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Doctrine and Practice in Medieval Korean Buddhism

The Collected Works of Ŭich’ŏn

Translated, annotated, and with an introduction by Richard D. McBride II

Ŭich’ŏn (1055-1101) is recognized as a Buddhist master of great stature in the East Asian tradition. Born a prince in the medieval Korean state of Koryŏ (960-1279), he traveled to Song China (960-1279) to study Buddhism and later compiled and published the first collection of East Asian exegetical texts. According to the received scholarly tradition, after returning to Korea, Ŭich’ŏn left the Hwaŏm (Huayan) school to found a new Ch’ŏnt’ae (Tiantai) school when he realized that the synthesis between doctrinal learning and meditative practice in the latter would help bring together the discordant sects of Koryŏ Buddhism. In the late twentieth century, however, scholars began to question the assertion that Ŭich’ŏn forsook one school for another, arguing that his writings assembled in The Collected Works of State Preceptor Taegak (Taegak kuksa munjip) do not portray a committed sectarian but a monk dedicated to developing a sophisticated and rigorous system of monastic education that encompassed all Buddhist intellectual traditions.
In this first comprehensive study of Ŭich’ŏn’s life and work in English, Richard McBride presents translations of select lectures, letters, essays, and poetry from The Collected Works to provide a more balanced view of Ŭich’ŏn’s philosophy of life and understanding of key Buddhist teachings. The translations center on the monk’s activities in the pan-East Asian Buddhist world and his compilation of scholarly texts, writings related to his interactions with royalty, and correspondence with his Chinese mentor, Jinshui Jingyuan (1011-1088). By incorporating Ŭich’ŏn’s work associated with doctrinal Buddhism and his poetry, McBride clearly shows that even in his most personal work Ŭich’ŏn did not abandon Hwaŏm teachings for those of the Ch’ŏnt’ae but rather he encouraged monks to blend the best learning from all doctrinal traditions with meditative practice.

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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

by 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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Elaborations on Emptiness

Uses of the Heart Sūtra

Donald S. Lopez Jr.

The Heart Sutra is perhaps the most famous Buddhist text, traditionally regarded as a potent expression of emptiness and of the Buddha's perfect wisdom. This brief, seemingly simple work was the subject of more commentaries in Asia than any other sutra. In Elaborations on Emptiness, Donald Lopez explores for the first time the elaborate philosophical and ritual uses of the Heart Sutra in India, Tibet, and the West.

Included here are full translations of the eight extant Indian commentaries. Interspersed with the translations are six essays that examine the unusual roles the Heart Sutra has played: it has been used as a mantra, an exorcism text, a tantric meditation guide, and as the material for comparative philosophy. Taken together, the translations and essays that form Elaborations on Emptiness demonstrate why commentary is as central to modern scholarship on Buddhism as it was for ancient Buddhists. Lopez reveals unexpected points of instability and contradiction in the Heart Sutra, which, in the end, turns out to be the most malleable of texts, where the logic of commentary serves as a tool of both tradition and transgression.

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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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Establishing a Pure Land on Earth

The Foguang Buddhist Perspective on Modernization and Globalization

by Stuart Chandler

With more than 150 temples in thirty countries, Foguangshan has developed over the last thirty-five years into one of the world’s largest and most influential Chinese Buddhist movements. The result of two years of fieldwork in Foguangshan temples in Taiwan, the U.S., Australia, and South Africa, this volume is an unprecedented examination of the inner workings of a dynamic and innovative religious movement.

Based on direct observations, private interviews, and careful textual and historical analysis, Stuart Chandler looks at the challenges faced by Foguangshan’s leader, Master Xingyun, and his followers as they try to adhere to traditional practices and values while tapping into the advantages afforded by modern, global society. Foguangshan’s slogans (“Humanistic Buddhism” and “Establishing a Pure Land on Earth”) are placed in historical context to reveal their role in shaping the group’s attitudes toward capitalism, women’s rights, and democracy, as well as toward the traditional Chinese virtue of filial piety and the Chinese Buddhist concept of “links of affinity” (jieyuan).

Chandler goes on to analyze Foguangshan’s educational system and its understanding of how precepts relate to contemporary problems such as abortion and capital punishment. The book’s final chapters consider the cultural and political dynamics at play in Foguangshan’s ambitious attempt to spread Humanistic Buddhism around the world and how its followers have reinterpreted the Buddhist ideal of homelessness to take advantage of the spiritual potentialities of people’s lives as global citizens.


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Experimental Buddhism

Innovation and Activism in Contemporary Japan

by John K. Nelson

Experimental Buddhism highlights the complex and often wrenching interactions between long-established religious traditions and rapid social, cultural, and economic change. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and archival research, it is one of the first studies to give readers a sense of what is happening on the front lines as a growing number of Buddhist priests try to reboot their roles and traditions to gain greater significance in Japanese society.

The book profiles innovative as well as controversial responses to the challenges facing Buddhist priests. From traditional activities (conducting memorial rituals; supporting residences for the elderly and infirm; providing relief for victims of natural disasters) to more creative ones (collaborating in suicide prevention efforts; holding symposia and concerts on temple precincts; speaking out against nuclear power following Japan’s 2011 earthquake; opening cafés, storefront temples, and pubs; even staging fashion shows with priests on the runway), more progressive members of Japan’s Buddhist clergy are trying to navigate a path leading towards renewed relevance in society. An additional challenge is to avoid alienating older patrons while trying to attract younger ones vital to the future of their temples.

The work’s central theme of “experimental Buddhism”provides a fresh perspective to understand how priests and other individuals employ Buddhist traditions in selective and pragmatic ways. Using these inventive approaches during a time of crisis and transition for Japanese temple Buddhism, priests and practitioners from all denominations seek solutions that not only can revitalize their religious traditions but also influence society and their fellow citizens in positive ways.

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Faith and Power in Japanese Buddhist Art, 1600–2005

by Patricia J. Graham

Faith and Power in Japanese Buddhist Art explores the transformation of Buddhism from the premodern to the contemporary era in Japan and the central role its visual culture has played in this transformation. Although Buddhism is generally regarded as peripheral to modern Japanese society, this book demonstrates otherwise. Its chapters elucidate the thread of change over time in the practice of Buddhism as revealed in temple worship halls and other sites of devotion and in imagery representing the religion’s most popular deities and religious practices. It also introduces the work of modern and contemporary artists who are not generally associated with institutional Buddhism and its canonical visual requirements but whose faith inspires their art. The author makes a persuasive argument that the neglect of these materials by scholars results from erroneous presumptions about the aesthetic superiority of early Japanese Buddhist artifacts and an asserted decline in the institutional power of the religion after the sixteenth century. She demonstrates that recent works constitute a significant contribution to the history of Japanese art and architecture, providing evidence of Buddhism’s compelling presence at all levels of Japanese society and its evolution in response to the needs of new generations of supporters.

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Family in Buddhism

A wide-ranging exploration of Buddhism and family in Asia—from biological families to families created in monasteries.

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