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Supercilious monk at Kiāgiri : Early Indian politeness and Buddhist monastic law

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This paper focuses on the concepts of etiquette and politeness within a genre of Buddhist texts known as “vinaya”, or monastic law. These texts were created for the purpose of regulating behavior within the monastic institution. While they are often described by the tradition as a set of ethical principles, the content of monastic law codes also includes many things that would be better categorized as examples of normative protocol, encompassing mundane, everyday social situations that promote harmony between the monastic institution and its economic patrons. I argue here that a distinct concept of politeness can be gleaned from the narratives in these texts, despite the lack of such a category in the tradition’s own account of itself. To illustrate this point, I analyze several stories concerned with the proper deportment of monastics, demonstrating that the standards for monastic behavior were sometimes at odds with the expectations of the lay communities that supported them.

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Keywords: Buddhism; etiquette; law; monastic; politeness; vinaya

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 10, 2019

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