- Editor's Introduction
This volume of Buddhist-Christian Studies broadens the interreligious dialogue of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies in exciting ways. Most significantly, it presents a series of four groundbreaking essays reflecting Womanist-Buddhist dialogue. Womanist thought expands feminist discourse by critiquing not just patriarchy and sexism, but also the overlapping and intersecting forms of oppression caused by racism, heterosexism, and socioeconomic class divisions. These essays, in which three Womanist scholars and a scholar of Buddhism reflect upon their collective readings of Buddhist texts, are the first of their kind to be published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. Another essay explains how its author has found Jewish and Buddhist thought and practice to be mutually enhancing in his life. Two others draw the Greek pagan myth of Prometheus into dialogue with Buddhism and Christianity.
We begin with the winner of the 2011 graduate student essay competition sponsored by the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, "Just Peace: A Buddhist Christian Path to Liberation," by Kyeongil Jung. Following that are a series of four essays on the theme "Constructing Buddhist Identities in the West," the subject of a panel the Society sponsored at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, in San Francisco. They include Paul Knitter's reflection on the "hypostatic union" of his Buddhist and Christian identities, David Gilner's reflection on his Jewish-Buddhist practice, sociologist James Coleman's analysis of the question "Who is a Buddhist?" in North America, and Jan Willis's discussion of African American Buddhists and her own Baptist-Buddhist identity.
The latter provides a segue into the next group of essays, which grew out of a series of Womanist-Buddhist Consultations from 2009 to 2011 at Harvard Divinity School, the University of Georgia, and Texas Christian University. This section begins with the definition of Womanism offered by novelist and essayist Alice Walker, who also spoke at the 2011 AAR panel at which the four scholarly papers were first presented. (Thanks to the Buddhist Critical-Constructive Reflection Group and the Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society Group for co-sponsoring that panel!) Inspired by a method of communal text study employed in yeshivas, the scholars considered Buddhist texts through Womanist lenses. The three Womanist scholars represented here, Carolyn Jones Medine, Jennifer Leath, and Melanie Harris, welcome the expansion of Womanist thought beyond its roots in Christian theology. The final essay in this [End Page vii] group, from Charles Hallisey, reflects upon the gifts that this expanding dialogue offers to the field of Buddhist studies.
Next, Graham Parkes provides a timely and wide-ranging analysis of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, caused by a tsunami that devastated vast swaths of northeastern Japan. Parkes draws upon the Greek pagan myth of Prometheus and the Buddhist thought of Kūkai and Dōgen, as well as a number of scientific studies and discoveries in microbiology, to contemplate the disaster and the lessons it provides about human hubris and inattention to the limits imposed by natural systems. Finally, Steven Shippee compares the thought of Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyam Trungpa and Trappist monk Thomas Merton on the problem of spiritual egotism. His discussion of Merton focuses on the latter's interpretation of the Prometheus myth, as well.
In addition, we offer our regular "News and Views" section, edited this year by Jonathan Seitz, and book reviews by nine authors, all edited by Sid Brown. I am happy to be working alongside both editors, and grateful for their contributions to the journal. I would also like to thank Terry Muck and Rita Gross, who helped to ease my transition into the role of editor, and Joseph O'Leary, who helped to edit several of the essays. [End Page viii]