The Buddha as Spiritual Sovereign: Narrative Figurations of Knowledge and Power

Narrative Visions and Visual Narratives in Indian Buddhism - Naomi Appleton

David Fiordalis [+-]
Linfield College, Oregon
David Fiordalis is Associate Professor in Religious Studies at Linfield College, Oregon. His work explores Indian Buddhism from primarily a textual perspective, but seeks to offer a multidisciplinary perspective on religion, employing materials drawn from both contemporary and ancient times, ethnography and archeology, art history and new media, institutional and intellectual history, comparative literature, philosophy, and critical theory. At present, he is weaving some of these various interests into a book on Buddhist miracle traditions, building on many existing publications on Buddhist narrative traditions including the Avadānaśataka.


Do narratives make arguments? We may respond intuitively that they do. What else do we call the moral of the story? Yet, scholars have also pointed out some basic differences between narratives and arguments. Narratives create storyworlds complete with characters performing actions and experiencing events in worlds of spatial and temporal extension; arguments give series of inter-related propositions. The differences suggest that, while narratives may make arguments, they do so differently from systematic forms of discourse. How then do narratives make arguments? This chapter will explore this broader question by looking more specifically at how certain Buddhist narratives enact the Buddha as a “spiritual sovereign,” a figure of extraordinary knowledge and power. It will argue that narrative figuration and metaphor – the way narratives create figurative representations and use visual imagery – play active roles in this process. In this way, not only can we understand better how narratives make arguments, particularly in this case by giving concrete shape to abstract conceptions of ideal beings and states of flourishing; we can also propose a stronger (and potentially more comprehensive) interpretation of certain historical developments in the Buddhist tradition, especially in regard to the relationship therein between the so-called “spiritual” and “temporal” domains.

Notify A Colleague


Fiordalis, David. The Buddha as Spiritual Sovereign: Narrative Figurations of Knowledge and Power. Narrative Visions and Visual Narratives in Indian Buddhism. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2021. ISBN 9780000000000. Date accessed: 20 Sep 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.39997. Oct 2021

Dublin Core Metadata