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From Innovation to Transformation: Asian Religious Practices in the Shadow of Media Change

Panel Chair: Madlen Krueger | Friday, August 28, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

The use of media has always been an important mechanism in religious communication. Specialized representatives of mankind, manuscripts, printed books to the point of the Internet, all these serve as media for religious messages and further shape the characteristics of religious practice. Therefore, media change has an impact on its connected religious practices. This panel aims to broaden the theoretical understanding of media and particularly concentrates on media change in past and present Asian religions. Case studies from South and East Asia show how transformations of various types of media cause innovations in religious practices and even alter self-perception of particular traditions. Furthermore, in the panel media changes are not seen as isolated events. Rather, they are referred to as social constraints, which induce media change in religious traditions. Finally, the purpose is to present media changes as a crucial part of the maintenance for religious tradition.

Ekaterina Shchus

“From Text to the Heart”: Debates on the Religious Media Change in 8th and 9th Century China

At the turn of the 8th and 9th centuries media change became a recent topic in intra- and inter-religious discussions in Tang China (618-907). Some Chan Buddhist traditions, Confucian scholars, as well as the newly introduced so called Esoteric Buddhism advocated oral transmission of the teaching from teacher to student over the written text. Furthermore, these religious discourses on media change became prominent in a very critical and rebellious period where not only the social structures but also the very establishment of the Tang state was briefly yet seriously frightened. This paper aims to investigate, firstly whether and how socio-historical constraints can trigger global intra- and inter-religious debates on media change? Secondly, how these reformative ideas on media change were realized in practice, and whether they contributed for maintenance of a particular religious tradition in a critical socio-historical situation.

Ann-Kathrin Wolf

From Venerated Manuscripts to Scientific Books. Media Change in 19th Century Sri Lanka

Through the centuries Sri Lankan Buddhist manuscripts played an important role for religious practice, especially for worship. Manuscripts were no bulk goods and held decorative illustrations as well as other merit-related written affirmations. However, in the foreshadow of the Christian-Buddhist debate at Pānadura (1873) Sri Lankan Buddhists have increasingly started to use printing for the spread of Buddhist texts. With the increase of available copies the notion and function of text and its content were then transformed. This paper investigates the impact of printing on the religious practice connected to Sri Lankan Buddhist manuscripts. The study focuses the conceptual reshaping of public and publication in relation to the functions of written communication for religious practice.

Madlen Krueger

The Effortless Salvation - Temple Practice in the 21th Century India

The Akshardham cultural complex in Delhi is one of the biggest temple complexes in India and was completed in 2005 by the BAPS Swaminarayan movement. The Akshardham temple complex is presented as a cultural and spiritual hub and authorized guardian of India´s cultural heritage. The temple complex offers a wide range of activities to pursue religious practices. In this regard, the life of Bhagawan Swaminirayan and India´s classical history can be experienced through visualization. Therefore, written texts of the founder are no longer the center of religious practice. Video shows, exhibitions accompanied with sound effect, music and light and boat rides through “India´s Glorious Heritage” form a crucial part of the religious practice performed in this temple. This paper highlights the impact of multimedia applications on religious practice and the utilization of media change in alignment with claims to be entertained.


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