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  • * Institute for Popular Chinese Culture Studies, Wuhou District, P. R. China
  • ** Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
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This paper explores topics and techniques of prognostication as recorded in medieval Buddhist historical literature, with an emphasis on the Gāosēng zhuàn 高僧傳 (GSZ) and Xù gāosēng zhuàn 續高僧傳 (XGSZ). The paper first provides a short survey of how prognostication is treated in Chinese Buddhist translated texts. In these ‘canonical’ sources there is clear ambiguity over the use of supernatural powers: on the one hand, such practices are criticised as non-Buddhist or even heterodox; on the other, narratives on Śākyamuni’s former and present lives as well as accounts of other buddhas, bodhisattvas, and the Buddha’s disciples abound with descriptions of their special abilities, including knowledge of the future. In contrast, the GSZ and XGSZ display a clear standpoint concerning mantic practices and include them as integral aspects of monastics’ lives. The two texts articulate that the ability to predict the future and other supernatural powers are natural by-products of spiritual progress in the Buddhist context. This paper discusses the incorporation of various aspects of the Indian and Chinese traditions in monastics’ biographies, and investigates the inclusion of revelations of future events (for example, in dreams) and mantic techniques in these texts. In addition, it traces parallels to developments in non-Buddhist literature and outlines some significant differences between the GSZ and the XGSZ.

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      Birtalan, Ágnes
      Fodor, Pál
      Fragner, Bert
      Golden, Peter B.
      Hamar, Imre
      Szombathy, Zoltán
      Vásáry, István
      Wojtilla, Gyula
      Yoshida, Yutaka
      Zieme, Peter

Dr. Gábor Kósa
Editor-in-Chief
Institute of East Asian Studies
Eötvös Loránd University
Múzeum krt. 4/F
H-1088 Budapest, Hungary