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Land of Beautiful Vision is the first book-length ethnography to address the role of material culture in contemporary adaptations of Buddhism and the first to focus on convert Buddhists in New Zealand. Sally McAra takes as her subject a fascinating instance of an ongoing creative process whereby a global religion is made locally meaningful through the construction of a Buddhist sacred place. She uses an in-depth case study of a small religious structure, a stupa, in rural New Zealand to explore larger issues related to the contemporary surge in interest in Buddhism and religious globalization. Her research extends beyond the level of public discourse on Buddhism to investigate narratives of members of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) about their relationship with the land, analyzing these and the FWBO’s transformative project through a thematic focus on key symbolic landmarks at their site, Sudarshanaloka. In considering cross-cultural interactions resulting in syncretism or indigenization of alien religions, many anthropological studies concentrate on the unequal power relations between colonizing and colonized peoples. McAra extrapolates from this literature to look at a situation where the underlying power relations are quite different. She focuses on individuals in an organization whose members seek to appropriate knowledge from an "Eastern" tradition to remake their own society—one shaped by its unresolved colonizing past.
The Sacred Geography of Tibet and the Himalaya
The landscapes of Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan are filled with holy places. Some are of natural origin -- summits, rivers and lakes, caves, or forest sanctuaries. Others are consecrated by religious practice -- shrines, temples, monasteries, or burial grounds. The holy sites of the Himalaya unite faith and geography to produce some of the most sublime places on Earth.
In Land of Pure Vision, David Zurick draws from his thirty-five years of experience as a geographer, photographer, and explorer of the Himalaya, combining scholarship and art to capture divine landscapes undergoing profound change. The stunning photographs featured in this volume cover the full geographical reach of the region, from the high plateaus of the western Himalaya to the rugged gorges of Tibet's eastern borderlands, from the icy summits of the north to the subtropical southern foothills. Some sites exist in isolation, with intact natural environments and cultural monuments. Others display the tension between the ancient, sacred character of a place and the indifferent course of the modern world.
Land of Pure Vision explores how the religious practices of Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, and shamanism interweave holy sites into a cohesive landscape of transcendent beauty and inspiration. It portrays a world of mystery, magic, and beauty, where the human spirit is in synchronicity with natural forces. Beyond elegy, this beautifully illustrated book is a visual ethnography of people and place.
Buddhism and the British Empire
Buddhism is indisputably gaining prominence in the West, as is evidenced by the growth of Buddhist practice within many traditions and keen interest in meditation and mindfulness. In The Lotus and the Lion, J. Jeffrey Franklin traces the historical and cultural origins of Western Buddhism, showing that the British Empire was a primary engine for curiosity about and then engagement with the Buddhisms that the British encountered in India and elsewhere in Asia. As a result, Victorian and Edwardian England witnessed the emergence of comparative religious scholarship with a focus on Buddhism, the appearance of Buddhist characters and concepts in literary works, the publication of hundreds of articles on Buddhism in popular and intellectual periodicals, and the dawning of syncretic religions that incorporated elements derived from Buddhism.
In this fascinating book, Franklin analyzes responses to and constructions of Buddhism by popular novelists and poets, early scholars of religion, inventors of new religions, social theorists and philosophers, and a host of social and religious commentators. Examining the work of figures ranging from Rudyard Kipling and D. H. Lawrence to H. P. Blavatsky, Thomas Henry Huxley, and F. Max Müller, Franklin provides insight into cultural upheavals that continue to reverberate into our own time. Those include the violent intermixing of cultures brought about by imperialism and colonial occupation, the trauma and self-reflection that occur when a Christian culture comes face-to-face with another religion, and the debate between spiritualism and materialism. The Lotus and the Lion demonstrates that the nineteenth-century encounter with Buddhism subtly but profoundly changed Western civilization forever.
The Buddhist Peace Movement in South Vietnam, 1964-1966
During the Vietnam War, Vietnamese Buddhist peace activists made extraordinary sacrifices—including self-immolation—to try to end the fighting. They hoped to establish a neutralist government that would broker peace with the Communists and expel the Americans. Robert J. Topmiller explores South Vietnamese attitudes toward the war, the insurgency, and U.S. intervention, and lays bare the dissension within the U.S. military. The Lotus Unleashed is one of the few studies to illuminate the impact of internal Vietnamese politics on U.S. decision-making and to examine the power of a nonviolent movement to confront a violent superpower.
A Religious History of Pure Land Literature in Tibet
With an annotated English translation and critical analysis of the Orgyan-gling gold manuscript of the short Sukhāvativyūha-sūtra
Pure Land Buddhism as a whole has received comparatively little attention in Western studies on Buddhism despite the importance of “buddha-fields” (pure lands) for the growth and expression of Mahāyāna Buddhism. In this first religious history of Tibetan Pure Land literature, Georgios Halkias delves into a rich collection of literary, historical, and archaeological sources to highlight important aspects of this neglected pan-Asian Buddhist tradition. He clarifies many of the misconceptions concerning the interpretation of “other-world” soteriology in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and provides translations of original Tibetan sources from the ninth century to the present that represent exoteric and esoteric doctrines that continue to be cherished by Tibetan Buddhists for their joyful descriptions of the Buddhist path. The book is informed by interviews with Tibetan scholars and Buddhist practitioners and by Halkias’ own participant-observation in Tibetan Pure Land rituals and teachings conducted in Europe and the Indian subcontinent.
Divided into three sections, Luminous Bliss shows that Tibetan Pure Land literature exemplifies a synthesis of Mahāyāna sutra-based conceptions with a Vajrayana world-view that fits progressive and sudden approaches to the realization of Pure Land teachings. Part I covers the origins and development of Pure Land in India and the historical circumstances of its adaptation in Tibet and Central Asia. Part II offers an English translation of the short Sukhāvatīvyūha-sūtra (imported from India during the Tibetan Empire) and contains a survey of original Tibetan Pure Land scriptures and meditative techniques from the dGe-lugs-pa, bKa’-brgyud, rNying-ma, and Sa-skya schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Part III introduces some of the most innovative and popular mortuary cycles and practices related to the Tantric cult of Buddha Amitābha and his Pure Land from the Treasure traditions in the bKa’-brgyud and rNying-ma schools.
Luminous Bliss locates Pure Land Buddhism at the core of Tibet’s religious heritage and demonstrates how this tradition constitutes an integral part of both Tibetan and East Asian Buddhism.
An overview of Korean Buddhism and its major figures in the modern period. The first book in English devoted exclusively to modern Korean Buddhism, this work provides a comprehensive exploration for scholars, students, and serious readers. Makers of Modern Korean Buddhism focuses on three key areas: Buddhist reform, Zen revival, and the interrelationship of religion, history, and politics. In Korea, the modern period in Buddhism begins in earnest in the late nineteenth century, during the closing years of the Chosoûn dynasty, which was characterized by a repressive brand of neo-Confucianism. Buddhist reformers arose to seek change in both Buddhism and Korean society at large. The work begins with a look at five of these reformers and their thought and work. The Zen revival that began at the end of the nineteenth century is covered from that period to contemporary times through an exploration of the life and thought of important Zen masters. The influence of Japanese Buddhist missionaries, the emergence of Korean engaged Buddhism, known as Minjung Buddhism, and the formation of modern Buddhist scholarship in Korea are discussed as well.
In modern Chinese Buddhism, Dizang is especially popular as the sovereign of the underworld. Often represented as a monk wearing a royal crown, Dizang helps the deceased faithful navigate the complex underworld bureaucracy, avert the punitive terrors of hell, and arrive at the happy realm of rebirth. The author is concerned with the formative period of this important Buddhist deity, before his underworldly aspect eclipses his connections to other religious expressions and at a time when the art, mythology, practices, and texts of his cult were still replete with possibilities. She begins by problematizing the reigning model of Dizang, one that proposes an evolution of gradual sinicization and increasing vulgarization of a relatively unknown Indian bodhisattva, Ksitigarbha, into a Chinese deity of the underworld. Such a model, the author argues, obscures the many-faceted personality and iconography of Dizang. Rejecting it, she deploys a broad array of materials (art, epigraphy, ritual texts, scripture, and narrative literature) to recomplexify Dizang and restore (as much as possible from the fragmented historical sources) what this figure meant to Chinese Buddhists from the sixth to tenth centuries. Rather than privilege any one genre of evidence, the author treats both material artifacts and literary works, canonical and noncanonical sources. Adopting an archaeological approach, she excavates motifs from and finds resonances across disparate genres to paint a vibrant, detailed picture of the medieval Dizang cult. Through her analysis, the cult, far from being an isolated phenomenon, is revealed as integrally woven into the entire fabric of Chinese Buddhism, functioning as a kaleidoscopic lens encompassing a multivalent religio-cultural assimilation that resists the usual bifurcation of doctrine and practice or "elite" and "popular" religion. The Making of a Savior Bodhisattva presents a fascinating wealth of material on the personality, iconography, and lore associated with the medieval Dizang. It elucidates the complex cultural, religious, and social forces shaping the florescence of this savior cult in Tang China while simultaneously addressing several broader theoretical issues that have preoccupied the field. Zhiru not only questions the use of sinicization as a lens through which to view Chinese Buddhist history, she also brings both canonical and noncanonical literature into dialogue with a body of archaeological remains that has been ignored in the study of East Asian Buddhism.
This study is the first in the English language to explore the ways medieval Japanese sought to overcome their sense of powerlessness over death. By attending to both religious practice and ritual objects used in funerals in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, it seeks to provide a new understanding of the relationship between the two. Karen Gerhart looks at how these special objects and rituals functioned by analyzing case studies culled from written records, diaries, and illustrated handscrolls, and by examining surviving funerary structures and painted and sculpted images.
The work is divided into two parts, beginning with compelling depictions of funerary and memorial rites of several members of the aristocracy and military elite. The second part addresses the material culture of death and analyzes objects meant to sequester the dead from the living: screens, shrouds, coffins, carriages, wooden fences. This is followed by an examination of implements (banners, canopies, censers, musical instruments, offering vessels) used in memorial rituals. The final chapter discusses the various types of and uses for portraits of the deceased, focusing on the manner of their display, the patrons who commissioned them, and the types of rituals performed in front of them. Gerhart delineates the distinction between objects created for a single funeral—and meant for use in close proximity to the body, such as coffins—and those, such as banners, intended for use in multiple funerals and other Buddhist services.
Richly detailed and generously illustrated, Gerhart introduces a new perspective on objects typically either overlooked by scholars or valued primarily for their artistic qualities. By placing them in the context of ritual, visual, and material culture, she reveals how rituals and ritual objects together helped to comfort the living and improve the deceased’s situation in the afterlife as well as to guide and cement societal norms of class and gender. Not only does her book make a significant contribution in the impressive amount of new information that it introduces, it also makes an important theoretical contribution as well in its interweaving of the interests and approaches of the art historian and the historian of religion. By directly engaging and challenging methodologies relevant to ritual studies, material culture, and art history, it changes once and for all our way of thinking about the visual and religious culture of premodern Japan.
45 illus., 11 in color
Buddhist Textual Culture and Medieval Japan
Miracles of Book and Body is the first book to explore the intersection of two key genres of sacred literature in medieval Japan: sutras, or sacred Buddhist texts, and setsuwa, or "explanatory tales," used in sermons and collected in written compilations. For most of East Asia, Buddhist sutras were written in classical Chinese and inaccessible to many devotees. How, then, did such devotees access these texts? Charlotte D. Eubanks argues that the medieval genre of "explanatory tales" illuminates the link between human body (devotee) and sacred text (sutra). Her highly original approach to understanding Buddhist textuality focuses on the sensual aspects of religious experience and also looks beyond Japan to explore pre-modern book history, practices of preaching, miracles of reading, and the Mahayana Buddhist "cult of the book."
Reflections on an Aging Parent
Named a Best Book of 2008 by Library Journal
In a series of moving vignettes, the author begins by describing a particular representation of Water-Moon Kuan Yin, a Buddhist teacher and goddess associated with compassion, who often sits on a precarious overhang or floats on a flimsy petal. Then Kuan Yin steps out of the frame to join the author in the mundane challenges of caring for her father-transferring his health insurance, struggling with a wheelchair van, managing adult diapers, or playing in the fictions of dementia. From perplexed to poignant to funny, the vignettes record the working-class English of a fading but still wise dad, and they find other human versions of Kuan Yin in a doctor who will still make house calls or kind strangers in the street.
The book includes ten illustrations: both classical representations of Kuan Yin and also the author's own drawings, which adapt Kuan Yin in an act of practical spirituality, reading art through life and life through art. Each vignette invites the harried caregiver to take a deep breath and meditate on the trials and joys of caring for an aging parent.