Until the late twentieth century, scholars of Indian Buddhism focused almost exclusively on Buddhist scriptural and commentarial sources-sources that depict Buddhism in an idealized and prescriptive fashion. Accordingly, Buddhist monks and nuns were imagined as celibate renunciants engaged in sophisticated Philosophical debate and austere meditative practices leading to enlightenment. Little attention was paid to the kinds of textual and archaeological materials that go beyond mere prescription and shed light on the lived realities of Buddhist monastic culture. What was life in monasteries actually like? How did monks (and nuns!) sustain themselves and administer their establishments? What kind of ritual and devotional practices did they engage in, and what were their relations with the laity?
"Witty and always provocative... Schopen has the uncanny knack for making seekingly bland rock inscriptions and short passage from understudied ancient Buddhist manuscripts speak volumes about the lived world of Indian Buddhist." - History of Religions
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