[Buddha-l] book on Tibetan 'discipline'

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Wed Oct 16 21:24:58 MDT 2013

Has anyone seen/read this book? If so, any thoughts, reactions, comments?


Discipline and Debate
The Language of Violence in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery
Michael Lempert (Author)
Available worldwide
Paperback, 238 pages
ISBN: 9780520269477
April 2012
$28.95, £19.95

The Dalai Lama has represented Buddhism as a religion of non-violence, 
compassion, and world peace, but this does not reflect how monks learn their 
vocation. This book shows how monasteries use harsh methods to make monks of 
men, and how this tradition is changing as modernist reformers-like the 
Dalai Lama-adopt liberal and democratic ideals, such as natural rights and 
individual autonomy. In the first in-depth account of disciplinary practices 
at a Tibetan monastery in India, Michael Lempert looks closely at everyday 
education rites-from debate to reprimand and corporal punishment. His 
analysis explores how the idioms of violence inscribed in these 
socialization rites help produce educated, moral persons but in ways that 
trouble Tibetans who aspire to modernity. Bringing the study of language and 
social interaction to our understanding of Buddhism for the first time, 
Lempert shows and why liberal ideals are being acted out by monks in India, 
offering a provocative alternative view of liberalism as a globalizing 

Michael Lempert is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of 

Introduction: Liberal Sympathies

Part I. Debate
1. Dissensus by Design
2. Debate as a Rite of Institution
3. Debate as a Diasporic Pedagogy

Part II. Discipline
4. Public Reprimand Is Serious Theatre
5. Affected Signs, Sincere Subjects
Conclusion: The Liberal Subject, in Pieces

"Discipline and Debate offers both a vivid picture and a painstaking 
analysis of social and linguistic practices of traditional and 
post-traditional monastic education among Tibetans living in India." -Guy 
Newland, author of Introduction to Emptiness: As Taught in Tsong-kha-pa's 
Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path

"Ethnographically rich, interpretively acute and generative, and always 
lucid and compelling, Discipline and Debate is a singular contribution. 
Lempert moves with insight from detailed examinations of the language of 
monastic debate to broad gauge considerations of diasporic Tibetan Buddhist 
entanglements within its contemporary exilic world." -Don Brenneis, 
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz

"This extraordinary study sets a new standard for the study of the links 
between culture and social interaction. No one who cares about the study of 
religion, language or modernity-or who cares about the place of interaction 
in cultural theory-should miss this book." -Joel Robbins, author of Becoming 
Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society

It won the Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion.

His University of Michigan page

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