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Journal of Religion and Violence

Volume 6, Issue 1, 2018
Asian Religions and Violence

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Displaying: 1-11 of 11 documents

1. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Jimmy Yu Reflections On Violence in Asian Religions
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2. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Richard Payne Lethal Fire: The Shingon Yamāntaka Abhicāra Homa
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An important element in the ritual corpus of Shingon Buddhism, a tantric tradition in Japan, is the homa (goma, 護摩). This is a votive ritual in which offerings are made into a fire, and has roots that trace to the Vedic ritual tradition. One of the five ritual functions that the homa can fulfill is destruction, abhicāra. A destructive ritual with Yamāntaka as the chief deity is one such ritual in the contemporary Shingon ritual corpus. Consideration of this ritual provides entrée into the history of destructive practices, including violent subjugation, that date from very early in the Buddhist tradition. Exploration of this theme is offered as a balancing corrective to the modern representation of Buddhism as an exception to the violent character of other religions. However, despite the history of destructive ritual practices, the contemporary homa examined in the latter part of the essay shows very few of the characteristics found historically. This indicates an ambiguity in the tradition between a historical understanding of such rituals as literally destructive of one’s enemies, and the contemporary understanding that the enemies to be destroyed are simply personifications of one’s own obscurations.
3. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
David B. Gray The Rhetoric of Violence in the Buddhist Tantras
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This article explores the rhetoric of violence in the Buddhist tantras, arguing that it generally falls into two types: (1) violence deployed in a purely rhetorical fashion for the purpose of impressing or persuading the reader; and (2) textual depictions of violent ritual practices, which can, with some caveats, be interpreted as depictions of, and possibly prescriptions for, ritual violence. The former type often includes grandiose or exaggerated instances of hyperbolic rhetoric, often deployed for the purpose of aggrandizing the text or tradition. The article segues to discussions of descriptions of and prescriptions for ritual violence, and explores one of the justifications given for ritual violence, namely that it contributes to, or is excused by, the attainment of a spiritually advanced state of awareness called the “non-dual gnosis” (advayajñāna). Here particular attention is paid to violent rituals that involve the creation of effigies or symbolic substitutes for a sacrificial victim. These rituals, rather than involving actual violence, instead symbolically depict it. Yet these rituals are still violent insofar as they are symbolic enactments of acts of violence, and often they are performed with the goal of actually harming the victim who is symbolically represented in the ritual practice. The article concludes with an examination of a strategy for legitimizing such violence by invoking the concept of non-dual gnosis, and suggests that this ethical double standard has actually been used to excuse ethically dubious conduct by contemporary Buddhist leaders.
4. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Courtney Work “There Was So Much”: Violence, Sovereignty, and States of Extraction in Cambodia
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Anthropologists debate the usefulness of an “Ontological Turn” in theory and practice as a way to confront the social and ecological disjuncture at the heart of the Anthropocene. Is it possible, scholars wonder, to validate rather than rationalize the idea that mountains, rivers, and trees are social interlocutors as well as arbiters of justice, resource access, and societal well-being? In a twist of monumental irony, previously market-independent Cambodians are facing, in an odious confluence of fear, need, and desire, an ontological turn toward the rationalized notion that trees, mountains, rivers and all their inhabitants are important primarily as commodities that can be converted to money. This paper explores part of that nexus of fear, need, and desire through accounts of social relationships with the “owner of the water and the land,” whose permission is sought for territorial access and resource use. Successful navigation of relationships with the original owner of the territory require respect, solidarity, conservation, and offerings of gratitude. In return people enjoy resource abundance, ritual/technical knowledge, and good health. Improper comportment results in illness, loss of access to forest and water resources, and knowledge loss. In yet another ironic twist, the Development State (defined within) promises poverty alleviation, education, and health care for all those who master the extractive market economy. The paper explores how different ontologies give rise to particular social, political, and economic possibilities, and demonstrates that the punishments of the Original owner of the water and the land are visited upon those who either will not or cannot successfully navigate the extractive market system.
5. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Matthew Robertson The Autophagous Absolute: Revelations of Cosmic and Sovereign Violence in the Bhagavad Gītā and the Taittirīya Upaniṣad
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A key function of the autophagous imagery ascribed to Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad Gītā (BhG) is to reassert long-held Brahmanical convictions about the role of violence in politics, and thereby to respond to anxieties about the association of sovereignty with violent action. This essay examines the textual roots of these convictions, found in the depiction of the autophagous knower of brahman in Taittirīya Upaniṣad (TU), in order to assess the socio-historical significance of the BhG’s imagery of Kṛṣṇa as an autophagous absolute. By discerning the links between the TU’s and BhG’s depictions of autophagy, I argue that the BhG forwards a renewed cosmological justification for the performance of violent acts by kṣatriyas that relies especially upon the alliance between priestly and political/martial powers, and that therefore seeks to elevate Brahmanical paradigms of sovereignty over those that question the necessity of violence in the exercise of political power.
6. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Daniel Burton-Rose The Literati-Official Victimization Narrative: Memorializing Donglin Martyrs in Eighteenth-Century Suzhou
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This article describes the Confucian cycle of apotheosis in which deceased sages and worthies served as a model for the living who in turn aspired to become paragons for future generations, thereby achieving a form of immortality. It explores the way in which victimhood was strategically employed to perpetuate power relations beneficial to local landowners through a case study of support over a hundred and fifty year period by a major familial lineage in the Yangzi delta region for one of the most prominent victims of factional violence in the late Ming dynasty (1368–1644): Donglin current member Zhou Shunchang (1584–1626). Influential patriarchs in the Peng familial lineage of Suzhou cultivated indignation in local society about the injustices suffered by righteous literati-officials such as Zhou Shunchang. The driving motivation of the Pengs’ memorialization of Zhou was to decry physical harm of literati-officials by state agents and to perpetuate the Donglin current program of governance centered on the counsel of literati-officials. In continuing Zhou’s memory through textual and ritual interventions, the Pengs put forward a vision of local autonomy while simultaneously aligning their own interests with those of the Manchu Qing (1644-1911) rulers.
7. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Huan Jin Violence and the Evolving Face of Yao in Taiping Propaganda
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This paper explores the interplay between rhetorical and political violence during the Taiping Civil War (1851–1864). Specifically, I examine how yao 妖, a conception bearing many cultural and historical connotations, was profusely employed in Taiping propaganda and in individual testimonies reflecting traditional political and religious beliefs. In extant Taiping placards, the Taiping rebels used xiwen 檄文, the prose of “call to arms,” to persuade people to take up the Taiping cause and to solicit and justify violence. With the compilation and extensive distribution of these xiwen, visions of violence were disseminated among the masses. Drawing inspirations from ancient historical narratives, vernacular literature, and popular religion, the Taiping rebels ingeniously used yao to refer to demonic existences that should be extinguished with the Heavenly vision. In its versatility, the meaning of yao transmuted as the Taiping movement developed. At the beginning of the movement, yao was used broadly to refer to the Taiping’s religious opponents, however, since 1853, it became a core political and religious concept used to refer to the Manchus and their supporters. Nevertheless, the meaning of yao continued to transform as the Taiping rebels sought to convert local Han militias who were fighting for the Qing government. Ironically, the Han literati conversely used yao to describe the war and the Taiping rebels. When yao was associated broadly with the Manchus, Qing loyalists, and the Taiping rebels, its dehumanizing power became a force of destructive violence beyond comprehension.
book reviews
8. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Daniel Burton-Rose Demonic Warfare: Daoism, Territorial Networks, and the History of a Ming Novel. Mark R. E. Meulenbeld
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9. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Frank J. Korom Political Violence in Ancient India. Upinder Singh
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10. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Paul R. Powers Black Banners of ISIS: The Roots of the New Caliphate. David J. Wasserstein
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11. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Verna Marina Ehret The Cambridge Companion to Religion and Terrorism. Edited by James R. Lewis
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