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Cambodian Buddhism

History and Practice

Ian Harris

The study of Cambodian religion has long been hampered by a lack of easily accessible scholarship. This impressive new work by Ian Harris thus fills a major gap and offers English-language scholars a booklength, up-to-date treatment of the religious aspects of Cambodian culture. Beginning with a coherent history of the presence of religion in the country from its inception to the present day, the book goes on to furnish insights into the distinctive nature of Cambodia's important yet overlooked manifestation of Theravada Buddhist tradition and to show how it reestablished itself following almost total annihilation during the Pol Pot period. Historical sections cover the dominant role of tantric Mahayana concepts and rituals under the last great king of Angkor, Jayavarman VII (1181–c. 1220); the rise of Theravada traditions after the collapse of the Angkorian civilization; the impact of foreign influences on the development of the nineteenth-century monastic order; and politicized Buddhism and the Buddhist contribution to an emerging sense of Khmer nationhood. The Buddhism practiced in Cambodia has much in common with parallel traditions in Thailand and Sri Lanka, yet there are also significant differences. The book concentrates on these and illustrates how a distinctly Cambodian Theravada developed by accommodating itself to premodern Khmer modes of thought. Following the overthrow of Prince Sihanouk in 1970, Cambodia slid rapidly into disorder and violence. Later chapters chart the elimination of institutional Buddhism under the Khmer Rouge and its gradual reemergence after Pol Pot, the restoration of the monastic order's prerevolutionary institutional forms, and the emergence of contemporary Buddhist groupings.

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Chinese Steles

Pre-Buddhist and Buddhist Use of a Symbolic Form

Dorothy C. Wong

Buddhist steles represent an important subset of early Chinese Buddhist art that flourished during the Northern and Southern Dynasties period (386–581). More than two hundred Chinese Buddhist steles are known to have survived. Their brilliant imagery has long captivated scholars, yet until now the Buddhist stele as a unique art form has received little scholarly attention. Dorothy Wong rectifies that insufficiency by providing in this well-illustrated volume the first comprehensive investigation of this group of Buddhist monuments. She traces the ancient roots of the Chinese stele tradition and investigates the process by which Chinese steles were adapted for Buddhist use. She arranges the known corpus of Buddhist steles into broad chronological and regional groupings and analyzes not only their form and content but also the nexus of complex issues surrounding this art form—from cultural symbolism to the interrelations between religious doctrine and artistic expression, economic production, patronage, and the synthesis of native and foreign art styles. In her analysis of Buddhism’s dialogue with native traditions, Wong demonstrates how the Chinese artistic idiom planted the seeds for major achievements in figural and landscape arts in the ensuing Sui and Tang periods.

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Chinese Tranformation of Buddhism

Kenneth Kuan Sheng Ch'en

When Buddhism was introduced into China at about the beginning of the Christian era, the Chinese were captivated at first by its overpowering world view. Consequently, Buddhism in China has usually been discussed in terms of the Indianization of Chinese life and thought, but Kenneth Ch'en shows that as Indian ideas were gaining ground the Chinese were choosing among them and modifying them to fit their situation.

To demonstrate how the Chinese transformed Buddhism the author investigates its role in the ethical, political, literary, educational, and social life of the Chinese. Buddhism was able to gain a wide following by accommodating itself to Chinese ethical practices. The Buddhist monastic community submitted to the jurisdiction of the state and the monasteries also became integrated into the economic life of the empire through their ownership of land and their operation of industrial and commercial enterprises. Through an analysis of the work of a representative Chinese poet the author reveals the ways in which Buddhism came to be reflected in the literary life of China. Finally, he explores the methods used by the Buddhists to popularize their religion.

Originally published in 1973.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Choosing Buddhism

The Life Stories of Eight Canadians

Mauro Peressini

This book explores the experience of Canadians who chose to convert to Buddhism and to embrace its teachings and practices in their daily lives. It presents the life stories of eight Canadians who first encountered Buddhism between the late 1960s and the 1980s, and are now ordained or lay Buddhist teachers.

In recent census records, over 300,000 Canadians identified their religious affiliation as Buddhist. The great majority are of Asian origin and were born into Buddhist families or were Buddhist at the time of their arrival in Canada. Since the late 1960s, however, the number of Canadians converting to Buddhism has doubled every decade, and this demographic now includes more than 20,000 individuals. The eight Canadians whose life stories are featured in this book are among the very first to have chosen Buddhism. Their first-hand accounts shed light on why and how people convert to a religion from such distant shores. 

This book also offers contextual material (photos and texts) that complements the eight life stories. This material is meant to help readers enrich their understanding of the life stories by offering them the information they need to better grasp the meaning of the Buddhist notions mentioned, and the broader historical and spiritual contexts of the biographical accounts. 

While this book will be of interest to specialists because of the first-hand accounts, it is primarily aimed at a wider audience interested in Buddhism, religions or spirituality in general. It will also be of use to teachers whose courses touch upon any of these subjects. By combining life stories and contextual material, and placing an emphasis on the concrete experiences of Canadians with whom readers can identify, this book is an introduction to Buddhism and to what it means to lead a Buddhist life in contemporary Canada.

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Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism

A Reading of the Treasure Store Treatise

Robert H. Sharf

The issue of sinification—the manner and extent to which Buddhism and Chinese culture were transformed through their mutual encounter and dialogue—has dominated the study of Chinese Buddhism for much of the past century. Robert Sharf opens this important and far-reaching book by raising a host of historical and hermeneutical problems with the encounter paradigm and the master narrative on which it is based. Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism is, among other things, an extended reflection on the theoretical foundations and conceptual categories that undergird the study of medieval Chinese Buddhism. Sharf draws his argument in part from a meticulous historical, philological, and philosophical analysis of the Treasure Store Treatise (Pao-tsang lun), an eighth-century Buddho-Taoist work apocryphally attributed to the fifth-century master Seng-chao (374–414). In the process of coming to terms with this recondite text, Sharf ventures into all manner of subjects bearing on our understanding of medieval Chinese Buddhism, from the evolution of T’ang "gentry Taoism" to the pivotal role of image veneration and the problematic status of Chinese Tantra. The volume includes a complete annotated translation of the Treasure Store Treatise, accompanied by the detailed exegesis of dozens of key terms and concepts.

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Conceiving the Indian Buddhist Patriarchs in China

Stuart H. Young

Aśvaghoșa, Nāgārjuna, and ryadeva are among the most celebrated Indian patriarchs in Asian Buddhist traditions and modern Buddhist studies scholarship. Scholars agree that all three lived in first- to third-century C.E. India, so most studies have focused on locating them in ancient Indian history, religion, or society. To this end, they have used all available accounts of the Indian patriarchs’ lives—in Sanskrit, Tibetan, various Central Asian languages, and Chinese, produced over more than a millennium— and viewed them as bearing exclusively on ancient India. Of these sources, medieval Chinese hagiographies are by far the earliest and most abundant.

Conceiving the Indian Buddhist Patriarchs in China is the first attempt to situate the medieval Chinese hagiographies of Aśvaghoșa, Nāgārjuna, and  ryadeva in the context of Chinese religion, culture, and society of the time. It examines these sources not as windows into ancient Indian history but as valuable records of medieval Chinese efforts to define models of Buddhist sanctity. It explores broader questions concerning Chinese conceptions of ancient Indian Buddhism and concerns about being Buddhist in latter-day China. By propagating the tales and texts of Aśvaghoșa, Nāgārjuna, and  ryadeva, leaders of the Chinese sangha sought to demonstrate that the means and media of Indian Buddhist enlightenment were readily available in China and that local Chinese adepts could thereby rise to the ranks of the most exalted Buddhist saints across the Sino-Indian divide. Chinese authors also aimed to merge their own kingdom with the Buddhist heartland by demonstrating congruency between Indian and Chinese ideals of spiritual attainment. This volume shows, for the first time, how Chinese Buddhists adduced the patriarchs as evidence that Buddhist masters from ancient India had instantiated the same ideals, practices, and powers expected of all Chinese holy beings and that the expressly foreign religion of Buddhism was thus the best means to sainthood and salvation for latter-day China.

Rich in information and details about the inner world of medieval Chinese Buddhists, Conceiving the Indian Buddhist Patriarchs in China will be welcomed by scholars and students in the fields of Buddhist studies, religious studies, and China studies.

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Contexts and Dialogue

Yogacara Buddhism and Modern Psychology on the Subliminal Mind

Tao Jiang

Are there Buddhist conceptions of the unconscious? If so, are they more Freudian, Jungian, or something else? If not, can Buddhist conceptions be reconciled with the Freudian, Jungian, or other models? These are some of the questions that have motivated modern scholarship to approach ālayavijñāna, the storehouse consciousness, formulated in Yogācāra Buddhism as a subliminal reservoir of tendencies, habits, and future possibilities. Tao Jiang argues convincingly that such questions are inherently problematic because they frame their interpretations of the Buddhist notion largely in terms of responses to modern psychology. He proposes that, if we are to understand ālayavijñāna properly and compare it with the unconscious responsibly, we need to change the way the questions are posed so that ālayavijñāna and the unconscious can first be understood within their own contexts and then recontextualized within a dialogical setting. In so doing, certain paradigmatic assumptions embedded in the original frameworks of Buddhist and modern psychological theories are exposed. Jiang brings together Xuan Zang’s ālayavijñāna and Freud’s and Jung’s unconscious to focus on what the differences are in the thematic concerns of the three theories, why such differences exist in terms of their objectives, and how their methods of theorization contribute to these differences. Contexts and Dialogue puts forth a fascinating, erudite, and carefully argued presentation of the subliminal mind. It proposes a new paradigm in comparative philosophy that examines the what, why, and how in navigating the similarities and differences of philosophical systems through contextualization and recontextualization.

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Conventional and Ultimate Truth

A Key for Fundamental Theology

Joseph Stephen O'Leary

In Conventional and Ultimate Truth, Joseph Stephen O'Leary completes his trilogy on contemporary fundamental theology, which began with the volumes Questioning Back (1985) and Religious Pluralism and Christian Truth (1996). Common to all three works are dialogues with European philosophers Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, G. W. F. Hegel, and the Madhyamaka school of Buddhism. In the current volume, O’Leary deals with the nature of theological rationality today, recommending the practice of reflective judgment, as opposed to systematic determinative judgment. Inspired by the Buddhist notion of conventional truth, O’Leary claims that if we fully accept the fragility and conventionality of religious language, we can find a secure basis for a critical, reflective theology. This proposal is fleshed out in a dialogue with classical negative theology and with the implications of twentieth-century art and literature for religious epistemology. Embracing conventionality does not mean that the dimension of ultimacy is lost. The two are intimately conjoined in the Buddhist two-truths doctrine. Revisiting traditional sites of theological ultimacy, such as the authority of scripture and Christian dogma and the appeal to religious experience, O’Leary argues that we do justice to them only when we fully accept the conventionality of their historical articulation. By relating these traditions of thought to one another, O’Leary produces a new model for contemporary fundamental theology, one that will positively refocus and revitalize the field.

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Cultivating Spirituality

A Modern Shin Buddhist Anthology

Four Shin Buddhist thinkers reflect on their tradition’s encounter with modernity. Cultivating Spirituality is a seminal anthology of Shin Buddhist thought, one that reflects this tradition’s encounter with modernity. Shin (or Jodo Shinshu) is a popular form of Pure Land Buddhism, the most widely practiced form of Buddhism in Japan, but is only now becoming well known in the West. The lives of the four thinkers included in the book spanned the years 1863–1982, from the Meiji opening to the West to Japan’s establishment as an industrialized democracy and world economic power. Kiyozawa Manshi, Soga Ryojin, Kaneko Daiei, and Yasuda Rjin, all associated with Kyoto’s Otani University, dealt with the spiritual concerns of a society undergoing great change. Their philosophical orientation known as “Seishinshugi” (“cultivating spirituality”) provides a set of principles that prioritized personal, subjective experience as the basis for religious understanding. In addition to providing access to work generally unavailable in English, this volume also includes both a contextualizing introduction and introductions to each figure included.

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Cultural Intersections in Later Chinese Buddhism

Marsha Weidner

In a demonstration of the value of interdisciplinary, culture-based approaches, this collection of essays on "later" Chinese Buddhism takes us beyond the bedrock subjects of traditional Buddhist historiography--scriptures and commentaries, sectarian developments, lives of notable monks--to examine a wide range of extracanonical materials that illuminate cultural manifestations of Buddhism from the Song dynasty (960-1279) through the modern period. Straying from well-trodden paths, the authors often transgress the boundaries of their own disciplines: historians address architecture; art historians look to politics; a specialist in literature treats poetry that offers gendered insights into Buddhist lives. The broad-based cultural orientation of this volume is predicated on the recognition that art and religion are not closed systems requiring only minimal cross-indexing with other social or aesthetic phenomena but constituent elements in interlocking networks of practice and belief.

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