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This is the definitive work on the first and greatest of Japan's twentieth-century philosophers, Nishida Kitaro (1870-1945). Interspersed throughout the narrative of Nishida's life and thought is a generous selection of the philosopher's own essays, letters, and short presentations, newly translated into English.
The Quest for Cosmopolitan Modernity
Widely perceived as an overwhelmingly Catholic nation, Brazil has experienced in recent years a growth in the popularity of Buddhism among the urban, cosmopolitan upper classes. In the 1990s Buddhism in general and Zen in particular were adopted by national elites, the media, and popular culture as a set of humanistic values to counter the rampant violence and crime in Brazilian society. Despite national media attention, the rapidly expanding Brazilian market for Buddhist books and events, and general interest in the globalization of Buddhism, the Brazilian case has received little scholarly attention. Cristina Rocha addresses that shortcoming in Zen in Brazil. Drawing on fieldwork in Japan and Brazil, she examines Brazilian history, culture, and literature to uncover the mainly Catholic, Spiritist, and Afro-Brazilian religious matrices responsible for this particular indigenization of Buddhism. In her analysis of Japanese immigration and the adoption and creolization of the Sôtôshû school of Zen Buddhism in Brazil, she offers the fascinating insight that the latter is part of a process of "cannibalizing" the modern other to become modern oneself. She shows, moreover, that in practicing Zen, the Brazilian intellectual elites from the 1950s onward have been driven by a desire to acquire and accumulate cultural capital both locally and overseas. Their consumption of Zen, Rocha contends, has been an expression of their desire to distinguish themselves from popular taste at home while at the same time associating themselves with overseas cultural elites.
“What is the sound of one hand clapping?” “Does a dog have Buddha-nature?” These cryptic expressions are among the best-known examples of koans, the confusing, often contradictory sayings that form the centerpiece of Zen Buddhist learning and training. Viewed as an ideal method for attaining and transmitting an unimpeded experience of enlightenment, they became the main object of study in Zen meditation, where their contemplation was meant to exhaust the capacity of the rational mind and the expressiveness of speech. Koan compilations, which include elegant poetic and eloquent prose commentaries on cryptic dialogues, are part of a great literary tradition in China, Japan, and Korea that appealed to intellectuals who sought spiritual fulfillment through interpreting elaborate rhetoric related to mysterious metaphysical exchanges. By focusing on two main facets of the religious themes expressed in koan records—individual religious attainment and the role dialogues play in maintaining order in the monastic system—Zen Koans reveals the distinct yet interlocking levels of meaning reflected in different koan case records and helps make sense of the seemingly nonsensical.
Experiencing Wild Western Places
Although spare, sweeping landscapes may appear “empty,” plains and prairies afford a rich, unique aesthetic experience—one of quiet sunrises and dramatic storms, hidden treasures and abundant wildlife, infinite horizons and omnipresent wind, all worthy of contemplation and celebration. In this series of narratives, photographs, and hand-drawn maps, Tyra Olstad blends scholarly research with first-hand observation to explore topics such as wildness and wilderness, travel and tourism, preservation and conservation, expectations and acceptance, and even dreams and reality in the context of parks, prairies, and wild, open places. In so doing, she invites readers to reconsider the meaning of “emptiness” and ask larger, deeper questions such as: how do people experience the world? How do we shape places and how do places shape us? Above all, what does it mean to experience that exhilarating effect known as Zen of the plains?
Japan's Tokeiji Convent Since 1285
Zen Sanctuary of Purple Robes examines the affairs of Rinzai Zen’s Toµkeiji Convent, founded in 1285 by nun Kakusan Shidoµ after the death of her husband, Hoµjoµ Tokimune. It traces the convent’s history through seven centuries, including the early nuns’ Zen practice; Abbess Yoµdoµ’s imperial lineage with nuns in purple robes; Hideyori’s seven-year-old daughter—later to become the convent’s twentieth abbess, Tenshuµ—spared by Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle for Osaka Castle; Toµkeiji as “divorce temple” during the mid-Edo period and a favorite topic of senryuµ satirical verse; the convent’s gradual decline as a functioning nunnery but its continued survival during the early Meiji persecution of Buddhism; and its current prosperity. The work includes translations, charts, illustrations, bibliographies, and indices. Beyond such historical details, the authors emphasize the convent’s “inclusivist” Rinzai Zen practice in tandem with the nearby Engakuji Temple. The rationale for this “inclusivism” is the continuing acceptance of the doctrine of “Skillful Means” (hoµben) as expressed in the Lotus Sutra—a notion repudiated or radically reinterpreted by most of the Kamakura reformers. In support of this contention, the authors include a complete translation of the Mirror for Women by Kakusan’s contemporary, Mujū Ichien.
The Book of Capping Phrases for Koan Practice
Zen Sand is a classic collection of verses aimed at aiding practitioners of kôan meditation to negotiate the difficult relationship between insight and language. As such it represents a major contribution to both Western Zen practice and English-language Zen scholarship. In Japan the traditional Rinzai Zen kôan curriculum includes the use of jakugo, or "capping phrases." Once a monk has successfully replied to a kôan, the Zen master orders the search for a classical verse to express the monk’s insight into the kôan. Special collections of these jakugo were compiled as handbooks to aid in that search. Until now, Zen students in the West, lacking this important resource, have been severely limited in carrying out this practice. Zen Sand combines and translates two standard jakugo handbooks and opens the way for incorporating this important tradition fully into Western Zen practice. For the scholar, Zen Sand provides a detailed description of the jakugo practice and its place in the overall kôan curriculum, as well as a brief history of the Zen phrase book. This volume also contributes to the understanding of East Asian culture in a broader sense.
Everyday Peace in a Karachi Apartment Building
Ethnic violence is a widespread concern, but we know very little about the micro-mechanics of coexistence in the neighborhoods around the world where inter-group peace is maintained amidst civic strife. In this ethnographic study of a multi-ethnic, middle-class high-rise apartment building in Karachi, Pakistan, Laura A. Ring argues that peace is the product of a relentless daily labor, much of it carried out in the zenana, or women's space. Everyday rhythms of life in the building are shaped by gender, ethnic and rural/urban tensions, national culture, and competing interpretations of Islam. Women's exchanges between households -- visiting, borrowing, helping -- and management of male anger are forms of creative labor that regulate and make sense of ethnic differences. Linking psychological senses of "tension" with anthropological views of the social significance of exchange, Ring argues that social-cultural tension is not so much resolved as borne and sustained by women's practices. Framed by a vivid and highly personal narrative of the author's interactions with her neighbors, her Pakistani in-laws, and other residents of the city, Zenana provides a rare glimpse into contemporary urban life in a Muslim society.
Stories from Duluth
Duluth may be the city of “untold delights” as lampooned in a Kentucky congressman’s speech in 1871. Or it may be portrayed by a joke in Woody Allen’s film Manhattan. Or then again, it may be the “Zenith City of the unsalted seas” celebrated by Dr. Thomas Preston Foster, founder of the city’s first newspaper. But whatever else it may be, this city of granite hills, foghorns, and gritty history, the last stop on the shipping lanes of the Great Lakes, is undeniably a city with character—and characters. Duluth native Michael Fedo captures these characters through the happy-go-melancholy lens nurtured by the people and landscape of his youth. In Zenith City Fedo brings it back home. Framed by his reflections on Duluth’s colorful—and occasionally very dark—history and its famous visitors, such as Sinclair Lewis, Joe DiMaggio, and Bob Dylan, his memories make the city as real as the boy next door but with a better story.
Here, among the graceful, poignant, and often hilarious remembered moments—pranks played on a severe teacher, the family’s unlikely mob connections, a rare childhood affliction—are the coordinates of Duluth’s larger landscape: the diners and supper clubs, the baseball teams, radio days, and the smelt-fishing rites of spring. Woven through these tales of Duluth are Fedo’s curious, instructive, and ultimately deeply moving stories about becoming a writer, from the guidance of an English teacher to the fourteen-year-old reporter’s interview with Louis Armstrong to his absorption in the events that would culminate in his provocative and influential book The Lynchings in Duluth. These are the sorts of essays—personal, cultural, and historical, at once regional and far-reaching—that together create a picture of people in a place as rich in history and anecdote as Duluth and of the forces that forever bind them together.
Slave Trader, Plantation Owner, Emancipator
Zephaniah Kingsley is best known for his Fort George Island plantation in Duval County, Florida, now a National Park Service site, and for his 1828 pamphlet, A Treatise on the Patriarchal System of Society, that advocated just and human treatment of slaves, liberal emancipation policies, and granting rights to free persons of color. Paradoxically, his fortune came from the purchase, sale, and labor of enslaved Africans.
In this penetrating biography, Daniel Schafer vividly chronicles Kingsley's evolving thoughts on race and slavery, exploring his business practices and his private life. Kingsley fathered children by several enslaved women, then freed and lived with them in a unique mixed-race family. One of the women--the only one he acknowledged as his "wife" though they were never formally married--was Anta Madgigine Ndiaye (Anna Kingsley), a member of the Senegalese royal family, who was captured in a slave raid and purchased by Kingsley in Havana, Cuba.
A ship captain, Caribbean merchant, and Atlantic slave trader during the perilous years of international warfare following the French Revolution, Kingsley sought protection under neutral flags, changing allegiance from Britain to the United States, Denmark, and Spain. Later, when the American acquisition of Florida brought rigid race and slavery policies that endangered the freedom of Kingsley's mixed-race family, he responded by moving his "wives" and children to a settlement in Haiti he established for free persons of color.
Kingsley's assertion that color should not be a "badge of degradation" made him unusual in the early Republic; his unique life is revealed in this fascinating reminder of the deep connections between Europe, the Caribbean, and the young United States.