[Buddha-l] book on Tibetan 'discipline'

Jo ugg-5 at spro.net
Thu Oct 17 11:41:12 MDT 2013

Thanks for the warning, Richard. Such textual issues remind me of why the
pomo in written discourse has finally been abandoned by almost all scholars,
except for a few S. Asians, who take to it like devotees to a new swami.

-----Original Message-----
From: buddha-l-bounces at mailman.swcp.com
[mailto:buddha-l-bounces at mailman.swcp.com] On Behalf Of Richard Nance
Sent: Thursday, October 17, 2013 7:09 AM
To: Buddhist discussion forum
Subject: Re: [Buddha-l] book on Tibetan 'discipline'

Hi all,

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.

Best wishes,

R. Nance

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
> Dan
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