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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.
Clerical Marriage in Modern Japanese Buddhism
Buddhism comes in many forms, but in Japan it stands apart from all the rest in one most striking way—the monks get married. In Neither Monk nor Layman, the most comprehensive study of this topic in any language, Richard Jaffe addresses the emergence of an openly married clergy as a momentous change in the history of modern Japanese Buddhism. He demonstrates, in clear and engaging prose, that this shift was not an easy one for Japanese Buddhists. Yet the transformation that began in the early Meiji period (1868–1912)—when monks were ordered by government authorities to marry, to have children, and to eat meat—today extends to all the country’s Buddhist denominations. Jaffe traces the gradual acceptance of clerical marriage by Japanese Buddhists from the premodern emergence of the "clerical marriage problem" in the Edo period to its widespread practice by the start of World War II. In doing so he considers related issues such as the dissolution of clerical status and the growing domestication of Japanese temple life. This book reveals the deep contradictions between sectarian teachings that continue to idealize renunciation and a clergy whose lives closely resemble those of their parishioners in modern Japanese society. It will attract not only scholars of religion and of Japanese history, but all those interested in the encounter-conflict between regimes of modernization and religious institutions and the fate of celibate religious practices in the twentieth century.
The Thai Buddhist Environmental Movement
A firsthand look at the Thai Buddhist environmental movement and its activist monks. Thai Buddhist monks wrap orange clerical robes around trees to protect forests. “Ordaining” a tree is a provocative ritual that has become the symbol of a small but influential monastic movement aimed at reversing environmental degradation and the unsustainable economic development and consumerism that fuel it. This book examines the evolution of this movement from the late 1980s to the present, exploring the tree ordination and other rituals used to resist destructive national projects. Susan M. Darlington explores monks’ motivations, showing how they interpret their lived religion as the basis of their actions, and provides an in-depth portrait of activist monk Phrakhru Pitak Nanthakhun. The obstacles monks face, including damage to their reputations, arrest, and even assassination, reveal the difficulty of enacting social justice. Even the tree ordination itself must now withstand its appropriation for state projects. Despite this, monks have gone from individual action to a loosely allied movement that now works with nongovernmental organizations. This is a fascinating, firsthand account of engaged Buddhism.
An Annotated Translation and Study of the Chanyuan Qinggui
The Origins of Buddhist Monastic Codes in China contains the first complete translation of China’s earliest and most influential monastic code. The twelfth-century text Chanyuan qinggui (Rules of Purity for the Chan Monastery) provides a wealth of detail on all aspects of life in public Buddhist monasteries during the Sung (960–1279). Part One consists of Yifa’s overview of the development of monastic regulations in Chinese Buddhist history, a biography of the text’s author, and an analysis of the social and cultural context of premodern Chinese Buddhist monasticism. Of particular importance are the interconnections made between Chan traditions and the dual heritages of Chinese culture and Indian Buddhist Vinaya. Although much of the text’s source material is traced directly to the Vinayas and the works of the Vinaya advocate Daoan (312–385) and the Lü master Daoxuan (596–667), the Chanyuan qinggui includes elements foreign to the original Vinaya texts—elements incorporated from Chinese governmental policies and traditional Chinese etiquette. Following the translator’s overview is a complete translation of the text, extensively annotated.
The Incense Light Community and Buddhist Nuns in Contemporary Taiwan
The term “revival” has been used to describe the resurgent vitality of Buddhism in Taiwan. Particularly impressive is the quality and size of the nun’s order: Taiwanese nuns today are highly educated and greatly outnumber monks. Both characteristics are unprecedented in the history of Chinese Buddhism and are evident in the Incense Light community (Xiangguang). Passing the Light is the first in-depth case study of the community, which was founded in 1974 and remains a small but influential order of highly educated nuns who dedicate themselves to teaching Buddhism to lay adults.
The work begins with a historical survey of Buddhist nuns in China, based primarily on the sixth-century biographical collection Lives of the Nuns and stories of nuns in subsequent centuries. This is followed by discussions on the early history of the Incense Light community; the life of Wuyin, one of its most prominent leaders; and the crucial role played by Buddhist studies societies on college campuses, where many nuns were first introduced to Incense Light. Later chapters look at the curriculum and innovative teaching methods at the Incense Light seminary and the nuns’ efforts to teach Buddhism to adults. The work ends with portraits of individual nuns, providing details on their backgrounds, motivations for becoming nuns, and the problems or setbacks they have encountered both within and without the Incense Light community.
This engaging study enriches the literature on the history of Buddhist nuns, seminaries, and education, and will find an appreciative audience among scholars and students of Chinese religion, especially Buddhism, as well as those interested in questions of religion and modernity and women and religion.
Two Precious Scroll Narratives of Guanyin and Her Acolytes
The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara was a handsome prince when he entered China. As Guanyin, the bodhisattva was venerated from the eleventh century onward in the shape of a beautiful woman who became a universal savior. Throughout the last millennium, the female Guanyin has enjoyed wide and fervid veneration throughout East Asia and has appeared as a major character in literature and legend. In one tale, Guanyin (as the princess Miaoshan) returns from the dead after being executed by the king, her father, for refusing to marry. The most popular version of this legend is The Precious Scroll of Incense Mountain (Xiangshan baojuan), a long narrative in prose and verse and a work of considerable literary merit. It emphasizes the conflict between father and daughter, in the course of which all conventional arguments against a religious lifestyle are paraded and rebutted. A lengthy description of Guanyin’s visit to the underworld, which focuses on the conflict between grace and justice, is also included. Personal Salvation and Filial Piety offers a complete and fully annotated translation of The Precious Scroll, based on a nineteenth-century edition. The translation is preceded by a substantial introduction that discusses the origin of the text and the genre to which it belongs and highlights the similarities and differences between the scroll and female saints’ lives from medieval Europe. There follows a translation of the much-shorter Precious Scroll of Good-in-Talent and Dragon Daughter, which provides a humorous account of how Guanyin acquired the three acolytes—Sudhana, Nagakanya, and a white parrot—who are often shown surrounding her in popular prints. As the first English-language translation of major "precious scrolls," Personal Salvation and Filial Piety will appeal to a wide range of readers—from scholars of Chinese literature to students of Buddhism. Beyond the field of East Asian studies, it will interest specialists in comparative religion and literature and feminist theologians. Because of its lively and moving narratives, the text is suitable for courses on popular Buddhist religiosity (particularly female religiosity) in Chinese society.
Buddhism, Purity, and Gender
Innumerable studies have appeared in recent decades about practically every aspect of women's lives in Western societies. The few such works on Buddhism have been quite limited in scope. In The Power of Denial, Bernard Faure takes an important step toward redressing this situation by boldly asking: does Buddhism offer women liberation or limitation? Continuing the innovative exploration of sexuality in Buddhism he began in The Red Thread, here he moves from his earlier focus on male monastic sexuality to Buddhist conceptions of women and constructions of gender. Faure argues that Buddhism is neither as sexist nor as egalitarian as is usually thought. Above all, he asserts, the study of Buddhism through the gender lens leads us to question what we uncritically call Buddhism, in the singular.
Faure challenges the conventional view that the history of women in Buddhism is a linear narrative of progress from oppression to liberation. Examining Buddhist discourse on gender in traditions such as that of Japan, he shows that patriarchy--indeed, misogyny--has long been central to Buddhism. But women were not always silent, passive victims. Faure points to the central role not only of nuns and mothers (and wives) of monks but of female mediums and courtesans, whose colorful relations with Buddhist monks he considers in particular.
Ultimately, Faure concludes that while Buddhism is, in practice, relentlessly misogynist, as far as misogynist discourses go it is one of the most flexible and open to contradiction. And, he suggests, unyielding in-depth examination can help revitalize Buddhism's deeper, more ancient egalitarianism and thus subvert its existing gender hierarchy. This groundbreaking book offers a fresh, comprehensive understanding of what Buddhism has to say about gender, and of what this really says about Buddhism, singular or plural.
With more than 5,000 entries totaling over a million words, this is the most comprehensive and authoritative dictionary of Buddhism ever produced in English. It is also the first to cover terms from all of the canonical Buddhist languages and traditions: Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Unlike reference works that focus on a single Buddhist language or school, The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism bridges the major Buddhist traditions to provide encyclopedic coverage of the most important terms, concepts, texts, authors, deities, schools, monasteries, and geographical sites from across the history of Buddhism. The main entries offer both a brief definition and a substantial short essay on the broader meaning and significance of the term covered. Extensive cross-references allow readers to find related terms and concepts. An appendix of Buddhist lists (for example, the four noble truths and the thirty-two marks of the Buddha), a timeline, six maps, and two diagrams are also included.
Written and edited by two of today's most eminent scholars of Buddhism, and more than a decade in the making, this landmark work is an essential reference for every student, scholar, or practitioner of Buddhism and for anyone else interested in Asian religion, history, or philosophy.
Watsuji Tetsurō's Shamon Dōgen
“Purifying Zen: Watsuji Tetsuro’s Shamon Dogen makes available in a clear and fluid translation an early classic in modern Japanese philosophy. Steve Bein’s annotations, footnotes, introduction, and commentary bridge the gap separating not only the languages but also the cultures of its original readers and its new Western audience.” —from the Foreword by Thomas P. Kasulis
In 1223 the monk Dogen Kigen (1200–1253) came to the audacious conclusion that Japanese Buddhism had become hopelessly corrupt. He undertook a dangerous pilgrimage to China to bring back a purer form of Buddhism and went on to become one of the founders of Soto Zen, still the largest Zen sect in Japan. Seven hundred years later, the philosopher Watsuji Tetsuro (1889–1960) also saw corruption in the Buddhism of his day. Watsuji’s efforts to purify the religion sent him not across the seas but searching Japan’s intellectual past, where he discovered writings by Dogen that had been hidden away by the monk’s own sect. Watsuji later penned Shamon Dogen (Dogen the monk), which single-handedly rescued Dogen from the brink of obscurity, reintroducing Japan to its first great philosophical mind.
Purifying Zen is the first English translation of Watsuji’s landmark book. A text intended to reacquaint Japan with one of its finest philosophers, the work delves into the complexities of individuals in social relationships, lamenting the stark egoism and loneliness of life in an increasingly Westernized Japan. In addition to an introduction that provides biographical details on Watsuji and Dogen, the translation is supplemented with a brief guide to the themes and ideas of Shamon Dogen, beginning with a consideration of the nature of faith and the role of responsibility in Watsuji’s vision of Dogen’s Zen. It goes on to examine the technical terms of Dogen’s philosophy and the role of written language in Dogen’s thought.
Local Realities, Global Relations
In this volume, leading scholars in anthropology, religion, and area studies engage global and local perspectives dialectically to develop a historically grounded, ethnographically driven social science.The book's chapters, drawing on research in East and Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, are also in conversation with the extensive work of editor and contributor Stanley J. Tambiah: They all investigate some aspect of what Tambiah has called "multiple orientations to the world." The implicit focus throughout is on human cultural differences and the historically constituted nature of the political potentialities (both positive and negative) that stem from these. As a whole, then, the volume promotes an approach to scholarship that actively avoids privileging any one conceptual framework or cultural form at the expense of recognizing another-a style of inquiry that the editors call "radical egalitarianism."Together, these scholars encourage a comparative examination of contemporary societies, provide insights into the historical development of social scientific and sociopolitical categories, and raise vital questions about the possibilities for achieving equality and justice in the presence of competing realities in the global world today. Michael M.J. Fischer's Afterword provides a brilliant exegesis of Tambiah's multifaceted oeuvre, outlining the primary themes that inform his scholarship and, by extension, all the chapters in this book.