By Ralph Flores

Appears to be like at quite a few Buddhist sacred writings as literature and comprises insights from literary concept.

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Extra info for Buddhist Scriptures as Literature: Sacred Rhetoric and the Uses of Theory

Sample text

The Prince’s departure from his palace, to be deeply affected by those sights, and later, his more permanent departures into homelessness and nirvana, are archetypal, yet strange, events. In Asvaghos¸a’s Acts of the Buddha, the first-century epic biography aimed at an aristocratic audience, the Prince’s abandonment of his eminent position is made to seem peculiar, because he seemed to have everything to lose and nothing to gain. In his royal isolation, he yearns to emerge from a womb-like existence, and his encounter with reality has the hallmarks of a birth or initiation.

24 Certainly it is convenient for the departing Gautama to be sent on his way by an ungainly sight, but unclear why this is “the real nature of woman” any more than was the earlier, more alluring, picture. The traditional reader, though, would have no problem, and would link this scene of women “like corpses” with the practice of meditation on dead bodies thrown together in a common grave, meant to help monks overcome lustful attachments. In leaving his family and loves, Gautama, though shocked and disgusted, does not act, he pointedly says, out of disappointment or old age.

When he returns to the palace, Gautama recognizes that life inside is no different from life outside, except in being more sheltered—thus deceptive, and even dishonest. From Blindness to Seeing The Buddha’s story begins with the allegorical fiction that, inside the palace, the Prince fails to notice signs of sickness, disagreement, ageing, or death. His later initiation or loss of innocence is thus a staging of sudden visionary clarity. After having been blinded for so long, he sees clearly for the first time, with A Prince Transformed 25 new eyes, what others had accustomed themselves to “see” but blindly did not see: old age, sickness, death.

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