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Death and the Afterlife in Japanese Buddhism

Jacqueline I. Stone & Mariko Namba Walter (eds.)

For more than a thousand years, Buddhism has dominated Japanese death rituals and concepts of the afterlife. The nine essays in this volume, ranging chronologically from the tenth century to the present, bring to light both continuity and change in death practices over time. They also explore the interrelated issues of how Buddhist death rites have addressed individual concerns about the afterlife while also filling social and institutional needs and how Buddhist death-related practices have assimilated and refigured elements from other traditions, bringing together disparate, even conflicting, ideas about the dead, their postmortem fate, and what constitutes normative Buddhist practice. The idea that death, ritually managed, can mediate an escape from deluded rebirth is treated in the first two essays. Sarah Horton traces the development in Heian Japan (794–1185) of images depicting the Buddha Amida descending to welcome devotees at the moment of death, while Jacqueline Stone analyzes the crucial role of monks who attended the dying as religious guides. Even while stressing themes of impermanence and non-attachment, Buddhist death rites worked to encourage the maintenance of emotional bonds with the deceased and, in so doing, helped structure the social world of the living. This theme is explored in the next four essays. Brian Ruppert examines the roles of relic worship in strengthening family lineage and political power; Mark Blum investigates the controversial issue of religious suicide to rejoin one’s teacher in the Pure Land; and Hank Glassman analyzes how late medieval rites for women who died in pregnancy and childbirth both reflected and helped shape changing gender norms. The rise of standardized funerals in Japan’s early modern period forms the subject of the chapter by Duncan Williams, who shows how the Soto Zen sect took the lead in establishing itself in rural communities by incorporating local religious culture into its death rites. The final three chapters deal with contemporary funerary and mortuary practices and the controversies surrounding them. Mariko Walter uncovers a "deep structure" informing Japanese Buddhist funerals across sectarian lines—a structure whose meaning, she argues, persists despite competition from a thriving secular funeral industry. Stephen Covell examines debates over the practice of conferring posthumous Buddhist names on the deceased and the threat posed to traditional Buddhist temples by changing ideas about funerals and the afterlife. Finally, George Tanabe shows how contemporary Buddhist sectarian intellectuals attempt to resolve conflicts between normative doctrine and on-the-ground funerary practice, and concludes that human affection for the deceased will always win out over the demands of orthodoxy. Death and the Afterlife in Japanese Buddhism constitutes a major step toward understanding how Buddhism in Japan has forged and retained its hold on death-related thought and practice, providing one of the most detailed and comprehensive accounts of the topic to date.

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Developments in Buddhist Thought

Canadian Contributions to Buddhist Studies

Nine Canadian scholars of Buddhism consider philosophical and cultural issues in Buddhist thought. Part I, “On Being,” discusses the philosophical problem of Being in the school of the Middle Way, Mādhyamika Buddhism, and in the Tantric School of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Part II, “On the Indian Milieu,” surveys Hindu views of Buddhism and explores Buddhism’s relationship with other Indian religious and philosophical traditions. Part III, “On the Chinese Milieu,” analyzes developments in Buddhist thought in China.

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Dharma Master Chongsan of Won Buddhism, The

Analects and Writings

The first English translations of the writings of Chŏngsan (1900–62), who codified the central doctrines of Won Buddhism. Won Buddhism emerged in early twentieth-century Korea after a long period of anti-Buddhist repression. It is a syncretic tradition, a form of Buddhism strongly influenced by the Chŏson dynasty’s Neo-Confucian ethical heritage and by Daoism. Seeking to deliver sentient beings from suffering and to create a just and ethical world, Won Buddhism stresses practical application of the dharma and service. It offers a vision of people as one family, morally perfected. This book provides the first English translations of the writings of Chŏngsan (1900–62), the second dharma master of Won Buddhism, who codified the new religion’s central doctrines. The translations here include Chŏngsan’s discussion of Buddha-nature, described as a mind-seal and symbolized by the Irwŏnsang (a unitary circle); his synthesis of Confucian moral and political programs with Buddhist notions of emancipation from birth and death; and his expositions on realizing the ideal of all people as one family.

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The Different Paths of Buddhism

A Narrative-Historical Introduction

Carl Olson

For centuries, Buddhist teachers and laypeople have used stories, symbols, cultural metaphors, and anecdotes to teach and express their religious views.  In this introductory textbook, Carl Olson draws on these narrative traditions to detail the development of Buddhism from the life of the historical Buddha to the present.  By organizing the text according to the structure of Buddhist thought and teaching, Olson avoids imposing a Western perspective that traditional texts commonly bring to the subject.

            The book offers a comprehensive introduction to the main branches of the Buddhist tradition in both the Mahayana and Theravada schools, including the Madhyamika school, the Yogacara school, Pure Land devotionalism, Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and village folk Buddhist traditions. Chapters explore the life and teachings of the Buddha in historical context, the early development and institutionalization of Buddhism, its geographic spread across Asia and eventually to the United States, philosophy and ethics, the relationship between monks and laity, political and ethical implications, the role of women in the Buddhist tradition, and contemporary reinterpretations of Buddhism. 

            Drawn from decades of classroom experience, this creative and ambitious textcombines expert scholarship and engaging stories that offer a much-needed perspective to the existing literature on the topic.


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Distinguishing the Views and Philosophies

Illuminating Emptiness in a Twentieth-Century Tibetan Buddhist Classic

An annotated translation of an essential work of twentieth-century Tibetan Buddhist thought, one that explicates teachings on the Middle Way. his is an essential work of Tibetan Buddhist thought written by an influential scholar of the twentieth century. From the same Nyingma school as the great Tibetan philosopher Mipam, Botrul in this text provides a systematic overview of Mipam’s teachings on the Middle Way. Presenting the Nyingma tradition within a rich constellation of diverse perspectives, Botrul contrasts Nyingma views point-by-point with positions held by other Tibetan schools. Botrul’s work addresses a wide range of complex topics in Buddhist doctrine in a beautifully structured composition in verse and prose. Notably, Botrul sheds light on the elusive meaning of “emptiness” and presents an interpretation that is unique to his Nyingma school. Distinguishing the Views and Philosophies exemplifies the vigorous tradition of Tibetan Buddhist scholarship and is widely studied in the contemporary monastic colleges of Tibet, India, and Nepal. Douglas Samuel Duckworth’s translation will make this work widely available in English for the first time, and his thoughtful commentary will provide insight and context for readers.

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Dixie Dharma

Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South

Jeff Wilson

Buddhism in the United States is often viewed in connection with practitioners in the Northeast and on the West Coast, but in fact, it has been spreading and evolving throughout the United States since the mid-nineteenth century. In ###Dixie Dharma#, Jeff Wilson argues that region is crucial to understanding American Buddhism. Through the lens of a multidenominational Buddhist temple in Richmond, Virginia, Wilson explores how Buddhists are adapting to life in the conservative evangelical Christian culture of the South, and how traditional Southerners are adjusting to these newer members on the religious landscape.

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Dogen's Manuals of Zen Meditation

Carl Bielefeldt

Zen Buddhism is perhaps best known for its emphasis on meditation, and probably no figure in the history of Zen is more closely associated with meditation practice than the thirteenth-century Japanese master Dogen, founder of the Soto school. This study examines the historical and religious character of the practice as it is described in Dogen's own meditation texts, introducing new materials and original perspectives on one of the most influential spiritual traditions of East Asian civilization.

The Soto version of Zen meditation is known as "just sitting," a practice in which, through the cultivation of the subtle state of "nonthinking," the meditator is said to be brought into perfect accord with the higher consciousness of the "Buddha mind" inherent in all beings. This study examines the historical and religious character of the practice as it is described in Dogen's own meditation texts, introducing new materials and original perspectives on one of the most influential spiritual traditions of East Asian civilization.

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Domesticating the Dharma

Buddhist Cults and the Hwaom Synthesis in Silla Korea

Richard D. McBride, II

Western scholarship has hitherto described the assimilation of Buddhism in Korea in terms of the importation of Sino-Indian and Chinese intellectual schools. This has led to an overemphasis on the scholastic understanding of Buddhism and overlooked evidence of the way Buddhism was practiced "on the ground." Domesticating the Dharma provides a much-needed corrective to this view by presenting for the first time a descriptive analysis of the cultic practices that defined and shaped the way Buddhists in Silla Korea understood their religion from the sixth to tenth centuries. Critiquing the conventional two-tiered model of "elite" versus "popular" religion, Richard McBride demonstrates how the eminent monks, royalty, and hereditary aristocrats of Silla were the primary proponents of Buddhist cults and that rich and diverse practices spread to the common people because of their influence. Drawing on Buddhist hagiography, traditional narratives, historical anecdotes, and epigraphy, McBride describes the seminal role of the worship of Buddhist deities—in particular the Buddha Úâkyamuni, the future buddha Maitreya, and the bodhisattva Avalokiteúvara—in the domestication of the religion on the Korean peninsula and the use of imagery from the Maitreya cult to create a symbiosis between the native religious observances of Silla and those being imported from the Chinese cultural sphere. He shows how in turn Buddhist imagery transformed Silla intellectually, geographically, and spatially to represent a Buddha land and sacred locations detailed in the Avataṃsaka Sûtra (Huayan jing/Hwaŏm kyŏng). Emphasizing the importance of the interconnected vision of the universe described in the Avataṃsaka Sûtra, McBride depicts the synthesis of Buddhist cults and cultic practices that flourished in Silla Korea with the practice-oriented Hwaŏm tradition from the eight to tenth centuries and its subsequent rise to a uniquely Korean cult of the Divine Assembly described in scripture.

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Embodying the Dharma

Buddhist Relic Veneration in Asia

Embodying the Dharma explores the centrality of relic veneration in Asian Buddhist cultures. Long disregarded by Western scholars as a superstitious practice reflecting the popularization of “original” Buddhism, relic veneration has emerged as a topic of vital interest in the last two decades with the increased attention to Buddhist ritual practice and material culture. This volume includes studies of relic traditions in India, Japan, Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, as well as broader comparative analyses, including comparisons of Buddhist and Christian relic veneration.

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Eminent Nuns

Women Chan Masters of Seventeenth-Century China

Beata Grant

The seventeenth century is generally acknowledged as one of the most politically tumultuous but culturally creative periods of late imperial Chinese history. Scholars have noted the profound effect on, and literary responses to, the fall of the Ming on the male literati elite. Also of great interest is the remarkable emergence beginning in the late Ming of educated women as readers and, more importantly, writers. Only recently beginning to be explored, however, are such seventeenth-century religious phenomena as "the reinvention" of Chan Buddhism—a concerted effort to revive what were believed to be the traditional teachings, texts, and practices of "classical" Chan. And, until now, the role played by women in these religious developments has hardly been noted at all. Eminent Nuns is an innovative interdisciplinary work that brings together several of these important seventeenth-century trends. Although Buddhist nuns have been a continuous presence in Chinese culture since early medieval times and the subject of numerous scholarly studies, this book is one of the first not only to provide a detailed view of their activities at one particular moment in time, but also to be based largely on the writings and self-representations of Buddhist nuns themselves. This perspective is made possible by the preservation of collections of "discourse records" (yulu) of seven officially designated female Chan masters in a seventeenth-century printing of the Chinese Buddhist Canon rarely used in English-language scholarship. The collections contain records of religious sermons and exchanges, letters, prose pieces, and poems, as well as biographical and autobiographical accounts of various kinds. Supplemental sources by Chan monks and male literati from the same region and period make a detailed re-creation of the lives of these eminent nuns possible. Beata Grant brings to her study background in Chinese literature, Chinese Buddhism, and Chinese women’s studies. She is able to place the seven women, all of whom were active in Jiangnan, in their historical, religious, and cultural contexts, while allowing them, through her skillful translations, to speak in their own voices. Together these women offer an important, but until now virtually unexplored, perspective on seventeenth-century China, the history of female monasticism in China, and the contributionof Buddhist nuns to the history of Chinese women’s writing.

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