Receptacle of the Sacred: Illustrated Manuscripts and the Buddhist Book Cult in South Asia
In considering medieval illustrated Buddhist manuscripts as sacred objects of cultic innovation, Receptacle of the Sacred explores how and why the South Asian Buddhist book-cult has survived for almost two millennia to the present. A book “manuscript” should be understood as a form of sacred space: a temple in microcosm, not only imbued with divine presence but also layered with the memories of many generations of users. Jinah Kim argues that illustrating a manuscript with Buddhist imagery not only empowered it as a three-dimensional sacred object, but also made it a suitable tool for the spiritual transformation of medieval Indian practitioners. Through a detailed historical analysis of Sanskrit colophons on patronage, production, and use of illustrated manuscripts, she suggests that while Buddhism’s disappearance in eastern India was a slow and gradual process, the Buddhist book-cult played an important role in sustaining its identity. In addition, by examining the physical traces left by later Nepalese users and the contemporary ritual use of the book in Nepal, Kim shows how human agency was critical in perpetuating and intensifying the potency of a manuscript as a sacred object throughout time.
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Akṣobhya Amitābha Asiatic Society AsP manuscript Avalokiteśvara Bengal Bihar Bodhgayā bodhisattvas book covers book’s Buddha Buddha’s life scenes Buddhist book cult Buddhist manuscripts Cambridge University library chapter colophon color context depicting dharma donated donor colophon eastern India enlightenment esoteric Buddhist iconography figure goddess Praj˝āpāramitā Group Hevajra icon iconographic program identified illustrated Buddhist manuscripts illustrated folios illustrated manuscripts illustrated panels images Indian Buddhist inscriptions Kālacakra Kolkata Kwā Bāhā last folio lay donor left panel lotus Mahāmāyūrī Mahāyāna Mahīpāla’s maṇḍala Ma˝juśrī manu manuscript production medieval Buddhist medieval India monastery monk mudrā Museum Nālandā Nepal Nepalese Newar Buddhism Pāla panel of folio Perfection of Wisdom Phase three esoteric preaching pūjā represented ritual sacred object sādhana Sambara Sanskrit scribe script shrine structure South Asia stūpa suggests surviving sūtra t-no tantra tantric tārā tathāgatas three esoteric Buddhism three-dimensional tibet tibetan twelfth century vajrācāryas vajrasattva vajrayāna visual worship wrathful deities