[Buddha-l] book on Tibetan 'discipline'
richard.nance at gmail.com
Thu Oct 17 07:09:23 MDT 2013
Yes, I've read the book. It's quite good.
Lempert was a student of Asif Agha at Penn, and Agha was a student of
Michael Silverstein at Chicago. Ordinarily, I wouldn't place so much
emphasis on tracing the scholarly lineage of a particular academic text,
but potential readers should be warned that Lempert's book is very much
steeped in the idiom of contemporary anthropology and, more specifically,
within the sub-field of contemporary linguistic anthropology (or
"LingAnth"). Silverstein is a founder of the subfield, and is undeniably
brilliant -- to speak from personal experience, his courses at Chicago are
at times shockingly virtuosic -- but his prose style is, well, an acquired
taste. Yes, let's say that. An acquired taste -- at least for me. His
paper "Metapragmatic Discourse and Metapragmatic Function," which you may
be able to peruse here:
still stands as one of the most difficult texts in English that I've ever
given myself the task of working through. A simpler -- and at times very
entertaining -- study is "The Improvisational Performance of Culture in
Realtime Discursive Practice," available here:
It's, again, simpler. Which is not to say simple.
Aspects of Silverstein's prose style inform Lempert's presentation, for
better or worse. In other words: the book is likely to strike those who are
unfamiliar with the relevant idiom as being, well, tough sledding (Exhibit
A: "All this conspicuous cross-modal indexing of deference entitlements,
figured through an idiom of "fear," was testimony to Geshe-la's new status
in the monastic hierarchy"; Exhibit B: "There is no matrix-clause here to
frame the discourse as represented speech or thought, but explicit frames
are only a special case. Who is the implied 'author' here, in the sense of
the agent framed as bearing responsibility for the denotational content of
the reported segment?" Etc). I say this not to denigrate the book. Lempert
is very much in control of his material and methods, and it's fascinating
to watch the analytical tools of LingAnth finally being applied -- and
applied carefully and constructively -- to Tibetan debate. But those who
have little patience with daunting academic prose are likely to find the
text to be somewhat frustrating.
On Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 6:05 AM, Dan Lusthaus <vasubandhu at earthlink.net>wrote:
> so now do we
>> need further allegations that monks are violated?
> The book apparently deals with two Tibetan institutions in India, one
> following the traditional, brutal methods, and the other trying to move to
> a more western "liberal" approach, but finding it difficult.
> As for this being about "allegations," I passed the book notice on to a
> well known Tibetanist colleague who said he hadn't seen the book, but " it
> looks interesting. I know several people who were educated in the Geluk
> system who all remarked on the harshness of discipline, the use of physical
> punishments, etc. It's probably a lot better than in Tibet, but still
> pretty medieval."
> So, not "allegations." Disclosure might be a better word (less hysterical
> than "expose").
> The larger underlying issue is the gap between the imaginal "Buddhism(s)"
> that we in the west have constructed from our own needs and proclivities,
> often with complicity from our asian counterparts, and the actual
> Buddhism(s), past and present. The "facts" are slowly emerging, and some of
> them are painful, especially for those who cling to the fantasies, and
> prefer their fantasies to the realities. That attitude, however, is
> nonBuddhist; ignorance and delusion are the root problem.
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