In this paper I discuss the characteristics and meaning of the abbot's sermon in the Japanese Rinzai Zen tradition. Using ethnographic data, viewed in light of performance theory, I contend that it is possible to go beyond the boundaries that have characterized previous scholarly understandings of Zen ritual (action/insight, social/mental, and formalism/authenticity). Accordingly, I demonstrate that the sermon serves as an arena for social interaction, and enforces institutional order, but at the same time, it also serves as a transformative medium that changes the participant's state of being. Finally, I contend that performance theory articulates an inherent connection between realization and enactment, as well as awakening and its manifestation; thus, it has the potential to shed new light on our current understanding of Zen practice.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Religious studies