As some readers of this journal may be unfamiliar with the term “apologetics,” let me begin by introducing the basic concept. Far from an expression of remorse over past actions, apologetics in religion hear- kens back to the older meaning of the Greek apologia as a legal defense against accusations. In Christianity, it became a branch of theology concerned with meeting the objections of detractors with reasoned arguments. It is in this sense that we find the word in 1 Peter 3:15–16: “Always be prepared to give an answer (apologia) to everyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.” Like many theological terms, “apologetics” has been adopted into religious studies more broadly as a term covering any literature or speech that defends a specific religious point of view against objections and criticisms.
All three of the articles that follow examine ways in which a Buddhist figure or group has mounted a defense against outside objections or a justification for fellow religionists.