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The Great State of White and High

Buddhism and State Formation in Eleventh-Century Xia

by 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

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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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A Handbook of Korean Zen Practice

A Mirror on the Son School of Buddhism (Songa 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.

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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.

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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.

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Hokkeji and the Reemergence of Female Monastic Orders in Premodern Japan

by 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.

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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.

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How Zen Became Zen

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

by Morten Schlutter

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.

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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.

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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.

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