Buddhist History in the Vernacular: The Power of the Past in Late Medieval Sri Lanka

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BRILL, 2004 - 355 ˹
This is a careful study about the power attributed to historical narratives in early medieval Sri Lanka. On the basis of Sinhala histories of the Buddha and his relics this work sheds new light on historiography at work in a vernacular setting. Arguing that historical texts were both ethically and socially constructive, the author demonstrates that narrative representations of the past served the purpose to transform writers, readers, and listeners of history into virtuous persons, "and therewith to generate moral communities," Focusing on the thirteenth-century Sinhala Thupavamsa, this book problematizes modern interpretations of Buddhist histories, compares the production of Pali and Sinhala texts, and examines how historical works were directed towards religious ends. A significant contribution to scholarship in Buddhist Studies, Comparative Literature, and Historical Criticism.
 

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History and Textuality
1
2 Texts of the Past and the Present
11
3 The Contours of Buddhist History
16
4 The Problems of Buddhist History
21
5 Buddhist Vamsas and Current Conflicts
29
6 The Outline of the Book
37
Buddhist History Now and Then
40
1 Modern Views of Buddhist Pasts
41
Transforming the Writers of History
182
1 Historiography in a Manuscript Culture
183
2 The Merits of Writing History
193
3 SelfWriting in Buddhist Historiography
200
4 Written Paradigms for the Past
214
Fashioning Virtuous Readers and Listeners
231
1 Constructing Emotions
233
2 Joy and Gratitude for the Past
245

2 The Beginnings of Buddhist Historiography
61
Language and the Production of History
81
1 Compiling Pali Buddhist Histories
83
2 Buddhist History in a Sinhala Translation
107
3 Quotation and Revision in Historical Accounts
121
Buddhist History as Literature
135
1 The Narrative Form of Buddhist History
136
2 Rhetoric and Representation
150
3 Addressing the Audience
158
4 Learning from the Past
171
3 The Subjectivity of Satpurusas
258
4 The Ethics of Devotion
270
Moral Communities Vernacular Histories
287
1 Agency and Subjectivity
290
2 Social Ethics in Buddhist History
304
3 Vernacularization in Late Medieval Sri Lanka
312
List of Palm Leaf Manuscripts Consulted
329
Bibliography
331
Index
347
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Stephen C. Berkwitz, Ph.D. (1999) in Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Southwest Missouri State University. He has written chiefly on the cultural history and contemporary expressions of Sri Lankan Buddhism.

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