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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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Craving and Salvation

A Study in Buddhist Soteriology

Bruce Matthews

Is there any escape form the awareness of pain and the bonds of an unending cycle of life? Why are human subject to craving" What is the nature human beings? The Buddhist understanding of salvation is based upon such queries.


A thorough grasp of the function of craving in religious life is strategic to an understanding of Buddhism, yet its role in the Buddhist plan of salvation is easy to oversimplify and misinterpret. Matthews examines the concept of craving in Buddhism from both a phenomenological and religious perspective. He btings to the task a critical examination of key canonical texts of the Sutta Pitaka (Nikayas) as well as extensive travel in research of the meaning of craving for contemporary Buddhists, from learned monks to lay villagers. Having established the Buddhist perspective on how craving arises, how it affects the mind, and how it can be redirected, the volume concludes with spiritual implications of craving: crucial to awareness and freedom—emancipation—is the engagement and harnessing rather than suppression of craving.

The volume will be of interest to students of Buddhism, historians of religion, and persons interested in basic human questions.

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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

edited by 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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Death and the Afterlife in Japanese Buddhism

edited by Jacqueline I. Stone and Mariko Namba Walter

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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