viernes, 22 de junio de 2018

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Table of Contents

  1. Kopf on Ziporyn, 'Emptiness and Omnipresence: An Essential Introduction to Tiantai Buddhism' [review]
  2. Re: ANNOUNCEMENT> "Primer in Chinese Buddhist Writings"
  3. CFP> Workshop: Religious and Cultural Inclusion and Exclusion in Myanmar History

Kopf on Ziporyn, 'Emptiness and Omnipresence: An Essential Introduction to Tiantai Buddhism' [review]

by System Administrator
Brook A. Ziporyn. Emptiness and Omnipresence: An Essential Introduction to Tiantai Buddhism. World Philosophies Series. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016. 336 pp. $85.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-253-02108-3; $35.00 (paper), ISBN 978-0-253-02112-0.
Reviewed by Gereon Kopf (Luther College) Published on H-Buddhism (June, 2018) Commissioned by Rafal Stepien (University of Oxford)
Printable Version:
In his recent Emptiness and Omnipresence: An Essential Introduction to Tiantai Buddhism, Brook A. Ziporyn tackles the enormous and indispensable but also thankless task of presenting classical Tiantai ideas to a contemporary anglophone audience. On the first page of his introduction, Ziporyn warns the reader that “it should be noted at the outset that many people, even those who are used to the complexities of Buddhist thinking and its sometimes surprising paradoxes, tend to find Tiantai claims wildly perplexing, contradictory, even shocking” (p. 1). The reason for this is threefold. First, Tiantai Buddhist thinkers have a reputation of using confounding concepts to describe reality, such as the infamous “yiniansanqian一念三千, The Presence of All Three Thousand Aspects of Existence as Each Moment of Experience” (p. 1). Second, these kinds of phrases, which are difficult enough to understand in their original context, are almost impossible to express and explain in English to an audience prone to applying a conceptual framework alien to the Tiantai texts. Finally, Ziporyn chooses as his testing ground the Tiantai idea with the single most potential to shock a contemporary anglophone audience, namely, the non-duality of happiness and suffering, good and evil, Buddha and Mara/devil.
Ziporyn proposes to read classic Tiantai texts and ideas in the context of early twenty-first-century intercultural and global philosophy. The context of this work is an intensified interest by anglophone scholars in Buddhist philosophy qua philosophy, as seen by an increase in journals, publications, conference panels, and academic societies dedicated to this topic. Of course, it is not the project of Buddhist philosophy that is new. Buddhist thinkers have engaged in philosophical analysis and made “philosophical claims” for over two thousand years.[1] In addition, scholars trained in academic philosophy, such as Fyodor Stcherbatsky (1866-1942) (see, for example, his 1930 Buddhist Logic) and David Kalupahana (1936-2014) (see, for example, his 1976 Buddhist Philosophy: A Historical Analysis), have long presented Buddhist thinkers and texts as philosophy in European languages. However, it is only recently that scholars of Buddhist philosophy have been included in philosophy departments at universities—University of Hawai’i is one of the trailblazers in this area—and that the scholarship of Buddhist philosophy that heretofore had been relegated to philology, area studies (mainly Indology and Tibetology), and religious studies is now being incorporated into the various discourses of academic philosophy. In other words, Buddhist philosophy is now increasingly recognized as a living and relevant philosophical tradition and its representatives and scholars as viable partners in philosophical discussions and as contributors to the solution of contemporary issues. In addition, it has been recognized that Buddhist philosophy is not limited to South Asia but expands to and has been practiced in East Asia as well. Subsequently, there has been a need for elaborations in European languages of Buddhist philosophy originating in East Asia. This is exactly wherein the significance of Ziporyn’s work lies.
In some sense, Emptiness and Omnipresence constitutes an introduction of Ziporyn’s early work as presented in his Evil and/or/as The Good: Omnicentrism, Intersubjectivity, and Value Paradox in Tiantai Buddhist Thought (2000) and Being and Ambiguity: Philosophical Experiments with Tiantai Buddhism (2004) to a wider audience. This is important to recognize when assessing the value of the current work for two reasons. First, while his earlier books developed the key concepts of Tiantai philosophy from the writings of Tiantai Zhiyi (538-97), Jingxi Zhanran (711-82), and Siming Zhili (960-1028), the designated goal of Emptiness and Omnipresence is to put the concepts developed in Ziporyn’s earlier work in dialogue with ideas and thinkers in the field of academic philosophy. In other words, while the presumed audience of the earlier two volumes were experts in Buddhology and/or Buddhist philosophy, the addressed readers of this later one are those with a background in academic philosophy who want to make sense of the rather confounding concepts developed in the Tiantai Buddhist tradition. The key question Ziporyn pursues in the current work is not so much “What did Zhiyi, Zhanran, and Zhili say?” but rather “How can we understand what Zhiyi, Zhanran, and Zhili said today?” The importance of this distinction lies not so much in the expectation a given reader may or may not have but rather in the scholarly method the author employs. And, of course, the methodological question is a serious and weighty one: how can one read and apply concepts developed in Tang and Song China within the contexts of contemporary philosophical discourses? This is an enormous task that, I believe, Ziporyn is exceptionally qualified to tackle.
Ziporyn tackles this momentous task in ten chapters: “Just Here Is the End of Suffering: Letting Suffering Be in Early Buddhism,” “Rafts and Arrows: The Two Truths in Pre-Tiantai Buddhism,” “Neither Thus nor Otherwise: Mahāyāna Approaches to Emptiness,” “Buddha-Nature and Original Enlightenment,” “How to Not Know What You’re Doing: Introduction to the Lotus Sūtra,” “The New Middle Way: Highlights of the Lotus Sūtra in Tiantai Context,” “The Interpervasion of All Points of View: From the Lotus Sūtra to Tiantai,” “Tiantai: The Multiverse as You,” “Experiencing Tiantai: Experiments with Tiantai Practice,” and “Tiantai Ethics and the Worst Case Scenario.” This outline combines a decidedly historical as well as guiding conceptual structure. In one sense Ziporyn traces Zhili’s dictum “outside of the devil, there is no Buddha and outside of the Buddha there is no devil” from the early Buddhist ruminations on suffering, via early Indian Mahāyāna conceptions of emptiness (śūnyatā) and “Buddha-Nature” (tathāgata-garbha) as well as Tiantai formulations of Buddhahood in the light of the “three truths” (sandi), to a post-Holocaust application of Zhili’s scandalous claim as what Ziporyn calls “Hitler-bodhisattva” (p. 260). In another sense he explores the Tiantai non-dualism of “evil and/or/as/good” in the light of the Buddhist notions of “suffering,” “emptiness,” “buddha-nature,” and what he calls the Tiantai conception of the “Multiverse” (p. 143).[2] In Ziporyn’s hands, these two approaches form a cone that takes the reader from general Buddhist ideas, via basic Mahāyāna and Tiantai conceptions, to Ziporyn’s specific application of Tiantai non-dualism to the problem of evil.
It is impossible to summarize this conceptual roller coaster in the format of a book review, so let me focus here on the highlights of this philosophical adventure. Ziporyn commences his analysis of Tiantai thought with the gateway concept of Buddhism, suffering. Starting with the Buddha’s mission to alleviate suffering captured in the four noble truths, Ziporyn articulates the first paradox of the Buddhist project. If suffering is caused by desire and, subsequently, the alleviation of suffering requires the suppression of desire, the attempt to alleviate suffering by suppressing desire is based on the desire to alleviate suffering/suppress desire. If all events are conditioned, so is the alleviation of suffering and, with it, nirvāṇa itself. The end of suffering, so states Ziporyn, lies in the awareness of suffering: “Awareness of the desire as desire is the only way to ‘let go’ of a desire” (p. 20). “‘Awareness’ is the name for this state of neither activity nor passivity” (p. 21).
The second piece of the conceptual puzzle, according to Ziporyn, is the notion of the “bodhisattva” ideal as articulated in the Lotus Sūtra. Since everything is empty and thus skillful, including the notions of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, means that everything turns out to be “neither thus nor otherwise” (p. 54). Saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, “being sentient beings” and “being Buddha,” are not stages but lenses through which certain conditioned states are viewed: “All states are neither Nirvana nor suffering but are susceptible to be viewed as either, or as both. Nirvana neither begins nor ends. But it’s never ‘just there’ either. As the Mahāyāna texts like to say, it neither comes nor goes, but neither does it dwell or abide” (p. 58). Because of this, Ziporyn claims, we are all Buddhas. And this, to him, is the fundamental teaching of the Lotus Sūtra: “Buddha said, Buddhas teach only bodhisattvas” (p. 71). In other words, the Lotus Sūtra constitutes a conversation “among Buddhas” and every “interaction between Buddha and ourselves is the real Buddha” (p. 88). Ziporyn maintains that it is only Tiantai thinkers such as Zhiyi, Zhanran, and Zhili who drew the ultimate but necessary conclusion of the Mahāyāna non-dualism of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa: The cosmos constitutes an “interpervasion” of all Buddhas and all sentient beings (p. 117). “Every moment of experience is the ultimate reality of all things, because every moment of experience is the Buddha ... together with the Buddha.... As Zhiyi puts it, every moment of experience is the entire universe meeting the entire universe, with the entire universe arising as a result” (p. 189).
On this background, Ziporyn proceeds to analyze the most confounding of all Tiantai concepts, the “uniquely Tiantai claim that evil is inherent in and ineradicable from Buddhahood” (p. 237). This claim is as outrageous as it is profound, but no investigation of Tiantai philosophy can sidestep it. Metaphysically, this claim is contextualized in the non-duality of suffering and nirvāṇa. But its moral implications are tremendous and cannot be trivialized. David R. Loy and Ziporyn probed this moral scandal of Tiantai metaphysics in a heated exchange in Philosophy East and West.[3] The question addressed there is whether this non-duality encourages complacency and voids the quest for social justice. Ziporyn’s answer is a resounding “no.” In this exchange, Ziporyn proposed that Tiantai thinkers encourage us to empty evil ideologies by generalizing and recontextualizing them. In the current work, Ziporyn pushes his notions of such universalization and recontextualization to their extreme limit when he coins the provocative if not reprehensible term “Hitler-bodhisattva.” Ziporyn explains: “Hitler becomes a Tiantai bodhisattva by ‘succeeding’ in ‘murdering the Jews’ in the Tiantai sense: he succeeds if and only if this comes to mean for him, ‘To be a Jew is to be the Buddha: there is no Buddhahood outside of Jewishness, no Jewishness outside of Buddhahood’” (pp. 260-261). Ziporyn’s argument here is ultimately twofold. First, a dualistic rejection of evil does not erase evil but rather creates a form of denial. Tiantai omnicentrism, wherein every “moment is the entire universe,” forces us to face and overcome evil. Second, a Tiantai generalization/universalization of all aspects of life including evil turns racist ideologies against themselves and against the ideologue and thus empties them in a systematic reductio ad absurdum. Willing to think the Tiantai formulae to their bitter end, Ziporyn concludes that “after considering we may feel inclined to say of it what Churchill said of democracy—namely, that Tiantai ethics is indeed the worst possible response to the Holocaust, with the exception of all others” (p. 272).
Ziporyn’s exploration is shocking and forces the reader to think the unthinkable by facing the demons in the world and inside oneself. I think Loy’s question about the possibility of social justice in the context of Tiantai metaphysics is a cogent one, especially given the quietism that frequently emanated from thinkers in the Tiantai traditions in times of crisis and oppression throughout history. Loy is correct in insisting that we have to face questions of moral responsibility and accountability. Metaphysics, including speculations about the non-duality of good and evil, is not just a mind game but has real life consequences and thus moral implications. But Ziporyn’s response to Loy’s critique is creative, compelling, and consistent with the classical Tiantai texts. His willingness to apply these shocking concepts to the utmost horror of our times, the Holocaust, is impressive and laudable. Will it leave the reader in discomfort and unease? Yes, of course. But as he convincingly argues, the dualistic rejection of evil does not solve the problem of evil; it represses it; bans it into a different place at a different time; and, as Carl Gustav Jung would say (in The Undiscovered Self [1958]), causes more hatred, persecution, and destruction. Monism, in its radical form, denies the existence of moral evil altogether. The Tiantai/Ziporyn approach, on the other hand, acknowledges the existence of evil, moral and otherwise, in the present world and dares the reader to face and empty/overcome it. Ziporyn’s solution is courageous and honest even as it leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth. It may not be ideal, but, as it seems to Ziporyn, on the present count it remains better than its alternatives.
Ziporyn’s exploration of Tiantai philosophy as a whole is, simultaneously, insightful, witty, and frightening. He succeeds in recontextualizing Tang and Song Buddhist ideas in a post-Holocaust world where we once again face global politics based on racist ideologies. He spices his philosophical analysis equally with excerpts from the Buddhist scriptures and his own analogies, and thus creates a Tiantai philosophy for the twenty-first century. At the same time, his attempt to develop a coherent system of Tiantai philosophy from a multiplicity of sources reflective of different historical and discursive contexts is open to potential objections. Thus, some readers may accuse Ziporyn of creating a grand narrative of Buddhist philosophy from its origins in the fourfold truth to the systematic treatments of the Tiantai thinkers Zhanran and Zhili. Reading this work, it seems at times as if the author were implying that there is just one interpretation of the Indian and Chinese scriptures referenced and used: the orthodox Tiantai doctrine. Similarly, Ziporyn may be charged with de-contextualizing Buddhist concepts to create a philosophical system that responds to conceptual and moral issues, as pressing as they may be, in a different place at a different time. A more extensive exposition of his own scholarly and philosophical method would have gone a long way to clarify the author’s intent and agenda, and preempted those kinds of criticisms. However, if one sees Ziporyn’s work not as a history but as a twenty-first-century re-reading of Buddhist ideas through a lens constructed from the writings of Zhiyi, Zhanran, and Zhili and applied to the problems of our time, his critical reflections bring to light an impressive if not brilliant philosophical system that helps us not only to understand these trailblazing texts from the past but also, and most of all, to make sense of the absurdities and horrors of our time. Isn’t this wherein the purpose of truly evocative and creative philosophy lies?
[1]. Kevin Schilbrack, “Metaphysics in Dōgen,” Philosophy East and West 50, no. 1 (2000): 34-55, quotation on 35. 
[2]. See the title of Ziporyn’s Evil and/or/as The Good: Omnicentrism, Intersubjectivity, and Value Paradox in Tiantai Buddhist Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000).
[3]. See David R. Loy, review of Evil and/or/as The Good: Omnicentrism, Intersubjectivity, and Value Paradox in Tiantai Buddhist Thought by Brook Ziporyn, Philosophy East and West 54, no. 1 (2004): 99-103; Brook Ziporyn, “Hitler, The Holocaust and the Tiantai Doctrine of Evil as the Good: A Response to David Loy,” Philosophy East and West 55, no. 2 (2005): 329-347; and David R. Loy, “Evil as the Good? A Reply to Brook Ziporyn,” Philosophy East and West, 55, no. 2 (2005): 348-352.
Citation: Gereon Kopf. Review of Ziporyn, Brook A., Emptiness and Omnipresence: An Essential Introduction to Tiantai Buddhism. H-Buddhism, H-Net Reviews. June, 2018. URL:
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Re: ANNOUNCEMENT> "Primer in Chinese Buddhist Writings"

by Bertram G. Liyanage
Dear colleagues,
These books are indeed good. Thank you, Marcus, very much for posting this link.
I wonder if anyone on the list knows if there is a book or a series of small books (like these) to learn Classical Tibetan?
I have tried to use "Translating Buddhism from Tibetan" by Joe B. Wilson. It presented some difficulties, and among them Wilson's attempts to guide students reading Tibetan script with Tibetan pronunciation. I then had difficulty reading Romanised transliterations of Tibetan texts. In my case, I also do not find necessity of reading much of his extra explanations about Buddhism in Tibet. It seems that he has aimed at a student who does not know both Tibetan and Buddhism.
If anyone would share their experiences teaching from or using such books to learn Tibetan, such as this Chinese primer, I would be most grateful.
With maitri
Bertram G. Liyanage
Encyclopaedia of Buddhism, Sri Lanka
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CFP> Workshop: Religious and Cultural Inclusion and Exclusion in Myanmar History

by Alicia Turner
Call for Papers
The Independent Journal of Burmese Scholarship announces a Workshop/Conference on the Theme:
Religious and Cultural Inclusion and Exclusion in Myanmar History
In view of the traumatic political events of the past year, we anticipate that a substantial number of papers will examine Islam and the Rohingya issue. We emphasize, however, that we welcome papers that examine other ethnic and religious groups that fall within this theme.

1. The workshop will be held at Chiang Mai University, December 12–14, 2018. Participants will be the guests of CMU’s Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development We anticipate inviting between 12 and 20 people on the basis of the quality of their applications.

2. The deadline for applications to participate is July 31st, 2018.
— Applications shall consist of a synopsis of the proposed paper (no longer than 300 words) together with a resumé/curriculum vitae.
— all applications should be sent electronically to email address:

For full details and Myanmar language version see:

Alicia Turner
Associate Professor
Humanities and Religious Studies
York University, Toronto 
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Asia Daily Briefing - The new masters of deep learning

June 22, 2018


Last Japanese unicorn 

in pipeline talks big to 

beat Google in AI

TOKYO -- The $2 billion startup Preferred Networks is on the
 cutting edge of artificial 
 intelligence, and is earning the investment attention of such
 Japanese giants as Toyota, 
Hitachi and Fanuc. But the
 company's two founders have 
 far greater goals -- to reshape 
the entire world of computing 
and take on the industry's greatest powers.

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Thai bourse readies depositary receipts to attract SE Asian listings

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Orders reach double the annual target for the Kona in the major electric car market

Japan regulator orders improvements at six cryptocurrency exchanges

Operators are reprimanded simultaneously in a broad crackdown

Today's WorldView
Edited by Max J. Rosenthal and Ruby Mellen


The quest to defeat Erdogan

For the past three years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken his nation on a seemingly endless political roller-coaster ride. Under the auspices of his government, the country has seen two parliamentary elections and a controversial referendum that vested wider powers in Turkey's presidency. Meanwhile, the purges he commenced after a failed coup attempt in 2016 are still roiling the country.
The next big event comes June 24, when Turks will vote for their next president and parliament. For Erdogan and his opponents, the stakes are as high as ever. If he wins, Erdogan will assume the Turkish presidency's expanded executive powers, granted by the bitterly fought referendum in 2017.
After a decade and a half in power, Erdogan has become the most consequential Turkish politician since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. But his critics fear the death of Turkey's enfeebled democracy and the strengthening of an overt authoritarian. A growing body of analysts cast Turkey under Erdogan as a prime example of how democracies can backslide and how ostensibly liberal politics can give way to toxic majoritarianism.
Erdogan is a canny political operator, and he has preserved his rule by mobilizing a divisive yet effective brand of religious nationalism. He has trained his ire on a vast web of supposed enemies abroad, from obstreperous Western governments to a Kurdish separatist terrorist group to a geriatric cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania. But although he once could campaign on a track record of economic prosperity and development, the Turkish economy is teetering dramatically.
“Years of irresponsible policies have overheated the Turkish economy. High inflation rates and current account deficits are going to prove sticky,” Atilla Yesilada, an analyst with ­Istanbul-based Global Source Partners, said to The Washington Post. “I think we are at the end of our rope.”
“Opposition leaders have also cited encouraging poll numbers that they say reflect voter fatigue with the president after a tumultuous few years in Turkey marked by growing tensions with some of the country’s NATO allies and intensifying social polarization at home,” wrote The Post's Istanbul bureau chief, Kareem Fahim. “The results suggest a possible opposition victory — if not in the presidential race, then in the parliament, where they hope to roll back the majority held by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP.”
Erdogan's challengers are stronger this year, thanks both to the political winds and the emergence of an opposition alliance that includes not only leftists, religious minorities and secularists, but also right-wing nationalists and pious Muslims.
Erdogan's main opponent in the presidential race is Muharrem Ince of the Republican People's Party, a centrist party once associated with decades of stifling secularism as well as the repression of ethnic minorities carried out by the Turkish state. Ince, a former schoolteacher, has worked assiduously to dispel this image and champion a more inclusive future.
The challengers say that Erdogan is hobbling the country by sparring with the European Union and NATO, and making moves that tanked the Turkish currency. "The policies that Erdogan or his government are following do not help Turkey stand up on her own feet in almost all aspects and policies, whether economic or foreign policies,” Islamist presidential candidate Temel Karamollaoglu said to the Guardian. “His method of approach, the discourse, causes polarization in Turkey.”
But there are limits to the time-for-change argument. “The opposition’s main message is, enough is enough. You have been in power too long, you represent the past,” Omer Taspinar of the Brookings Institute said to Fahim, suggesting that Erdogan is likely to overcome the opposition. “Maybe that would work if he was 80 years old. Erdogan is still a force to reckon with, despite his vulnerabilities. He has done well for the middle class.”
As in earlier elections in 2015, all eyes are on the Kurdish vote. Kurds represent about 20 percent of the country's population; Erdogan, who moved to liberalize restrictions on Kurdish cultural rights, once drew tremendous backing from religiously-minded Kurdish voters. But the resumption of conflict with Kurdish militant groups in Turkey, Syria and Iraq has weakened that support, as has his government's persecution of the Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP, a left-wing, pro-Kurdish party that Ankara accuses of collusion with outlawed Kurdish militants.
If the HDP can win more than 10 percent of the national vote required to gain seats in Turkey's parliament — as it did in June 2015 — Erdogan's AKP will struggle to win a majority. The HDP's charismatic leader, Selahattin Demirtas, has been thrown in jail on terrorism-related charges he and his supporters flatly reject. He is running for president behind bars.
“The Kurds are a reality, and in every country in the Middle East, in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, they are on the front lines for the struggle of democracy,” Demirtas told me in an interview in 2016, before he was sent to prison. “There's a fundamental ideological conflict between the Kurds and Erdogan, who has a Turkish Islamist ideology.”
Naturally, there are widespread fears that Erdogan and the AKP will attempt to fix or suppress the vote in Turkey's Kurdish-majority southeast to secure the outcome they need. The president's opponents were convinced that foul play guaranteed his slender referendum win last year. “We feel that, in order to get 10 per cent of the recorded vote, we actually need to get 15 per cent,” Mehmet Serif Camci, an HDP leader in Diyarbakir, said to the Financial Times.
“I think he will win following a completely unfair campaign, and may even rig to this end — both would be firsts in Turkey’s 70-year democratic history,” Soner Cagaptay, the author of a book on Erdogan's turbulent rule, said to Today's WorldView. “But at the same time he will become even more authoritarian, knowing that a majority does not support him anymore.”

Australasian Association of Buddhist Studies (AABS)
Dear list members,

There will be a talk on Buddhism and law at 2:00-3:00pm on Friday July 6 in the Staff Board Room, Level 2, UNSW Law Building, University of New South Wales, Sydney. For further details, click here.

We hope you can attend.

Kind regards,
AABS Executive

Why Religious Supremacy Clauses Don’t Work: Buddhism, Secularism and the Pyrrhic Constitutionalism of Sri Lanka

Recent scholarship on religion and constitutional law tends to characterize religious supremacy clauses – clauses that give special status or protections to one or more religions – as either regressive or unjust. They are considered regressive because they seem to refuse the presumed secularity of modern law; they are considered unjust because they seem to give unfair political or economic advantages to members of the preferred religious group(s). Yet, are these characterisations accurate? Are religious supremacy clauses always unequivocal boons for the majority religious groups? Moreover, when it comes to religion, do religiously preferential constitutions function differently from non-preferential ones? Drawing on my recent book, and ongoing research, I explore these questions in the context of Sri Lanka—a country that, for the last four decades, has given Buddhism special constitutional status. Though an analysis of Buddhist doctrine, monastic practices, legal theory and methodological trends in comparative constitutional scholarship, the speaker hopes to complicate existing wisdom about the effects of religious supremacy clauses and to challenge the assumed binary opposition between secular constitutions and religious preferential ones.

Benjamin Schonthal is Associate Professor of Buddhism and Asian Religions at the University of Otago, in New Zealand. His research examines the intersections of religion, law and politics in late-colonial and contemporary Southern Asia, with a particular focus on Buddhism and law in Sri Lanka. His work appears in The Journal of Asian Studies, Modern Asian Studies, the International Journal of Constitutional Law and other places. Ben's first book, Buddhism, Politics and the Limits of Law, appeared with Cambridge University Press in 2016. His current project, supported by the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand, examines the lived practices of monastic law in contemporary Sri Lanka and their links with state-legal structures.

Buddhist reliquary stupa

Gold leaf covered schist reliquary in the form of a stupa.  Kusana period, North Western India. National Museum, Karachi, Pakistan. Copyright: Huntington, John C. and Susan L.Huntington Archive

miércoles, 20 de junio de 2018

Cuando 500 príncipes se hicieron el 'harakiri'


El maharajá de Kapurthala (centro), rodeado de sus consejeros, en 1890. GETTY

Los maharajás acabaron con sus reinos en 1947 al sellar su adhesión
 a India o Pakistán,convencidos por Lord Mountbatten
India conmemora este martes el 70º aniversario de su independencia,
orgullosa de ser hoy la democracia más grande del mundo.
Pero aquel 15 de agosto de 1947 en el que se arrió para siempre la
bandera del imperio británico, tuvo lugar la Partición, probablemente
 el episodio más traumático en el planeta una vez concluida la
 Segunda Guerra Mundial.
El subcontinente quedó dividido para siempre en dos, India y Pakistán,
 fruto de intrincados acuerdos políticos y de un desgarrador
conflicto social que enfrentó a hindúes y musulmanes
que habían coexistido pacíficamente durante siglos. La Partición
provocó el desplazamiento forzoso de unas 15 millones de almas
y la muerte de al menos otro millón. Una herida demasiado
 profunda que tanto Delhi como Islamabad tienden a silenciar,
por más que esté aún muy lejos de cicatrizar, como demuestra
el enfrentamiento latente en la disputada Cachemira.

Pero el nacimiento de la moderna Unión India acabó también para
siempre con los más de 500 estados nativos regidos desde tiempos
inmemoriales por dinastías consideradas, algunas de ellas,
descendientes del mismo Sol.
El Raj británico mantuvo a lo largo de más de un siglo y medio
 una administración mixta que diferenciaba entre los vastos territorios
controlados directamente por la Corona y esos estados principescos que mantuvieron cierta autonomía soberana. Londres siempre vio en
aquellos singulares maharajás a unos aliados imprescindibles
para mantener la paz social, puesto que los príncipes gozaban de
una veneración absoluta entre sus súbditos, vistos como reencarnaciones
vivientes de los mismos dioses. Además, el Palacio era la cúspide de
 un entramado social que prácticamente no había experimentado
 cambios en muchos siglos.
Un total de 565 estados principescos ocupaban aproximadamente
un tercio del subcontinente indio. Se trataba de reinos absolutamente
dispares. Así, Hyderabad tenía una extensión similar a la de
media España; mientras que otros principados apenas contaban
con un kilómetro cuadrado de extensión. También eran
 absolutamente distintos sus soberanos, con una amplia panoplia de títulos
según correspondía a la tradición de sus dinastías -maharajás, rajás,
nizams, nawabs, etcétera-. Bien es cierto que el imaginario occidental hoy identifica a todos aquellos príncipes indios con el perfume de la
extravagancia y la opulencia. Como si de personajes de
'Las mil y una noches' se tratara, aún produce brillo el recuerdo
de aquellas suntuosas cortes con centenares de concubinas y
 palacios que competían en esplendor con el mismísimo Versalles.
En 1906, el joven Partido del Congreso Nacional reclamó por
 primera vez al Raj un régimen de autonomía para toda la India.
Muy pronto, ya con el liderazgo de Gandhi y su revolucionaria
doctrina de no violencia, la causa independentista empezó a sumar
adeptos de un modo vertiginoso. El Gobierno británico, con una
torpeza infinita -que acabaría empujando a la Partición del 47-,
 impulsó la estrategia del divide y vencerás, fortaleciendo a las
comunidades musulmanas a través de la concesión de derechos
 políticos de carácter sectario, creyendo que así podría
neutralizar al incipiente movimiento hindú. De hecho, la recién
 nacida Liga Musulmana de Ali Jinnah declaró con habilidad que
uno de sus objetivos fundacionales era promover entre la población
mahometana sentimientos de lealtad a la Corona.
En los años 30, Londres empezó a asumir que 
la independencia india resultaba inevitable.
Sólo faltaba concretar la fecha y cómo hacerla.
 El Partido del Congreso -que ya tenía una fuerza
política arrolladora-
abogaba por la creación de un Estado secular que mantuviera
unido todo el territorio del Raj. Pero la Liga Musulmana
 empujó para que se constituyera un Estado independiente de
Delhi, Pakistán, que aglutinara a
los territorios de mayoría musulmana.
Londres todavía debía decidir cuál sería el destino de los
principados nativos. Se llegó a barajar su mantenimiento,
federados en la nueva India, pero el Partido del Congreso
 se lo rechazó, ya que abogaba por la democratización de toda la nación.
Debemos recordar que los maharajás eran
príncipes absolutos, autócratas cuya voluntad
era ley.
El 3 de junio de 1947, Lord Mountbatten, último virrey de la
India, anunció la Partición. Y, en cuestión de meses,
el querido tío de Isabel II tuvo que dirigir el proceso
 frenético que desembocó en la independencia,
y se tuvo que zafar personalmente para convencer a los
más de 500 príncipes indios de que firmaran la adhesión
de sus reinos aIndia o Pakistán. Las poblaciones no fueron consultadas,
 porque el Raj había prometido a los monarcas que respetaría su
decisión, si bien el virrey les pidió que tuvieran en cuenta la religión
 mayoritaria de sus súbditos. En tiempo récord, los príncipes se
 fueron haciendo sucesivamente el harakiri. La firma suponía la pérdida de su poder real;
a cambio, recibieron la promesa del mantenimiento de importantes
prerrogativas. Pocos maharajás se resistieron a ceder su soberanía.
Los que lo hicieron, enseguida fueron convencidos de su error a través
de las armas o por la amenaza de Mountbatten de que sus principados
no tendrían viabilidad como estados independientes, porque nunca
serían aceptados en la Commonwealth.
La abolición de los principados permitió el surgimiento de la
India moderna y unida. Para la historia queda, sin embargo,
la traición sufrida por aquellos monarcas. Porque en 1971
 Indira Gandhi, incumpliendo los pactos, promulgó la ley que
abolió todos los privilegios de las familias reales, incluida su
financiación estatal vitalicia. Hoy, paradojas de la Historia,
muchos descendientes de aquellos maharajás son prominentes
políticos de la República.