Critical Terms for the Study of Buddhism (Buddhism and Modernity Series)
Donald S. Lopez, Jr.
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Over the past century, Buddhism has come to be seen as a world religion, exceeding Christianity in longevity and, according to many, philosophical wisdom. Buddhism has also increasingly been described as strongly ethical, devoted to nonviolence, and dedicated to bringing an end to human suffering. And because it places such a strong emphasis on rational analysis, Buddhism is considered more compatible with science than the other great religions. As such, Buddhism has been embraced in the West, both as an alternative religion and as an alternative to religion.
This volume provides a unique introduction to Buddhism by examining categories essential for a nuanced understanding of its traditions. Each of the fifteen essays here shows students how a fundamental term—from art to word—illuminates the practice of Buddhism, both in traditional Buddhist societies and in the realms of modernity. Apart from Buddha, the list of terms in this collection deliberately includes none that are intrinsic to the religion. Instead, the contributors explore terms that are important for many fields and that invite interdisciplinary reflection. Through incisive discussions of topics ranging from practice, power, and pedagogy to ritual, history, sex, and death, the authors offer new directions for the understanding of Buddhism, taking constructive and sometimes polemical positions in an effort both to demonstrate the shortcomings of assumptions about the religion and the potential power of revisionary approaches.
Following the tradition of Critical Terms for Religious Studies, this volume is not only an invaluable resource for the classroom but one that belongs on the short list of essential books for anyone seriously interested in Buddhism and Asian religions.
Delhi: Oxford University Press. Reader, Ian, and George J. Tanabe Jr. 1998. Practically Religious: Worldly Beneﬁts and the Common Religion of Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press. Schopen, Gregory. 1997. Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks: Collected Papers on the Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Texts of Monastic Buddhism in India. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press. Sen, Tansen. 2003. Buddhism, Dipolomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600 –1400. Honolulu: University
Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism all hold that religious gifts should generally be directed upward, toward worthy and superior recipients (such as monks, brahmins, buddhas, and jinas). In fact, the merit accruing from a gift is dependent on the spiritual worth of the recipient: the more worthy the recipient is— or the better “ﬁeld of merit” he or she constitutes—the more merit the donor will accrue. Thus, in many Buddhist passages, we are given a hierarchy of recipients and a corresponding
whose name idols were made” (Yule  1986, 2:316 –17). Polo, like the travelers who preceded and followed him, never identiﬁed the religion he encountered with the name Buddhism, referring to the monks he encountered simply as idolaters. In his entry on Confucius in his Dictionarium Sacrum Seu Religiosum: A Dictionary of All Religions, Ancient and Modern, Whether Jewish, Pagan, Christian, or Mahometan, Daniel Defoe reported that, according to Chinese sources, the Buddha (which he referred to
Buddhism of the linguistic history of another time and place (Watt 1984, 195); though less well-known ﬁgures, such as Gong Zizhen (1792–1842) in China, will one day need to be given their due. This still continuing process of diffusion and creative change was what Westerners eventually encountered, marking off the fourth phase in the scheme put forward by Reynolds and Hallisey; they further subdivide into a period of ﬁrst clashes with Christian missions, a colonial period, and a postcolonial
had the resilience to develop institutions that could accommodate both. suggested readings Collcutt, Martin. 1981. Five Mountains: The Rinzai Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Gernet, Jacques. 1995. Buddhism in Chinese Society: An Economic History from the Fifth to the Tenth Centuries. Translated by Franciscus Verellen. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Gombrich, Richard F. 1988. Therava¯da Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares