"Those who hide [their sins] are called monks."
-Retired Emperor Shirakawa
How can a Buddhist monk who drinks alcohol, fornicates with women, eat meat, kill, or acts generally irreverently still be considered a Buddhist monk? Recent scandals of Buddhist masters sleeping with their disciples or committing white collar crimes have made headlines across the world, but this trend is far from novel . Transgressive behavior has existed for countless generations of monastic Buddhists. More recently, transgression has become a critical term and object of study in fields such as religion, anthropology, philosophy, literature, and history. Despite numerous studies on the matter, very few have attempted to exhaustively interpret the phenomenon and its role in Buddhism. Daoji, a thirteenth century Chinese monk, provides a fascinating example transgression in the Buddhist context. By exploring this and other historical and\or fictional figures such as Sun Wukong, the simian hero of the Xi You Ji, and the Zen monk Ikkyu, a better analytical understanding of how transgression works might be gained. Indeed, the monk embodies both the subversive and normative sides of transgression's mechanism. Since transgression itself is a mechanism, it abides by certain rules. Whether it is interpreted through the lens of sociology, carnivalisation or any other mode of analysis, transgression respects various normative trends. In fact, despite popular beliefs, transgression can be inscribed within the framework of a ritualized and systematic tradition. Notable examples of this tradition are found to underlie transgressive (and admittedly broad) types of figures such as tricksters and ascetics, or even whole traditions such as Chan. Transgression is a ritual tradition. Once this is established, the specific principles and features upon which transgression operates can be outlined. In the Sino-Japanese Buddhist tradition, the doctrine of skilful means and the associated concept of Two Truths best explain these principles and features . However, categorizing transgression in terms of a binary opposition would lead to an infinite string of regressive dualisms. It is therefore more appropriate to say that transgression comprises the middle point of such oppositions. In concrete terms, transgression borrows from both Ultimate and Conventional expressions of Truth, thereby consisting a meditative point of interaction and unity which permits the transcendence of dualistic categorizations. It is by this reasoning that transgression fulfils its fundamentally dual function of simultaneously subverting and supporting conventions while negating and sustaining "higher" manifestations of Buddhist Truth. As a result, transgression paradoxically destroys any dualism and becomes the path toward a transcendent or "truer" reality.
I. The Enigma of Transgression: Description from Particulars to General
"How can I escape but through faith, madness, or death."
-Sensei, from Natsume Soseki's Kokoro
A. Subverting the Norm: Daoji, Prototypical "Crazy Monk"
As the highest and most spiritually perfected figures in Mahayana Buddhism, bodhisattvas achieve their status through relentless cultivation and a disciplined adherence to the tradition's values and regulations. In a monastic context, the strenuous path towards enlightenment must be followed by means of an almost blind devotion to and respect respect the rules of the Vinaya. Indeed, the monastic code of conduct can serve, as Holt puts it, as a "blueprint for the transcendence of this world" (Holt 16). However, characters who resorted to a total rejection of Buddhist precepts and proscriptions were equally heralded as illuminated spiritual figures. The apparent paradox is what essentially composes the "enigma of transgression." It is also what will be analyzed in this first section, using Daoji as a point of reference.
The most representative case of this enigma is that of Chan master "Crazy Ji" (d. 1209), a Buddhist cleric who lived near Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, then the capital of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279). Crazy Ji (Jidian), whose clerical name was Daoji, is depicted in a variety of historical and literary works as an eccentric and subversive monastic marginal who, more often than not, engaged in wine-drinking and meat-eating along with frequenting courtesans. This passage from the 1569 hagiographic novel, The Recorded Sayings of the Recluse from Qiantang Lake, the Chan Master Crazy Ji (Qiantang hu yin Jidian Chansi yulu) offers a prevalent account of the historical figure's image in Late Imperial China:
Crazy Ji was getting wilder and wilder; often he would
go to the Cool Spring Pavilion (Lengquan ting)
and turn somersaults in it, falling flat on the
ground. He would enter Summoning-the-Monkey Cave
(Houyuan dong) and invite the monkey to
somersault with him; or else, he would lead a
group of children to the wine shop[…]. Sometimes,
just when the monks were reading sutras or receiving
patrons in the hall, he would appear. Holding a plate
of meat in one hand and beating the yinqing drum
in the other, he would play havoc in their midst. He
would sing popular songs and, collapsing to the ground,
eat meat inside the Buddha Hall (p. 5a, from Shahar
This allegedly autobiographic poem from the same source portrays Jidian as a sexually promiscuous monk:
Every day he indulges in wine and sleeps with courtesans.
How can the libertine monk be like others?
His cassock is often stained with rouge.
His robes carry the fragrance of powder (p. 7b, from
Despite his blatant disrespect for the monastic institution and mainstream Buddhist practices, Daoji was nevertheless venerated as a saint. His cult, whose adherents worshiped Daoji under the name of Jigong ("Sire Ji"), undeniably developed at the popular level as a form of posthumous tribute in Zhejiang during the thirteenth century (Shahar 1998, 172). In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, his cult diversified in form and range, reaching the north China plains, Southern China, Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia . However, institutional Buddhism also appropriated him as an object of veneration, possibly due to his seemingly boundless popularity in Zhejiang, of which local Chan devotees wanted a share. But monastic appropriation went beyond the confines of the Chan sect, often spilling into other lineages. For example, although Daoji never resided on the sacred Mount Tiantai (which lent its name both to the surrounding county and the Tiantai school of Buddhism) he was included among the mountain's 500 hidden saints, who supposedly live in seclusion atop the mount (Shahar 1998, 173).
Daoji is first and foremost an antinomian figure, who directly and overtly challenges the authority and validity of institutional Buddhism. Secondly, most of his popularity and legitimization originally emerged from the laity, which harbored feelings of resentment towards the authoritarian Buddhist establishment in medieval and late imperial China (Shahar 1998, 45). As Shahar noticed, "the veneration of itinerant eccentric monks [such as Daoji] occupying the fringes of the monastic establishment is thus closely related to the hostility felt for the establishment" (Shahar 1998, 45). Thirdly, the great majority of biographical sources, fictional or not, relating to Daoji as a historical figure and Jigong as an object of worship are secular and vernacular sources. Therefore, Daoji, as a saint, seemingly lacks the legitimizing and authoritative support habitually granted by canonical literature or "official" monastic hagiographies. Furthermore, Daoji incarnates the tension that lied between popular forms of worship and institutional religions.
Even though Daoji embodies many traditional cleavages between the secular and the clerical in Buddhism, his paradoxical appropriation by institutional Buddhism renders the figure of Daoji uniting and transcendental. Such an ambiguous, yet fundamentally supportive attitude towards transgression on the part of the Buddhist establishment did have its share of vituperative critics. Wang Mengji notably emphasized the dangers and doctrinal complexities that might arise as a result of encouraging heterodox and "parasitic" behavior among the Buddhist ranks:
If there was nothing to these worthies [Buddha's, patriarchs,
sages] but wine-drinking, meat-eating, pointless chatter,
aimless wandering, and the random compilation of bad
poetry… then, everywhere, villainous bald asses would
justify [their own wanton behavior] using these
worthies' names. The monastic institution would be
transformed into a den of rogues and criminals.
This would cause the Buddhist school to fall into
disarray, and might even lead to its destruction
(Jigong quanzhan 27.11b, from Faure 1998, 110-111).
Daoji embodied tensions that prevailed between the institutional Buddhist establishment and a more liberal spirit in Buddhist practice. Through transgression, Daoji subverted orthodox Buddhist norms, yet he was curiously supported by those who upheld the norms in the first place. This might be symptomatic of transgression's flip side, a side that actually reinforces and supports the orthodoxy it is attempting to devalue. This second edge to the sword of transgression will be addressed in the following section.
B. Reinstating the Norm: the Other Side of the Coin
Regardless of scurrilous objections, Daoji and other eccentric antinomian figures were nevertheless entered into the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon and celebrated by lay followers and monks alike. Despite the inherent iconoclasm that is associated with heterodoxy, this fundamentally peaceful coexistence of transgressor and transgressed exists because the transgressor mirrors the normative social order and thus reaffirms the norms he apparently transgresses. Perhaps the inkling of an explanation for this phenomenon is provided in Daoji's confession:
In the midst of intoxication, I keep a clear head;
in the most extreme agitation I remain unbound […].
My madness helps to confuse common people, but I
possess the magical force of samadhi, through which
I help people escape the misery of the world […].
Drunk, I shout abuse at the Buddha and insult the
heavenly nature" (Jidian Yulu 21a, from Faure 1998, 107).
The above passage refers to a bimodal interpretation of Daoji's antics, and on a broader scale, of transgressive behavior in the Buddhist context. Indeed, two levels of understanding can be applied to seemingly direct and simplistic disregard for rules or authority. At face value, Daoji's behavior composes an uncompromising and bare opposition to the mainstream Buddhist establishment. On a second level of interpretation, transgression reaffirms or recreates the power structures and values it acts out against. DeBernardi has noted this dualistic confrontation, which she argues provides a means for the inversion of social norms through religious symbols and rhetorical strategies (DeBernardi 311). DeBernardi primarily focuses on the role of spirit mediums and trances that embody transgressive religious figures (or figures that can be transgressively interpreted) such as the God of War (Guang Dong) and the Vagabond Buddha (Ji Gong). She talks about these deities and trances with regard to their appropriation by socially marginalized groups, namely Chinese Triads. In short, these groups, generally composed of poor, socially impotent members, attempt to infuse their hedonistic and materialistic motivations (which are in line with social norms) with a higher spiritual meaning. In other words, since these groups are social failures, they try to compensate through "spiritual" success (acceding to a higher purpose of sorts) by associating themselves with similarly marginal spiritual figures. In the end, they hope that they will be socially recognized, much in the same way the transgressive deities that they idolize were eventually accepted as accomplished spiritual beings.
DeBernardi proves that in this case, the cult of Jigong is indirectly employed to support, or rather attain a socially consensual legitimacy (DeBernardi 311). Hence, these groups are utilizing transgression to sustain and gain legitimacy in the very ideology that relegates them to marginality. Undoubtedly, this paradigm can be extended to individual historic perpetrators of antinomian acts. Jigong evidently strived for the same spiritual zenith as did his fellow monks nevertheless, he found a different means to the end:
[I have] huge eyebrows like a broom,
and a huge mouth that cannot lie, but can drink wine.
Look at my white hair and my often bare feet!
I have physical form but my mind is free.
I have sex but I am not attached.
In my drunken stupor I pay no heed to the waves of the
worldly sea. My entire body covered with rags, I act
like a madman. Under the bright moon in the fresh
breeze I laugh and sing…
Sitting backward on my donkey I return to the heavenly
ridges (Jidian Yulu 18b, from Faure 1998, 108).
What transpires from this state of affairs is an oddly paradoxical condition in which the original subversively-intended transgression, whether on the part of individuals or social groups in general, becomes a way through which the contested norms are supported and ironically reaffirmed. This process can be likened to that of carnivalisation, by which parodic inversions of social norms and religious values are maintained for varying periods of time. In the case of Jigong, his followers are said to abide by five precepts-drink, eat meat, gamble, steal, and fornicate-antithetical references to the Buddhist precepts (Faure 1998, 111). Indeed scholars have recognized the carnival's qualifications as a form of transgressive reaffirmation. By means of periodic inversions and paradoxical recreations, the carnival digresses from consensual social norms but simultaneously reaffirms them by upholding similar structures and organizational patterns (Gaignebet and Florentin 153). The process of carnivalisation is nevertheless a form of social deviance, yet it strongly contributes to the maintenance of the normative status quo. Parenthetically, in his late nineteenth century studies on social deviance, Durkheim argues that any form of antinomianism constitutes an inherent and necessary buttress to the norms or rules it contests (Macionis 203) .
Daoji has fuelled disregard for existing norms and hierarchies while creating a system that has ultimately served to strengthen them (Shahar 1998, xvi). To elaborate, a deity who disregards institutionalized order (whether religious or social) has provided an alternative order for its followers, a mirror inversion of the existing one. In Faure's terms, this would consist in a ritual transgression. Nevertheless, the cult of Daoji remains supportive of institutionalized systems since it is organized around the same principles of harmony, good will and so on, and relies on the same organizational structure. Furthermore, it relieves tensions that arise from the consensual system by complementing it, and ultimately reaffirming the same ideals (Shahar 1998, 222).
II. Ritual Ant-ritualism
"Such a thing exists as orthodox madness."
A. The Tradition of Transgression: Ritual Form and Spontaneous
Transgressive actions as outlined above and exemplified by figures such as Daoji, are often perceived as a naturalist and spontaneous eruptions of mystical insight. The transgressive sage would thus be placed above the ordinary moral rules. However the phenomenon of antinomianism is not restricted to such simplistic definitions and conclusions. In effect, the transgressors are not isolated enlightened individuals blessed with insight. They are themselves part of a tradition of rule-breaking so to speak, based on the same principles and operative factors as its "positive" counterpart. This would provide a rationale for the apparent paradox that inscribes the actions of transgressive figures and their subsequent cults. Eccentric and heterodox deities or behavior have been shown to mirror the existing social order and reproduce the same hierarchical structures and relationships. In fact the only difference lies in the reversal of polarization, in other words, a simple carnivalesque inversion of values. Hence, the "negative print" of social or religious conventions is by no means transcendental to its original and consensual counterpart. Daoji exemplifies the structure of transgression, its ritual form, the "blueprint for transgression" which is the inverted image of the "blueprint for transcendence". The structural features of this blueprint will be repeated again and again in many other figures, including the "ascetic among ascetics" and tricksters. As it will be later explained, transgression establishes a dichotomy and nourishes it, so that ultimately, both components of the dichotomy are reconciled in a non-dual order.
However, in order to achieve a level of conceptualization that defeats the epistemological hindrance of binary oppositions, the oppositions themselves (legitimate and illegitimate, orthodox and heterodox, marginal and mainstream) must acquire an equilibrium in their dyadic relationship. In other words, the tradition of transgression must achieve the same religious and social authority as the tradition it opposes, while retaining its unofficial status. This is indeed what occurs as antinomianism becomes an official and ironically accepted component of religious lore. Ritual infractions become a ritual in themselves as rules and norms develop to contextualise antinomian behavior. Ritual antiritualism is present in a variety of cultures and religions, including Christianity. Eschatological folly appears as a common trait among figures such Paul and St-Augustine and finds textual support in passages like the following: "If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wiser. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God" (1 Cor 3:18). A priori, this excerpt would seem to regard foolishness as a transcendental truth, but in actuality, it is a mere inversion of a value judgment on normative Christian conceptions of wisdom. In Buddhism, ritual antiritualism has transpired through the workings of various eminent monastic figures and even certain sects. "Holy madness", "strategic folly," "crazy wisdom," and "controlled madness" are terms that are often employed to refer to the tradition of antinomianism but in their use some scholars have implied that ritual transgression involves a denial and subsequent surpassing of social or religious norms (Faure 1998, 101). Such transcendence seems unlikely however, since it is prescribed by precise ritual contexts and, as mentioned above, the same organizational principles.
B. Emerging Patterns of Ritual Transgression: From Ascetics to Tricksters
Transgression finds ritual expression in many forms, two of which are asceticism and the trickster figure. Indeed, both these forms of behavior are inscribed within tightly regimented and normative traditions, which in turn permit us to identify the emerging patterns of transgression. A translation of transgression's regimented form occurs at the level of individuals through their adherence to certain modes or types of behavior.
In his study of the Liang Biographies, John Kieschnick briefly examines the phenomenon of extreme asceticism in the context of eminent Buddhist figures. In his Sociology of Religion, Weber identifies asceticism as either world-rejecting (withdrawing from the world) or innerwordly (participating in the world while rejecting its institutions) (Weber 164-165). The former world-rejecting tendency might define the motivational hubris of extreme ascetics. Extreme ascetics negate Buddhist norms and rules by pushing them further to the extreme. For example, if monks were to abide by a strict vegetarian diet, the "ascetic among ascetics" would eat nothing but berries, nuts, pine needles, fruit and even rocks . After consulting a few case examples, one clearly notices an emerging pattern as if various seemingly individual actions were governed by underlying specific regimens and carefully pre-established sets of practices, collectively known as dhutanga (Kieschnick 34). Transgression is an issue here, since the extreme ascetic attempts to positively transcend the generic norms imposed by the first, or normative order of asceticism. Nevertheless, the original norms are never negated; they are instead pushed to the extreme and still maintained. This model is a clear example of ritual antiritualism as it functions on the basis of defined constraints and ritual expressions while maintaining an apparently eccentric allure.
The latter kind of asceticism, that which Weber identifies as innerwordly, is also an expression of ritual antiritualism since it negates generally accepted rules among the Buddhist sangha. It is often manifested as an inversion of whatever Buddhist practice is supported at a specific time. In fact, asceticism is quite possibly an expression of one-upmanship by which the Buddhist ascetic seeks to distinguish himself from the sangha, much in the same way the sangha "rejects" mainstream society. As Buddhist communities became increasingly socialized with their arrival in China and Japan, their values and norms gradually came to coincide with those of the society which they purported to section themselves from. Hence Buddhist transgressors such as Daoji simultaneously attempted to establish themselves at the polar opposites of cenoebic communities, whether lay or monastic. What Bourdieu calls a "game of refusal and counter-refusal" is probably a partial motivating factor behind transgression since the antinomian agent is driven, amongst other things, by the irrepressible attraction of ascetic, intellectual, and social innovation (Kieschnick 32). This is a negative form of asceticism which aims at breaking down the dominant culture by establishing an alternative counter-culture (Valantasis 549). However, such transgressive innovation is conducted, ironically enough, within the boundaries and limitations of rules. Nevertheless, far from impeding the impact of transgression, a structured foundation and almost ritualized demeanor provided continuity, focus and precedent for generations upon generations of transgressors.
Once this is established, Daoji no longer appears as such an eccentric and revolutionary heterodox. Transgressive patterns surface in the actions of countless other monks. Within the context of a tradition of transgression, Daoji is preceded and succeeded by a plethora of transgressive Buddhist figures including Zhu Shulan, Beidu, Shaoshuo, Huitong, and the eminently queer Grand Master of Guangling:
The Grand Master of Guangling was ugly in appearance
and of a perverse nature. Possessing a straightforward
disposition like a butcher or wine merchant, he was
only distinguished from them by the accoutrements of
the sramana. He was fond of wine and meat and would go
about a coarse hemp cloak, the weight and thickness of
which can be imagined. Yet even in the midst of summer
he did not take it off for a moment, so that fleas and
ticks gathered on him in clusters.
The Grand Master stayed at the Xiaogan Monastery
Where he kept a room to himself, closing the door every
night to sleep in a seemingly normal fashion. But at
times the crazed aspect of his character would assert
itself, and he would slaughter a dog or a pig. During
the day he would gather some of the local toughs together
for a fist fight. Other times he would get drunk and
sleep by the side of the road. For all these reasons
the people of Yangzhou despised him (Song Biographies
19.10 (833c) from Kieschnick 53).
In this example, the "ascetic among ascetics" is one who reverses direction and ends up following a lifestyle that is similar to that lay people. The distinction must be made once again with the other variety of "ascetic among ascetics" who engages in even more severe ascetic behavior (self-mutilation and immolation, extreme fasting and so on) than that of his monastic peers. Regardless of minor distinctions, we are thus confronted with a "type" or as Kieschnick remarks "a frequently appearing figure defined by behavior that is not as unpredictable as it first appeared" (Kieschnick 53).
A parallel figure to the world-affirming "ascetic among ascetics" is that of the trickster. The trickster is common to many religious traditions and cultures, but most work on the figure has been conducted in the setting of North American or East African indigenous tribes, where he is characterized by exaggerated body parts, scatological inversions and an insatiable libido (Kieschnick 52). "In one North American Indian myth, for example, the Winnebago trickster Wakdjunkaga scatters all living creatures across the face of the earth with an enormous fart, which leaves them laughing, yelling, and barking. This is an ungracious parallel to the Winnebago's solemn account wherein Earthmaker creates a quiet and static world order in which each species remains in a separate lodge" (Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol. 15, p. 45). This passage illustrates the fact that transgressive action both negates and parallels the structure of normative action. Just as Earthmaker creates all animals each in its own lodge, so also the trickster scatters them all with an enormous fart. This trickster's creative act is farting, a crude, coarse act repugnant to correct sensibilities of harmonious creation.
Paul Radin, MacLinsott Ricketts and Robert Pelton have addressed the enigmatic trickster in many of their studies, and while the cultural focus is different, their conclusions are easily applicable to Asian traditions, particularly Buddhism . While the Buddhist trickster became prominent in the Tang (618CE-907CE), trickster figures have had an extensive history in China (Faure 1991, 121). The trickster tradition of "strategic folly" goes as far back as Lao Zi's description of the man of the Dao as a simpleton, or Zhuang Zi's story of the encounter between Confucius and Jieyu, the madman of Zhu (from Faure 1991, 121).
Lévi-Strauss interprets the trickster as a mediator between two polarized opposites of (mythical) thought (224). Since awareness of the opposition always progresses towards a resolution of the dichotomy, the trickster provides a means by which the gap is bridged (and a new one created). Since his mediating function occupies a position halfway between two polar terms, the trickster must retain the duality within his self, thus making him an ambiguous and equivocal character (Lévi-Strauss 226). Correspondingly, tricksters exhibit features or behavior of opposed categories. Tricksters are often half-human and half-animal (foxes, coyotes, monkeys, ravens, etc.) who go back and forth between two worlds. In terms of logic, they symbolize non-duality being neither completely human no animal. Their half and half status symbolizes their liminality and mediating function, half sacred and half profane, half subversive and half normative. Undoubtedly, both ascetics (world-rejecting and innerwordly) and tricksters are illustrations of the conformity\transgression paradigm.
C. Chan and the bedrock of Mahayanist transgression
In the context of types, it might be noteworthy to mention that Chan Buddhism has spawned a great deal of famous transgressors. In fact, most of the documented Buddhist transgressive historical figures were adepts of Chan: from Daoji and the Grand master of Guangling to Beidu and Ikkyu. Chan often posits itself as a trickster, as a mediating agent between monastic and lay, Buddhist and non-Buddhist (primarily Confucianism and Daoism), and even between Mahayana and Hinayana. In the face of rigid Theravada doctrine and rules, Mahayana could be portrayed as a proverbial trickster of sorts, subverting previously venerated ideals and strict regulations while maintaining a higher level of consciousness. Mahayana Buddhism adopts the doctrine of skilful means to teach the Middle Path, and acts as a junction bridging Conventional Truth to Ultimate Truth (Williams 71). Hence Chan Buddhism might be said to provide form to the tradition of antiritualism, especially within the Buddhist context. Just like the trickster, the ascetic, and Ikkyu, Chan is a defined and regimented institution of transgression.
"Crazy wisdom" as it is often called, is by no means restricted or reserved to the Chan school of Buddhism. However, generation after generation, many figures of the "sudden school" have been thoroughly iconoclastic. For example, the ninth-century master Yi Xuan, better known as Rinzai in Japanese, instructed his disciples to slay everything that lay in their path to enlightenment (wu); including monks, patriarchs, and the Buddha himself (Feuerstein 49). The Rinzai branch of Chan is well known for its spiritual shock tactics. To awaken practitioners from the mundane slumber of habituated life, various "surprise" methods are employed-shouting, physical beatings, paradoxical verbal responses, and the ever so popular koan (kung an in Chinese). The famous eighth-century master Tanxia burned a statue of the Buddha to keep himself warm, while the adept Deshan spoke of the Buddha as a "piece of shit," and the Japanese master Hakuin referred to well-known Buddhist canonical formulas or texts as "trash," and "a useless collection of junk" (Feuerstein 51).
Faure explains that "in their reaction against the excesses of Indian legalism, some adepts of the Great Vehicle fell into the opposite excess, advocating a rejection of all rules" (Faure 1998, 98). This implies a natural or spontaneous tendency, according to which the transgressor's hubris places him above moral rules. Generally speaking, these figures are hyperboles of the ascetic figure. Whereas the latter rejects secular norms, the transgressive "mad monk" and his peers, in a typical Mahayana impulse of double negation, reject even the conventions of Buddhist doctrine or monastic life (Faure 1998, 101). Chan affirms a dialectical approach to viewing the essence of Buddhist teachings. Purity and filth, like high and low are inverted, as illustrated by Chan master Caoshan's poem:
The skull has no consciousness,
But wisdom's eye begins to shine in it.
Those who deny this do not understand
That purity is in the impure (Chang 45 from Zhou 82).
As Zhou remarks, the eye shining in the skull suggests that the essence of Chan is not merely action, but, in line with dialectical inversions, action within non-action (Zhou 82).
However, despite its subversive iconoclasm, Chan is also subjected to the underlying mechanism of ritual antiritualism in which transgression is inscribed within precise ritual and social codes. The following story clearly demonstrates a tactical and systematic use of regimented techniques:
The Japanese Zen master Gutei had the habit of raising
one finger in response to any question whatsoever. One day,
a visitor asked one of Gutei's disciples to explain his
master's essential teaching. In imitation of his master,
the young disciple held up one finger. When Gutei hear of
the incident, he confronted the young man and swiftly
sliced off the disciple's finger. Screaming with pain, the
acolyte ran away. Gutei called after him: when the disciple
looked back, the master flashed his famous single finger.
The young man's mind stopped, and he was suddenly
Enlightened (from Feuerstein 49).
The koan (the familiar one-finger gesture), the act of physical aggression, and the intense scream of pain are three Chan regulated techniques often methodically mobilized in a seemingly random and transgressive manner in order to attain enlightenment. Chan "madmen" have typically internalised the rules that they digress from therefore "following the ways of the heterodox without ever becoming heterodox" (Thurman 65).
Furthermore, historical contextualisation can also reveal larger social or intellectual trends that Chan Buddhism might have attempted to emulate. In Tang China for instance, eccentric behavior was condoned during periods of decline in central power and degradation of social values. In Japan, cultural phenomena, social movements or fashions of marginality irrefutably informed the transgressive nature of Zen (and Ikkyu). Muen ("unbound" or "without ties") precluded any form of ambition or normal social rules, and implied an almost licentious sense of freedom. Common "unbound" sanctuaries and geographical manifestations of muen were Zen temples, often located in, or adjacent to a city's pleasure quarters. These places were refuges for the lower strata, namely for gamblers, prostitutes, outcastes (kawaramono or hinin) and the like who had "cut their ties" to mainstream society (Faure 1998, 115). "Wild Zen" in Japan flourished in the late Kamakura (1192CE-1333CE) and early Muromachi (1333CE-1582CE) periods, periods which were defined, among other things, by the basara phenomenon. The term basara designates both "extravagance" and "madness" (monogurui), often referring to the eccentric behavior or artistic inclinations that aimed at breaking conventions (Faure 1998, 116). Basara, derived from the Tantric symbol vajra (diamond), became emblematic of a new sensibility in medieval Japan, that of the "topsy-turvy world" (gekokujo). Antinomian figures, tricksters and even whole traditions, which more often than not spawn the former therefore abide by specific rules and rituals: in their mediation and transgression, they contain and compound both extremities of the dualistic opposition between which they mediate.
D. Ikkyu: Chan Monk, Timeless Trickster, Timeless Transgressor
Much akin to Daoji, the poet-monk Ikkyu Sojun (1394-1481) figures among the pre-eminent Buddhist incarnations of the Chan antinomian monk, trickster figure and the ascetic. Hence a small parenthesis should be devoted to him in the hope of clarifying how figures tend to fit the transgressive type. "Crazy Cloud" (Kyokun) as he fancied calling himself, strove to almost compulsively defy every taboo or monastic regulation in effect in Medieval Japan. He did so to the effect that in the eyes of many, he seemed to be leading a lay person's life. As an innerworldy ascetic, Ikkyu is world-affirming, yet he denies the validity of the institutions (social or religious) that govern it. In his poem entitled "The Calf," Ikkyu directly challenges the Vinayic apprehension towards onanism:
My naked passions, six inches long.
At night we meet on an empty bed.
A hand that's never known a woman's touch.
And a nuzzling calf, swollen from nights too long
(Ikkyu zue shui, from Sanford 287).
Aside from his well-documented and numerous sexual transgressions, which one could say fulfill the "insatiable libido" component of the trickster, Ikkyu was also a proponent and adept of scatological inversions. He is known for verses such as "the scriptures from the start have been toilet paper", and "the dog pisses on the sandalwood old Buddha Hall (Kyounshu 69-71 from Arntzen 90-95). Arntzen has argued that in this case, scatological inversions attack the conventional distinctions between sacred and profane (Arntzen 92). By juxtaposing what should be clearly segregated, Ikkyu demolishes the inherent dualism and reconciles the most contradictory of images and concepts. Once, the poet-monk had been asked to perform an "eye opening ceremony" ceremony for a Jizo statue at a local temple:
Without further ado, Ikkyu climbed right up the
ladder, and from the level of Jizo's head, he
began to piss all over the place. It was like the
waterfall of mount Rozan. Soon, all the offerings
were thoroughly soaked, and as this veritable flood
ceased Ikkyu told them, 'So much for an eye-opening'
and set off rapidly toward the east. The locals,
mad at him, ran after him, while some lay-nuns
started washing the image. They worked themselves into
a strange frenzy, and went after Ikkyu to ask him to
repeat the ceremony. Instead he gave them his loincloth
and told them to tie it around Jizo's head […]. And so
they did. (Sanford 294).
As previously mentioned transgressive figures including Daoji and Ikkyu, more often than not fit into the trickster and innerwordly ascetic moulds, moulds which sees them negotiate between two opposite poles of orthodoxy and heterodoxy. As mediators, they possess the attributes of both extremities and attempt to collapse them. This mechanism is nevertheless ritualized and obeys, in the case of Buddhist transgression, pre-defined rules and norms. In fact, transgression is ritualized to such an extent that it can be regarded as its own tradition, or at least, the underlying principle of a tradition. Chan Buddhism inevitably comes to mind in discussions revolving around the theme of transgression for the simple reason that Chan is the pinnacle of ritual antinomianism in China.
III. Doctrinal Support and Theoretical Basis
"Like rubbing your eyes to make yourself see flowers in the air. If all things don't exist to begin with, then what do we want with 'empty appearances'? He is defecating and spraying pee all over a clean yard."
-Hakuin in the Dokugo Shingyo on the sentence "O Shariputra,all things are empty appearances"
A. Novels and Popular Literature: The Xi You Ji
Ritual antiritualism, and thus transgression find their ideological and theoretical roots in a variety of sources, some of which will be approached in the following section. From popular literary genres to sacred texts of the Mahayana Buddhist canon, two specific and interlaced doctrines seem to provide the rationale for transgressive actions. Indeed, The doctrine of skilful means and the doctrine of Two Truths provide the conceptual basis for the regulations which might govern a tradition of transgression. On a hermeneutical level, this set of doctrines also allows for a spiritually viable and doctrinally justifiable interpretation of transgression, thereby superseding traditionally simplistic views of antinomianism as a mere inversion of the norm.
Mythology tends to assign the role of the trickster to the hare, the raven or the coyote in North American traditions, while East African ones associate the trickster with the spider or the hyena. In Asia, trickster figures are often embodied by extraordinarily intelligent yet uncontrollably subversive monkeys such as Hanuman or Sun Wukong. Verily, the Xi You Ji (Journey to the West),as a text with remarkably strong Buddhist influences, offers a classic illustration of the trickster in action, mediating and uniting two polar opposites. The Xi You Ji is but one of the numerous popular literature novels that have transgressive figures as their main characters. Upon closer inspection, a panoply of eccentric literary figures reveal themselves as emblems of antinomianism. The literary tradition revolving around Daoji has been extensively studied but more obscure figures such as Zhong Kui, the Eight Immortals, Huaguang, and Nazha Santaizi to cite a few examples, are all transgressive or iconoclastic figures whose exploits are related in works of popular fiction (Shahar 1996, 188) . As it will be explained later on, the line between such works, particularly those whose narrative structure relies on Buddhist concepts or doctrines, and Buddhist canonical works is relatively fluid. Hence, their incorporation under the heading of doctrinal support (but not doctrinal texts) is readily admissible.
The Xi You Ji's simian protagonist, Sun Wukong, becomes an agent of Buddhism rather than an iconoclastic challenger which many readers have misconstrued him to be. Despite a potentially conceivable Neo-Confucian reading and the concrete presence of religious syncretic trends in the novel, Buddhist allegory remains the most persistent and pervasive reading of the Xi You Ji (Bantly 514). The text incorporates standard Mahayana themes, such as karma, skilful means (upaya), emptiness (sunyata), and compassion (karuna), which take the shape of plot and literary structure.
Another Mahayana concept, that of the Two Truths (of the Conventional and Ultimate varieties), permeates the text in the form of Tripitaka's concern with the externalization of salvation into manifest religious practices and techniques. Indeed, his obsession with the outward forms of piety hinders him from attaining a truer sense of perception (possibly a reference to Confucianism's shortcomings). Therefore he cannot "see beyond the appearance of all forms to their innate insubstantiality" (Bantly 514). In fact, scholars such as Francisca Cho Bantly, Uchida Michio and Anthony C. Yu acknowledge and support the Mahayana Buddhist reading of the work . Hence, the Xi You Ji can even be interpreted as a religious text since it embodies and disseminates Buddhist teachings. In light of the book's didactic features, the question of canonicity is thus raised and the inclusion of the Xi You Ji in the corpus of Chinese Buddhist religious texts becomes conceivable. This argument rests on the Mahayana doctrine of skilful means, which is defined as the ability to adapt (and even modify) teachings to the level of the hearers, so as to facilitate the teaching's reception and understanding (Williams 51). Reasonably distinct from "higher" canonical texts, popular literature can prove to be a more direct vehicle for the spread of Buddhist doctrine to the lay masses. By this reasoning, the Xi You Ji's role as a Buddhist text, or at the very least a text with a Buddhist telos, is not at all problematic. Other seemingly uncanonical and antitraditional texts have been granted canonical status. For instance, the iconoclastic and belligerent (yet playfully subversive) Yu lu (Recorded Sayings) genre of the Sung (960-1279) came to be seen as normative Buddhist discourse (Berling 87) .
As one of the work's main protagonists, Sun Wukong is an agent of Buddhist dissemination and teacher of the Middle Path. In fact, he directly reflects and embodies the novel's ambiguous literary status. Much like the Yu lu, the Xi You Ji apparently subverts religious canonicity through its vernacular, hence iconoclastic and transgressive characteristics. Yet, the work actually disseminates Buddhist thought and provides a means by which larger audiences can be reached. Sun Wukong performs exactly the same function by appearing irreverent toward Tripitaka, Guan Yin, and even Buddha. At every chance that he encounters, he criticizes Tripitaka's beliefs, religious observance and actions. Sun Wukong is also oblivious to all forms of religious authority and takes each opportunity he has to prove it. Before he is subdued, he leaves a "bubbling pool of urine" at the base of Buddha's fingers, and after having transformed a king's palace robes into a cracked mug in a magic competition, he immediately fills the receptacle with his urine (Yu 1: 173, 2: 146).
In actuality, he is embodying higher doctrinal truths and contesting the validity of monastic precepts and etiquette (a criticism which many lay Buddhists voiced). Therefore, in the context of skilful means and the doctrine of Two Truths, the character of Sun Wukong appealed to a large non-clerical audience and provided a valuable method by which to disseminate the tradition. Whether he is urinating on sanctified objects, ruthlessly beating sentient beings, or insulting Buddhist deities, Sun Wukong is performing a ritual inversion. In Bakhtin's terms, the debunking of authority, whether divine or secular, effectively degrades divinity to "the sphere of earth and body in their indissoluble unity" (Zhou 82). From this we can extrapolate that the debunking of authority, also known as transgression, exposes Conventional and Ultimate Truths' indivisibility while paradoxically playing on their distinctness. However, we are getting ahead of the point; while the latter sentence offers insight into the very structural functioning of transgression, the subject will be dealt with later on.
As shown above, the systematic and ritualized nature of transgression often generates generic transgressive types who display numerous common traits. Daoji the eminently transgressive figure previously discussed exhibits many points in common with Sun Wukong. Firstly, both characters are main protagonists in a variety of vernacular works that were published and circulated in the same period. The novel in which the simian figures, namely the Xi You Ji, was published in 1592CE. Similarly, the Jidian Yulu was based on Daoji and published a mere two decades earlier in 1569Ce. Just as the Xi You Ji, the Jidian Yulu's popularity spawned many sequels. Both figures have also been the object of religious worship (Shahar 1992, 195). Indeed, the cult of Sun Wukong has extensively developed not only in Guangdong and Fujian, but also in Singapore and Taiwan, where the deity is revered in spirit-medium cults (Shahar 1996, 201). Likewise, the cult of Jigong has flourished along the coast of South China. Furthermore, in Malaysia and Taiwan, Jigong has also become the main figure in spirit-medium cults.
However, Sun Wukong and Daoji share another common trait that remains quite perplexing and might suggest a closer tie between the two figures. Sun Wukong partly traces his mythological origins to the Lingyin Si monastery, and the legend of its enigmatic and eccentric founder, Huili (Shahar 1992, 194) . This monastery, which lies on the outskirts of Hangzhou near West Lake, was established in the Xianhe period (326-334) of the Eastern Jin (317-420) by an Indian monk named Huili. Daoji, the historical Buddhist monk, was also ordained at the Lingyin Si (Shahar 1998, 50). This implies that both figures' heterodox attitudes and antinomian behavior might have been inspired by a particular trend of monastic anticonformism that could have originated among the disciples and masters of the Lingyin Si monastery. Regardless of whether all Chinese Buddhist antinomian behavior finds its roots in a common source, its behavioral expression is united under the banner of a collective tradition of transgression. Furthermore, this tradition is textually supported by literary documents such as those of the Yu lu genre or the Ming novel Xi You Ji .
B. Sacred Texts and Doctrines: Skilful Means
The Saddharmapundarikasutra and the Upayakausalyasutra.
Sacred scriptures and various sutras, whose legitimacy as religious texts per se is less contested, also provide a theoretical basis for the antinomian tradition. Kumarajiva's Saddharmapundarikasutra, better known under the name of Lotus Sutra, is a defining work of substantial importance for all East Asian Buddhists. It is generally composed of about twenty-eight chapters (although the exact number of chapters varies in different versions), but consensus recognizes that the text is not homogeneous. The oldest chapters (chapters one through nine and seventeen) are believed to have been composed between the first century BCE and the first century CE, but most of the text had appeared by the end of the second century. According to Williams, one of the main factors of the Lotus Sutra's success was its central teaching, among other key doctrines, of skilful means (upaya/upayakausalya) (Williams 143). This teaching enounces the use of skill-in-means and various similar didactic devices to adapt the Buddha's teaching to the level of individual (groups of) hearers. The Buddha's various (and often contradictory) teachings have relative value and hold a relative truth in accordance with the time, place, and person to who they are taught. They are to be used as a raft to cross a river; once the river is crossed, there is no need to hold onto the raft. Hence, when employed in this manner, the teachings eventually transcend themselves. Williams summarizes the point quite eloquently: "[…] although the corpus of teachings attributed to Buddha, if taken as whole, embodies many contradictions, these contradictions are only apparent. Teachings are appropriate to the context in which they are given. Their truth is relative and so the contradiction evaporates" (143).
The doctrine of skilful means implies a boundless flexibility in the adaptability of Buddhist teachings in changing circumstances. All teachings are perfectly fitted to the level of understanding of the intended audience. This warrants loose adaptations of generic Buddhist norms and doctrines, all of which are justifiable provided they are conducted out of compassion (karuna) and wisdom (prajna), and for the sake of their suitability. Even non-Buddhist teachings are permissible for the benefit of others-indeed, some Buddhists claim that Lao Zi and Jesus were bodhisattvas. In fact, the doctrine of skilful means extends beyond simply adjusting the teaching's intelligibility to the level of its recipients; it also entails sacrificial gestures by which a Buddhist (or more commonly a Bodhisattva), out of wisdom and compassion will adopt an antinomian behavior for the sake of saving another sentient being. Williams explicitly comments that it can be skilful means "to act in a way contrary to the 'narrower' moral or monastic code of others" (Williams 145).
The Upayakausalyasutra is a more direct discussion of skilful means. The sutra recounts one of the Buddha's previous lives in which, as a celibate religious student, he engaged in sexual intercourse to save a girl who had threatened to die from love of him. In another of his past lives, the Buddha is said to have murdered a man so as to prevent that man from slaughtering five-hundred others and consequently inhabiting hell for countless kalpas. The Buddha was prepared to assume responsibility for his crime, yet he was blessed with spiritual progress and his victim was reborn in a heavenly realm (Williams 145).
Perhaps the most obviously succinct and apologetic example of literature that supports transgressive behavior is the Vimalakirtinirdesasutra. The sutra offers an "excuse" so to speak, since it defends and explains layman Vimalakirti's actions rather than forwarding them as a legitimate alternative to orthodox practices of Buddhism. Nevertheless, the text, which had a considerable impact on Chinese Buddhism, has undoubtedly contributed to the formation of ritual antiritualism; at the very least, it has served as an authoritative justification of antinomian behavior in the face of adverse polemicists and critics. The mythic layman Vimalakirti is said to frequently visit brothels and wine shops. However, once inside, his behavior remains pure and unaffected by the abundant temptations of his surroundings. The sutra itself remains clear on Vimalakirti's exemplary conduct within the loci of defilement. His penetration of such sites and breaking of conventional taboos however, is performed for didactic purposes only. We are told that "to demonstrate the evils of desire, he even entered the brothels. To establish drunkards in correct mindfulness, he entered all the cabarets […] He was honored as a eunuch in the royal harem because he taught the young ladies according to the Dharma" (Thurman 20-21). Even if he were to sleep with the prostitutes and drink wine, Vimalakirti would insistently remain pure for his actions and teachings are based on the non-duality (and thus inherent purity-or simultaneous defilement) of all things.
Vimalakirti's boundary-crossing is thus a skilful means of sorts, by which, he follows the ways of the heterodox without ever becoming heterodox. By extrapolating from this basic theme of "good intentions" and superimposing it on transgressive actions, all transgressions can be conceived of as skilful means. Kieschnick describes many examples from the Liang Biographies in which renegade monks mimicked Vimalakirti's approach to teaching the Dharma (55). From the scruffy Shaoshuo and incoherent Tante, to the notoriously promiscuous Nantuo, the didactic message of the Vimalakirtinirdesasutra was easily recognizable in many accounts of antinomian behaviour. Wanting to execute Ikkyu for his profoundly amoral nature, a samurai scolds the bawdy monk: "You, who are in a position to be looked upon as a living Buddha, drink sake, eat meat, kill animals, go to the gay quarters, fool around with small boys, commit swindling, and compose poems like indecent pictures." Ikkyu promptly retorts: "Why is it bad to go and teach dissolute men and harlots that they can attain enlightenment if only their attitude of mind is good? I like harlots better than a samurai like you who is severe to others" (Hirano n.d.: 35-36, in Faure 114). Kieschnick relates another anecdote that illustrates the transgressive permissibility of skilful means:
Among the people of the Yi Prefecture the story goes,
there was a custom of climbing the nearby Qingcheng
Mountain each year on the third day of the third month
for a lavish picnic of meat and wine. Acarya Xiang
repeatedly urged the people to stop this practice, but
they ignored him. One year the monk went along with
the people, eating and drinking with the rest of them.
In the midst of the saturnalia, he stood up, saying,
"I'm really drunk, and stuffed too! Somebody help me
over to a ditch I can throw up." When he opened his
mouth to vomit, " so the chicken meat that emerged
cried out and flew off. The mutton that came out
galloped away. Wine and food came out chaotically
until it just about filled the ditch to the top with
fish and ducks swimming about in profusion. All of the
people sighed and vowed to abandon their practice of
killing animals" (Xu gaosheng zhuan (The Further
Biographies of Eminent Monks) 20B. 2 (657a), in
In this case however, the transgressor actively breaks the rules rather than simply violating a geographic taboo as Vimalakirti does. The transgression is comparatively greater, but it maintains the same didactic purpose and remains grounded in the same doctrine of skilful means. The point conveyed is the same as that of the Vimalakirtinirdesasutra; there are no inherently "right" or "wrong" behaviors and thoughts.
It should be noted that the doctrine of upaya permeated the whole of East Asian Buddhism and was to reappear thematically in numerous sutras and writings. For example, the Hua-yen tradition's Gandavyuhasutra narratively embodies the doctrine of skilful means in the character of Vasumitra, the prostitute who in actuality, is an accomplished Bodhisattva. Instead of expounding the Dharma in traditional ways, Vasumitra employs a different technique: "Some, with only an embrace, obtain renunciation of passion and attain Bodhisattva meditation […] Some with only a kiss […]" (Paul 161).
The Western Paradise and the Nembutsu
Pure Land Buddhism, which was, and persists to be hugely influential in East Asia, assimilated upaya on a more implicitly doctrinal level, positioning itself as a sotereological skilful means for the most wretched, thick-headed and spiritually incapacitated dregs of society. The premise is quite simple: by reciting Amitabha's name (in the "Namo ami duo fo" or "Namu Amida Butsu" formulas) with sincere devotion and faith, lifetimes of karmic evil are dissolved and the devotee ascends to the Western Pure Land. In Shinran's Tannisho the fourteenth chapter explains Pure Land's approach to transgression:
Some people say that one should believe that
heavy evils of eight billion kalpas can be extinguished
in the single utterance of nembutsu [i.e. Amitabha's
name]. This view refers to an evil person, guilty
of ten vices and five transgressions, who has never
said the nembutsu in his lifetime but who for the first
time on his death-bed is told by a good teacher that
if he says the nembutsu once, he shall extinguish the
evils of eight billion kalpas […]. Is the single
utterance […] meant to show the relative weights of the
ten vices and five transgressions? If so, this has to
do the utility of nembutsu in extinguishing evil. This
is far from our understanding (from Unno 26).
Pure Land constitutes a break from rigorous and austere Buddhist practices with the promise of a pleasant rebirth on the basis of being a skilful means for people with a lesser capacity for understanding Buddhist doctrine and precepts. Some adepts however, used the teaching of the nembutsu as a license to subvert laws or commit "sins." Shi Xiongjun from Chengdu for example, was reputed for not keeping the precepts, stealing donation money, and caring only for wanton lawlessness. During the Dali period (766-779 CE) he expired and entered the netherworld:
When the king [of the netherworld] had
finished scolding and reprimanding him, Xiongjun was
led into hell. The monk protested, shouting out, "If
I enter hell then the sayings all the Buddha's of the
past, present, and future are a pack of lies. I once
read in the Contemplation Scripture [Guan wuliang
shou jing] that if he recites [the name of the Buddha]
ten times when on the verge of death [even if only
for the first time], the lowest class of the lowest
type of sentient beings who has committed the
five abominations will be born beyond [in the pure
land]. Although I have my faults, I haven't committed
the five abominations, and if you speak of reciting
the Buddha's name, I don't know how many times I've
done it! If the sayings of the Buddha's can be believed,
since I've died a sudden death, I ought to return."
[Soon thereafter] Xiongjun said to someone who was with
him, "If you see monks or laymen from the city, tell
them I've already been reborn in the West." When he
had finished speaking, he mounted a jewelled dai and
went directly to the Western [Paradise] (Song gaoseng
zhuan [The Song Biographies] 24.18 (865c), from
In the end, the licentious monk shows true devotion in Buddha and a genuine faith in the nembutsu's power; as a result, he ascends to the Western Paradise. According to Pure Land rhetoric, those who justify their evil actions by borrowing the nembutsu have no faith in it by definition, hence their rebirth in one of the lower realms is inevitable.
Disclaimer: Hyphenated Skilful Means
Whether the sect concerned is Hua-yen, Pure Land, Chan or even Tien Tai, within the context of upaya, transgresive acts are permissible and are often regarded the hallmark of an enlightened teacher. This partly derives from the notion of Two Truths (another pervasive concept in East Asian Buddhism), in the sense that in order to break down conventions for the didactic purposes, the teacher must fully understand both what conventional knowledge he is debunking and the higher, "ultimate" knowledge he is using to do so. In other words, a monk cannot simply drink wine or eat meat claiming that he wants to enlighten those around him. This would in effect abate occurrences of using skilful means as a justification for licentiousness, which apparently was a common practice in monastic circles . Even monks were critical of such behavior, as demonstrated by Song Dynasty Chan master Puan's comments: "And today there is an empty-minded Zen school, people who, without having the proper awakening, explain that to drink wine, eat meat, or commit adultery is no obstacle for the enlightened nature" (Schwaller, from Faure 1998; 153). There are thus conventional forms of transgression, which should be denied ideological importance or spiritual validity, and ultimate transgressions, which presuppose a higher level of consciousness and doctrinal mastery on the part of the transgressor. The latter variety, which has been the primary focus of this paper, mainly finds inspiration and justification, in the epistemological mechanics of the Two Truths, a doctrine which finds itself to be a conceptual successor to, and elaborated continuation of upaya.
C. Sacred Texts and Doctrines: Two Truths
The doctrine of upaya is built on the presupposition that while means to enlightenment are different, they remain essentially identical in epistemological worth. Whether it is through the rote memorization of scriptures, or the simple recitation of a mantra, all Buddhist practices, provided they are undertaken earnestly and with sincere intention, will lead to the same truth, the Ultimate Truth. However, the practices in and of themselves are often devised in terms of Conventional Truth. Ultimately, both Truths are indivisible, yet they are divided along the lines of dual and non-dual, non-empty and empty, being and non-being.
Samvrtisaya, the Conventional Truth is truth as believed in common parlance. Etymologically, samvrti refers to that which covers up the real nature of things and makes them appear otherwise. According to Murti, Candrakirti equates samvrti with avidya, the categorizing function of the mind, namely Reason (buddhi) (Murti 17). It is the Truth of conventional, phenomenal nature (samketa), in close conformity with linguistic conventions and conceptions. In transgressive discourse, Vinayic or other monastic regulations are often conceived of as forms of Conventional Truth. Even the Five precepts are devoid of any inherent reality since they are mere didactic devices. Transgression and antinomian behavior thus aligns itself on the side of Utlimate Truth. Transgression employs a heterodox stance to debunk the spiritually self-righteous claims of institutionalized Buddhism, and reveal their primordial emptiness and lack of meaning or substance as expressions of Conventional Truth.
Paramartha, the Ultimate Truth, is ineffable. As the purest manifestation of the Buddha's teaching, and in fact, of unadulterated reality, paramartha is the knowledge of the real without distortion. Categories of thought, such as orthodox or heterodox, and points of view warp the absolute Truth. These categorizations, which stem from Reason-and thus samvrti-coerce the mind into biased and dualistic thinking. Paramartha is beyond the scope of discursive thought or language; it is so intimate and integral that we cannot consciously know it. Hence the only way to grasp the Ultimate Truth is via negativa, through the distinctions and antagonistic rhetoric of Conventional Truth. In Buddhist terms, Conventional Truth is the means (upayabhuta) to the end (upeyabhuta) of Ultimate of Truth. Only by acknowledging and subsequently systematically subtracting the Conventional can a recognizable form of Ultimate Truth be reached. As Murti puts it, "In the order of our discovery, the removal of samvrti must precede our knowledge of the paramartha. […] it [samvrti] is the ladder or the jumping board which enables us to reach the objective.
Transgression is the tool of the Ultimate Truth which serves to negate Conventional Truth. Rajneesh draws out the mechanics of transgression, which he equates to madness in relation to the comparatively "truer" madness of the Conventional world:
Watch a madman, because a madman has fallen out of the
society. Society means the fixed world of roles, games.
A madman is mad because he has no fixed role now, he
has fallen out: he is the perfect drop-out. A sage is also
a drop-out in a different dimension. He is not mad; in
fact he is the only possibility of pure sanity. But the
whole world is mad, fixed-that's why a sage looks mad.
Watch a madman: That is the look which is needed
The madman's social transgression is therefore a representative form of the Ultimate Truth (a "pure sanity" as Rajneesh puts it) that enables one to break away form the "madness" of society and Conventional reality. This break away is performed by collapsing two seemingly distinct categories or opposed concepts, much like in the above-cited example. Rules and regulations along with their observance permit to determine what is orthodox and what is not, what is a true teaching and what is a false one, what is really Buddhist practice and what is heresy. These distinctions are based on Conventional dualisms. Transgression comes into the picture and negates the dualisms by paradoxically adopting a fundamentally ritualistic attitude to antinomianism. taking the position that heterodoxy is orthodoxy, false teachings are true, and heresy is Buddhist in the strictest of senses: in other words, transgression syntheses Ultimate (of which it is an expression) and Conventional Truths by including both categories into that of a higher, non-dual Ultimate Truth.
The Madhyamika school, founded in India by Nagarjuna (c.100-200BCE) and its treatises takes the Two Truths-paramarthasatya and samvrtisatya-as vital to their system. Nagarjuna himself believed that "Those that are unaware of the distinction between these two truths are incapable of grasping the deep significance [as opposed to the shallow significance] of the teaching of Buddha" (Mulamadhyamakakarikas XXIV, 9 from Murti 17). Both Truths were considered at opposite ends of the ontological spectrum, but Madhyamika came to regard them both as empty. As Chan remarks, "this opposition must be synthesized but the synthesis itself is a new extreme which has its own antithesis" (Chan 359). In the end, only the highest synthesis, the "True Middle," can be held as true. Hence, Madhyamika came to be known as the Middle Doctrine School (Chan 359-360). Nevertheless, the actual "True Middle" remains elusive as the dialectic between binary opposites and different variations of the Conventional-Ultimate cleavage are pushed back ad infinitum, without ever effectively solving the dualism. This fundamental oversight would conceivably warrant the introduction of a Third Truth, which will be discussed in detail shortly.
D. Conceptual Pitfalls: The Problem of Infinite Regress
The Mahayana doctrine of the Two Truths, along with the implicit use of upaya offer the most appropriate conceptual context in which Buddhist transgression can be understood and explained. However, placing transgression at the polarized extremity of a binary opposition might fail to offer a more profound introspection and deciphering of antinomian structures and functioning's. In fact, by opposing transgression to ultimately erroneous worldly conventions, we are actually conventionalizing it and defeating its purpose.
On the first level of the dichotomy, that which opposes Ultimate and Conventional, both terms of the relational complex are false. As mutually dependent, the Madhyamika would say that they lack an essential nature of their own. Conventional Truth is understood as Ultimate Truth and vice versa. Once the Ultimate, more specifically in this case transgression, has completed its purpose of rejecting Conventional Truth or rather collapsing the inherent distinction, it reveals itself to be a species of a non-dual Conventional Truth, now distinguished from a higher non-dual Ultimate Truth. The dichotomy repeats itself with transgression invariably incarnating the role of the higher Truth and subverting the contextual convention until a new level of dualistic dialectic is achieved. Even the higher non-dual Ultimate Truth is relegated to worldly convention by its polarization. The Er di chang offers the following passage on the repeated dichotomisation and infinite regress of Truths or realities:
[…] both duality and non-duality are worldly truth,
whereas neither-duality-nor-non-duality is the highest
truth. Previously, it has been explained that the
worldly and the absolute and the cycle of life-and-death
and Nirvana are two extremes and one-sided and
therefore constitute worldly truth, whereas
neither-the-worldly-nor-the-absolute and neither-
the-cycle-of-life-and-death-nor-Nirvana are the Middle
Path without duality and therefore constitute
the highest truth. But these two are also extremes.
Why? Duality is one-sided while non-duality is
central. But one-sidedness is an extreme and
centrality is also an extreme. One-sidedness and
centrality, after all, are two extremes. Being two
extremes, they are therefore called worldly truth.
Only neither-one-sidedness-nor-centrality can be
regarded as the Middle Path or the highest truth
(pt. 1, 45:90-91, from Chan 360).
The structure of this mechanism is strikingly similar to Hegel's dialectic and synthesis. As everything is gradually absorbed into the Absolute, every new synthesis is regarded as a higher interpretation of reality. Unfortunately, much like Hegel, the Er di chang fails to clearly elaborate on what "neither-one-sidedness-nor-centrality" is, and how it should be attained. Other Mahayana texts have avoided the problem by maintaining the fundamental ineffability and inconceivability of the truly Ultimate Truth. This, in turn would imply the dangerous notion that in order to reach it, a transcendence of the human condition, or of humanity in general would be necessary.
Misanthropic musings aside, Zhuang Zi's synthesis of opposites might provide a sliver of the reasoning required to solve the logical quagmire which presents itself. Although it lacks some conceptual depth, Zhuang Zi's approach avoids the epistemological negation of the Conventional and the subsequent negation in the Ultimate as a component of the Conventional, which in effect, reaffirms the Conventional which is eventually once again negated in a continued cycle of increasingly contradictory refutations. Zhuang Zi argues:
Everything has its "that," everything has its "this."
[…] Where there is recognition of right there
must be recognition of wrong; where there is
recognition of wrong there must be recognition
of right. Therefore the sage does not proceed in
this way, but illuminates all in the light of Heaven.
He too recognizes a "this," but a "this" which is
also a "that," a "that" which is also a "this." His
"that" has both a right and a wrong in it; his "this"
too has both a right and a wrong in it. So, in fact,
does he still have a "this" and a "that"? Or does he
in fact no longer have a "this" and a "that"? A
state in which "this" and "that" no longer find
their opposites is called the hinge of the Way.
When the hinge is fitted into the socket, it can
Its right then is a single endlessness and its wrong
too is a single endlessness. […]So the sage harmonizes
with both right and wrong and rests in Heaven the
Equalizer. This is called walking two roads (Chuang
Tzu 2: 34-36) .
In a commentary on the same passage, Chan explains that not only are things relative, but they are also identical, for opposites produce each other, imply each other, are identical with each other, and are both finite series (Chan 183). Nevertheless, the opposition is maintained. Despite their sameness, there is still a "this" and a "that." Their confusion and coming together occurs at a common point of mediation, a point that consequently reverberates and rediffuses the unity onto the polarized extremes. In other words, by uniting in one point of mediation, the Ultimate is achieved and cloaks or permeates dualisms, yet the dualisms and thus the distinction between Ultimate and Conventional, remain intact.
Before any further comments on the subject are made, one should realize that any scholarship on notions of Ultimate or Absolute Truth is itself restricted to Conventional understandings of the terms. The very fact that they can fit into structured relations or equations, and that they are expressed through language conventionalizes them. Any discussion on the matter, including the present work, is an exercise to better understand the Ultimate Truth (and the Two Truths) on a Conventional level. Ultimately, the dualism does not even exist and it need not be reconciled. However, within the restraints of Conventional discursive logic, the chasm between Ultimate and Conventional can be bridged through a Third Truth, that of transgression.
IV. The Third Truth: from Transgression to Transcendence
"Putting his insensibility into practice, he had cut off the kitten's head and had thus cut off all contradiction, opposition and discord between self and others: this was known as the Murdering Sword."
-Mizoguchi in Yukio Mishima's The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
A. Zhi Yi's Threefold Truth
Transgression, in its Sino-Japanese Buddhist context, is a not at all that subversive than originally expected. Even transgression abides by certain rules and hierarchical structures which it rhetorically condemns. Many scholars have used the Two Truths and the accompanying doctrine of skilful means to explain transgression's workings in the context of Sino-Japanese Buddhism. In this framework transgression is opposed to Conventional Truth as an expression of Ultimate Truth. However, transgression employs similar structures as those of the norms it contests, hence, transgression contains elements of both the Ultimate and Conventional Truths. Furthermore, placing transgression at one end of the dualism will provide the basis for further and endless dualisms such as that between dual and non-dual. The existence of a Middle Truth, which mediates between both polarized Truths and coincides with the epistemological positioning of transgression, offers the possibility of resolving the paradox of infinite regration and transcending dualisms.
As mentioned above, Zhuang Zi has provided some insight as to how to reconcile dichotomous entities without necessarily negating their distinction. Zhi Yi's doctrine of Threefold Truth is more specific with regard to the problem at hand. Gadjin Nagao holds that the Two Truths must be logically distinct and completely other from one another: "To confuse the two truths, is to render both emptiness and dependent co-arising obscure and opaque, and leads either to a theory of nothingness or to a theory of essential being" (Nagao 141). The Two Truths cannot be melded together or encompassed under the heading of a non-dual Ultimate Truth without provoking serious problematic idiosyncrasies. However, by maintaining dyadic opposites separate, we inevitably resort to dual, and thus Conventional, reasoning. The solution lies in the Middle Truth, also known as the Third Truth.
Zhi Yi's Third Truth is the Middle integrated identity of the provisional conventional truth of existence, and the ultimate truth of emptiness. This "correct" Buddhist understanding is differentiated from the substantialist and false dichotomy between the conventional belief in a substantial existence (Being) and an ultimate nihilistic nothingness (Non-Being). Zhi Yi argues that the Two Truths and their binary opposition are not to be transcended in order to attain a "separate" reality in Buddhahood distinct form the dual and phenomenal one. Rather, all of reality and the Two Truths are an integrated single reality which is perfectly understood and perceived only by a Buddha (Swanson 144). The Third Truth is that which represents this integrated single reality and simultaneously maintains distinctions between all of its components. Zhi Yi argues that reality should be posited as the "Middle" or the Third, meditative Truth. The Middle's insight is one that goes beyond the apparently dualistic aspects of Ultimate and Conventional while remaining rooted in them and describing its existence via negativa according to them. In this sense, the Middle is much like transgression. Being and emptiness, with outflows and without outflows, or the Conventional and Ultimate Truths are all incorporated in the "Middle of the Middle Path" (Swanson 149).
Using Zhi Yi's model as a framework, transgression would occupy the position of the Middle. It cannot be placed at either pole of the Ultimate-Conventional dichotomy for the simple reason that it contains elements of both. As discussed earlier, transgression is defined by certain paradigmatic norms while subverting the existing orthodoxy on behalf of the Ultimate. Hence, transgression is the mediative midpoint between for instance, norms and an absence of norms. Heterodoxy is the mediative midpoint between orthodoxy and an absence of doxa (literally opinion, or position). The absent side of the spectrum remains abstract and hard to conceive for the simple reason that it is absent by definition and ineffable, known only through its positive counterpart or its integrated hybrid (the Middle, transgression).
Transgression is thus the meditative point of intersection where both convention and the supramundane combine. Nevertheless, both categories are maintained intact for transgression is a midpoint and mediative position, thereby dependent on a dualism for its definition and existence. When describing the Threefold Truth, Zhi Yi refers to the Lotus Sutra quoting the phrase "neither alike nor different." He interprets "alike" to mean the Ultimate, and "different" to mean Conventional (Swanson 150). In its entirety, reconciling both terms yet containing them independently, the phrase is interpreted as referring to the Middle, or Third Truth. In his Fa hua hsuan I, Zhi Yi goes on to say that "This threefold Truth is perfectly integrated; one in three and three in one […], it is not only the Middle which completely includes the Buddha-Dharma, but also the real [Ultimate] and mundane [Conventional] truths" (705a5-7, from Swanson 152). Once one realizes that dualisms are collapsed at a point of mediation, the non-duality radiates and reverberates onto each component of the original distinction. Transgression thus transposes its reconciliation of binary opposites and retroactively imprints it onto the points it reconciles. Through heterodoxy for instance, the norm becomes de-normalized and the absence of norm is subject to normalization.
B. The Triad's Three-Hundred and Sixty degrees of Transcendence
The triadic relationship outlined above inevitably ends in the unity of all distinctions and an invariable monologism. Through the central midpoint of transgression, a reconciliation of opposites is extended to an infinite variety of epistemological disparities. An infinite number of autonomous linear oppositions diametrically pass through the same mediative point of transgression, which subsequently radiates unity onto both poles of every opposition. This relationship can be superimposed onto the model of a circle, whose central point is transgression. The circle is composed of an infinite number of diameters, all of which are defined by two opposing points. Both points are symmetrically equidistant from the mediative third point, namely the transgressive center. Furthermore the infinite number of diameters all converge and pass through the same point, that of transgression. Transgression is thus the one single point that irrefutably defines, shapes and forms all circles, regardless of their radius. No circle can exist without a center, but conversely any infinite number of circles exists by virtue of one single center.
The emphasis therefore lies on the unitive principle of transgression, the "One Truth" so to speak as the focal point of all truths. This is easy to conceptualize since transgression, as it has been demonstrated throughout the paper, simultaneously subverts and reproduces aspects of opposite terms or entities. Transgression is unitive and divisive, hence collapsing the distinction between another set of polarized terms (unity and division). Zhi Yi illustrates the foundational importance of One Truth by quoting the metaphor of the drunken man in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, who perceived many suns "spinning around." A sober, clear-headed person correctly perceives that there is only one sun, one reality, and that any variation of this is a direct result of a deluded state. As Swanson remarks, "A deluded person thus has mistaken perceptions of the way things are, but an enlightened person perceives reality as it is […]. Reality is best described as 'one,' integrated, and interpenetrating […] (Swanson 154). Swanson summarizes the Third Truth in such a way that it can be directly applied to the mechanism of transgression:
The Threefold Truth […] succeeded in transcending this
false dichotomy [between the Two Truths]. It pointed to
a Middle Path beyond the contrasting ontological standpoints
of eternalism (Being) and annihilationism (nothingness) and
beyond practical extremes of hedonism and asceticism, to a
synthesis and harmonious tension of emptiness and conventional
existence, of the sacred and profane, of this world and that
world, of affirmation and negation, of nirvana and samsara,
of enlightenment and ignorance (155-156).
For further purposes of illustration, The Structural Study of Myth, might help in clarifying the conceptual framework in which transgression is enmeshed. Lévi-Strauss defines the trickster, an eminently transgressive figure, as a unitive mediator between opposed terms. His function is to progress from the awareness of oppositions toward their resolution. In his own words, "two opposite terms with no intermediary [Conventional and Ultimate for example] always tend to be replaced by two equivalent terms [black and white for example] which admit a third one [gray] as a mediator" (224). The mediative trickster, or transgression more generally, both aim at collapsing dualities and superimposing an ontological and simultaneously transcendental unity. As such, transgression must retain elements of both polarized terms, constituting an apparent paradox, which was earlier referred to as the "enigma" of transgression: "since his [the trickster's] mediative function occupies a position halfway between two polar terms, he must retain something of that duality-namely an ambiguous and equivocal character" (Lévi-Strauss 226). The result is the transcendence of erroneous categories, unities, and realities. However, much like Hegel's famous operation of Aufhebung, a concept or event transcended by its transgression remains preserved within the transgression.
"Perhaps in a the movement which carries it to a total night, the experience of transgression brings to light this relationship of finitude to being, this moment of the limit which anthropological thought, since Kant, could only designate from the distance and from the exterior through the language of dialectics.'
At first glance, Buddhist transgression seems like an iconoclastic subversion of norms and rules. Upon closer inspection however, the transgressive phenomenon reveals itself to be quite more complex: antinomianism in fact also reaffirms the norms it subverts. Much of transgression's reaffirmative features stem from the manner in which it negates consensual and mainstream values in the first place. Transgression is inscribed within a highly ritualised form and becomes an orthodoxy itself. Examples such as Daoji or Ikkyu demonstrate that the ritual antiritualism of transgression generates certain types of behaviour, a "blueprint for transgression" which is reproduced in various figures including the "ascetic among ascetics" and the trickster, or more generally entire traditions, namely Chan Buddhism. Skilful means and the doctrine of Two Truths, as they appear in numerous sutra texts or vernacular sources, form the conceptual basis for the tradition of transgression. In short, they provide the theory to spiritually or doctrinally legitimise and back up the practice of antinomianism. However, in light of transgression's simultaneously normative and subversive identity, it proves problematic to place it at any end of a binary opposition-between Ultimate and Conventional for instance-as it is usually done. Furthermore, dualistic categorizations ensue an ad infinitum recurrence of antagonistic diptychs without ever solving the opposition. Since it contains elements of both ends of any opposition, reaffirming and subverting both poles, transgression is more comfortably construed as a mediative factor. Indeed, by virtue of its ambiguous and simultaneously dual identity, it provides a middle ground where both components of cleavage are reconciled and united. From the mediative and unitive center point, transgression extends outward to incorporate Ultimate and Conventional, heterodox and orthodox, marginal and mainstream, bad and good into one conceptual entity, one Truth in Buddhist terms. As Biyan Lu observes, "If you want the marvelous, then look at the cloudy skies; above, you do not see that there is any Buddha; and below you do not see that there are any sentient beings" (from Faure 1991, 96).
Arntzen, Sonja. Ikkyu and the Crazy Cloud Anthology: A Zen Poet of
Medieval Japan. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1986.
Bantly, Francisca Cho. "Buddhist Allegory in the Journey to the
West," in Journal of Asian Studies. 48. 3 (pp. 512-524), 1989.
Berling, Judith. "Bringing the Buddha Down to Earth: Notes on the
Emergence of Yu-lu as a Buddhist Genre," in History of
Religions. 27. 1 (pp. 56-88), 1987.
Chan, Wing-Tsit. A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1963.
DeBernardi, Jean. "The God of War and the Vagabond Buddha,"
in Modern China. 13. 3 (July 1987): 210-332.
Faure, Bernard. The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique
of Chan/Zen Buddhism. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.
Faure, Bernard. The Red Tread: Buddhist Approaches to
Sexuality. Princeton NJ: Princeton university Press, 1998.
Feuerstein, Georg. Holy Madness: The Shock Tactics and
Radical Teachings of Crazy-Wise Adepts, Holy Fools, and Rascal Gurus. New York NY: Paragon House, 1991.
Gaignebet, Claude and Marie-Claude Florentin. Le Carnaval. Paris:
Editions Pavot, 1987.
Holt, John Clifford. Discipline: The Canonical Buddhism of the
Vinayapitaka. Delhi: Motital Banarsidass (pp. 1-16), 1981.
Kieschnick, John. The Eminent Monk: Buddhist Ideals in Medieval
Chinese Hagiography. Honolulu HI: University of Hawaii Press,
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Structural Anthropology, trans. Claire
Jacobson and Brooke Grundfest Schoepf. New York NY: Basic
Murti, T. R. v. "Samvrti and Paramartha in Madhyamika and Advaita
Vedanta," in Mervyn Sprung ed. The Problem of Two Truths in
Buddhism and Vedanta. Boston MA: D. Reidel Publishing
Nagao, Gadjin, trans. John P. Keenan. The Foundational Standpoint
of Madhyamika Philosophy. Albany NY: State University of New
York Press, 1989.
Paul, Diana M. Women in Buddhism: Images of the Feminine in
Mahayana Tradition. Berkeley CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1979.
Rajneesh, Bhagwan. Dimensions Beyond the Known. Los Angeles CA:
Wisdom Garden, 1975.
Sanford, James H. Zen-Man Ikkyu. Chico CA: Scholars Press, 1981.
Shahar, Meir. "The Lingyin Si Monkey Disciples and the Origins of
Sun Wukong," in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. 52 (pp.
Shahar, Meir and Robert P. Weller. Unruly Gods: Divinity and
Society in China. Honolulu HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1996.
Shahar, Meir. Crazi Ji: Chinese Religion and Popular Literature.
Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press,1998.
Swanson, Paul L. Foundations of T'ien-T'ai Philosophy: The
Flowering Of Two Truths Theory In Chinese Buddhism. Berkeley CA: Asian Humanities Press,1989.
Thurman, Robert A. F. trans. The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: A
Mahayana Scripture. University Park PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976.
Unno Taitetsu trans. Tannisho: A Shin Buddhist Classic. Honolulu
HI: Buddhist Study Center Press, 1984.
Valantasis, Richard. "A Theory of the Social Function of
Asceticism," in Vincent L. Wimbush and Richard Valantasis eds. Asceticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press (pp. 544-552), 1995.
Watson Burton trans. Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings. New York NY:
Columbia University Press, 1964.
Weber, Max. The Sociology of Religion, trans. Ephraim Fishcoff.
Boston MA: Beacon Press 1963.
Williams, Paul. Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. New
York NY: Routledge, 1989.
Yu, Anthony trans. The Journey to the West. New York NY:
Zhou, Zuyan. "Carnivalisation in The Journey to the West: Cultural
dialogism in Fictional Festivity," in Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews. 16 (pp. 69-92), 1994.
 See Jack Kornfield, “Sex and the Lives of Gurus,’ in Yoga Journal, 1985 for thirty-four case studies of promiscuous Buddhist, Jain and Hindu North American teachers. On a similar theme, see Katy Butler, “Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America,” in Common Boundary (May-June) 1990: pp. 14-22.
 Tantric Tibetan Buddhism offers a parallel justification for killing, lying, stealing, adultery, drinking wine, and loving women of low caste in the Vimalaprabhatantra. Michael M. Broido in “Killing, Lying, Stealing, and Adultery: A Problem of Interpretation in the Tantras,” from Buddhist Hermeneutics, Donald S. Lopez, Jr. ed. Honolulu HI: University of Hawaii Press (pp. 71-118), 1988, explains that each activity is attributed two interpretations: one neyartha and one nitartha. The latter interpretation leaves room for a higher and spiritually purer impetus to inform the action, hence rendering the originally negative action a positive one.
 In terms of the diversification in form, Jigong’s cult expanded from a devotional cult of the historical figure in Zhejiang, to cults emphasising Jigong’s (often embellished or fictional) roles in spirit-possession, spirit-writing, sectarian movements and popular religious-based uprisings.
 Durkeim’s structural-functional paradigm asserts that deviance, aside from clarifying moral boundaries and promoting social unity, affirms cultural (and thus social and religious) values and norms. In short, any conception of virtue rests upon an opposing conception of vice.
 In fact, some practitioners of extreme asceticism such as Sengshan, who died after complications caused by a diet of pebbles and stones, were known to succumb to the dangers of their convictions.
 On the trickster, see Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in North American Mythology. New York NY: Greenwood Press, 1969; MacLinsott Ricketts, “The North American Trickster,” in History of Religions 5 (pp. 327-350) 1965; and Robert D. Pelton, The Trickster in West Africa: A Study of Mythic Irony and Sacred Delight. Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 1980.
 In Meir Shahar’s and Robert P. Weller’s compilation Unruly Gods: Divinity and Society in China. Honolulu HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1996, a few of these figures and others are explored in the context of their relationship to Chinese society, popular religion and cults, vernacular fiction, and the imperial bureaucracy
 For complete studies on the subject, see Francisca Cho Bantly, “Buddhist Allegory in Xi You Ji,” in Journal of Asian Studies. 48.3 (1989): 512-524, Uchida Michio, “Saiyuki no seiritsu ni tsuite” [On the establishment of the Xi You Ji], in Bunka 27.1 (1963) 23-46, and Anthony C. Yu, “Religion and literature in China: The‘Obscure Way’ of the Xi You Ji,” in Tradition and Creativity: Essays on East Asian Civilisation, Ching I Tu, ed. New Brunswick NJ: University Publications, 1987.
 See Judith Berling. “Bringing the Buddha Down to Earth: Notes on the Emergence of Yu-lu as a Buddhist Genre,” in History of Religions. 27. 1 (pp. 56-88), 1987, for a discussion on how antinormative and anti establishmentarian popular works can be accepted as a defining component of the very ideology they subvert.
 For a complete rendition of Sun Wukong’s Lingyin Si mythological origins, see Meir Shahar. “The Lingyin Si Monkey Disciples and the Origins of Sun Wukong,” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. 52 (pp.193-224), 1992.
 Other Ming novels including the Shui Hu Chuan (Outlaws of the Marsh), the Jing Ping Mei (Golden Lotus), and the Hong Lou Meng (Dream of the Red Chamber) typically depict Buddhist figures as rogue iconoclasts who often exhibit Daoist inclinations for occult magic, mystical/shamanistic properties, and an insatiable appetite for food (including meat), wine, and women. Although pursuing this line of inquiry is outside the scope of this paper, it should be interesting to note a possible pattern in terms of popular literary depictions of institutionalised religion, or more generally, popular culture in opposition to official (and thus monastic Buddhist) culture.
 See James C. Dobbins. Jodo Shinshu: Shin Buddhism in Medieval Japan. Indianapolis ID: Indiana University Press, 1989, for an in depth analysis of Shinran’s rebutle on the subject of the nembutsu as a llicense to evil.
 Zhuang Zi’s dream of the butterfly, in which he concludes he cannot distinguish whether he is a man dreaming he is a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he is a man, offers a similar premise. It is a concrete example of a "this" and a "that" which are opposites and indistinguishable identities. The butterfly dream is further interesting because it introduces the problematic notion of self-reflection.
Dominic received his degree from McGill University and is currently working on his Master's degree at Harvard University in Regional Studies: East Asia. He has lectured at McGill University and has received many academic awards and scholarships. More importantly, he has trained in Shaolin gong fu for many years. As you can tell, he's smarter than the average bear. Why he hangs out with me is just one of those vague mysteries of life. doc