Reading Maṇimēkalai as Buddhist Literature

Anne E. Monius

in Imagining a Place for Buddhism

Published in print January 2002 | ISBN: 9780195139990
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834501 | DOI:
 Reading Maṇimēkalai as Buddhist Literature

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Chapter 1 (and Chs. 2‐3) addresses the earlier of the two extant Tamil (South Indian) Buddhist texts, the Maṇimēkalai, by building on the work of Richman, and reading the text as a consummately literary whole that resonates not only with the earlier themes of the classical Caṅkam corpus, but also with Sanskrit‐influenced poetic theory, and a variety of themes found in other Buddhist literature. Pinpointing as a central motif in the main narrative, the arising of those conditions conducive to Maṇimēkalai's enlightenment (signaled by the technical term ētunikalcci), the narrative and doctrinal portions of the text are shown to be intimately connected through concern with the interdependently arising nature of the world and human relationships. Focusing on the overall structure of the narrative, as well as its thematic content, it is suggested that the labyrinthine character of the text, filled with subplots and stories within stories, is meant to evoke subtly the particularly Buddhist theory of causation, which is given formal structure only at the very end of the text. Careful attention is also paid to the Maṇimēkalai's obvious concern with the moral human life, focusing on the Sanskrit and Tamil literary theories of emotional evocation. The emotional experience that the text seeks to elicit from its audience is that of pity or compassion, a central organizing principle in the Maṇimēkalai's moral vision of concern and compassion for the suffering of all living beings.

Keywords: Buddhism; Buddhist culture; Buddhist history; Buddhist literature; causation; emotional evocation; ētunikalcci; Maṇimēkalai; morality; religious history; Sanskrit; South India; Tamil

Chapter.  25501 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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