Chinese Magical Medicine (Asian Religions and Cultures)

Chinese Magical Medicine (Asian Religions and Cultures)

Michel Strickmann

Language: English

Pages: 432

ISBN: 0804739404

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This book argues that the most profound and far-reaching effects of Buddhism on Chinese culture occurred at the level of practice, specifically in religious rituals designed to cure people of disease, demonic possession, and bad luck. This practice would leave its most lasting imprint on the liturgical tradition of Taoism. In focusing on religious practice, it provides a corrective to traditional studies of Chinese religion, which overemphasize metaphysics and spirituality.

A basic concern with healing characterizes the entire gamut of religious expression in East Asia. By concentrating on the medieval development of Chinese therapeutic ritual, the author discovers the germinal core of many still-current rituals across the social and doctrinal frontiers of Buddhism and Taoism, as well as outside the Buddhist or Taoist fold.

The book is based on close readings of liturgies written in classical Chinese. The author describes and translates many of them, analyzes their structure, and seeks out nonliturgical sources to shed further light on the politics involved in specific performances. Unlike the few previous studies of related rituals, this book combines a scholar’s understanding of the structure and goals of these rites with a healthy suspicion of the practitioners’ claims to uniqueness.

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himself whole once again. The deity known as the Immovable One and the pseudo-Sanskrit spells found later in this Taoist text reveal the technique's ultimate inspiration in Tantric Buddhist practice. We should remember that our surviving texts correspond to the sparsely scattered peaks of a buried landscape; these paltry textual remnants imperfectly record selected facets of what was once a broad range of practice and oral tradition. This is the same situation we noted with respect to the early

Sanskrit word, was often used in shortened form, as either Ssu-na or "the Po-god." 43 . Modern accounts of Tibetan pro-divination are of great interest. They smkingly illustrate how the instructions contained in Buddhist.ritual texts mi~ht be applied and developed in actual practice. Pra-consultanon can be carrted 216 CHINESE MAGICAL M EO ICJ N E out in a way closely parallel to me directions given in Chinese translations. F~r examp~e, when performed under the auspices of King Gesar {a

Tao-shih. T. 2122, vol. 53· Fan-i-ming-i chi [Mahiivyutpatti], by Fa-yiin (1o88-n58). T. 2IJI, vol. 54· Fan-wang ching. T. 1484, vol. 24. Feng-fa-yao, by Hsi Ch'ao. In Hung-ming chi. T. 2102, vol. 52: 86-89. Bibliography 343 Fifty-Two Medical Prescriptions. See Wu-shih-erh ping-fang. Fo-i ching (Sii.tra on Medicine). T. 793, vol. I?· Fo mieh-tu hou kuan-lien tsang-sung ching. T. 392, vol. 12. Fo-mu ta k'ung-ch'iieh ming-wang ching [Mahiimiiy{lri(vidyiiriijni)-sutra] (Book of the Peacock Spell).

from their early medieval texts, was to unmask the so-called gods worshipped by the people. Once that had been done, it would be child's play to rebut the common claim that those deities could help-and heal-their clients. According to the Taoists, there was nothing auspicious about these false gods. In reality, they were all no more than restless and overweening spirits of the dead-ghosts at best, ghouls and demons at worst. Moreover, these spectral beings themselves caused the diseases that they

2a), but the word "seal" has been substituted for "talisman" in the central square- "This seal directs the gods swiftly, as the Statutes and Ordinances command"and the outer list of divine personnel differs, too, including in addition to the "eight divisions of gods and dragons" a summons to the water-spirits and naming of the "limitless divine power of all dhiira!Ji'' and the vajra. More seals foJJow, such as a smaJJ, round "golden disk" seal and a large, square "lunar disk of the asuras"

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