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Jacob Paul Dalton
Regents of the University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA 94704-5940)
The Spread of the Local: Ritual Manuals and the Rise of the Tantric Subject

The research and writing of a book-length account of the creation of early Buddhist ritual manuals in 6th-century Asia.

The tantras changed the face of religious practice across Asia, offering elaborate new rites that revolved around, and flowed forth from, the tantric ritualist, a highly creative subject brimming with imaginary worlds. From India to Japan, they inspired new approaches to imagination and the body, image worship, sacred landscape, local deities, and more. Until recently, most scholars have looked to the canonical tantras to understand these historic developments, but another genre was far more influential. Ritual manuals provided a literary space for innovation and the countless negotiations between individual subjects and the trans-local technologies of tantric Buddhism; this was the literature of lived Buddhist practice. Yet precisely because of their variable and extra-canonical nature, the vast majority of these evanescent manuals were not preserved and disappeared quickly. This project examines the manuscripts discovered near Dunhuang for insights into these lost histories.

Project fields:
East Asian Studies; Nonwestern Religion; South Asian Studies

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2017 – 6/30/2018