Abstract of Article by Ananda Abeysekara entitled “Buddhism and ‘Influence’: The Temporality of a Concept”Qui Parle,2019, Vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 1-75.
For almost three decades the concept of “Protestant Buddhism” has been the object of critique by numerous scholars such as John Holt, Charles Hallisey, Anne Blackburn, Erik Braun, Alicia Turner, Steven Kemper, and others. They claim to tell a different story about the relation between religion and modernity (“Protestantism”) in South Asia. By extension, these scholars seek to reconstruct the temporal relation between the past and the present, questioning postcolonial conceptions of history, time, and religious practice. But this story of temporality is staked on the question of “influence,” which has a genealogy that includes not just colonial, missionary, liberal politics but also contemporary legal-political questions about foreign influence on democracy and sovereignty. This article contests the ways in which the critiques of Protestant Buddhism conceptualize colonial and postcolonial forms of time, translated into universal forms of self, agency, responsibility, etc. The article argues that the question of influence, which animates parts of the story of secular ways of inhabiting time, obscures not just how the encounter with the temporality of a tradition is an encounter with power. It obscures how even modern sensibilities of inhabiting time, ironically, require coherence even as they are repeatedly said to be constituted by “heterogeneous” forms of everyday life.
My research and teaching have to do with Theravada Buddhism, Sri Lanka, South Asia, tradition, religion, and politics, religious practice and temporality, religion and secularism, political theories of sovereignty and state, liberal tradition and secular dispositions. In particular, I want to think about the question of religion by way of thinking about the “limits” of a tradition against the backdrop of the ensemble of modern social-political life. My focus is on how the secular notions of time—connected with modern ideas of capacity, sensibility, emotion, body, etc.—remain inadequate to grasp how temporality and the form-of-life work in a tradition, marked by a tension between moment and destiny (kairos and chronos), between what begins and what passes away, between decisive action and repetition of practice.
Thuppahi's Blog · This web site presents the interventions of MICHAEL ROBERTS in the public realm with reference to Sri Lankan political affairs. It will embrace the politics of cricket as well. ROBERTS was educated at St. Aloysius College in Galle and the universities of Peradeniya and Oxford. He taught History at Peradeniya University and Anthropology at Adelaide university. He is now retired and lives in Adelaide.
One response to “Buddhism over Time in Colonial and Independent Sri Lanka”
I was surprised that the author has not even mentioned the origin of the coinage of the phraseology, Protestant Buddhism. The list of critics are much more than what is currently noted, which is understandable for the study. The readers might have been interested to read the reference to ‘Protestant Buddhism’ as labeled first in Buddhism Transformed, Obeyesekere G, and Gombrich, R., ( Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1988) see, Preface xi. From Holt to Kemper that you have noted have all dealt with this specific text and the subsequent debates, but primarily triggered by this magnum opus by the pair.