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The Healing Heart of Japanese Women’s Rituals
Healing lies at the heart of Zen in the home, as Paula Arai discovered in her pioneering research on the ritual lives of Zen Buddhist laywomen. She reveals a vital stream of religious practice that flourishes outside the bounds of formal institutions through sacred rites that women develop and transmit to one another. Everyday objects and common materials are used in inventive ways. For example, polishing cloths, vivified by prayer and mantra recitation, become potent tools. The creation of beauty through the arts of tea ceremony, calligraphy, poetry, and flower arrangement become rites of healing.
Bringing Zen Home brings a fresh perspective to Zen scholarship by uncovering a previously unrecognized but nonetheless vibrant strand of lay practice. The creativity of domestic Zen is evident in the ritual activities that women fashion, weaving tradition and innovation, to gain a sense of wholeness and balance in the midst of illness, loss, and anguish. Their rituals include chanting, ingesting elixirs and consecrated substances, and contemplative approaches that elevate cleaning, cooking, child-rearing, and caring for the sick and dying into spiritual disciplines. Creating beauty is central to domestic Zen and figures prominently in Arai’s analyses. She also discovers a novel application of the concept of Buddha nature as the women honor deceased loved ones as “personal Buddhas.”
One of the hallmarks of the study is its longitudinal nature, spanning fourteen years of fieldwork. Arai developed a “second-person,” or relational, approach to ethnographic research prompted by recent trends in psychobiology. This allowed her to cultivate relationships of trust and mutual vulnerability over many years to inquire into not only the practices but also their ongoing and changing roles. The women in her study entrusted her with their life stories, personal reflections, and religious insights, yielding an ethnography rich in descriptive and narrative detail as well as nuanced explorations of the experiential dimensions and effects of rituals.
In Bringing Zen Home, the first study of the ritual lives of Zen laywomen, Arai applies a cutting-edge ethnographic method to reveal a thriving domain of religious practice. Her work represents an important contribution on a number of fronts—to Zen studies, ritual studies, scholarship on women and religion, and the cross-cultural study of healing.
Nam Kun and Nam Ki Han, brothers born on a Wahiawa sugar plantation, could not have been more different. Pragmatic and stubborn, Nam Kun dutifully supported his family but refused to become “one Christian fanatic” like his widowed mother and youngest sibling, Nam Ki. When Nam Ki is drafted into the army at the start of the Korean War, he tells Nam Kun that as a Christian he cannot kill. “You gotta do it,” Nam Kun replies, thinking the war will make a man of this “mama’s boy.”
Nam Ki finds refuge from the chaos and brutality of life as a soldier in his love for a young Korean woman, a Christian. He returns after the war to search for her and discovers she has become a prostitute. With his sense of reality shattered, Nam Ki must choose between his faith and all that he has witnessed in war-torn Korea. Brothers under a Same Sky explores the social and psychological turmoil experienced by Korean Americans during and after the war but, more important, it examines the individual’s decision to keep—or betray—a fundamental belief in human goodness. Set amid the social and political disruptions and forced separations that have characterized the history of modern Korea, this is the story of a struggle toward healing, unity, and perhaps a reconciliation between love and hatred.
Gary Pak is professor of English at the University of Hawai`i. His books include Children of a Fireland, A Ricepaper Airplane, and The Watcher of Waipuna and Other Stories.
Gender, Power, and Buddhist Practice in Vietnam
The most common description of the supernatural landscape in Vietnam makes a distinction between Buddhist and non-Buddhist “sides.” The “Buddha side” (ben phat) is the focus of this investigation into the intersection of gender, power, and religious praxis. Employing an anthropological approach to Buddhist practice that takes into account modes of action that are not only socially constructed and contextual, but also negotiated by the actors, The Buddha Side uniquely explores how gender and age affect understandings of what it means to be a Buddhist.
In seeking to map out the ways and meanings of Buddhist engagement, Alexander Soucy examines everything from the skeptical statements of young men and devotional performances of young women to the pilgrimages of older women and performances of orthodoxy used by older men to assert their position within the pagoda space.
Soucy draws on more than four years’ experience conducting ethnographic research in Hanoi to investigate how religious practice is grounded in the constitution and marking of social identity. From this in-depth view, he describes the critical role of religion in shaping social contexts and inserting selves into them. Religion can thus be described as a form of theatre—one in which social identities (youth, old age, masculinity, femininity, authority) are constructed and displayed via religious practice.
A compelling look at the performative aspect of Buddhism in contemporary Vietnam, The Buddha Side will be welcomed by anyone with an interest in Buddhism as it is practiced on the ground.
Scripture, Ritual, and Iconographic Exchange in Medieval China
Christine Mollier reveals in this volume previously unexplored dimensions of the interaction between Buddhism and Taoism in medieval China. While scholars of Chinese religions have long recognized the mutual influences linking the two traditions, Mollier here brings to light their intense contest for hegemony in the domains of scripture and ritual. Drawing on a far-reaching investigation of canonical texts, together with manuscript sources from Dunhuang and the monastic libraries of Japan—many of them studied here for the first time—she demonstrates the competition and complementarity of the two great Chinese religions in their quest to address personal and collective fears of diverse ills, including sorcery, famine, and untimely death. In this context, Buddhist apocrypha and Taoist scriptures were composed through a process of mutual borrowing, yielding parallel texts, Mollier argues, that closely mirrored one another. Life-extending techniques, astrological observances, talismans, spells, and the use of effigies and icons to resolve the fundamental preoccupations of medieval society were similarly incorporated in both religions. In many cases, as a result, one and the same body of material can be found in both Buddhist and Taoist guises. Among the exorcistic, prophylactic, and therapeutic ritual methods explored here in detail are the "Heavenly Kitchens" that grant divine nutrition to their adepts, incantations that were promoted to counteract bewitchment, as well as talismans for attaining longevity and the protection of stellar deities. The destiny of the Jiuku Tianzun, the Taoist bodhisattva whose salvific mission and iconography were modeled on Guanyin (Avalokitesvara), is examined at length. Through the case-studies set forth here, the patterns whereby medieval Buddhists and Taoists each appropriated and transformed for their own use the rites and scriptures oftheir rivals are revealed with unprecedented precision. Buddhism and Taoism Face to Face is abundantly illustrated with drawings and diagrams from canonical and manuscript sources, together with art and artifacts photographed by the author in the course of her field research in China. Sophisticated in its analysis, broad in its synthesis of a variety of difficult material, and original in its interpretations, it will be required reading for those interested in East Asian religions and in the history of the medieval Chinese sciences, including astrology, medicine and divination.
Cambodian Monks under Pol Pot
This pioneering study of the fate of Buddhism during the communist period in Cambodia puts a human face on a dark period in Cambodia’s history. It is the first sustained analysis of the widely held assumption that the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot had a centralized plan to liquidate the entire monastic order. Based on a thorough analysis of interview transcripts and a large body of contemporary manuscript material, it offers a nuanced view that attempts to move beyond the horrific monastic death toll and fully evaluate the damage to the Buddhist sangha under Democratic Kampuchea.
Compelling evidence exists to suggest that Khmer Rouge leaders were determined to hunt down senior members of the pre-1975 ecclesiastical hierarchy, but other factors also worked against the Buddhist order. Buddhism in a Dark Age outlines a three-phase process in the Khmer Rouge treatment of Buddhism: bureaucratic interference and obstruction, explicit harassment, and finally the elimination of the obdurate and those close to the previous Lon Nol regime. The establishment of a separate revolutionary form of sangha administration constituted the bureaucratic phase. The harassment of monks, both individually and en masse, was partially due to the uprooting of the traditional monastic economy in which lay people were discouraged from feeding economically unproductive monks. Younger members of the order were disrobed and forced into marriage or military service. The final act in the tragedy of Buddhism under the Khmer Rouge was the execution of those monks and senior ecclesiastics who resisted.
It was difficult for institutional Buddhism to survive the conditions encountered during the decade under study here. Prince Sihanouk’s overthrow in 1970 marked the end of Buddhism as the central axis around which all other aspects of Cambodian existence revolved and made sense. And under Pol Pot the lay population was strongly discouraged from providing its necessary material support. The book concludes with a discussion of the slow re-establishment and official supervision of the Buddhist order during the People’s Republic of Kampuchea period.
Religion and the State, 16601990
Buddhism in Taiwan is the first work in a Western language to examine the institutional and political history of Chinese Buddhism in Taiwan. Tracing Buddhism's development on the island from Qing times through the late 1980s, it seeks to shed light on the ways in which changing social circumstances have impacted Buddhist thought and practice. It looks in particular at a number of significant changes that modernization has brought: the decline in clerical ordinations, the increasing prominence of nuns within the monastic order, the enhanced role of the laity, alterations in the content of lay precepts, the abandonment of funerals as a major source of income, the monastic order's loss of special recognition from the government, and the founding of large, international organizations. Charles Jones begins his survey with the earliest mention of Buddhism in Taiwan in historical records from the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and continues through the formation of pan-Taiwan Buddhist organizations during the Japanese occupation (1895-1945). A review of the role of the Buddhist Association of the Republic of China (BAROC) follows, and the volume concludes with the rise of large independent Buddhist movements that fully emerged after the end of martial law and the removal of restrictions of civic organizations in the late 1980s. Jones provides a careful and balanced review of primary and secondary sources and translations of government and Buddhist documents, extensive bibliographies of major figures, detailed histories of prominent temples, and an exhaustive summary of recent Taiwanese scholarship. Buddhism in Taiwan promises to be a classic in the field of modern Chinese Buddhism. Scholars of the religion, history, political science, sociology, and anthropology of Taiwan will find its systematic and thorough approach stimulating as well as highly informative.
Vol. 19 (1999) through current issue
A scholarly journal devoted to Buddhism and Christianity and their historical and contemporary interrelationships, Buddhist-Christian Studies presents thoughtful articles, conference reports, and book reviews. It also includes sections on comparative methodology and historical comparisons, as well as ongoing discussions from two dialogue conferences: the Theological Encounter with Buddhism, and the Japan Society for Buddhist Christian Studies.
In its teachings, practices, and institutions, Buddhism in its varied Asian forms has been—and continues to be—centrally concerned with death and the dead. Yet surprisingly "death in Buddhism" has received little sustained scholarly attention. The Buddhist Dead offers the first comparative investigation of this topic across the major Buddhist cultures of India, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Tibet, and Burma. Its individual essays, representing a range of methods, shed light on a rich array of traditional Buddhist practices for the dead and dying; the sophisticated but often paradoxical discourses about death and the dead in Buddhist texts; and the varied representations of the dead and the afterlife found in Buddhist funerary art and popular literature. This important collection moves beyond the largely text—and doctrine—centered approaches characterizing an earlier generation of Buddhist scholarship and expands its treatment of death to include ritual, devotional, and material culture.
A Historical Analysis
This introduction to Buddhism examines its basic philosophical teachings and historical development, setting forth complex and significant ideas in a straightforward and simple style that is easily accessible to the student. The author's orientation is philosophical, rather than religious or sociological. This approach is both the uniqueness and the strength of the work.Part I outlines the historical background out of which Buddhism arose and emphasizes the teachings of early Buddhism. Part II examines developments in the history of Buddhist thought and the emergence of the various schools of Buddhism.
Religion, Activism, and Protest in Japanese Occupied Korea
Why and how did Korean religious groups respond to growing rural poverty, social dislocation, and the corrosion of culture caused by forces of modernization under strict Japanese colonial rule (1910–1945)? Questions about religion’s relationship and response to capitalism, industrialization, urbanization, and secularization lie at the heart of understanding the intersection between colonialism, religion, and modernity in Korea. Yet, getting answers to these questions has been a challenge because of narrow historical investigations that fail to study religious processes in relation to political, economic, social, and cultural developments. In Building a Heaven on Earth, Albert L. Park studies the progressive drives by religious groups to contest standard conceptions of modernity and forge a heavenly kingdom on the Korean peninsula to relieve people from fierce ruptures in their everyday lives. The results of his study will reconfigure the debates on colonial modernity, the origins of faith-based social activism in Korea, and the role of religion in a modern world.