Canonization Processes in a Transcultural Perspective. The transmission of the Bhiksunīprātimoksasūtra in Mongolia: Scriptural text in theory and practice

The main subject of research - the Bhiksunīprātimoksasūtra - is a text which is traditionally included in the Buddhist scriptural collections (ancient Indian Tripitaka collections of Buddhist text belonging to different schools of Hinayana Buddhism, Chinese collections of Buddhist scriptures, one of the two parts of the Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhist canon - Kanjur). This text is a part of the Vinaya section of a scriptural collection which is devoted to the explanation of the rules of monastic discipline for Buddhist monks and nuns, codes of behavior concerning practical matters as well as moral and ethical questions. The Bhiksunīprātimoksasūtra itself is a list of regulations determined to be followed by Buddhist nuns.
The research focuses on the study of the Mongolian translations of the Bhiksunīprātimoksasūtra written in the classical Mongolian language and included into the earliest known, manuscript Mongolian Kanjur (1628-1629) and the xylographical edition of the Mongolian Kanjur published in 1718-1720. The text in question will be investigated in terms of its canonicity and normativity. Analyzing the transmission history of this text in Mongolia the research project contributes to the ongoing research in the contemporary Mongolian studies about the formation of the Mongolian Buddhist scriptural collections. Moreover the study will give special attention to the terms "canon" and "scripture" and their applicability to the Buddhist texts collections. It aims to contribute to a reconsideration of the term "canon" as an analytical category in cultural studies, including emic Asian models of text and normativity.
One of the main goals of the research project will be also to describe and analyze the practical, ritual use of the Bhiksunīprātimoksasūtra in contemporary Mongolia, thereby concentrating on the oral transmission and the material treatment of the "Buddha word". It is unlikely that the text was used in ritual activity in Mongolia before the communist revolution of 1921 as there was no order of Buddhist nuns in the country at that time. Today we observe a revival of Buddhism in Mongolia and for the first time in the history of Mongolian Buddhism we encounter female Buddhist ordained practitioners. At least one Buddhist nunnery is recorded to exist in the country. Field research will be conducted among today's Mongolian nuns in order to establish what role the Bhiksunīprātimoksasūtra plays in their private life as well as in the public devotional and ritual practices of their community.

Project team
Ekaterina Sobkovyak
Prof. Dr. Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz (PL)


last update: 13.11.2014