Attracting the Heart
Social Relations and the Aesthetics of Emotion in Sri Lankan Monastic Culture
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press
Series: Topics in Contemporary Buddhism
Series Editor's Preface
An idealized and simple view of the lifestyle of a Buddhist monk might be described according to the doctrinal demand for emotional detachment and, ultimately, the cessation of all desire and yet monks must also practice compassion, a powerful emotion and equally lofty ideal, and live with every other human feeling—love, hate, jealousy, ambition—as they relate to other monks and the ...
As I think about all the people who have helped me over the years and wonder how I could ever repay them, the concluding paragraph from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love (2007:334) comes to mind: “In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human...
Notes on Romanization and Naming Practices
To encumber the reader as little as possible, I have restricted the use of diacritic marks to certain Sinhala and Pali words, phrases, and sentences. I have also omitted the use of diacritics for the names of monks, villages, and temples for the same reason. When I do use diacritics, I have romanized Sinhala according to the system...
Introduction: Buddhism and Social Relations in Contemporary Sri Lanka
One evening in late May 2004, I made yet another of countless ascents to Polgoda Vihara: a hilltop village temple in upcountry Sri Lanka. Because of some unforeseen car problems, it was already dark by the time I arrived. Leaving my car by the side of the driveway leading to the temple, I began a brief but tiring uphill walk. As I came around the bend in the road, the temple came dimly into ...
1 Narada Thero: Affective Bonds and the Making of a Social Service Monk
During one afternoon in April 1999, I—along with Thilak, my research assistant—met Venerable Narada. Thilak and I received directions to Narada’s temple from Thilak’s wife, who had been working with Narada at the local high school at the time. After a journey that stretched well over two hours because of the heavy traffic that normally follows in the wake of the country’s schools letting...
2 Aesthetics of Emotions and Affective Bonds: Monastic Recruitment in Two Sri Lankan Villages
Unquestionably, one of the most popular Sinhalese films in 2004 was Sūriya Araṇa (English title: Fire Fighters) by the renowned director Somaratne Dissanayake. The film tells the tale of a hunter and his ten-year-old son as they lay sole claim to the bordering jungle’s bounty by frightening others with conjured up stories of the forest's many wandering...
3 Aesthetic-Affective Social Networks and Monastic Recruitment
Venerable Sumedha, who was so instrumental in drawing new recruits to Polgoda Vihara, left the Madavala temple in Anurādhapura in 1994. Since that time, however, Polgoda Vihara has enjoyed a continuous flow of new recruits from the area, with every subsequent year bringing more and more ordinands to Narada’s temple. When I asked Venerable Narada in 2003 to explain to me why ...
4 Learning to Be Novices: Monastic Education and the Construction of Vocation
Drawing children to the sangha is only one dimension of Narada’s social service enterprise. The second one is educating them as Buddhist monastics in the hope of sending them out, as well-trained novices and fully ordained monastics, to the temple’s ever growing number of branch temples. In examining Buddhist monastic education and training in this chapter, my concern...
5 Temple Building as Social Service: Family, Community, and Emotion
When I first began researching Polgoda Vihara in 1999, there were only two branch temples associated with it: one under the administration of Venerable Sumedha in Uduvela and one run by Reverend Ananda in Banvelgolla. Before leaving Sri Lanka in May 2000, two new branch temples were opened: one in Baṭuaṃbē and one in Tēkkavatta.1 The number of branch temples began increasing...
Conclusion: Social Relations and the Aesthetics of Emotion
In the preceding chapters I have discussed Buddhism as a human activity by attending to the range of emotions, social bonds, and shared aesthetic sensibilities that draw and hold together communities of Buddhists. Although such an examination does not necessarily preclude the importance of Buddhist texts, I have focused largely on the emotional textures and multi-moment histories of ...