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Buddhism or buddhisms: mirrored reflections

By Richard Payne Of late, scholars have increasingly called into question the utility of the nation-state as the default category for the study of Buddhism. In terms of the way Buddhism is academically apprehended, the implication of Johan Elverskog’s argument in “The Buddhist Exchange: Irrigation, Crops and the Spread of the Dharma” — that Buddhism […]

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Buddhism beyond the nation state

By Richard Payne
Concern with the limitations imposed by presuming contemporary geo-political divisions as the organizing principle for scholarship is not new, nor is it limited to Buddhist studies. Jonathan Skaff opens his recent Sui-Tang China and Its Turko-Mongol Neighbors: Culture, Power, and Connections, 580–800 by quoting Marc Bloch’s 1928 address to the International Congress of Historical Sciences (1928).

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Buddhism or Buddhisms? Lexical consequences of geo-political categories

By Richard Payne
In a previous post, we argued that the geo-political categories commonly employed in both popular and academic representations of Buddhism are problematic. The problems were grouped into rhetorical and lexical; the rhetorical consequences having been considered there, we now turn to the lexical. Specifically, the lexical distinction between mass nouns and count nouns clarifies how thinking about the subject of study logically (and implicitly) follow from ways of talking about that subject.

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9780199985562

Engaged Buddhism and community ecology

For the most part, Buddhists have historically been less concerned with explaining the world than with generating personal peace and enlightenment. However, the emergence of “engaged Buddhism” – especially in the West, has emphasized a powerful commitment to environmental protection based in no small part on a fundamental ecological awareness that lies at the heart of Buddhist thought and practice.

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Buddhism and biology: a not-so-odd couple

By David P. Barash
Science and religion don’t generally get along very well, from the Catholic Church’s denunciation of the heliocentric solar system to vigorous denials — mostly from fundamentalist Protestantism this time — of evolution by natural selection.

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Meditation experiences in Buddhism and Catholicism

By Susan Stabile
Becoming a Tibetan Buddhist nun is not a typical life choice for a child of an Italian Catholic police officer from Brooklyn, New York. Nevertheless, in February of 1988 I knelt in front of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, as he cut a few locks of my hair (the rest had already been shaved), symbolizing my renunciation of lay life. I lived in the vows of a Buddhist nun for a year, in the course of spending two years living in Buddhist monasteries in Nepal and India

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Four myths about Zen Buddhism’s “Mu Koan”

By Steven Heine
The Mu Koan (or Wu Gongan in Chinese pronunciation), in which master Joshu says “Mu” (literally “No,” but implying Nothingness) to an anonymous monk’s question of whether a dog has the Buddha-nature, is surely the single most famous expression in Zen Buddhist literature and practice. By virtue of its simplicity and indirection, this expression becomes emblematic of East Asian spirituality and culture more generally. Entire books have been published on the topic on both sides of the Pacific.

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Five lessons from Japan

By Anthony Scioli

Recently Japan’s 77 year old Emperor Akihito implored his people “not to abandon hope”. This may have struck some Westerners as odd since Japan is an Eastern country largely dominated by Buddhism and Shinto, faith traditions that many associate with mindfulness, acceptance and renunciation rather than hope for the future, transformation, or worldly pursuits. In fact, it is not uncommon to find Westerners who believe that “hope” does not even exist in the East. For many American intellectuals, particularly

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Is it a dog’s world?

By Steven Heine
Like a number of other traditional East Asian cultural phenomenon, such as kabuki, kimono, kimchee, and kung fu—just sticking to terms that start with the letter “k”—the koan as the main form of literature in Zen Buddhist monastic training has been widely disseminated and popularized in modern American society.

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Remembering Dogen’s death

By Steven Heine
As the founder of Soto Zen, one of the major Buddhist sects in Japan, the birth and death anniversaries of Dogen Zenji (1200-1253) are celebrated every fifty years. It was amply demonstrated at the beginning of the millennium through the outpouring of new publications and media productions, including a kabuki play and TV show as well as manga versions of his biography, that these events help to disseminate the master’s teachings to a worldwide audience yet also turn him into a commercial commodity that is somewhat misrepresented.

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Heart of Buddha

A century ago, Tanxu used his temples to establish physical links between Buddhism and Chinese nationalism. At the same time, though, he was guided by the belief that the physical world was illusory. The title of his memoir, “Recollections of Shadows and Dust,” uses a common Buddhist phrase meant to convey the impermanence and illusion of the material world, hardly the theological emphasis one might expect from a man who transformed cityscapes with his work in brick and mortar. I tried to understand this apparent paradox as I researched Tanxu’s career, but my connection to him remained impersonal, even distant, and strictly academic.

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Mindful Sex

By Jeff Wilson
Mindfulness seems to be everywhere in North American society today. One of the more interesting developments of this phenomenon is the emergence of mindful sex—the ability to let go of mental strain and intrusive thoughts so once can fully tap into sexual intercourse.

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Religious, political, spiritual—something in common after all?

By Roger S. Gottlieb
Many people think it’s a great idea: we can have all the benefits of religion…without religion! We’ll call it “spirituality” and in choosing it we will have unlimited freedom to adopt this or that ritual, these or those beliefs, to meditate or pray or do yoga, to admire (equally) inspiring Hindu gurus, breathtakingly calm Buddhist meditation teachers, selfless priests who work against gang violence, wise old rabbis, and Native American shamans—not to mention figures who belong to no faith whatsoever.

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Celebrate National Trivia Day with Oxford trivia

Today, Saturday the 4th of January, is National Trivia Day. We may employ a few competitive pub quiz champs in our offices, so we gathered together a few trivia questions from our resources to play a game. Why not bring these puzzlers to your next Trivia Night and let us know how it goes?

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Jack Kerouac: On and Off the Road

By David Sterritt
Jack Kerouac, the novelist and poet who gave the Beat Generation its name, died 43 years ago on 21 October 1969 at the age of 47. On Friday, the long-delayed movie version of Kerouac’s autobiographical novel about crisscrossing the United States with his hipster friend Neal Cassady in the 1940s, On the Road will be released. When the novel was published in 1957, six years after he finished writing it, Kerouac dreamed up his own screen adaptation, hoping to play himself (called Sal Paradise in the novel) opposite Marlon Brando as Dean Moriarty, the Cassady character.

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