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Explores a range of Buddhist perspectives in a distinctly American context. The US seems to be becoming a Buddhist country. Celebrity converts, the popularity of the Dalai Lama, motifs in popular movies, and mala beads at the mall indicate an increasing inculcation of Buddhism into the American consciousness, even if a relatively small percentage of the population actually describe themselves as Buddhists. This book looks beyond the trendier manifestations of Buddhism in America to look at distinctly American Buddhist ways of life—ways of perceiving and understanding. John Whalen-Bridge and Gary Storhoff have organized this unique collection in accordance with the Buddhist concept of the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Buddha section discusses the two key teachers who popularized Buddhism in America: Alan Watts and D. T. Suzuki and the particular kinds of spirituality they proclaimed. The Dharma section deals with how Buddhism can enlighten current public debates and a consideration of our national past with explorations of bioethics, abortion, end-of-life decisions, and consciousness in late capitalism. The final section on the Sangha, or community of believers, discusses how Buddhist communities both formal and informal have affected American society with chapters on family life, Nisei Buddhists, gay liberation, and Zen gardens.
Selected Poems of Matsuo Basho
Bashoµ’s Haiku offers the most comprehensive translation yet of the poetry of Japanese writer Matsuo Bashoµ (1644–1694), who is credited with perfecting and popularizing the haiku form of poetry. One of the most widely read Japanese writers, both within his own country and worldwide, Bashoµ is especially beloved by those who appreciate nature and those who practice Zen Buddhism. Born into the samurai class, Bashoµ rejected that world after the death of his master and became a wandering poet and teacher. During his travels across Japan, he became a lay Zen monk and studied history and classical poetry. His poems contained a mystical quality and expressed universal themes through simple images from the natural world. David Landis Barnhill’s brilliant book strives for literal translations of Bashoµ’s work, arranged chronologically in order to show Bashoµ’s development as a writer. Avoiding wordy and explanatory translations, Barnhill captures the brevity and vitality of the original Japanese, letting the images suggest the depth of meaning involved. Barnhill also presents an overview of haiku poetry and analyzes the significance of nature in this literary form, while suggesting the importance of Bashoµ to contemporary American literature and environmental thought.
The Literary Prose of Matsuo Basho
In Bashoµ’s Journey, David Landis Barnhill provides the definitive translation of Matsuo Bashoµ’s literary prose, as well as a companion piece to his previous translation, Bashoµ’s Haiku. One of the world’s greatest nature writers, Bashoµ (1644–1694) is well known for his subtle sensitivity to the natural world, and his writings have influenced contemporary American environmental writers such as Gretel Ehrlich, John Elder, and Gary Snyder. This volume concentrates on Bashoµ’s travel journal, literary diary (Saga Diary), and haibun. The premiere form of literary prose in medieval Japan, the travel journal described the uncertainty and occasional humor of traveling, appreciations of nature, and encounters with areas rich in cultural history. Haiku poetry often accompanied the prose. The literary diary also had a long history, with a format similar to the travel journal but with a focus on the place where the poet was living. Bashoµ was the first master of haibun, short poetic prose sketches that usually included haiku. As he did in Bashoµ’s Haiku, Barnhill arranges the work chronologically in order to show Bashoµ’s development as a writer. These accessible translations capture the spirit of the original Japanese prose, permitting the nature images to hint at the deeper meaning in the work. Barnhill’s introduction presents an overview of Bashoµ’s prose and discusses the significance of nature in this literary form, while also noting Bashoµ’s significance to contemporary American literature and environmental thought. Excellent notes clearly annotate the translations.
Animals and Religion in Contemporary Japan
Since the 1990s the Japanese pet industry has grown to a trillion-yen business and estimates place the number of pets above the number of children under the age of fifteen. There are between 6,000 to 8,000 businesses in the Japanese pet funeral industry, including more than 900 pet cemeteries. Of these about 120 are operated by Buddhist temples, and Buddhist mortuary rites for pets have become an institutionalized practice. In Bones of Contention, Barbara Ambros investigates what religious and intellectual traditions constructed animals as subjects of religious rituals and how pets have been included or excluded in the necral landscapes of contemporary Japan.
Pet mortuary rites are emblems of the ongoing changes in contemporary Japanese religions. The increase in single and nuclear-family households, marriage delays for both males and females, the falling birthrate and graying of society, the occult boom of the 1980s, the pet boom of the 1990s, the anti-religious backlash in the wake of the 1995 Aum Shinrikyō incident—all of these and more have contributed to Japan’s contested history of pet mortuary rites. Ambros uses this history to shed light on important questions such as: Who (or what) counts as a family member? What kinds of practices should the state recognize as religious and thus protect financially and legally? Is it frivolous or selfish to keep, pamper, or love an animal? Should humans and pets be buried together? How do people reconcile the deeply personal grief that follows the loss of a pet and how do they imagine the afterlife of pets? And ultimately, what is the status of animals in Japan? Bones of Contention is a book about how Japanese people feel and think about pets and other kinds of animals and, in turn, what pets and their people have to tell us about life and death in Japan today.
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.
This book provides both an erudite and intimate look at how Buddhism is lived in Sri Lanka. While India is known as the birthplace of Buddhism, Sri Lanka is its other home; Buddhism extends back over twenty-five hundred years on the island and remains at the center of its spiritual traditions and culture. Throughout the book, author Swarna Wickremeratne incorporates a personal view, sharing stories of herself, her family, friends, and acquaintances as they “lived Buddhism” both during her Sri Lankan girlhood and during more recent times. This personal view makes the traditions come alive as Wickremeratne details Buddhist beliefs, customs, rituals and ceremonies, and folklore. She also provides a fascinating discussion of the Sangha, the institutional monkhood in Sri Lanka, including its history, codes of conduct, and evolution and resilience over time. Wickremeratne explores the recent attempts by many monks to reinvent themselves in a society characterized by secularization, globalization, and a tide of aggressive Christian evangelization.
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.
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.
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.
Ideals, Challenges, and Achievements
This book on engaged Buddhism focuses on women working for social justice in a wide range of Buddhist traditions and societies. Contributors document attempts to actualize Buddhism’s liberating ideals of personal growth and social transformation. Dealing with issues such as human rights, gender-based violence, prostitution, and the role of Buddhist nuns, the work illuminates the possibilities for positive change that are available to those with limited power and resources. Integrating social realities and theoretical perspectives, the work utilizes feminist interpretations of Buddhist values and looks at culturally appropriate means of instigating change.