a public event
The Moment of Death in Daoxuan's Vinaya Commentary and Biographical Collection
Center for Buddhist Studies Colloquium Series with KOICHI SHINOHARA
Friday, January 23, 2004
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
243 Royce Hall
Los Angeles, CA
Department of Relgious Studies, McMaster University
Daoxuan’s influential vinaya commentary contains a chapter on taking care of the sick monks through their death and funeral. In this discussion, based on a large body of scriptural quotations, the sick monks are passive, and the focus is on the conduct of those who are around them. In contrast, many subjects of the biographies Daoxuan collected in the Further Biographies of Eminent Monks collection are represented in their final moments as very active agents, fully in charge of their communities as they approached death. Often these accounts of the deaths of "eminent monks" appear to reflect the account of the Buddha’s death in the Mahaparinirvana sutra. The monk’s death is presented differently in the vinaya commentary and in the biographical collection. However, the concern over rebirth in heaven and the Pure Land receives considerable attention in both sources. The subjects of these biographies are often said to have had a vision of their rebirth in the Pure Land at the moment of death. In such passages the eminent monks are presented very differently from the Buddha at parinirvana. One might also recall the legend that Daoxuan himself received the visit of gods shortly before death. Daoxuan appears to have been fully aware of the controversial nature of this concern over the moment of death; he seems nevertheless to have been strongly attracted by this teaching.
Koichi Shinohara studied at the University of Tokyo and received his PhD from Columbia University. He is a member of the Department of Religious Studies, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, where he teaches Buddhism and East Asian thought. His research has focused on a variety of topics in Chinese Buddhism, including monastic biographies, the evolution of image miracle stories and sacred places in medieval China, and the large body of scriptural and historical material compiled by Daoxuan and Daoshi at the Ximingsi monastery.
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