Beautiful Bodhisattvas: The Aesthetics of Spiritual Exemplarity

Contemporary Buddhism 18 (2):331-345 (2017)
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The world’s spiritual traditions incorporate a variety of types of exemplar, persons who exemplify a life of aspiration to, or attainment of, spiritual goods. Within Buddhism, the range of exemplars includes monastics, boddhisattvas, the Zen masters, and the Buddha himself. Spiritual exemplars are typically described as having a distinctive form of bodily beauty, closely related to their ethical and spiritual qualities, that manifests as a form of radiance, luminosity, or charisma. Drawing on recent work on beauty, virtue, and the body in the Buddhist tradition, I propose an aesthetics of spiritual exemplarity, arguing that certain spiritual traditions – including Buddhism – are kaligenic, able to generate new forms or experiences of embodied moral beauty.
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Beauty.Kirwan, James

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