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Ethical Transformation in Amerindian, Buddhist, and Greek Rebirth
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.
The Modernization, Acculturation, and Globalization of Shin
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.
Faces of the Incredible in Buddhist Burma
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.
Ichikawa Hakugen's Critique and Lingering Questions for Buddhist Ethics
During the first half of the twentieth century, Zen Buddhist leaders contributed actively to Japanese imperialism, giving rise to what has been termed "Imperial-Way Zen" (Kodo Zen). Its foremost critic was priest, professor, and activist Ichikawa Hakugen (1902–1986), who spent the decades following Japan’s surrender almost single-handedly chronicling Zen’s support of Japan’s imperialist regime and pressing the issue of Buddhist war responsibility. Ichikawa focused his critique on the Zen approach to religious liberation, the political ramifications of Buddhist metaphysical constructs, the traditional collaboration between Buddhism and governments in East Asia, the philosophical system of Nishida Kitaro (1876–1945), and the vestiges of State Shinto in postwar Japan. Despite the importance of Ichikawa’s writings, this volume is the first by any scholar to outline his critique. In addition to detailing the actions and ideology of Imperial-Way Zen and Ichikawa’s ripostes to them, Christopher Ives offers his own reflections on Buddhist ethics in light of the phenomenon. He devotes chapters to outlining Buddhist nationalism from the 1868 Meiji Restoration to 1945 and summarizing Ichikawa’s arguments about the causes of Imperial-Way Zen. After assessing Brian Victoria’s claim that Imperial-Way Zen was caused by the traditional connection between Zen and the samurai, Ives presents his own argument that Imperial-Way Zen can best be understood as a modern instance of Buddhism’s traditional role as protector of the realm. Turning to postwar Japan, Ives examines the extent to which Zen leaders have reflected on their wartime political stances and started to construct a critical Zen social ethic. Finally, he considers the resources Zen might offer its contemporary leaders as they pursue what they themselves have identified as a pressing task: ensuring that henceforth Zen will avoid becoming embroiled in international adventurism and instead dedicate itself to the promotion of peace and human rights. Lucid and balanced in its methodology and well grounded in textual analysis, Imperial-Way Zen will attract scholars, students, and others interested in Buddhism, ethics, Zen practice, and the cooptation of religion in the service of violence and imperialism.
Exploring Faith and Understanding with Buddhists and Christians
Buddhist-Christian reflection that uses friendship as a model for interreligious understanding. In this work of Buddhist-Christian reflection, John Ross Carter explores two basic aspects of human religiousness: faith and the activity of understanding. Carter’s perspective is unique, putting people and their experiences at the center of inquiry into religiousness. His model and method grows out of friendship, challenging the so-called objective approach to the study of religion that privileges patterns, concepts, and abstraction.Carter considers the traditions he knows best, the Protestant Christianity he was born into and the Theravada and Jodo Shinshu (Pure Land) traditions of the Sri Lankan and Japanese friends among whom he has lived, studied, and worked. His rich, wide-ranging accounts of religious experience include discussions of transcendence, reason, sam|vega, shinjin, the inconceivable, and whether lives oriented toward faith will survive in a global context with increased pressures for individualism and secularism. Ultimately, Carter proposes that the endeavor of interreligious understanding is itself a religious quest.
Buddhism, Bioethics, and Death
This book explores the Buddhist view of death and its implications for contemporary bioethics. Writing primarily from within the Tibetan tradition, author Karma Lekshe Tsomo discusses Buddhist notions of human consciousness and personal identity and how these figure in the Buddhist view of death. Beliefs about death and enlightenment and states between life and death are also discussed. Tsomo goes on to examine such hot-button topics as cloning, abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, organ donation, genetic engineering, and stem-cell research within a Buddhist context, introducing new ways of thinking about these highly controversial issues.
The Life and Teachings of Obaku Zen Master Tetsugen Doko
Iron Eyes focuses on the Japanese Zen master Tetsugen Doµkoµ (1630–1682), the best-known exponent of O÷baku Zen in Japan and the West. O÷baku Zen arose during the seventeenth century and became the third major Zen sect in Japan. O÷baku monks encouraged the laity to deepen their knowledge of and commitment to Buddhism. Tetsugen is credited with producing the first complete wood block edition of the Chinese Buddhist scriptures in Japan. Legend has it that Tetsugen had to raise the money for the project three times: twice his great compassion led him to give away the money he had raised to the starving victims of natural disasters. This Zen story is well-known in Japan and has gained popularity among contemporary Buddhists in the West. The first part of this book offers an introduction and a series of analytical chapters describing Tetsugen’s life, work, and teachings, as well as the legends related to him. The second part comprises annotated translations of his major teaching texts, important letters and other historical documents, a selection of his poetry, and several traditional biographies.
With contributions from scholars on both sides of the Pacific, Issei Buddhism in the Americas upends boundaries and categories that have tied Buddhism to Asia and illuminates the social and spiritual role that the religion has played in the Americas._x000B__x000B_While Buddhists in Japan had long described the migration of the religion as traveling from India, across Asia, and ending in Japan, this collection details the movement of Buddhism across the Pacific to the Americas. Contributors describe the pioneering efforts of first-generation Issei priests and their followers within the context of Japanese diasporic communities and immigration history and the early history of Buddhism in the Americas. The result is a dramatic exploration of the history of Asian immigrant religion that encompasses such topics as Japanese language instruction in Hawaiian schools, the Japanese Canadian community in British Columbia, and Zen Buddhism in Brazil._x000B__x000B_Contributors are Michihiro Ama, Noriko Asato, Masako Iino, Tomoe Moriya, Lori Pierce, Cristina Rocha, Keiko Wells, Duncan RyÃ»ken Williams, and Akihiro Yamakura._x000B_
An Illustrated Guide
Upon entering a Japanese Buddhist temple in Hawai‘i, most people—whether first-time visitors or lifelong members—are overwhelmed by the elaborate and complex display of golden ornaments, intricately carved altar tables and incense burners, and images of venerable masters and bodhisattvas. These objects, as well as the architectural elements of the temple itself, have meanings that are often hidden in ancient symbolisms. This book, written by two local authorities on Japanese art and religion, provides a thorough yet accessible overview of Buddhism in Hawai‘i followed by a temple-by-temple guide to the remaining structures across the state.
Introductory chapters cover the basic history, teachings, and practices of various denominations and the meanings of objects commonly found in temples. Taken together, they form a short primer on Buddhism in Japan and Hawai‘i. The heart of the book is a narrative description of the ninety temples still extant in Hawai‘i. Augmented by over 350 color photographs, each entry begins with historical background information and continues with descriptions of architecture, sanctuaries, statuary and ritual implements, columbariums, and grounds. Appended at the end is a chart listing each temple's denomination, membership number, and architectural type.
While many Buddhist temples in Hawai‘i are active social and religious centers, a good number are in serious decline. In addition to being an introduction to Buddhism and a guide book, Japanese Buddhist Temples of Hawai‘i is an indispensable historical record of what exists today and what may be gone tomorrow. It will appeal to temple members, pilgrims, residents, and tourists interested in local cultural and historic sites, and historians of Buddhism in Hawai‘i.
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Worldliness in a Religion of Renunciation
There have been many studies that focus on aspects of the history of Japanese Buddhism. Until now, none have addressed important questions of organization and practice in contemporary Buddhism, questions such as how Japanese Buddhism came to be seen as a religion of funeral practices; how Buddhist institutions envision the role of the laity; and how a married clergy has affected life at temples and the image of priests. This volume is the first to address fully contemporary Buddhist life and institutions—topics often overlooked in the conflict between the rhetoric of renunciation and the practices of clerical marriage and householding that characterize much of Buddhism in today’s Japan. Informed by years of field research and his own experiences training to be a Tendai priest, Stephen Covell skillfully refutes this "corruption paradigm" while revealing the many (often contradictory) facets of contemporary institutional Buddhism, or as Covell terms it, Temple Buddhism. Covell significantly broadens the scope of inquiry to include how Buddhism is approached by both laity and clerics when he takes into account temple families, community involvement, and the commodification of practice. He considers law and tax issues, temple strikes, and the politics of temple boards of directors to shed light on how temples are run and viewed by their inhabitants, supporters, and society in general. In doing so he uncovers the economic realities that shape ritual practices and shows how mundane factors such as taxes influence the debate over temple Buddhism’s role in contemporary Japanese society. In addition, through interviews and analyses of sectarian literature and recent scholarship on gender and Buddhism, he provides a detailed look at priests’ wives, who have become indispensable in the management of temple affairs.