Pratibhāna Reconsidered: Eloquence and the Aesthetics of Power in Some Mahāyāna Sūtras
Scholars have recognized that pratibhāna, “inspired eloquence,” assumes a position of particular prominence in Mahāyāna sūtra literature as a characteristic of the Buddhas and advanced bodhisattvas who preach the sūtras. In this presentation, I reexamine the use of the term in light of the sūtras’ conflation of sacrificial rituals for conferring and confirming sovereignty with elements of dramatic performance and aesthetic experience, illuminating a broader connection between the exercise of sovereignty and the experience of literary – poetic works in the early centuries of the common era in South Asia.
Natalie Gummer (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Professor of Religious Studies at Beloit College. A literary and cultural historian of Buddhism, she studies the intersection of textual practices with ritual, aesthetics, and ethics in premodern Mahāyāna Buddhist literary cultures. She is co-editor of Defining Buddhism(s): A Reader, and is the author of several articles on Buddhist literary culture. She is currently working on a study of textual techniques of transformation in Mahāyāna sūtras, and a translation of the Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtra (The Sūtra of Utmost Golden Radiance).