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Reviewed by:
  • Buddhism and Medicine: An Anthology of Premodern Sources ed. by C. Pierce Salguero
  • Natasha Heller
C. Pierce Salguero, ed. Buddhism and Medicine: An Anthology of Premodern Sources. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017. xxxvi, 689 pp. US$150 (hb). ISBN 9780231179942

Unquestionably Buddhism and Medicine: An Anthology of Premodern Sources is a work of major importance for the English-language study of Buddhism. With translations from Pāli, Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Tibetan sources (with a smaller number from Mongolian, Thai, and Vietnamese texts) in a variety of genres, this anthology provides a panoramic view of the interaction between Buddhism, healing, and medicine. Scholars of Buddhism will want to read (and purchase for their libraries, both personal and institutional) this volume to better acquaint themselves with these traditions, and to use in teaching, although the price may preclude assigning the entire book to undergraduates. But what might scholars of Chinese religions gain from Buddhism and Medicine? Quite a lot, as it turns out: 27 out of 62 chapters are on Chinese sources, divided between translated sources and those termed “domestic.” This means that roughly forty percent of the book concerns China, and given that the total page count is over 600 pages, the China portion is hefty enough to be a book on its own. My review here will focus on the chapters dealing with Chinese language sources. Even offering a one-sentence summary of each chapter would be tedious reading—there are simply too many—so I have chosen to comment more thematically. My failure to mention any one chapter should not be taken as a judgment on that chapter; I found all of them to be highly readable and erudite, and all of them offered fresh insights into Chinese Buddhism.

Reading Buddhism and Medicine for the Chinese sources means jumping across the thematic divisions of the anthology. These are: Doctrinal Considerations, Healing and Monastic Discipline, Buddhist Healers, Healing Rites, Meditation as Cure and Illness, Hybridity in Buddhist Healing, and Buddhism and the Medical Traditions. Readers can refer to the appendix, “Geographical Table of Contents,” for lists of texts by language, although this is usually apparent from the chapter titles and translators. Not surprisingly, most of the “China (Translation)” chapters are in the earlier part of the book, and most of the “China (Domestic)” chapters fall in the later sections. Translation itself is foregrounded in several chapters: Anālayo, in chapter 2, places together discourses translated from Pāli, Tibetan, and Chinese on the “healing potential of mental qualities that in the Buddhist traditions are known as the awakening factors” (p. 12). Marcus Bingenheimer, in chapter 17, offers translations of two sūtras on healing that were produced in China six hundred years apart; the first is part of collection translated around 400 c.e. and the second was translated by Dānapāla (Ch. Shihu 施護, fl. 980–1017). Looking at them together “shows how certain categories and details changed in the interim” (p. 164). The passages from these two sutras align the Four Noble Truths with the four skills of the physician, and make plain the comparison of the Buddha to a perfectly adept physician. In chapter 4, Salguero gives us side-by-side translations of a key passage on medicine from the Sūtra of Golden Light as translated by Dharmakṣema (385–433) and Yijing 義淨 (635–713).1 This allows us to see how Yijing’s training in medicine at Nālānda influences his translation, which is “much more detailed in its summary of Indian medical thought and contains a broader selection of medical ideas” (p. 31). We encounter Yijing again in chapter 16, in which [End Page 112] Christoph Kleine translates sections from his Record of the Inner Law Sent Home from the Southern Seas concerning health-related practices in Indian monasteries.

The monastery is naturally an important site for Buddhist medical practice. Chapter 13 provides rules concerning medicine from the vinaya of the Mahīśāsaka School, preserved in Chinese and translated by Salguero; in chapter 14, J.E.E. Pettit translates sections from the Emended Commentary on Monastic Practices from the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya by Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667) concerning...


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