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Buddhist World of Southeast Asia, The

Second Edition

A wide-ranging, readable account of the Theravada Buddhist thought and practice in the Southeast Asian societies of Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka. An unparalleled portrait, Donald K. Swearer’s Buddhist World of Southeast Asia has been a key source for all those interested in the Theravada homelands since the work’s publication in 1995. Expanded and updated, the second edition offers this wide ranging account for readers at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Swearer shows Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia to be a dynamic, complex system of thought and practice embedded in the cultures, societies, and histories of Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka. The work focuses on three distinct yet interrelated aspects of this milieu. The first is the popular tradition of life models personified in myths and legends, rites of passage, festival celebrations, and ritual occasions. The second deals with Buddhism and the state, illustrating how King Asoka serves as the paradigmatic Buddhist monarch, discussing the relationship of cosmology and kingship, and detailing the rise of charismatic Buddhist political leaders in the postcolonial period. The third is the modern transformation of Buddhism: the changing roles of monks and laity, modern reform movements, the role of women, and Buddhism in the West.

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Building a Sacred Mountain

The Buddhist Architecture of China's Mount Wutai

by Wei-Cheng Lin

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Burning for the Buddha

James A. Benn

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.

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Cambodian Buddhism

History and Practice

by 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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Champions of Buddhism

Weikza Cults in Contemporary Burma

Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière, Guillaume Rozenberg, and Alicia Turner

Hidden at the margins of Burmese Buddhism and culture, the cults of the weikza shape Burmese culture by bringing together practices of supernatural power and a mission to protect Buddhism. This exciting new research on an often hidden aspect of Burmese religion places weikza in relation to the Vipassana insight meditation movement and conventional Buddhist practices, as well as the contemporary rise of Buddhist fundamentalism. Featuring research based on fieldwork only possible in recent years, paired with reflective essays by senior Buddhist studies scholars, this book situates the weikza cult in relation to broader Buddhist and Southeast Asian contexts, offering interpretations and investigations as rich and diverse as the Burmese expressions of the weikza cults themselves. Champions of Buddhism opens the field to new questions, new problems, and new connections with the study of religion and Southeast Asia in general.

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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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