The present study proposes that the goddesses Sarasvatī and Śrī appear in the Sutra of Golden Light (Suvarṇaprabhāsottama sūtra, 金光 明經, ca. early fifth century CE) as exemplars of the relationship of female deities to bodhisattvahood, dhāraṇī bestowal, and developments in deity invocation via mantra-based rituals. The goddesses demonstrate agency as Mahāyāna practitioners (i.e., bodhisattvas) who work on behalf of…
American Sutra is the first comprehensive study of the history of Buddhism in the incarceration of Japanese Americans during the Pacific War. As Williams notes, this is a topic that has heretofore been relatively understudied in the history of a country that continues to be seen as white and Christian.
Superiority Conceit in Buddhist Traditions: A Historical Perspective. By Anālayo Bhikkhu. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2021. 184 pages. $24.95 (hardcover). ISBN 9781614297192. Superiority Conceit is a lucid and accessible introduction to Ven. Anālayo’s vast body of work, primarily aimed at non-academics but with a robust set of citations for further reading. The titular “Superiority Conceit” effectively draws together what might…
In offering a snapshot of influential Buddhist voices during the nineteenth century, Buddhism and Modernity makes a valuable contribution to the field of Buddhist studies in Japan that, heretofore, has typically focused on the premodern period. For this reason, it deserves a wide readership by those interested in the history of modern Japanese Buddhism.
Jewels, Jewelry, and Other Shiny Things in the Buddhist Imaginary is an edited collection of essays that, as described by its editor Vanessa R. Sasson, explores the category of jewels, broadly conceived, in a tradition all too often characterized by austerity. This book includes twelve essays on topics from South Asian, Newar, Tibetan, and East Asian Buddhism, covering a period of more than two millennia and drawing on both literary texts and material culture.
Adam Lyons begins one chapter of his volume, Karma and Punishment: Prison Chaplaincy in Japan, with a joke he says he heard regularly among kyōkaishi, a Japanese role he translates as “prison chaplain”: “Why did you become a prison chaplain? ‘Because I did something terrible in a past life to deserve it’” (p. 216). The wry joke encapsulates some of the heavy and complex stressors that the position entails. Adam Lyons’ volume skillfully navigates the complex tensions involved in the role at present and how it developed since the late 1800s. Karma and Punishment takes the reader on a historical journey to show the origins of kyōkaishi; he shows both how they changed and what stayed consistent through different periods of history. Along the way, Lyons ties these developments to a valuable discourse on the religion-state relations and the evolving laws that oversee those connections.
Faking Liberties is divided into two main sections, each consisting of four chapters, with an introduction and conclusion outside of these sections. The sections, respectively, describe the attitudes toward religious freedom before and after the 1945 Occupation of Japan began.
Charles B. Jones’ Pure Land: History, Tradition, and Practice is an excellent reminder that viewing the whole forest is every bit as important as investigating its individual trees. Not a textbook yet functioning in a somewhat similar role, this synoptic book serves as a wonderful resource for undergraduate teaching with its informal engagement of the reader.
Contemporary studies of Buddhist philosophy take on the task of conceptual reconstruction of ancient thinkers by putting philosophers like Nāgārjuna or Dharmakīrti in conversation with philosophers such as Kant or Daniel Dennett. In so doing, they frequently treat “Buddhism,” “Abhidharma,” etc. normatively as a kind of short- hand for a finite set of propositions, i.e., “the doctrine of no-self” or “essentialism,” respectively. This article has four parts. The first discusses the contrast between academic certainty that Buddhism teaches absence of a self and the evidence upon which this assertion is based. The second part brings these discussions to bear on Dan Arnold’s treatments of Nāgārjuna to argue that the cogency of his reconstruction of Nāgārjuna’s arguments is undermined by not being sufficiently grounded in the evidence of historical context. The third part turns to Arnold’s contention that the proper study of religion should be about its doctrines and that these should be evaluated independent of social and political forces. Finally, I will suggest that there are troubling ethical implications to representing Buddhism free of social and historical context insofar as it ends up erasing Buddhists from the picture of “Buddhism.” I turn to a genealogy of the idea that our belief is free to show that the autonomy of belief we find in philosophical studies of Buddhism perpetuates a set of assumptions about Buddhism and religion that have more to do with Western post-Cold War state sensibilities than with the concerns of the ancient authors they purport to explain.
Beginning in the latter half of the nineteenth century, successive waves of Japanese Buddhist immigrants settled in the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, bringing with them a variety of Japanese Buddhist schools and traditions. Overcoming many hardships, Japanese immigrant women worked with great devotion to help establish numerous temples in the Hawai‘i through Buddhist women’s associations known as Fujinkai. These dedicated women not only maintained ancestral Buddhist practices but also integrated Japanese Buddhist, native Hawaiian, and other cultural elements in ways that were entirely new. Persevering through the war years and through successive waves of cultural adaptation, they transmitted and protected Buddhist values with humility, generosity, and compassion. This is a story of cultural integration, social transformation, and spiritual resilience told through the lives of women in Jōdo Shinshū (True Pure Land), the largest branch of Japanese Buddhism.