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The result of a dialogue between poets and scholars on the meaning and making of the sacred, this book endeavours to determine how the sacred emerges in sacred script as well as in poetic discourse. It ranges through scholarship in areas as apparently disparate as postmodernism and Buddhism. The perspectives developed are various and without closure, locating the sacred in modes as diverse as patristic traditions, feminist retranslations of biblical texts, and oral and written versions of documents from the world’s religions. The essays cohere in their preoccupation with the crucial role language plays in the creation of the sacred, particularly in the relation that language bears to silence. In their interplay, language does not silence silence by, rather, calls the other as sacred into articulate existence.
Buddhism and Lao Religious Culture
Holt advances the provocative argument that common Lao knowledge of important aspects of Theravada Buddhist thought and practice has been heavily conditioned by an indigenous religious culture dominated by the veneration of phi, spirits whose powers are thought to prevail over and within specific social and geographical domains. The enduring influence of traditional spirit cults in Lao culture and society has brought about major changes in how the figure of the Buddha and the powers associated with Buddhist temples and reliquaries—indeed how all ritual spaces and times—have been understood by the Lao. Despite vigorous attempts by Buddhist royalty, French rationalists, and most recently by communist ideologues to eliminate the worship of phi, spirit cults have not been displaced; they continue to persist and show no signs of abating. Not only have the spirits resisted eradication, but they have withstood synthesis, subordination, and transformation by Buddhist political and ecclesiastical powers.
Rather than reduce Buddhist religious culture to a set of simple commonalities, Holt takes a comparative approach, using his nearly thirty years’ experience with Sri Lanka to elucidate what is unique about Lao Buddhism. This stimulating book invites students in the fields of the history of religion and Buddhist and Southeast Asian studies to take a fresh look at prevailing assumptions and perhaps reconsider the place of Buddhism in Laos and Southeast Asia.
27 illus., 6 in color
A Journey to the Summit of Mount Emei
Located in a remote area of modern Sichuan province, Mount Emei is one of China’s most famous mountains and has long been important to Buddhists. Stairway to Heaven looks at Emei’s significance in Chinese history and literature while also addressing the issue of “sense of place” in Chinese culture. Mount Emei’s exquisite scenery and unique geographical features have inspired countless poets, writers, and artists. Since the early years of the Song dynasty (960–1279), Emei has been best known as a site of Buddhist pilgrimage and worship. Today, several Buddhist temples still function on Emei, but the mountain also has become a scenic tourist destination, attracting more than a million visitors annually. Author James M. Hargett takes readers on a journey to the mountain through the travel writings of the twelfth-century writer and official Fan Chengda (1126–1193). Fan’s diary and verse accounts of his climb to the summit of Mount Emei in 1177 are still among the most informative accounts of the mountain ever written. Through Fan’s eyes, words, and footsteps—and with background information and commentary from Hargett—the reader will experience some of the ways Emei has been “constructed” by diverse human experience over the centuries.
Master Takuan and His Writings on Immovable Wisdom and the Sword Tale
Takuan Sōho’s (1573–1645) two works on Zen and swordsmanship are among the most straightforward and lively presentations of Zen ever written and have enjoyed great popularity in both premodern and modern Japan. Although dealing ostensibly with the art of the sword, Record of Immovable Wisdom and On the Sword Taie are basic guides to Zen—“user’s manuals” for Zen mind that show one how to manifest it not only in sword play but from moment to moment in everyday life.
Along with translations of Record of Immovable Wisdom and On the Sword Taie (the former, composed in all likelihood for the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu and his fencing master, Yagyū Munenori), this book includes an introduction to Takuan’s distinctive approach to Zen, drawing on excerpts from the master’s other writings. It also offers an accessible overview of the actual role of the sword in Takuan’s day, a period that witnessed both a bloody age of civil warfare and Japan’s final unification under the Tokugawa shoguns. Takuan was arguably the most famous Zen priest of his time, and as a pivotal figure, bridging the Zen of the late medieval and early modern periods, his story (presented in the book’s biographical section) offers a rare picture of Japanese Zen in transition.
For modern readers, whether practitioners of Zen or the martial arts, Takuan’s emphasis on freedom of mind as the crux of his teaching resonates as powerfully as it did with the samurai and swordsmen of Tokugawa Japan. Scholars will welcome this new, annotated translation of Takuan’s sword-related works as well as the host of detail it provides, illuminating an obscure period in Zen’s history in Japan.
Explores the milieu of Taiwan’s Buddhist nuns, who have the greatest numbers in the Buddhist world and a prominent place in their own country. Taiwan’s Buddhist nuns are as unique as they are noteworthy. Boasting the greatest number of Buddhist nuns of any country, Taiwan has a much greater number of nuns than monks. These women are well known and well regarded as dharma teachers and for the social service work that has made them a central part of Taiwan’s civil society. In this, the first English-language book on Taiwanese women and Buddhism, author Elise Ann DeVido introduces readers to Taiwan’s Buddhist nuns, but also looks at the larger question of how Taiwan’s Buddhism shapes and is shaped by women--mainly nuns but also laywomen, who like their clerical sisters flourish in that country. Providing an historical overview of Buddhist women in China and Taiwan, DeVido discusses various reasons for the vibrancy of Taiwan’s nuns’ orders. She introduces us to the nuns of the best-known of order, the Buddhist Compassion-Relief Foundation (Ciji) as well as those of the Luminary Buddhist Institute. Discussing “Buddhism for the Human Realm,” DeVido asks whether this popular philosophy has encouraged and supported the singular strength of Taiwan’s Buddhism women.
Paternal Seductions in Early Mahayana Buddhist Literature
This beautifully written work sheds new light on the origins and nature of Mahayana Buddhism with close readings of four well-known texts—the Lotus Sutra, Diamond Sutra, Tathagatagarbha Sutra, and Vimalakirtinirdesa. Treating these sutras as literary works rather than as straightforward philosophic or doctrinal treatises, Alan Cole argues that these writings were carefully sculpted to undermine traditional monastic Buddhism and to gain legitimacy and authority for Mahayana Buddhism as it was veering away from Buddhism’s older oral and institutional forms. His sophisticated and sustained analysis of the narrative structures and seductive literary strategies used in these sutras suggests that they were specifically written to encourage devotion to the written word instead of other forms of authority, be they human, institutional, or iconic.
The View of the Elders
This book brings to life the age-old religious tradition of Theravada (literally, “view of the elders”) Buddhism as it is found in ancient texts and understood and practiced today in South and Southeast Asia. Following a brief introduction to the life of the historical Buddha and the beginning of his mission, the book examines the Triple Gem (the Buddha, his teachings, and the community of monastic followers) and the basic teachings of the Buddha in the earliest available Pali sources. Basic Buddhist concepts such as dependent co-origination, the four noble truths, the three trainings, and karma and its result are discussed in non-technical language, along with the Buddha’s message on social wellbeing.
The author goes on to chronicle his own involvement as an observer-participant in “the Theravada world,” where he was born and raised. His is a rare first-hand account of living Theravada Buddhism not only in its traditional habitats, but also in the world at large at the dawn of the twenty-first century. He concludes with a discussion on what is happening to Theravada today across the globe, covering issues such as diaspora Buddhism, women’s Buddhism, and engaged Buddhism. The book’s accessible language and clear explication of Theravada doctrine and texts make this an ideal introduction for the student and general reader.
A Buddhist-Feminist Social Ethic for Peacemaking in the Global Community
A Buddhist feminist social ethics for contemporary times. Offering a feminist analysis of foundational Buddhist texts, along with a Buddhist approach to social issues in a globalized world, Hsiao-Lan Hu revitalizes Buddhist social ethics for contemporary times. Hu’s feminist exegesis references the Nikaµya-s from the “Discourse Basket” of the Paµli Canon. These texts, among the earliest in the Buddhist canon, are considered to contain the sayings of the Buddha and his disciples and are recognized by all Buddhist schools. At the heart of the ethics that emerges is the Buddhist notion of interdependent co-arising, which addresses the sexism, classism, and frequent overemphasis on individual liberation, as opposed to communal well-being, for which Buddhism has been criticized. Hu notes the Buddha’s challenge to social hierarchies during his life and compares the notion of “non-Self” to the poststructuralist feminist rejection of the autonomous subject, maintaining that neither dissolves moral responsibility or agency. Notions of kamma, nibbaµna, and dukkha (suffering) are discussed within the communal context offered by insights from interdependent co-arising and the Noble Eightfold Path. This work uniquely bridges the worlds of Buddhism, feminism, social ethics, and activism and will be of interest to scholars, students, and readers in all of these areas.
Transmission, Translation, and Transformation
The global spread of Buddhism is giving rise to new forms of religious complexity, both in the West and in Asia. This collection of essays examines the religious and cultural conversations that are occurring in this process from a diverse range of disciplinary, methodological, and literary perspectives, including philosophy, ethnography, history, and cultural studies. The chapters in the first section explore the transmission of Buddhism to the West, ranging from the writings of one of its earliest western interpreters, the Wesleyan missionary R. Spence Hardy, to the globalization of Tibetan Buddhist reincarnation, to the development and practice of Buddhism within the American prison system. The concluding chapter of this section presents a case study of a Japanese Buddhist temple in Oregon that ultimately died out—an example of a transmission that failed. The second section looks at the complex issues that arise in the translation of Buddhist terms, texts, and concepts from one language or cultural milieu to another. Two chapters examine the challenges confronted by those who translate Buddhist texts—one exploring the contemporary translation of Tibetan Buddhism, the second analyzing an exchange of poetry in medieval Japan. The other two chapters describe the translation of Buddhist ideas into new cultural domains in America, specifically film and sports. The final section presents case studies in the transformation of Buddhism which is resulting from its new global interconnections. Topics include the role of women in transforming Buddhist patriarchy, Buddhist-Freudian dialogue in relationship to mourning, and the interplay between Buddhism and the environmental movement. The book also includes images created by the noted artist Meridel Rubenstein which frame the individual chapters within a nonverbal exploration of the themes discussed. In addition to the editors, contributors include Mark Blum, Mario D’Amato, Sue Darlington, Elizabeth Eastman, Connie Kassor, Tom Rohlich, Judith Snodgrass, Jane Stangl, and Karma Lekshe Tsomo.
Jacobson presents Buddhism unencumbered by Western categories and concepts, free from the cognitive bias, from the concept-oriented, definition-minded preoccupations inherited from the ancient Greeks. It is an interpretation of the central ideas that have characterized all forms of Buddhism for 25 centuries.