Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Nirvana and other buddhist felicities
This book presents a new answer to the question: what is nirvana? Part 1 distinguishes between systematic and narrative thought in the Pali texts ofTheravada Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia, arguing that nirvana roduces closure in both, and setting nirvana in the wider category of Buddhist felicities. Part 2 explores other Buddhist Utopias (both eutopias, "good places," and ou-topias, "no-places"), and relates Buddhist utopianism to studies of European and American Utopian writing. The book ends with a close reading of the VessantaraJdtaka, which highlights the conflict between the ascetic quest for closure and ultimate felicity, and the ongoing demands of ordinary life and society. Steven Collins discusses these issues in relation to textuality, world history, and ideology in premodern civilizations, aiming to contribute to a new vision of Buddhist history, which can hold both the inside and the outside of texts together.