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Transmission, Translation, and Transformation

edited by Nalini Bhushan, Jay L. Garfield, and Abraham Zablocki

Publication Year: 2009

The global spread of Buddhism is giving rise to new forms of religious complexity, both in the West and in Asia. This collection of essays examines the religious and cultural conversations that are occurring in this process from a diverse range of disciplinary, methodological, and literary perspectives, including philosophy, ethnography, history, and cultural studies. The chapters in the first section explore the transmission of Buddhism to the West, ranging from the writings of one of its earliest western interpreters, the Wesleyan missionary R. Spence Hardy, to the globalization of Tibetan Buddhist reincarnation, to the development and practice of Buddhism within the American prison system. The concluding chapter of this section presents a case study of a Japanese Buddhist temple in Oregon that ultimately died out—an example of a transmission that failed. The second section looks at the complex issues that arise in the translation of Buddhist terms, texts, and concepts from one language or cultural milieu to another. Two chapters examine the challenges confronted by those who translate Buddhist texts—one exploring the contemporary translation of Tibetan Buddhism, the second analyzing an exchange of poetry in medieval Japan. The other two chapters describe the translation of Buddhist ideas into new cultural domains in America, specifically film and sports. The final section presents case studies in the transformation of Buddhism which is resulting from its new global interconnections. Topics include the role of women in transforming Buddhist patriarchy, Buddhist-Freudian dialogue in relationship to mourning, and the interplay between Buddhism and the environmental movement. The book also includes images created by the noted artist Meridel Rubenstein which frame the individual chapters within a nonverbal exploration of the themes discussed. In addition to the editors, contributors include Mark Blum, Mario D’Amato, Sue Darlington, Elizabeth Eastman, Connie Kassor, Tom Rohlich, Judith Snodgrass, Jane Stangl, and Karma Lekshe Tsomo.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Series: Juniper Prize for Poetry

Title Page

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pp. iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv


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pp. v

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix

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Introduction - TransBuddhism: Authenticity in the Context of Transformation

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pp. 1-17

Buddhism is booming. In Western Eu rope, Australasia, and North America, Buddhism has attracted new converts not only in metropoles such as New York, San Francisco, London, and Paris but also in places such as Kansas and Ireland. In the former Soviet bloc, Buddhism has established a loyal following of new converts, while it is also undergoing a resurgence...

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Part I: Transmission

The challenge of preserving the intact, pure transmission of authority, lineage, and insight has preoccupied practitioners throughout Buddhist history. Buddhist institutional structure is intended to ensure that Buddhist teachers derive their authority from the validation of their own masters to reinforce existing practices...

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Chapter 1 - Discourse, Authority, Demand: The Politics of Early English Publications on Buddhism

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pp. 21-42

A defining featur e of Buddhism in its modern Asian and Western transformations—indeed, its very name—is the centrality of the Buddha Sakyamuni and the assumption that he was the found er of the religion. Many of the key features of transnational, translated modern Buddhisms depend on it...

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Chapter 2 - Transnational Tulkus: The Globalization of Tibetan Buddhist Reincarnation

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pp. 43-54

Tibetans and their culture often seem to inspire fascination in their Others. Monks are used in advertising to signify otherworldliness, purity, or the simple life. Religious rituals are transformed into museum installations and concert recitals. Tibetan- inspired material culture is used to express certain kinds of subject positions...

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Chapter 3 - Buddhism in American Prisons

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pp. 55-68

The rapidly growing interest in Buddhism in the West has led to the emergence of Buddhist practices among diverse communities. 1 Notably, one community in which Buddhist practice is beginning to take root is the American prison system. An increasing number of inmates are working to overcome their often violent...

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Chapter 4 - Incense at a Funeral: The Rise and Fall of an American Shingon Temple

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pp. 69-86

One of my earliest memories is of wandering the twisting paths in the overgrown garden behind my Watanabe great-grandparents’ house.1 I would meander over the fish pond’s stone bridge, peering down through the tangle of weeds to catch a glimpse of fi sh darting in and out among the shadows...

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Part II: Translation

Translation has always been (deliberately) integral to the transmission of Buddhism and (inadvertently) integral to its transformation. The initial codification of the canon in Pāli at the First Council probably already represented a translation of the Buddha’s talks from one or more vernacular languages to a common tongue...

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Chapter 5 - Translation as Transmission and Transformation

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pp. 89-104

This is not a general chapter on the craft and institution of translation, though some of the claims and arguments I proffer here might generalize. I am concerned in particular with the activity of the translation of Asian Buddhist texts into English in the context of the current extensive transmission of Buddhism...

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Chapter 6 - Two Monks and the Mountain Village Ideal

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pp. 105-118

At some point in the middle of the twelfth century, two monks in Japan exchanged a series of ten poems each, matching one for one. Here is the first of the ten exchanges, as recorded in the personal poetry collection (Sankashū) of Saigyō, one of the poets (Gotō 1982, 342– 46)...

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Chapter 7 - Text, Tradition, Transformation, and Transmission in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

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pp. 119-134

One of the way s in which Buddhism enters the cultural imagination of the West is through film. Th is chapter addresses the imagination of Buddhism in the film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jarmusch 1999). I am interested both in how Buddhism has been imagined to play a role in the self-understanding...

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Chapter 8 - Eastern Influences on Western Sport: Appropriating Buddhism in the G/Name of Golf

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pp. 135-148

In the cult golf film Caddyshack (dir. Harold Ramis 1980), Bill Murray, playing the well- seasoned groundskeeper of Bushwood Country Club, recounts to a wide-eyed young caddy a story of Tibet and his experience caddying for the Dalai Lama. He tells the strapping youngster, while holding a pitchfork...

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Part III Transformation

Cultural encounters at their most productive spawn new interpretations, re-weightings, and novel alignments between ideas new and old. The transmission and translation of historically Buddhist ideas and practices into the North American and more broadly global context has produced just such a transformation of Buddhism in our time...

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Chapter 9 - Global Exchange: Women in the Transmission and Transformation of Buddhism

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pp. 151-166

Despite its aspirations to facilitate liberation and enlightenment for all, and despite the fact that enlightenment has no gender, gender inequalities have existed in Buddhist institutions throughout their history and remain prevalent in Buddhist societies today. In all Buddhist cultures, women have historically devoted themselves...

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Chapter 10 - Toward an Anatomy of Mourning: Discipline, Devotion, and Liberation in a Freudian - Buddhist Framework

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pp. 167-182

Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917) articulates an influential and persuasive psychoanalytic model of mourning that renders comprehensible, rational, and indeed, gives shape, to one form of human suffering, that borne of tragic loss, the death of one’s beloved. Freud invites us to conceive...

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Chapter 11 - Translating Modernity: Buddhist Response to the Thai Environmental Crisis

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pp. 183-208

It is hard to breathe in Bangkok. Th e capital of Thailand is a sprawling and congested city with major air and water pollution. Energy demand is high, forcing a dependency on oil and natural gas and the development of resources such as hydroelectric power. Large-scale dams bring additional problems...

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Chapter 12 - The Transcendentalist Ghost in EcoBuddhism

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pp. 209-238

Within the worldwide ecology movement, the cause of environmentalism among countries with Buddhist populations, both East and West, is of high interest. In particular, the participation of the sangha in such activities, while certainly not traditional, nonetheless reflects a healthy activist stance toward societal problems...


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pp. 239-252

List of Contributors

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pp. 253-254

Note on the Images

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pp. 255-256


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pp. 257-262

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613760703
E-ISBN-10: 1613760701
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558497078
Print-ISBN-10: 1558497072

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 15 illus.
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Juniper Prize for Poetry

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Buddhism -- Social aspects.
  • Intercultural communication -- Religious aspects -- Buddhism.
  • Globalization -- Religious aspects -- Buddhism.
  • Buddhism and culture.
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