Imagining Community through Commentary

Anne E. Monius

in Imagining a Place for Buddhism

Published in print January 2002 | ISBN: 9780195139990
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834501 | DOI:
 Imagining Community through Commentary

Show Summary Details


The commentary on the Vīracōliyam discussed here (which really constitutes a text in its own right) brings together fragments of a considerable corpus of Buddhist narrative and devotional poetry in Tamil, of which nothing else remains. Expanding on the Vīracōliyam's project by substantiating the language of the Buddha‐to‐be with Tamil literary examples, the commentary envisions a community of readers who share a profound devotion to the Buddha and a moral vision of human kindness and self‐sacrificing compassion for the welfare of others. In drawing from texts that are not explicitly Buddhist for many of his moral illustrations, the commentator clearly envisions Buddhism as one among many sectarian communities in Tamil‐speaking literary culture; in quoting so broadly, he both locates and subtly reworks common intersectarian concerns and claims a part of the literary corpus in Tamil for Buddhism. In its failure to cite the Maṇimēkalai even once, the commentary further suggests that despite their common language and common geographical origin, the Maṇimēkalai and the Vīracōliyam did not belong to a single community of Tamil‐speaking Buddhists. Rather, each envisions and enacts a textual community unique to its own cultural and historical location, with each text revealing a distinct moment in the way Tamil‐speaking Buddhist communities represented and imagined themselves in diverse religious and linguistic landscapes.

Keywords: Buddhism; Buddhist community; Buddhist history; Buddhist literature; literary culture; Maṇimēkalai; morality; reading community; religious communities; religious history; South India; Tamil; Vīracōliyam; Vīracōliyam commentary

Chapter.  10865 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.