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Family in Buddhism Cover

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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.

Family Matters in Indian Buddhist Monasticisms Cover

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Family Matters in Indian Buddhist Monasticisms

Shayne Clarke

Scholarly and popular consensus has painted a picture of Indian Buddhist monasticism in which monks and nuns severed all ties with their families when they left home for the religious life. In this view, monks and nuns remained celibate, and those who faltered in their “vows” of monastic celibacy were immediately and irrevocably expelled from the Buddhist Order. This romanticized image is based largely on the ascetic rhetoric of texts such as the Rhinoceros Horn Sutra. Through a study of Indian Buddhist law codes (vinaya), Shayne Clarke dehorns the rhinoceros, revealing that in their own legal narratives, far from renouncing familial ties, Indian Buddhist writers take for granted the fact that monks and nuns would remain in contact with their families.

The vision of the monastic life that emerges from Clarke's close reading of monastic law codes challenges some of our most basic scholarly notions of what it meant to be a Buddhist monk or nun in India around the turn of the Common Era. Not only do we see thick narratives depicting monks and nuns continuing to interact and associate with their families, but some are described as leaving home for the religious life with their children, and some as married monastic couples. Clarke argues that renunciation with or as a family is tightly woven into the very fabric of Indian Buddhist renunciation and monasticisms.

Surveying the still largely uncharted terrain of Indian Buddhist monastic law codes preserved in Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese, Clarke provides a comprehensive, pan-Indian picture of Buddhist monastic attitudes toward family. Whereas scholars have often assumed that monastic Buddhism must be anti-familial, he demonstrates that these assumptions were clearly not shared by the authors/redactors of Indian Buddhist monastic law codes. In challenging us to reconsider some of our most cherished assumptions concerning Indian Buddhist monasticisms, he provides a basis to rethink later forms of Buddhist monasticism such as those found in Central Asia, Kaśmīr, Nepal, and Tibet not in terms of corruption and decline but of continuity and development of a monastic or renunciant ideal that we have yet to understand fully.

The Five Aggregates Cover

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The Five Aggregates

Understanding Theravada Psychology and Soteriology

If Buddhism denies a permanent self, how does it perceive identity? According to Buddhist texts, the entire universe, including the individual, is made up of different phenomena, which Buddhism classifies into different categories: what we conventionally call a “person” can be understood in terms of five aggregates, the sum of which must not be taken for a permanent entity, since beings are nothing but an amalgam of ever-changing phenomena. Although the aggregates are only a “convenient fiction,” the Buddha nevertheless made frequent use of the aggregate scheme when asked to explain the elements at work in the individual.

In this study Mathieu Boisvert presents a detailed analysis of the five aggregates (pañcakkhandhā) and establishes how the Theravāda tradition views their interaction. He clarifies the fundamentals of Buddhist psychology by providing a rigorous examination of the nature and interrelation of each of the aggregates and by establishing, for the first time, how the function of each of these aggregates chains beings to the cycle of birth, death and rebirth — the theory of dependent origination (paticcasamuppāda). Boisvert contends that without a thorough understanding of the five aggregates, we cannot grasp the liberation process at work within the individual, who is, after all, simply an amalgam of the five aggregates.

The Five Aggregates represents an important and original contribution to Buddhist studies and will be of great interest to all scholars and students of Buddhism.

Forest Recollections Cover

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Forest Recollections

Wandering Monks in Twentieth-Century Thailand

Kamala Tiyavanich

"I stayed [in the forest] for two nights. The first night, nothing happened. The second night, at about one or two in the morning, a tiger came--which meant that I didn't get any sleep the whole night. I sat in meditation, scared stiff, while the tiger walked around and around my umbrella tent (klot). My body felt all frozen and numb. I started chanting, and the words came out like running water. All the old chants I had forgotten now came back to me, thanks both to my fear and to my ability to keep my mind under control. I sat like this from 2 until 5 a.m., when the tiger finally left." --A forest monk During the first half of this century the forests of Thailand were home to wandering ascetic monks. They were Buddhists, but their brand of Buddhism did not copy the practices described in ancient doctrinal texts. Their Buddhism found expression in living day-to-day in the forest and in contending with the mental and physical challenges of hunger, pain, fear, and desire. Combining interviews and biographies with an exhaustive knowledge of archival materials and a wide reading of ephemeral popular literature, Kamala Tiyavanich documents the monastic lives of three generations of forest-dwelling ascetics and challenges the stereotype of state-centric Thai Buddhism. Although the tradition of wandering forest ascetics has disappeared, a victim of Thailand's relentless modernization and rampant deforestation, the lives of the monks presented here are a testament to the rich diversity of regional Buddhist traditions. The study of these monastic lineages and practices enriches our understanding of Buddhism in Thailand and elsewhere.

From Comrades to Bodhisattvas Cover

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From Comrades to Bodhisattvas

Moral Dimensions of Lay Buddhist …

Gareth Fisher

From Comrades to Bodhisattvas is the first book-length study of Han Chinese Buddhism in post-Mao China. Using an ethnographic approach supported by over a decade of field research, it provides an intimate portrait of lay Buddhist practitioners in Beijing who have recently embraced a religion that they were once socialized to see as harmful superstition. The book focuses on the lively discourses and debates that take place among these new practitioners in an unused courtyard of a Beijing temple. In this non-monastic space, which shrinks each year as the temple authorities expand their commercial activities, laypersons gather to distribute and exchange Buddhist-themed media, listen to the fiery sermons of charismatic preachers, and seek solutions to personal moral crises. Often socially marginalized and sidelined from meaningful roles in China’s new economy, these former communist comrades look to their new moral roles along a bodhisattva path to rebuild their self-worth.

A Garland of Feminist Reflections Cover

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A Garland of Feminist Reflections

Forty Years of Religious Exploration

Rita M. Gross

Rita M. Gross has long been acknowledged as a founder in the field of feminist theology. One of the earliest scholars in religious studies to discover how feminism affects that discipline, she is recognized as preeminent in Buddhist feminist theology. The essays in A Garland of Feminist Reflections represent the major aspects of her work and provide an overview of her methodology in women's studies in religion and feminism. The introductory article, written specifically for this volume, summarizes the conclusions Gross has reached about gender and feminism after forty years of searching and exploring, and the autobiography, also written for this volume, narrates how those conclusions were reached. These articles reveal the range of scholarship and reflection found in Rita M. Gross's work and demonstrate how feminist scholars in the 1970s shifted the paradigm away from an androcentric model of humanity and forever changed the way we study religion.

Gathering leaves and lifting words Cover

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Gathering leaves and lifting words

histories of Buddhist Monastic education in Laos and Thailand

Justin McDaniel

Gathering Leaves and Lifting Words examines modern and premodern Buddhist monastic education traditions in Laos and Thailand. Through five centuries of adaptation and reinterpretation of sacred texts and commentaries, Justin McDaniel traces curricular variations in Buddhist oral and written education that reflect a wide array of community goals and values. He depicts Buddhism as a series of overlapping processes, bringing fresh attention to the continuities of Theravada monastic communities that have endured despite regional and linguistic variations. Incorporating both primary and secondary sources from Thailand and Laos, he examines premodern inscriptional, codicological, anthropological, art historical, ecclesiastical, royal, and French colonial records. By looking at modern sermons, and even television programs and websites, he traces how pedagogical techniques found in premodern palm-leaf manuscripts are pervasive in modern education.

Great Fool Cover

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Great Fool

Zen Master Ryokan--Poems, Letters, and Other Writings

Ryuichi Abe

Taigu Ryokan (1759-1831) remains one of the most popular figures in Japanese Buddhist history. Despite his religious and artistic sophistication, Ryokan referred to himself as "Great Fool" and refused to place himself within the cultural elite of his age. In contrast to the typical Zen master of his time, who presided over a large monastery, trained students, and produced recondite religious treatises, Ryokan followed a life of mendicancy in the countryside. Instead of delivering sermons, he expressed himself through kanshi (poems composed in classical Chinese) and waka and could typically be found playing with the village children in the course of his daily rounds of begging. Great Fool is the first study in a Western language to offer a comprehensive picture of the legendary poet-monk and his oeuvre. It includes not only an extensive collection of the master's kanshi, topically arranged to facilitate an appreciation of Ryokan's colorful world, but selections of his waka, essays, and letters. The volume also presents for the first time in English the Ryokan zenji kiwa (Curious Accounts of the Zen Master Ryokan), a firsthand source composed by a former student less than sixteen years after Ryokan's death. Although it lacks chronological order, the Curious Account is invaluable for showing how Ryokan was understood and remembered by his contemporaries. It consists of colorful anecdotes and episodes, sketches from Ryokan's everyday life.

Great State of White and High Cover

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Great State of White and High

Buddhism & State Formation in Eleventh-Century Xia

Ruth W. Dunnell

“A major contribution to our understanding of the rise of the Tangut as a cultural and political unity.” —Studies of Central and East Asian Religions

“Ruth Dunnell's long-awaited book on Buddhism and Tangut state formation expands on themes raised in her earlier work on Tangut history, in particular, the place of Buddhism in the early Xia state officially founded by Li (Weiming) Yuanhao in 1038 and the role of the empress dowager regents in preserving that state against external and internal enemies.” —China Review International

The Halo of Golden Light Cover

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The Halo of Golden Light

Imperial Authority and Buddhist Ritual in Heian Japan

Asuka Sango

In this pioneering study of the shifting status of the emperor within court society and the relationship between the state and the Buddhist community during the Heian period (794–1185), Asuka Sango details the complex ways in which the emperor and other elite ruling groups employed Buddhist ritual to legitimate their authority. Although considered a descendant of the sun goddess, Amaterasu, the emperor used Buddhist idiom, particularly the ideal king as depicted in the Golden Light Sūtra, to express his right to rule. Sango’s book is the first to focus on the ideals presented in the sūtra to demonstrate how the ritual enactment of imperial authority was essential to justifying political power. These ideals became the basis of a number of court-sponsored rituals, the most important of which was the emperor’s Misai-e Assembly.

Sango deftly traces the changes in the assembly’s format and status throughout the era and the significant shifts in the Japanese polity that mirrored them. In illuminating the details of these changes, she challenges dominant scholarly models that presume the gradual decline of the political and liturgical influence of the emperor over the course of the era. She also compels a reconsideration of Buddhism during the Heian as “state Buddhism” by showing that monks intervened in creating the state’s policy toward the religion to their own advantage. Her analysis further challenges the common view that Buddhism of the time was characterized by the growth of private esoteric rites at the expense of exoteric doctrinal learning.

The Halo of Golden Light draws on a wide range of primary sources—from official annals and diaries written by courtiers and monks to ecclesiastical records and Buddhist texts—many of them translated or analyzed for the first time in English. In so doing, the work brings to the surface surprising facets in the negotiations between religious ideas and practices and the Buddhist community and the state.

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