[Buddha-l] Dharmapala, redux

andy stroble at hawaii.edu
Wed Aug 4 14:22:10 MDT 2010

On Wednesday 04 August 2010 04:48:39 am JKirkpatrick wrote:
> Dan wrote:
> "Thus, when Joanna chides Andy by insisting that the yaksa
> stories are ONLY symbolic, and have no play in the historical
> world of actual human activities, she does so unaware that
> Buddhists unpacked the Vajrapani story in precisely that way,
> First, I wasn't "chiding" Andy. I was pointing out another way to
> read stories that his remarks suggested he's not up on.
I wasn't too chided, I think. But I wasn't clear that I was shifting from the 
Pali sutra to the Mahayana Vajrapani, who seems to be a much more active 
> As for my discussion: first, I did not  insist that yasksha
> stories are only symbolic period. My earlier breif discussion of
> DeCaroli should have made that clear.  Should have been obvious
> that I was responding to the story in its Pali era context, as
> argued initially by Andy -- not in relation to the much later
> historical events cited by Dan; 

My question, overly broad as it is, about the meaning of the stories of 
guardian spirits, and how these are taken to be evidence of sanctioned 
violence in Buddhism.  As such, all traditions are relevant, but it is obvious 
that there are, um, cultural differences in different buddhisms.   And from 
there I would like to make a de-mythologizing move to the various nationalisms 
which have used the role of protectors of the dharma as an justification for 
warfare.   Or the other way around. 

 I may just be pointing at the moon, but sometimes symbols can be taken in 
ways completely opposed to the original meaning they had, particular if they 
settle in other cultures.  I really don't know what it would mean to be ONLY 
symbolic:  would that be to have no influence in the tradition, to be merely 
decorative, to be, maybe, empty?  


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