Both Like and Unlike: Rebirth, Olfaction, and the Transspecies Imagination in Modern Chinese Buddhism

Lina Verchery
2019 Religions  
This essay considers the importance of the transspecies imagination for moral cultivation in contemporary Chinese Buddhism. Drawing on scriptural, theoretical, and fieldwork-based ethnographic data, it argues that olfaction—often considered the most "animalistic" of the human senses—is uniquely efficacious for inspiring imaginative processes whereby Buddhists train themselves to inhabit the perspectives of non-human beings. In light of Buddhist theories of rebirth, this means extending
more » ... extending human-like status to animals and recognizing the "animal" within the human as well. Responding to recent trends in the Humanities calling for an expanded notion of ontological continuity between the human and non-human—notably inspired by critical animal studies, post-humanism, the new materialism, and the "ontological turn"—this essay contends that Buddhist cosmological ideas, like those that demand the cultivation of the transspecies imagination, present resources for moral reflection that can challenge and enrich current mainstream thinking about humanity's relation to the nonhuman world.
doi:10.3390/rel10060364 fatcat:db4c77fptnctrb5medqeqlccha