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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.
Honor, Vengeance, and Love in Four Plays of the 18th and 19th Centuries
The four plays presented here—“Moritsuna’s Camp,” “The Mountains Scene,” “Vengeance at Iga Pass,” “The True Tale of Asagao”—were first performed between 1769 and 1832, a time when the Japanese puppet theatre known as Bunraku was beginning to lose its pre-eminence to Kabuki. During this period, however, several important puppet plays were created that went on to become standards in both the Bunraku and Kabuki repertoires; three are found in this volume. This span of some sixty-odd years was also a formative one in the development of how plays were presented, an important feature in the modern staging of works from the traditional plebeian theatre. Only a handful of complete and uncut plays—often as much as ten hours long—are produced in Bunraku or Kabuki nowadays. Included here is one of these. There are also two examples of the much more common practice of staging a single popular act or scene from a much longer drama that itself is seldom, if ever, performed in its entirety today.
Kabuki, while better known outside Japan, has been a great beneficiary of the puppet theatre, borrowing perhaps as much as half of its body of work from Bunraku dramas. Bunraku, in turn, has raided the Kabuki repertoire but to a far more modest degree. The fourth play in this collection, “Asagao,” is an instance of this uncommon reverse borrowing. Moreover, it is an example of yet another way in which some plays have come to be presented: a coherent subplot of a longer work that gained an independent theatrical existence while its parent drama has since disappeared from the stage. These later eighteenth-century works display a continued development toward greater attention to the theatrical features of puppet plays as opposed to the earlier, more literary approach found most notably in the dramas of Chikamatsu Monzaemon (d. 1725).
Newly translated and illustrated for the general reader and the specialist, the plays in this volume are accompanied by informative introductions, extensive notes on stage action, and discussions of the various changes that Bunraku underwent, particularly in the latter half of the eighteenth century, its golden age. Because many of the features we see in Bunraku plays today owe their origins largely to the changes the theatre experienced more than two centuries ago, this volume will be a valuable reference for those interested in contemporary Japanese theatre as well as its historical antecedents.
This is the first study in a half century of one of the least known societies in the contemporary world. Burma at the Turn of the 21st Century provides insight into the everyday lives, concerns, and values of the people of this reclusive nation. Prominent anthropologists and religion scholars with in-depth, long-term knowledge of central Burma offer detailed analyses of the ways in which Burmese actively manage and create lives for themselves in the shadow of a military dictatorship. Their research crosses the domains of religious, political, and social life, examining public festivals and performance, local-state relations, literary life, lottery frenzies, mass meditators, political rumors and black humor, the value of children, changing male identities, and more in this impressive, wide-ranging collection.
Burning for the Buddha is the first book-length study of the theory and practice of "abandoning the body"(self-immolation) in Chinese Buddhism. It examines the hagiographical accounts of all those who made offerings of their own bodies and places them in historical, social, cultural, and doctrinal context. Rather than privilege the doctrinal and exegetical interpretations of the tradition, which assume the central importance of the mind and its cultivation, James Benn focuses on the ways in which the heroic ideals of the bodhisattva present in scriptural materials such as the Lotus Sutra played out in the realm of religious practice on the ground.
The Material Spirit of the Chinese Lifeworld
For a thousand years across the length and breadth of China and beyond, people have burned paper replicas of valuable things—most often money—for the spirits of deceased family members, ancestors, and myriads of demons and divinities. Although frequently denigrated as wasteful and vulgar and at times prohibited by governing elites, today this venerable custom is as popular as ever. Burning Money explores the cultural logic of this common practice while addressing larger anthropological questions concerning the nature of value. The heart of the work integrates Chinese and Western thought and analytics to develop a theoretical framework that the author calls a “materialist aesthetics.” This includes consideration of how the burning of paper money meshes with other customs in China and around the world.
The work examines the custom in contemporary everyday life, its origins in folklore and history, as well as its role in common rituals, in the social formations of dynastic and modern times, and as a “sacrifice” in the act of consecrating the paper money before burning it. Here the author suggests a great divide between the modern means of cultural reproduction through ideology and reification, with its emphasis on nature and realism, and previous pre-capitalist means through ritual and mystification, with its emphasis on authenticity. The final chapters consider how the burning money custom has survived its encounter with the modern global system and internet technology.
Innovative and original in its interpretation of a common ritual in Chinese popular religion, Burning Money will be welcomed by scholars and students of Chinese religion as well as comparative religion specialists and anthropologists interested in contemporary social theory.
Moral Subjectivity, Selfhood, and Islam in Minangkabau, Indonesia
Caged in on the Outside is an intimate ethnographic exploration of the ways in which Minangkabau people understand human value. Minangkabau, an Islamic society in Indonesia that is also the largest matrilineal society in the world, has long fascinated anthropologists. Gregory Simon’s book, based on extended ethnographic research in the small city of Bukittinggi, shines new light on Minangkabau social life by delving into people’s interior lives, calling into question many assumptions about Southeast Asian values and the nature of Islamic practice. It offers a deeply human portrait that will engage readers interested in Indonesia, Islam, and psychological anthropology and those concerned with how human beings fashion and reflect on the moral meanings of their lives.
Simon focuses on the tension between the values of social integration and individual autonomy—both of which are celebrated in this Islamic trading society. The book explores a series of ethnographic themes, each one illustrating a facet of this tension and its management in contemporary Minangkabau society: the moral structure of the city and its economic life, the nature of Minangkabau ethnic identity, the etiquette of everyday interactions, conceptions of self and its boundaries, hidden spaces of personal identity, and engagements with Islamic traditions. Simon draws on interviews with Minangkabau men and women, demonstrating how individuals engage with cultural forms and refashion them in the process: forms of etiquette are transformed into a series of symbols tattooed on and then erased from a man’s skin; a woman shares a poem expressing an identity rooted in what cannot be directly revealed; a man puzzles over his neglect of Islamic prayers that have the power to bring him happiness.
Applying the lessons of the Minangkabau case more broadly to debates on moral life and subjectivity, Simon makes the case that a deep understanding of moral conceptions and practices, including those of Islam, can never be reached simply by delineating their abstract logics or the public messages they send. Instead, we must examine the subtle meanings these conceptions and practices have for the people who live them and how they interact with the enduring tensions of multidimensional human selves. Borrowing a Minangkabau saying, he maintains that whether emerging in moments of suffering or flourishing, moral subjectivity is always complex, organized by ambitions as elusive as being “caged in on the outside.”
Places Politics, and Aborigines in a North Australian Town
Caging the Rainbow explores the lives of Aborigines in the small regional town of Katherine, Northern Territory, Australia. Francesca Merlan combines ethnography and theory to grapple with issues surrounding the debate about the authenticity of contemporary cultural activity. Throughout, the vulnerability of Fourth World peoples to others' representations of them and the ethical problems this poses are kept in view.
A Memoir of a Woman at Sea
At 56, when hormone storms, career doubts and a failing marriage shattered Susan’s fairytale life, she took ownership of a neglected boat, and learned to repair, refit and sail it in Hawaii’s rough waters. Together with a young inexperienced sailor, Susan set sail from Honolulu to Palmyra Atoll, a National Wildlife Refuge 1,000 miles south of Hawaii. Storms and a catastrophic boat failure terrify the novice sailors, but they make it to Palmyra where Susan spends three months working as a volunteer biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While working with the marine animals that had been her life’s passion, Susan dives into fixing her disabled boat, resolving the conflicts in her marriage and coming to peace with her aging body. Merging adventure, biology, history and the complexities of human companionship to examine some of the big questions we all face in life, Scott recounts her venture into the daunting world of offshore sailing, baring her soul through struggles with life, marriage, and the remarkable Palmyra Atoll.