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A Handbook of Korean Zen Practice Cover

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A Handbook of Korean Zen Practice

A Mirror on the Sŏn School of Buddhism (Sŏn’ga kwigam)

Translated by John Jorgensen

Sŏn (Japanese Zen) has been the dominant form of Buddhism in Korea from medieval times to the present. A Handbook of Korean Zen Practice: A Mirror on the Sŏn School of Buddhism (Sŏn’ga kwigam) was the most popular guide for Sŏn practice and life ever published in Korea and helped restore Buddhism to popularity after its lowest point in Korean history. It was compiled before 1569 by Sŏsan Hyujŏng (1520–1604), later famed as the leader of a monk army that helped defend Korea against a massive Japanese invasion in 1592. In addition to succinct quotations from sutras, the text also contained quotations from selected Chinese and Korean works together with Hyujŏng’s explanations. Because of its brevity and organization, the work proved popular and was reprinted many times in Korea and Japan before 1909.

A Handbook of Korean Zen Practice commences with the ineffability of the enlightened state, and after a tour through doctrine and practice it returns to its starting point. The doctrinal rationale for practice that leads to enlightenment is based on the Mahayana Awakening of Faith, but the practice Hyujŏng enjoins readers to undertake is very different: a method of meditation derived from the kongan (Japanese koan) called hwadu (Chinese huatou), or “point of the story,” the story being the kongan. Hyujŏng goes on to outline the specifics of practice, such as rules of conduct and chanting and mindfulness of the Buddha, and stresses the requirements for living the life of a monk. At the end of the text he returns to the hwadu, the need for a teacher, and hence the importance of lineage.

The version of the text translated here is the earliest and the longest extant. It was “translated” into Korean from Chinese by one of Hyujŏng’s students to aid Korean readers. The present volume contains a brief history of hwadu practice and theory, a life of Hyujŏng, and a summary of the text, plus a detailed, annotated translation. It should be of interest to practitioners of meditation and students of East Asian Buddhism and Korean history.

The Heart of Buddhist Philosophy Cover

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The Heart of Buddhist Philosophy


Nolan Pliny Jacobson

Jacobson convincingly demonstrates that Buddhism and the Western philosophies of Heraclitus and of modern thinkers such as Dewey, Whitehead, and Hartshorne have developed a reason truer to authentic experience than the reason so prevalent in traditionally dominant Western philosophy.

Heart of Dogen's Shobogenzo, The Cover

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Heart of Dogen's Shobogenzo, The

The Heart of Doµgen’s Shoµboµgenzoµ provides exhaustively annotated translations of the difficult core essays of Shoµboµgenzoµ, the masterwork of Japanese Zen master Doµgen Kigen, the founder of Soµtoµ Zen. This book is centered around those essays that generations have regarded as containing the essence of Doµgen’s teaching. These translations, revised from those that first appeared in the 1970s, clarify and enrich the understanding of Doµgen’s religious thought and his basic ideas about Zen practice and doctrine. Doµgen’s uncommon intellectual gifts, combined with a profound religious attainment and an extraordinary ability to articulate it, make Shoµboµgenzoµ unique even in the vast literature the Zen school has produced over the centuries, securing it a special place in the history of world religious literature.

Hokkeji and the Reemergence of Female Monastic Orders in  Premodern Japan Cover

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Hokkeji and the Reemergence of Female Monastic Orders in Premodern Japan

Lori R. Meeks

Hokkeji, an ancient Nara temple that once stood at the apex of a state convent network established by Queen-Consort Komyo (701–760), possesses a history that in some ways is bigger than itself. Its development is emblematic of larger patterns in the history of female monasticism in Japan. In Hokkeji and the Reemergence of Female Monastic Orders in Premodern Japan, Lori Meeks explores the revival of Japan’s most famous convent, an institution that had endured some four hundred years of decline following its establishment. With the help of the Ritsu (Vinaya)-revivalist priest Eison (1201–1290), privately professed women who had taken up residence at Hokkeji succeeded in reestablishing a nuns’ ordination lineage in Japan. Meeks considers a broad range of issues surrounding women’s engagement with Buddhism during a time when their status within the tradition was undergoing significant change. The thirteenth century brought women greater opportunities for ordination and institutional leadership, but it also saw the spread of increasingly androcentric Buddhist doctrine. Hokkeji explores these contradictions. In addition to addressing the socio-cultural, economic, and ritual life of the convent, Hokkeji examines how women interpreted, used, and "talked past" canonical Buddhist doctrines, which posited women’s bodies as unfit for buddhahood and the salvation of women to be unattainable without the mediation of male priests. Texts associated with Hokkeji, Meeks argues, suggest that nuns there pursued a spiritual life untroubled by the so-called soteriological obstacles of womanhood. With little concern for the alleged karmic defilements of their gender, the female community at Hokkeji practiced Buddhism in ways resembling male priests: they performed regular liturgies, offered memorial and other priestly services to local lay believers, and promoted their temple as a center for devotional practice. What distinguished Hokkeji nuns from their male counterparts was that many of their daily practices focused on the veneration of a female deity, their founder Queen-Consort Komyo, whom they regarded as a manifestation of the bodhisattva Kannon. Hokkeji rejects the commonly accepted notion that women simply internalized orthodox Buddhist discourses meant to discourage female practice and offers new perspectives on the religious lives of women in premodern Japan. Its attention to the relationship between doctrine and socio-cultural practice produces a fuller view of Buddhism as it was practiced on the ground, outside the rarefied world of Buddhist scholasticism.

Hongzhou School of Chan Buddhism in Eighth- through Tenth-Century China, The Cover

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Hongzhou School of Chan Buddhism in Eighth- through Tenth-Century China, The

This book provides a wide-ranging examination of the Hongzhou school of Chan Buddhism—the precursor to Zen Buddhism—under Mazu Daoyi (709–788) and his successors in eighth- through tenth-century China, which was credited with creating a Golden Age or classical tradition. Jinhua Jia uses stele inscriptions and other previously ignored texts to explore the school’s teachings and history. Defending the school as a full-fledged, significant lineage, Jia reconstructs Mazu’s biography and resolves controversies about his disciples. In contrast to the many scholars who either accept or reject the traditional Chan histories and discourse records, she thoroughly examines the Hongzhou literature to differentiate the original, authentic portions from later layers of modification and recreation. The book describes the emergence and maturity of encounter dialogue and analyzes the new doctrines and practices of the school to revise the traditional notion of Mazu and his followers as iconoclasts. It also depicts the strivings of Mazu’s disciples for orthodoxy and how the criticisms of and reflections on Hongzhou doctrine led to the schism of this line and the rise of the Shitou line and various houses during the late Tang and Five Dynasties periods. Jia refutes the traditional Chan genealogy of two lines and five houses and calls for new frameworks in the study of Chan history. An annotated translation of datable discourses of Mazu is also included.

How Zen Became Zen Cover

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How Zen Became Zen

The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China

Morten Schlütter

How Zen Became Zen takes a novel approach to understanding one of the most crucial developments in Zen Buddhism: the dispute over the nature of enlightenment that erupted within the Chinese Chan (Zen) school in the twelfth century. The famous Linji (Rinzai) Chan master Dahui Zonggao (1089–1163) railed against "heretical silent illumination Chan" and strongly advocated kanhua (koan) meditation as an antidote. In this fascinating study, Morten Schlütter shows that Dahui’s target was the Caodong (Soto) Chan tradition that had been revived and reinvented in the early twelfth century, and that silent meditation was an approach to practice and enlightenment that originated within this "new" Chan tradition. Schlütter has written a refreshingly accessible account of the intricacies of the dispute, which is still reverberating through modern Zen in both Asia and the West. Dahui and his opponents’ arguments for their respective positions come across in this book in as earnest and relevant a manner as they must have seemed almost nine hundred years ago. Although much of the book is devoted to illuminating the doctrinal and soteriological issues behind the enlightenment dispute, Schlütter makes the case that the dispute must be understood in the context of government policies toward Buddhism, economic factors, and social changes. He analyzes the remarkable ascent of Chan during the first centuries of the Song dynasty, when it became the dominant form of elite monastic Buddhism, and demonstrates that secular educated elites came to control the critical transmission from master to disciple ("procreation" as Schlütter terms it) in the Chan School.

Image Problems Cover

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Image Problems

The Origin and Development of the Buddha's Image in Early South Asia

by Robert DeCaroli

This deft and lively study by Robert DeCaroli explores the questions of how and why the earliest verifiable images of the historical Buddha were created. In so doing, DeCaroli steps away from old questions of where and when to present the history of Buddhism’s relationship with figural art as an ongoing set of negotiations within the Buddhist community and in society at large. By comparing innovations in Brahmanical, Jain, and royal artistic practice, DeCaroli examines why no image of the Buddha was made until approximately five hundred years after his death and what changed in the centuries surrounding the start of the Common Era to suddenly make those images desirable and acceptable. The textual and archaeological sources reveal that figural likenesses held special importance in South Asia and were seen as having a significant amount of agency and power. Anxiety over image use extended well beyond the Buddhists, helping to explain why images of Vedic gods, Jain teachers, and political elites also are absent from the material record of the centuries BCE. DeCaroli shows how the emergence of powerful dynasties and rulers, who benefited from novel modes of visual authority, was at the root of the changes in attitude toward figural images. However, as DeCaroli demonstrates, a strain of unease with figural art persisted, even after a tradition of images of the Buddha had become established.

Imagining Karma Cover

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Imagining Karma

Ethical Transformation in Amerindian, Buddhist, and Greek Rebirth

Gananath Obeyesekere

With Imagining Karma, Gananath Obeyesekere embarks on the very first comparison of rebirth concepts across a wide range of cultures. Exploring in rich detail the beliefs of small-scale societies of West Africa, Melanesia, traditional Siberia, Canada, and the northwest coast of North America, Obeyesekere compares their ideas with those of the ancient and modern Indic civilizations and with the Greek rebirth theories of Pythagoras, Empedocles, Pindar, and Plato. His groundbreaking and authoritative discussion decenters the popular notion that India was the origin and locus of ideas of rebirth. As Obeyesekere compares responses to the most fundamental questions of human existence, he challenges readers to reexamine accepted ideas about death, cosmology, morality, and eschatology.

Obeyesekere's comprehensive inquiry shows that diverse societies have come through independent invention or borrowing to believe in reincarnation as an integral part of their larger cosmological systems. The author brings together into a coherent methodological framework the thought of such diverse thinkers as Weber, Wittgenstein, and Nietzsche. In a contemporary intellectual context that celebrates difference and cultural relativism, this book makes a case for disciplined comparison, a humane view of human nature, and a theoretical understanding of "family resemblances" and differences across great cultural divides.

Immigrants to the Pure Land Cover

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Immigrants to the Pure Land

The Modernization, Acculturation, and Globalization of Shin

Michihiro Ama

Religious acculturation is typically seen as a one-way process: The dominant religious culture imposes certain behavioral patterns, ethical standards, social values, and organizational and legal requirements onto the immigrant religious tradition. In this view, American society is the active partner in the relationship, while the newly introduced tradition is the passive recipient being changed. Michihiro Ama’s investigation of the early period of Jodo Shinshu in Hawai‘i and the United States sets a new standard for investigating the processes of religious acculturation and a radically new way of thinking about these processes.

Most studies of American religious history are conceptually grounded in a European perspectival position, regarding the U.S. as a continuation of trends and historical events that begin in Europe. Only recently have scholars begun to shift their perspectival locus to Asia. Ama’s use of materials spans the Pacific as he draws on never-before-studied archival works in Japan as well as the U.S. More important, Ama locates immigrant Jodo Shinshu at the interface of two expansionist nations. At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, both Japan and the U.S. were extending their realms of influence into the Pacific, where they came into contact—and eventually conflict—with one another. Jodo Shinshu in Hawai‘i and California was altered in relation to a changing Japan just as it was responding to changes in the U.S. Because Jodo Shinshu’s institutional history in the U.S. and the Pacific occurs at a contested interface, Ama defines its acculturation as a dual process of both "Japanization" and "Americanization."

Immigrants to the Pure Land explores in detail the activities of individual Shin Buddhist ministers responsible for making specific decisions regarding the practice of Jodo Shinshu in local sanghas. By focusing so closely, Ama reveals the contestation of immigrant communities faced with discrimination and exploitation in their new homes and with changing messages from Japan. The strategies employed, whether accommodation to the dominant religious culture or assertion of identity, uncover the history of an American church in the making.

The Immortals Cover

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The Immortals

Faces of the Incredible in Buddhist Burma

Guillaume Rozenberg, translated by Ward Keeler

In 1952 a twenty-six-year-old man living in a village in Central Burma was possessed by weikza—humans with extraordinary powers, including immortality. Key figures in Burmese Buddhism, weikza do not die but live on in an invisible realm. From there they re-enter the world through possession to care for people’s temporal and spiritual needs while protecting and propagating Buddhism. A cult quickly formed around the young peasant, the chosen medium for four weikza ranging in age from 150 to 1000 years. In addition, these weikza appeared regularly in the flesh. The Immortals plunges us into the midst of this cult, which continues to attract followers from all over the country who seek to pay homage to the weikza, receive their teaching, and benefit from their power.

The cult of the four weikza raises a number of classic anthropological issues, particularly for of religion: the nature of the supernatural and of belief; the relations among religion, magic, and science; the experience of possession. It also provides a window on contemporary Burmese society. To contemplate both, the author adopts an unconventional approach, which itself reflects how anthropology uses description and the interpretations description occasions to make sense of what it studies. The writing makes clear both the indigenous take on reality and the work of anthropological understanding as it is being elaborated, along with the ties that connect the latter to the former. Mixing narration of the incredible with reflection on the forms religious experience takes, The Immortals offers us a way to accompany the author into the field and to grasp—to take up and make our own—the anthropologist’s interpretations and the realities to which they pertain.

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