about them, and restored them. They corresponded with monks, attended lectures, chanted Buddhist texts and the Buddha’s name, and burned incense. They or- ganized lay associations with names like Lotus Socia ety for pure land devotions, or associations for liberating captive animals. They participated in pub- lic rites called “Bathing the Buddha” for the Buddha’s birthday and the Ghost Festival. During the late Qing dynasty (16444911) and the Republican period (1911—1920), the number of Bud- ENCYCLOPEDIA or BUDDHISM LAJTY dhist lay societies grew rapidly, attracting literati and bourgeoisie adherents. Merit clubs operated vegetar- ian restaurants in the cities, and study groups met to discuss sacred texts or to hear lectures by visiting monks. Recitation clubs gathered to recite the Bud— dha’s name in the hope of being reborn in the West- ern Pure Land. Founded by a Hangzhou businessman in 1920, the Right Faith Society operated a clinic and a boys’ primary school, also providing soup kitchens, free coffins for the poor, and a widows’ home. The Buddhist Pure Karma Society, founded in Shanghai in 1925, ran an orphanage and a clinic dispensing free medicine; it also broadcast a nightly radio program. in ancient Korea, lay practice centered on worship of both Maitreya and Amitabha. Chanting Amitabha’s name was a central lay practice. Pure land faith was propagated through Buddhist folk tales from the uni— fied Silla dynasty (668~935) that were later incorpo— rated into a history, SAMGUK YUSA (MEMORABILIA or THE THREE ENGDOMS, 1285). This work reflects strong lay participation in Buddhism and also shows that lay associations were formed around pure land practice. Ancient and medieval Japan exhibited a rich vari- ety of lay Buddhist practices, including pilgrimage to famous monasteries and sacred mountains or around circuit routes devoted to Avalokitesvara or the historr ical Buddhist figure KUKAI (774—835); sponsoring Buddhist art works and ceremonies; and building or repairing temples. The Great Buddha statue of Todaiji in Nara was completed in 752, in part by lay contri- butions organized by the lay Buddhist En no Ubasoku (from Sanskrit updsulcn). Classical literature is replete with images of laity. In 984 a lay noble, Minamoto Tamenori, completed the Srmbée (Illustrations ofthe Three Jewels), an illustrated collection of Buddhist tales in three volumes, as a guide to Buddhism for an imperial princess. It included tales of Japanese Buddhists, the miracles achieved through their devotions, and stories of meritorious people whose good deeds produced rewards in this life and the next. Especially after periods of warfare, many widows adopted a semimonastic style of life, taking the ton— sure though not necessarily living in a monastery, forming societies to commission or repair statues, and devoting themselves to prayers for the souls of the dead. Sometimes such women congregated near a monastery and performed tasks like laundry and food provisioning for the monks. 447 LAITY Monks receive olms from lay Buddhists oi Phro Dhammokdyo Monastery neor Bangkok, Thailand, l99l . © Don Forber 2003. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission. During the Edo period (1600—1868), the entire pop- ulation was legally required to affiliate with a Buddhist monastery. These inalterable, exclusive affiliations were established by family units and passed down through generations. In return for supporting the monasteries and their priests, the priests performed the family’s funerals and periodic ancestral rites. Although the legal obligation of monastery affiliation dissolved in the 1870s, the fact of family graves and records be— ing kept by the monasteries means that these affilia- tions have largely been preserved. Laity established associations for pilgrimage and for the recitation of Amitabha’s name or the title of the LOTUS Sfi'rRA (SADDHARIVLAPUNDARTKAeSL—TTRA). Stories of the ideal layperson, based on historical individuals, were published by the True Pure Land sect during the Edo period in collections called 5j6den (tales of rebirth [in the pure land]). These tales vividly illustrated val- ued traits: filial piety, honesty, compassion, devotion data to reciting Amitabha’s name, and strong conviction of the certain rebirth in the Western Pure Land. Laify and modernization The modernization of Buddhist societies has brought sweeping changes. The extension of the franchise and expanded political participation in secular life colored religious life, creating the expectation that laity should be able to influence the character of Buddhist institu~ tions. The spread of literacy has enabled laity to read and interpret sacred scripture with increasing inde- pendence from the ordained. Higher education bones a critical spirit and encourages skepticism regarding clergy’s preeminence over the laity and their monop- oly over funerals and other rituals. The prestige of sci- ence and rationality in modernizing societies further nurtures a critical view of traditional religious beliefs, practices, and institutions. The encounter with Christian missionaries and Western imperialism was an important catalyst to Bud- dhist reviVal movements, and laymen have frequently played significant roles. The lay branch of the Buddhist Theosophical Society, founded in Sri Lanka in 1880, created a press, the Buddhist English School (later Amanda College), and a newspaper, The Buddhist. Prominent laity like ANAGARIKA DHARMAPALA (born David Hewavitarne, 1864—1933) acquired their first ex— perience of activism in the Buddhist Theosophical So- ciety and in the Young Men’s Buddhist Association (later renamed the Alleeylon Buddhist Congress), founded in Colombo in 1898 by C. S. Dissanayake. Dharmapala'founded the first international Bud- dhist organization, Mahabodhi Society, in Colombo in 1891, later starting a revival of Buddhism in India, be- ginning with a project to restore BODH GAYA. Dharma- pala linked his support for Buddhism to the struggle for Indian independence, so that Buddhist advocacy was inseparable from the call for political indepen« dence. The Indian Buddhist revival did not become a mass movement, however, until the leadership of Bhimrao Ramji AMBEDKAR (1891—1956), an attorney trained in the United States and Britain who worked for the legal emancipation of the Untouchables. De— spairing of integrating the Untouchables into Hindu caste society, be converted to Buddhism in 1950. When he called on all Untouchables to convert, mass con- versions followed in several Indian states. in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Japan, Buddhist reform movements arose, frequently turvflnnrnln nr Dnnnnlcu led by groups of priests and laymen, calling for free inquiry into traditional beliefs and practices, rejecting superstition, and striving to articulate a modern Buddhist ethic. One such association, Bukkyo Seito Doshikai, published a widely circulated journal called Buddhism (Bulclcyo), sought inspiration from Unitari— anism, embraced skepticism, and even questioned whether Mahayana is true Buddhism. Other reform— ers admired socialism, affirmed equality, and called for reform of authoritarian sectarian organizations. Still others aligned Buddhism with nationalism, such as Nation’s Pillar Society (Kokuchukai), founded in 1914 by a Nichiren priest who later disrobed and wrote in defense of marriage, Tanaka Chigaku (1861—1939). - Buddhist new religious movements in Japan The formalism inherent in the historical origins of Japanese temple affiliations has made the country a fer- tile area for the founding of new religious movements expanding the scope of lay~Buddhism. In the early twentieth century Buddhist new religions emerged, based on the belief that the laity possess all necessary qualifications to perform funerals and ancestral rites without clerical mediation. Reiyfikai Kyodan, founded in 1930, and its offshoot Rissho Kc'meikai, founded in 1938, are two such examples. Both derive from Nichiren Buddhism and emphasize ancestor worship through the Lotus Sutra. After World War II, many more Buddhist new re“ ligions emerged. The largest is SOKA GAKKAI, which was founded in 1930 but which did not become a mass movement until after 1945. Its main religious practices are chanting the title of the Lotus Sam: and studying its doctrines. It founded a political party in 1964. Soka Gakkai was originally affiliated with a branch of the NICHIREN SCHOOL, Nichiren Shoshfi, but this connecu tion was abolished in 1991. Soka Gakkai maintains an extensive program of peace work and branches throughout the world. With membership estimated at seventeen million, it is one of the largest—if not the largest—Buddhist lay associations in history. In recent years Buddhist new religions deriving from Shingon Buddhism, such as Agon-shi‘l, Shinnfi yoen, and Gedatsukai, have been founded. In 1995 the Buddhist new religion Aum Shinrikyo, founded in 1986, carried out an attack on the Tokyo subway sys— tem that killed twelve people and required some five thousand to be hospitalized. The founder, Asahara Shake, hoped to cause Armageddon to fulfill his ENCYCLOPEDIA or BUDDHISM LAITY prophecy of the millennium. This group had no affil— iation with any branch of Japanese Buddhism; it drew its main doctrines from Tibetan Buddhism mixed with the founder’s eclectic readings in Christianity and Western millenarianism. See also: Merit and Merit—making; Monasticism Bibliography Barua, Dipak Kumar. An Analytical Study of Four Nileayas. Cal- cutta: Ribindra Bharati University, 1971. Beyer, Stephan. The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. Brook, Timothy. Praying for Power: Buddhism and the Forma- tion of Gentry Society in Late—Ming China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993. Bunnag, Jane. Buddhist Monk, Buddhist Layman: A Study of Ur- ban Monastic Organization in Central Thailand. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1973. Dutt, Nalinaksha. “Place of Laity in Early Buddhism.” Indian Historical Quarterly 21 (1945): 163—183. Fuller, Ruth Sasald; lriya Yoshitake; and Fraser, Dana R; trans. The Recorded Sayings of Layman P’ang: A Ninth-Century Zen Classic. New York: Weatherhill, 1971. Gombrich, Richard, and Bechert, Heinz, eds. The World ofBud— dhism: BuddhistMonks and Nuns in Society and Culture. Lon~ don: Thames and Hudson, 1991. Hirakawa, Akita. A History of Indian Buddhism: From Salcya— muni to Early Mahayana, tr. Paul Groner. Honolulu: Uni- versity of Hawaii Press, 1990. ' Lancaster, Lewis, and Yu, C. 5., eds. Assimilation ofBuddhisrn in Korea: Religious Maturity and Innovation in the Silla Dy— nasty. Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1991. Malalgoda, Kitsiri. Buddhism in Sinhalese Society 1750—1900: A Study of Religious Revival and Change. Berkeley and Los Ana geles: University of California Press, 1976. Samuels, Jeffrey. “Views of Householders and Lay Diseiples in the Sutta Pitaka.’ A Reconsideration of the Lay/Monastic Op- position.” Religion 29 (1999): 2357238. Tambiah, Stanley J. Buddhism and the Spirit Cults ofNorthwEast Thailand. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970. Teiser, Stephen F. The Ghost Festival in Medieval China. Prince- ton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988. Welch, Holmes. The BuddhistRevival in China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968. HELEN HARDACRE 449 ...
View Full Document

This note was uploaded on 04/20/2008 for the course RELS 103 taught by Professor Samuels during the Spring '08 term at Western Kentucky University.

Page1 / 5

Laity - L 8 LAITY The laity in Buddhism makes up two of the...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 5. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online