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The Religious World of Kirti 'Sri: Buddhism, Art, and Politics of Late Medieval Sri Lanka.

John Clifford Holt .

Published by Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 1996
ISBN 10: 0195107578 / ISBN 13: 9780195107579
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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Religious World of Kirti 'Sri: Buddhism,...

Publisher: Oxford University Press, New York, NY

Publication Date: 1996

Binding: Paperback

Edition: 1st Edition


First Edition Thus; First Printing indicated. Very Near Fine in Wraps: shows only a little faint sunning to the yellow background field at the backstrip (the titles thereon remain unaffected: bold and clearly legible). Else flawless. The binding square and secure; text clean. Very close to 'As New'. NOT a Remainder, Book-Club, or Ex-Library. 8vo. 147pp. Eight-page section of color plates and many more in black & white. University Press Paperback. Holt's stated aim in writing this book is to offer an 'interdisciplinary examination of what is meant for various people, lay and monastic, to be Buddhists during the advent of European colonialism and before what has become known as a modern Buddhist religious perspective, qualified by some as 'protestant Buddhism'. Holt asks the following question: what was it to be a Buddhist before Olcott and Dharmapala? This slim book of 147 pages is neatly organised into 5 tightly written chapters. Chapter 1 provides the necessary background for a reader unfamiliar with Sri Lankan history and goes on to explain why Kirti 'Sri was so concerned about articulating his religious identity as a Buddhist. Chapters 2 to 4, which form the heart of the book, explain how he articulated his understanding of Buddhist religious thought and identity through the expression of his religious works especially the temple wall paintings that have become such a remarkable icon and legacy of his reign. In Chapter 3, entitled A Visual Liturgy, Holt argues that Kirti 'Sri's efforts directed at the performance of rituals gave form or rather reformed the public articulation of Buddhism. Through an identification and analysis of the religious meanings symbolised in the pictorial art that KS had painted by his highly skilled craftsmen on the walls of many temples he restored, Holt aims at ferreting out the principles and substances of this classic sinhala weltanschauung or world view. For this he looks in detail at temple wall paintings and this is in my view the most interesting section of the book. Chapter 4 deals with one other element of the liturgy which is the jataka paintings. The Jatakas relate the anterior life of the Buddha as a Boddhisatta before his final birth as Gotama Siddharta. This chapter that relates what Holt considers were the four most important jataka stories is helpful to a reader who wishes to interpret the murals by himself. Chapter 5 is concerned with the necessity for students of religion to focus on materials other than literary texts. This book is informative, elegantly and precisely written, and fulfills its aim of capturing in a nutshell the changes that took place in Buddhism, art and politics in the late medieval period and defining what consitutues a Kandyan style of painting. First Edition Thus; First Printing indicated. Bookseller Inventory # 43636

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Synopsis: In this interdisciplinary inquiry, John Clifford Holt seeks to uncover how Buddhism was understood and expressed during the waning years of indigenous political power in Asia's oldest continuing Buddhist culture. Holt focusses on King Kirti Sri Rajasinha and how, despite powerful and persistent Dutch colonial threats and a deeply suspicious Kandyan Buddhist Sinhalese aristocracy, he successfully revived Sinhalese Theravada Buddhism. As Holt demonstrates, Kirti Sri succeeded in formulating his vision of an orthodox Buddhism in a number of ways: through the patronage of monastic sanha and re-establishing traditional lines of ordination, translating the Pali suttas into Sinhala, sponsoring public Buddhist religious rites, and refurbishing almost all Buddhist temples in the Kandyan culture region. The ultimate aim of Holt's study is to describe and interpret Kirti Sri's articulation of a normative Buddhist world, the essentials of which remain normative for many Buddhists in the Kandyan region of Sri Lanka today. Scholars and students will find The Religious World of Kirti Sri is an indispensable resource for the understanding of orthodox Buddhism at this important historical juncture, as well as the present day.

About the Author:
John Clifford Holt is Professor of Religion at Bowdoin College, where he organized and founded the Inter-Collegiate Sri Lanka Education (ISLE) Program. Dr. Holt has authored several books including Buddha in the Crown: Avalokitesvara in the Buddhist Traditions of Sri Lanka (OUP, 1991).

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