[2/7] 南傳佛教研究中的“經典”與“理性”問題

[Bilingual, Chinese & English]

§2.

在歐洲學界,對南傳佛教經典的研究飽受爭議,以至於其“經典性”的意義始終遭到質疑。該質疑來自諸多學科領域的專家,爭論的原因不一而足。

名為馬丁 索斯沃德(Martin Southwold)的英國學者以異乎尋常的清晰表述捍衛其遭到批評的研究成果;他聲稱其個人見解是“……民族志學實地考察的結果 ‘必須是純正佛教的經典,’……”。[Southwold, 1987, 第448頁] 在某種意義上,這是來自於許多人類學家試圖評價南傳佛教文化的默認假設:對於他們,實地考察本身即是唯一“經典信條”且無視(或忽視)從古代文本(白話常稱作“經典”)語料庫中收集的證據 。索斯沃德拒絕該假設 “……只有‘涅槃’*1 佛教是正宗的(‘標準的’,‘正統的’,‘純正的’,等等)而且與之相異的民族志學佛教某種意義上並非正統之物。”[同上] 在最近的一篇文章中, 瓊安娜 庫克(Joanna Cook)斥責任何比較參考所針對的一個“……單一,純正的大傳統……對社會學家沒有意義,他們應該觀察人們的活動內容,並做出相應報告。”[Cook (等人) ,2009,第66頁] 在引用索斯沃德早期論作後,庫克即出此表述,於我看來,二人在貶抑(或忽略)書面經典以注重民族志學實地考察的“觀察”上仿佛完全呼應(似乎此二選項互不相容,或認為同 “更正宗”的經典的對比只能對其工作造成障礙)。

儘管索斯沃德的立場極端,卻囊括了一套時下流行的假設,取代了舊觀念認為書面經典的道理,“……是一種 ‘不完整的宗教’去假定一個補充性宗教。”[Evers, 1968, 第549頁]

後者,這一舊方法使實地考察展現出了本應作為擴充書面經典之“大眾佛教”所具有的禮儀,社會與迷信成分;該補充方法有著重要警示,即“大眾化”或會被他們本應用來佐證的經典所毀掉。可以說該法(將 “民間宗教”與 “書面經典”對比)伴隨著馬克斯 韋伯的理論已不合時宜。韋伯提出的佛教是“……有教養的上流階層不能為大眾提供情感與現實需求”的一種宗教。[Tambiah, 1973, 第4頁] 因而民族志學者,處於大眾中間,可將長足發展的豐富文化積澱作為“補充宗教”:

“然而,對僧伽 [如,珈藍社區] 的社會學理解,包括與佛教信眾的關係,在同其他宗教社會學領域比較,發展還相對滯後。部分是因為過分尊重先賢在該領域之思想奠定的結果。馬克斯 韋伯是首批採用系統性社會學視角去研究僧伽的學者。但如此一來,他將局限爭論的方式,而非擴大質詢。甚至於撰寫自己在南傳佛教社會學方面文章的學者依然固守著一些源自韋伯和其他學者未經考據的同樣觀點。” [Strenski, 1983, 463頁]

在這些韋伯頗具影響力的 “未經考據的觀點”中,我會(在受過西方教育的研究人員中)強調對廣泛假設的關注,即佛教在哲學上曾是全面的,但缺失了韋伯自我設想通過理論化和歷史推斷去發現的社會層面。這一框架易於用在文化人類學中,通過參與觀察可明顯發現韋伯繪就的社會結構。

當南傳佛教國家在歐洲人想像裡還是遙遠而異域的地方時,這種理論或能看上去更加振奮人心。韋伯生於1864年,卒於1920年;其佛教哲學(及歷史)觀倚於所處時代的開創性譯著。如今,任何在泰國,老撾或柬埔寨從事實地考察的人都更能會推斷出南傳佛教是傾注於 “大眾情感和現實需求”的宗教。以下引用一段非常現實的描述:

“誠然,在柬埔寨,浮屠對教育孩子,提供老年人退休居所,以及其他社會功能方面起到了重要作用。這一社會角色對參訪者顯而易見,他們會毫無懷疑的發現在諸多浮屠中存在的學校,或是有許多居於其中設施內,身著白色或黑白色服飾的老年人。” [Zepp, 1997, 第4頁]

“[佛祖的] 超脫教義反映在柬埔寨的浮屠之中。[……] 其妙華毫不平實,相反有些則精美至極。這反映出佛教絕非平庸宗教之現實。” [同上, 第3頁]

時下潮流(筆者認為被索斯 沃德簡潔的蓋括了)斷言,揭示為“民族志學實地考察結果”的佛教形式其本身是一個完整的宗教 (規避任何對古代文本所謂“不完整宗教”的根本質疑)。索斯沃德(Southwold)引用其自己的格言為,“‘基本上,我把佛教報導成為我認識的佛教徒所教給我的內容’”。[Southwold, 1987, 第448頁] 我認識一些研究人員,他們對該格言表現為同情的一笑,因為南傳佛教徒經常會將他們自己的傳統解釋為是試圖對經典文本內容的踐行;被調查者會非常頻繁的公開聲明他們遺憾於不能參閱他們正在努力保護,描述,或是致敬的原始文本。以下引用一段在實地考察中遇到最常見情況時頗為實際的描述,以證明這類討論經常引導研究員回歸書面經典,即使他們想瞭解的內容(確鑿的)書於牆壁之上:

“儘管繪畫中描述的資訊和柬埔寨浮屠中的造像源自巴利文經卷,或大藏經中,其來自柬埔寨人的講述卻有著民間故事的味道。[……] 因此, 可能會有許多故事版本,且不大可能究其正繆。除版本的困惑外,還有一個事實即是1970年代柬埔寨絕大多數僧侶遭到屠殺,而年輕一代即使知道這些故事,也常常僅有一些模糊瞭解。[……] 最後一個困惑來自於許多繪畫上以巴利文寫成的鐫刻,或至少用古老,晦澀的高棉語書寫,令僧侶不能準確解讀。參訪者若請僧侶去讀繪畫[作於牆壁或屋頂之上] 的解釋,卻被告知他們無法讀懂時,也不應感到沮喪。” [Zepp, 1997, 第2頁]


§2. Among European academics, the study of the Theravāda Canon is so contentious that the significance of “canonicity” itself continues to be disputed. This is a dispute that involves specialists of many different disciplines, and they have created the controversy for a variety of reasons.

A British scholar named Martin Southwold stated the matter with uncommon clarity in defending his work against criticism; his own view, he stated, is that “…the results of ethnographic fieldwork ‘must be the canon of what is authentic Buddhism,’…”. [Southwold, 1987, p. 448] In a sense, this is the default assumption of many anthropologists trying to evaluate Theravāda Buddhist cultures: for them, fieldwork (田野調查) itself is the only “canon” (大藏經) and they dismiss (or ignore) the evidence gathered from the corpus of ancient texts (normally called a “canon” in plain English). Southwold rejects the assumption “…that only ‘nibbanic’1 Buddhism is authentic (‘normative’, ‘orthodox’, ‘pure’, and so forth) and that the Buddhism of ethnography, which differs from it, is in some sense not quite the genuine article.” [Ibid.] In a more recent article, Joanna Cook complains that any comparative reference to a “…single, authentic Great Tradition… does not make sense for social scientists, who ought to be in the business of observing what people do and reporting on it.” [Cook (et al.), 2009, p. 66] Cook offers this complaint immediately after a citation of Southwold’s earlier work; the two seem to me completely consonant in demoting (or disregarding) the written canon in order to exalt the “observations” of ethnographic fieldwork (as if these were mutually-exclusive options, or else presuming that contrasts to a “more authentic” canon could only be an obstruction to their work).

While Southwold’s position is extreme, it seems to encapsulate a set of assumptions that is very popular at the moment, having replaced the old-fashioned view that the philosophy of the written canon, “…is an ‘incomplete religion,’ which presupposes a complementary religion.” [Evers, 1968, p. 549]

The latter, old-fashioned approach allows fieldwork to reveal the ritual, social and superstitious aspects of “popular Buddhism” that were presumed to function as an augment to the written canon; this complementary approach entails the significant caveat that the “popularizations” may be invalidated by the same canon they are presumed to buttress. It is fair to say that this approach (of contrasting “folk religion” to the written canon) has gone out of vogue along with the theories of Max Weber (馬克斯·韋伯). Weber presented Buddhism as a religion “…of the educated gentility [that] could not provide for the emotional and pragmatic needs of the masses.” [Tambiah, 1973, p. 4] The ethnographer, therefore, stood among the masses, and could take the inventory of cultural accretions that had developed as the “complementary religion”:

“Yet, the sociological understanding of the sangha [i.e., monastic community], including its relations with the Buddhist laity, has remained relatively undeveloped compared to other fields of religious sociology. Part of this may be the result of an undue respect for the formative thoughts of scholarly ‘ancestors’ in the field. Max Weber was among the first to apply systematic sociological perspectives to the study of the sangha. In doing so, however, he set the terms of the debate in ways which may have limited rather than expanded inquiry. Even scholars who have written their own chapters in the sociology of Theravāda still perpetuate some of the same unexamined perspectives first introduced by Weber and others.” [Strenski, 1983, p. 463]

Among those “unexamined perspectives” that Weber was so influential in establishing, I would draw attention to the broad assumption (among Western-educated researchers) that Buddhism was philosophically complete, but had lacked social aspects that Weber himself presumed to discover through theorizing and historical speculation. This framework was easily applied to cultural anthropology, whereby participant observation (參與觀察) could seemingly reveal the social structures that Weber had sketched out.

This type of theory may have seemed more compelling when Theravāda countries were remote and exotic places in the European imagination. Weber lived from 1864 to 1920; his impression of Buddhist philosophy (and history) relied upon pioneering translations of that era. Today, anyone conducting fieldwork in Thailand, Laos or Cambodia would be more likely to surmise that Theravāda Buddhism is a religion entirely devoted to “the emotional and pragmatic needs of the masses”. To quote a very pragmatic description:

“Indeed, in Cambodia the pagoda plays an important role in providing education for children, retirement homes for the elderly, and other social functions. This social role will be evident to the visitor, who will undoubtedly note the schools attached to many pagodas, or the many elderly people dressed in either white or black-and-white, living in the temple complex.” [Zepp, 1997, p. 4]
“[The Buddha’s] doctrine of detachment is reflected in Cambodian pagodas. […] Their beauty is not austere, however, and some are quite elaborate to the point of gaudiness. This reflects the fact that Buddhism is not basically an austere religion.” [Ibid., p. 3]

The current fashion (that, I think, Southwold encapsulates neatly) asserts that the form of Buddhism revealed as “the results of ethnographic fieldwork” is a complete religion unto itself (eschewing any inquiry into its basis in the so-called “incomplete religion” of the ancient texts). Southwold quotes his own motto as, “’Basically, I am reporting as Buddhism what the Buddhists I knew taught me’”. [Southwold, 1987, p. 448] I know several researchers who would smile ruefully at such a motto, as Theravāda Buddhists will very often explain their own tradition as an attempt to enact something from a canonical text; often enough, informants will openly state their regret that they cannot consult the original text that they are trying to preserve, depict, or pay homage to. Quoted below is a very down-to-earth description of one of the most common scenarios encountered in fieldwork, demonstrating that such discussions often direct the researcher back to the written canon, even if what the researcher wants to know is (literally) written on the wall:

“Although the information depicted in the pictures and statues of Cambodian pagodas have at their root the Pali scriptures, or Triptiaka, they take on the flavor of folk stories when told by Cambodians. […] Thus, there may be several versions of some stories, and it is impossible to state that one is right and another is wrong. Adding to this confusion of versions is the fact that most of Cambodia’s monks were killed during the 1970s, and the young generation often have only vague ideas of the stories, if they recognize them at all. […] A final confusion comes from the fact that many of the inscriptions on the paintings are written in the Pali language, or at least in old, difficult Khmer which the monks cannot read precisely. The visitor should not become too frustrated if he asks a monk to read an explanation of a picture [painted on the wall or ceiling] and is told that the monk cannot read it.” [Zepp, 1997, p. 2]

*1. 作者所引用的是用巴利詞語 nibbāna 創造的一個英語形容詞,可以多種方式譯成漢語,如涅盤, 泥洹等等。The author quoted is creating an English adjective out of the Pali word nibbāna, variously transliterated into Chinese as 涅盘, 泥洹 and so on.