Religion Through Cultural Boundaries

Aleksandra Wenta (Florence)

Early Tantric Magic: An Example of Śaiva (Hindu)-Buddhist Intertextuality in Pre- modern India

This presentation deals with the emergence of early tantric Buddhism in India and its transmission to Tibet through the lenses of the widespread and little-investigated phenomenon of tantric magic across Buddhist and Śaiva (Hindu) sectarian boundaries. In particular, I will focus on the magical technologies employed by tantric texts and reconstruct the mechanics they deemed efficacious to bring about magical results. In large part, the magical technology of early tantric magic relies on the manipulation of a wide range of material objects or substances—grains, minerals, chemicals, plants, sweets, dolls, animals, items retrieved from the cremation ground, etc. My aim in the following presentation is to examine the available evidence for the recourse to different magical technologies in the early tantric milieu, and classify them on the basis of the various material objects they use. My analysis will also provide examples of Śaiva-Buddhist intertextuality in the light of thematic and linguistic parallels found in the magical recipes.

The comparison of the magical recipes in the context of Śaiva-Buddhist intertextuality suggests that these early tantric scriptures, whether Śaiva or Buddhist, shared the same magical worldview and technology, following models that might have pre-dated the earliest known textual evidence as part of a religious “substratum”. The early tantric milieu had a very similar understanding of the magical categories and the manipulation of objects, which in its turn supports the argument that the “culture of magic” was a widespread phenomenon that crossed sectarian boundaries. There are two reasons why the focus on the intertextual dimension of the tantric texts is important. First, it takes into account the fact that the production of the Buddhist and Śaiva tantras came into being through the reuse of textual fragments, ‘copy-paste’ practices, and adoption of established clichés. This, in turn, puts forward a theoretical framework of studying tantric texts not as a culture of disseminating and transmitting the scriptures, but as a shared cultural environment in which textual (and ritual) fragments circulated across sectarian boundaries and were reused and interspersed in the ritual literature of different groups.

Francesco Barchi (Munich)

Traces of “Buddhist Iranian” in early Chinese Buddhist translations

The early development of Buddhism in China is connected to a series of figures of Iranian origin, such as An Shigao 安世高 (fl. ca. 148-180), An Xuan 安玄 (fl. ca.168-190) and Lokakṣema’s (Ch. Zhiloujiachen支婁迦讖, born 147). These Iranian missionaries not only laid the foundation of the earliest Buddhist church in China, but were also actively engaged in the process of translation of the first Chinese sūtras. As the foreign origin of the translators has been often used to account for the erratic linguistic features of the early Chinese translations, one could argue that some traces of the Iranian native idiom of the translators could have surfaced in the Chinese “translationese” of the early sūtras. In this paper I aim to outline the methodological problems underlying the investigation of the possible Iranian linguistic influence on the early Chinese Buddhist translations, using the Chinese epithet of the Buddha tian-zhong tian 天中天 “god among gods” (and its possible Indic and Iranian source-expressions) as a case study.