Chapter

Vimalakīrti, or Why Bad Boys Finish First

Alan Cole

in Text as Father

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 2005 | ISBN: 9780520242760
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520931404 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520242760.003.0007
Vimalakīrti, or Why Bad Boys Finish First

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This chapter presents an overview of the text of early Mahayana literature, the Vimalakirti, which presents an example of textual patriarchy overcoming prior forms of Buddhism. Old-style Buddhists and their uncomplicated beliefs and practices are humiliated by the image of perfect tradition condensed in the figure of Vimalakirti. The narrative resolves with the Buddha explaining that the book form of this narrative of humiliation and overcoming should be revered as the font and totality of real Buddhism. The chapter also offers some reflection on what is implied by Mahayana authors rewriting each other's attempts to make texts into tradition. This kind of literary borrowing suggests a complex literary culture in which writers were reading each other in just the way that these texts hoped not to be read, that is, as literature.

Keywords: Vimalakirti; textual patriarchy; Old-style Buddhists; Mahayana authors; complex literary culture

Chapter.  43635 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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