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Abhidharmakośabhāṣya (Treasury of Metaphysics with Self-Commentary)  

Oren Hanner

The Abhidharmakośabhāṣya (Treasury of Metaphysics with Self-Commentary) is a pivotal treatise on early Buddhist thought composed around the 4th or 5th century by the Indian Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu. This work elucidates the buddha’s teachings as synthesized and interpreted by the early Buddhist Sarvāstivāda school (“the theory that all [factors] exist”), while recording the major doctrinal polemics that developed around them, primarily those points of contention with the Sautrāntika system of thought (“followers of the scriptures”). Employing the methodology and terminology of the Buddhist Abhidharma system, the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya offers a detailed analysis of fundamental doctrines, such as early Buddhist theories of mind, cosmology, the workings of karman, meditative states and practices, and the metaphysics of the self. One of its unique features is the way it presents the opinions of a variety of Buddhist and Brahminical schools that were active in classical India in Vasubandhu’s time. The work contains nine chapters (the last of which is considered to have been appended to the first eight), which proceed from a description of the unawakened world via the path and practices that are conducive to awakening and ultimately to the final spiritual attainments which constitute the state of awakening. In its analysis of the unawakened situation, it thus covers the elements which make up the material and mental world of sentient beings, the wholesome and unwholesome mental states that arise in their minds, the structure of the cosmos, the metaphysics of action (karman) and the way it comes into being, and the nature of dispositional attitudes and dormant mental afflictions. In its treatment of the path and practices that lead to awakening, the treatise outlines the Sarvāstivāda understanding of the methods of removing defilements through the realization of the four noble truths and the stages of spiritual cultivation. With respect to the awakened state, the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya gives a detailed description of the different types of knowledge and meditational states attained by practitioners who reach the highest stages of the path.


Abhisamayālaṃkāra (Ornament for Clear Realization)  

James B. Apple

The Abhisamayālaṃkāra (Ornament for clear realization) is an instructional treatise on the Prajñāpāramitā, or Perfect Wisdom, whose authorship is traditionally attributed to Maitreyanātha (c. 350 ce). As a technical treatise, the Abhisamayālaṃkāra outlines within its 273 verses the instructions, practices, paths, and stages of realization to omniscient buddhahood mentioned in Prajñāpāramitā scriptures. In its abridged description, the Abhisamayālaṃkāra furnishes a detailed summary of the path that is regarded as bringing out the “concealed meaning” (sbas don, garbhyārtha) of Prajñāpāramitā. The Abhisamayālaṃkāra contains eight chapters of subject matter, with a summary of them as the ninth chapter. The eight subjects (padārtha) of the eight chapters (adhikāra) correspond to eight clear realizations (abhisamaya) that represent the knowledges, practices, and result of Prajñāpāramitā. The Abhisamayālaṃkāra’s eight clear realizations are types of knowledge and practices for bodhisattvas (“buddhas-in-training”) to achieve buddhahood set forth within the system of the five paths (lam lnga, *pañcamārga) common to Indian abhidharma and Yogācāra literature. The first three clear realizations are types of knowledge that comprise Perfect Wisdom. Total Omniscience, or the wisdom of all aspects (sarvākārajñatā, rnam pa thams cad mkhyen pa nyid), is regarded as the fundamental wisdom and the central concept of Prajñāpāramitā. Total Omniscience is direct, unmediated knowledge that exactly understands the manner of reality to its fullest possible extent in all its aspects. Path-omniscience (mārgajñatā, lam shes nyid) comprises the Buddhist path systems of śrāvakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas mastered by bodhisattvas. Empirical Omniscience (vastujñāna, gzhi shes) cognizes empirical objects in conditioned existence that are to be abandoned. It correlates to knowledge that is comprehended by śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas. The path to buddhahood itself and the detailed means of its application are covered in the Abhisamayālaṃkāra by the fourth through seventh clear realizations. The fourth chapter is devoted to the realization of wisdom of all aspects (sarvākārābhisaṃbodha, rnam rdzogs sbyor ba), a yogic practice that enables a bodhisattva to gain a cognition of all the aspects of the three types of omniscience. The fifth realization is the summit of full understanding (mūrdhābhisamaya, rtse sbyor), whereby yogic practices reach the culmination of cognizing emptiness. The sixth chapter defines the gradual full understanding (anupūrvābhisamaya, mthar gyis sbyor ba) of the three forms of omniscience. The seventh abhisamaya clarifies the “instantaneous realization” (ekakṣaṇābhisamaya) that occurs at the final moment right before buddhahood. Abhisamayas four through seven are known as “the four methods of realization” of the three types of knowledge. The eighth realization, and last subject in the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, is the realization of the dharma body (dharmakāyābhisamaya). In this way, the first three realizations describe the cognitive attainments of buddhas, the middle four realizations discuss the methods that take the cognitive attainments as their object, and the eighth realization describes the qualities and attainments of the dharma body, the resultant body of buddhas. The treatise was extensively commented upon in Indian Buddhism and has been widely studied in Tibetan forms of Buddhism up to the present day.


American Buddhism during World War II Imprisonment  

Michihiro Ama

American Buddhism during World War II imprisonment refers to the Japanese American Buddhist experience between 1942 and 1945 when persons of Japanese ancestry, commonly known as Nikkei Amerikajin, were imprisoned. A discussion of the Nikkei Buddhist experience includes the experiences of Euro-American convert Buddhists who supported them during the imprisonment period. Immediately after the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested and interned Japanese Buddhist priests and other leaders of Japanese communities in the United States. In March 1942, the Western Defense Command designated the three West Coast states (Washington, Oregon, and California) and Arizona as Military Area No. 1, from which all persons of Japanese descent, and alien Germans and Italians, were forcefully removed. Following Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the US government removed approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans from the aforementioned military zone and incarcerated them in relocation centers built throughout the continental United States. During that time, the Nikkei community consisted primarily of the Issei, the first generation of Japanese immigrants, and the Nisei, their American-born children. As Tetsuden Kashima defines, the word “internment” refers to the imprisonment of enemy aliens, such as the Issei Japanese nationals, by the Department of Justice and the US Army, while the term “incarceration” refers to the confinement of the Nikkei, including a great number of the Nisei American citizens, by the War Relocation Authority. The word “imprisonment” designates the entire process consisting of internment and incarceration. The study of American Buddhism during World War II is still in its early stages. Finding records and documents related to this subject from the large collections on Japanese American imprisonment is not an easy task. While the National Archives in Washington, DC, maintains the majority of primary sources dealing with Japanese American relocation and incarceration, other institutions, such as the Japanese American National Museum, the University of California-Los Angeles, and museums built around the sites of internment camps, also preserve records. Some of the primary sources are written in Japanese and are located in Japan, which is another stumbling block for researchers who do not read Japanese. Duncan R. Williams’s forthcoming book, American Sutra: Buddhism and the World War II Japanese American Experience, however, will change the current state of scholarship on Japanese American Buddhism during World War II. The forceful relocation of Japanese American Buddhists served to weaken their long-standing efforts to make their ethno-religious practices accepted by America’s general public. Mass incarceration, however, forced the Japanese American Buddhists to further Americanize their religion, generated a set of new Buddhist practices, and gave them opportunities to reflect on their national identities. Buddhist faith and cultural practices associated with Japanese Buddhism contributed to ethnic solidarity, even though the Japanese American community was divided over the issue of US patriotism. During the postwar period, Japanese American Buddhists initiated a campaign to improve their image in the United States and to honor the Nisei Buddhist soldiers who fought during World War II. The formation of American Buddhism was closely connected to the development of US political ideology.



Geoffrey Goble

Amoghavajra (Bukongjin’gang不空金剛; 704/5-774) was a historically significant Buddhist monk who operated in China during the Tang dynasty (618–907). He was a prolific translator and is widely regarded as the founder of an Esoteric or Tantric Buddhist tradition in East Asia. Arriving in China at a young age, Amoghavajra became a monk and practiced under Vajrabodhi (Jin’gangzhi金剛智; 671–741). Following his master’s death, Amoghavajra undertook an ocean voyage to Sri Lanka and southern India. He returned to Tang China in 746/747 with a collection of newly acquired Buddhist texts and training in ritual practices. He was the recipient of patronage and support from members of the ruling elite in Tang China, including a succession of three emperors—Xuanzong 玄宗 (r. 713–756), Suzong 肅宗 (r. 756–762), and Daizong 代宗 (r. 762–779). Amoghavajra served the Tang government with his ritual services and was appointed a minister in the central government bureau charged with overseeing official ritual services for the Tang state. With this support and influence, Amoghavajra translated a vast collection of Buddhist scriptures and authored numerous commentaries, ritual manuals, and compendia, and he effectively established a teaching of Buddhism in China that is generally referred to as “Esoteric Buddhism.” This teaching of Buddhism was subsequently transmitted by Kūkai 空海 (774–835) to Japan, where it became established as the Japanese Shingon school. In Chinese and Japanese Buddhist histories, Amoghavajra is regarded as a patriarch of Tang dynasty Esoteric Buddhism and Japanese Shingon.


Art, Architecture, and National Memory-Making  

Maurizio Peleggi

Works of Buddhist art and architecture, in addition to having cultic use and artistic value, also enjoy prominence in the national heritage of several Asian countries regardless of the following Buddhism presently enjoys in each. While rooted in the millenary process of the formation of national cultures, this prominence is more immediately the outcome of archaeological investigations, architectural restorations, and museum collections that were initiated in the late 19th century by colonial officials, and royal commissioners in independent Siam and Japan, and continued by postcolonial governments, often with international support. The examination of Buddhist art and architecture as vehicles of national memory-making can be framed conceptually by the dialectical tension between their cult value as continuing foci of devotion and their exhibition value as evidence of cultural achievement. Four aspects of this productive tension are emphasized: the foundational tension in Buddhism between the doctrine of impermanence and the cult of relics; the tension between Buddhist monuments as elements of the diffuse sacred landscape and, conversely, of individual countries’ historical landscape; the tension between the place and reception of buddha images in the temple and, instead, in the museum; and finally, the tension between the traditional pious care for Buddhist monuments and their modern, scientific conservation. Owing to these productive tensions, works of Buddhist art and architecture continue to generate spiritual, cultural, and social meanings—in particular identitarian and mnemonic associations—even though in multiethnic and multireligious societies, these meanings are not uncontested.


Asian American Religions  

Tony Carnes

Asian American religions have dramatically increased their presence in the United States. Partly, this is a function of the increasing population of Asian Americans since 1965. Asian American is a name given to the United States residents who trace their ancestry back to the area of Asia from Pakistan in the west to the Pacific islands east of the Asian landmass. There are over 18 million Asian Americans in the United States (about 6 percent of the national population), and Asians are immigrating to the country at rates that far exceed those for any other group. Other names have been taken, given, or forced upon Asian Americans. Such terms as “Chinese or Japanese imperial subjects” heightened a unity of political and religious obedience to a divine emperor. “Oriental” started as a French idealization of the Confucian state before descending to the level of being an epithet for backwardness. Immigrants come with nationalities like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and so forth that often intervene into religious discourses (see an example of this process in the Chinese American experience as described by Fenggang Yang (Chinese Christians in America. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999). In the 1970s the name Asian American was popularized by West Coast intellectuals in order to gather forces at the barricades of political and racial movements. Some scholars like Michael Omi and Howard Winant (Racial Formation in the United States. From the 1960s to the 1990s. New York: Routledge, 1994) claimed “Asian American” as a racialized reality, which was the result of racial conflicts innate to American society. Others saw the identity as an ethnic claim to assimilation into American cultural reality. Asian immigrants and their progeny find ways to balance out the religious, national, ethnic, racial, and other identities from their homeland, new nation, and religion. “Asian American” has also become a common-sense meaning that was institutionalized by the U.S. census. But one should remember that many layers of names sit upon Asian American houses of worship as so many barnacles telling tales of ancestral honors, woes, and self-reflections. Over three-quarters of Asian Americans profess a religious faith. About a quarter say that they are “religious nones,” that is, either having no particular religious faith or identifying as agnostic or atheist. About half of the “nones” actually have religious beliefs and ethics and practice them as an intrinsic part of Asian American culture, not as something that is “religious.” Two-thirds of religious Asian Americans are Christians. This is not surprising when we take into account the rapid growth of Christianity in the non-European world. Asian Americans are contributing to the “de-Europeanization” of American Christianity and signal the increasingly religious direction of the 21st century. Other Asian American religions include Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, Zoroasterism, new Japanese religions, and many more. The history of Asian American religions involves a dynamic interplay of the United States and Asia, global politics, democratic revolutions, persecution in Asia, racism in the United States, Supreme Court cases, and religious innovation. The largest Asian American groups, those with 1–4 million people each, trace their ancestry back to Japan, China, Philippines, Vietnam, India, and Korea. Seven smaller groups have over 100,000 people each: Bangladeshis, Burmese, Cambodians, Hmong, Laotians, Pakistanis, and Thais. And there are many more smaller groups. The diverse ethnic and national origins of Asian Americans means that their religions have a kaleidoscope of religious styles and cultures.


Avalokiteśvara: The Bodhisattva of Compassion  

Chün-fang Yü

Avalokiteśvara is one of the most famous bodhisattvas in Buddhism. The worship of bodhisattvas (beings of enlightenment) is one of the most distinctive features of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Whereas early or mainstream Buddhism recognizes only two bodhisattvas—the Buddha in his previous lives and Maitreya, the future Buddha—there are a number of bodhisattvas in Mahāyāna to whom one can appeal for help and guidance. Of the many bodhisattvas, Avalokiteśvara is identified specifically as the embodiment of compassion and as such has been worshipped throughout Buddhist Asia.



John Powers

The Bodhisattva-bhūmi (Resources for Bodhisattvas) is part of Resources for Yoga Practitioners (Yogācāra-bhūmi), an encyclopedic treatise that was one of the most important works of the Indian Buddhist School of Yoga Practitioners (Yogācāra). It contains material relating to the doctrines and practices of both Mainstream Buddhists and Mahāyānists, mostly in condensed form. The Bodhisattva-bhūmi brings together disparate sources, and there is considerable overlap between the various lists it presents and the explanations of their contents. Contemporary text-critical scholarship has led to a broad consensus that the text available in the early 21st century is most likely a product of centuries of development during which material was compiled and edited, internal cross-references were provided to direct readers to similar discussions in other parts of the Bodhisattva-bhūmi and the Yogācāra-bhūmi, and a loose structure was imposed. It presents itself as a sourcebook of lore that can help both aspiring bodhisattvas and those who have embarked on the bodhisattva path to awakening (bodhi) in order to free sentient beings from suffering and guide them either to the peace of nirvana or to the ultimate attainment of buddhahood. Keywords: Buddhism, Yogācāra, bodhisattva, Asaṅga, Mahāyāna



Norihisa Baba

Buddhaghosa was a Buddhist scholar-monk of the 5th century ce who belonged to a branch of the Theravāda school in Sri Lanka known as the Mahāvihāra. He has long been celebrated in the Sri Lankan Theravāda-Mahāvihāra tradition as the paradigmatic saint-scholar. In the first half of the 5th century, Buddhaghosa compiled his most important treatise, the Visuddhimagga (The Path to Purification). Outlining how the practitioner might overcome mental afflictions and attain nibbāna (nirvāṇa in Sanskrit), the Visuddhimagga offers a systematic explanation of Buddhist thought and practice in terms of the triad of conduct, meditative concentration, and wisdom. Buddhaghosa then went on to compile commentaries on the first four Nikāyas, which are collections of the Buddha’s discourses contained in the Pāli canon, and possibly commentaries on other texts too. In these commentaries, he provided exegeses of words and concepts in Buddhist canonical literature. Just after the beginning of the cultural and linguistic hegemony of the “Sanskrit Cosmopolis” across South and Southeast Asia, Buddhaghosa wrote in Pāli, another Middle-Indo Aryan language. According to Buddhaghosa, Pāli was the only language suitable for the transmission of Buddhist scriptures. Buddhaghosa also established the definition of the Pāli canon on the basis of the argument that five hundred elders had fixed the divisions of buddhavacana (which literally means “the word of the Buddha”) at the First Buddhist Council. The oldest extant biography of Buddhaghosa confirms that the Mahāvihāra treated Buddhaghosa’s commentaries like canonical texts.


Buddhism and Bioethics  

Jens Schlieter

In the wake of the globalization of modern Western biomedicine and bioethics, Buddhists felt the need for moral action-guides that provide orientation in ethical dilemmas posed by modern biomedicine. Thus, in the 1980s, Asian Buddhists began to develop distinct Buddhist moral action-guides on issues of selective abortion, stem cell research, genetic enhancement, brain death and organ transplantation from brain-dead donors, and physician-assisted suicide. From the 1990s onward, they were joined by a growing number of Western scholars. Buddhist ethicists emphasize the importance of starting from venture points considerably distinct from Western bioethics: Firstly, they are traditionally less concerned with human dignity and human rights. Instead, with a focus on salvific cultivation, karma, and nonviolence, they predominantly reflect the moral quality of the actor’s intentions, leading to additional suffering in this life or the next. Secondly, bioethics, in harmony with Buddhist ethics in general, is understood as moral cultivation, which puts less emphasis on justification of ethics than on the quality of actual actions. Thirdly, on the one hand Buddhist bioethical reasoning includes aspects such as the harmful “self-centeredness,” while on the other hand it declares compassion to be the core value, including an awareness of the universal interdependence of all forms of sentient existence. In the 1980s, pioneering scholars of Buddhist bioethics Shōyō Taniguchi and Pinit Ratanakul began to outline ethical foundations of Buddhist bioethics. While both suggested that Buddhist ethics are in principle capable of providing orientation in all forms of bioethical dilemmas, their approaches differed considerably, for example regarding the duty of doctors to disclose fatal diagnoses. Dissent on this duty, which is emphasized by Ratanakul but relativized by Taniguchi, reflects not only cultural differences but also the latter’s inclusion of Mahāyāna Buddhist ethics of the bodhisattva’s “skillful means.” Based on a famous Western approach, Ratanakul was the first to outline a system of four principles or duties of Buddhist bioethical reasoning: veracity, noninjury to life (ahiṃsā), justice, and compassion (karuṇā). However, it was a Western scholar, Damien Keown, who in 1995 presented the first book-length treatise to cover almost all major bioethical issues, from embryo research to euthanasia for the terminally ill. Keown argued for a neo-Aristotelian virtue-ethics approach and distilled three basic goods from Buddhist canonical texts. This helped to modernize and transform Buddhist ethics into an operational system of Buddhist bioethics. It is argued that there is an equivalent to human dignity in Buddhism, namely the infinite capacity to participate in goodness, or the potential to reach buddhahood. In this vein, the function of human rights lies in providing a suitable environment for individuals to gradually realize this potentiality. Well into the new millennium, more works on Buddhist ethics appeared in which Western scholars of Buddhism included Tibetan Mahāyāna ethical reasoning (Karma Lekshe Tsomo), reconstrued Buddhist ethics as consequentialism (Charles Goodman), or explored the global variety of Buddhist ethical reasoning (Peter Harvey). Probably the most important contemporary controversy in Buddhist bioethics pertains to the question whether killing out of compassion can in certain circumstances be justified. According to a traditional evaluation of cetanā (intention), it has been argued that the intention to kill cannot coexist with a compassionate intention, whereas others concluded that in regard to both embryonic life and the treatment of terminally ill patients there is room for ethically justifiable options. During the 2010s the global as well as Buddhist discourse on bioethics saw a certain consolidation, but will likely gain momentum again—for example, should genome-edited babies become common practice.


Buddhism and Biography  

Ben Van Overmeire

The Buddhist religion has a long and rich tradition of biographical literature. This literature has functioned to unify distinct and often contradictory elements of Buddhist ritual, practice, and doctrine, adjusting these elements to specific historical situations. Scholarship on the function of literary characters in making narrative worlds coherent supports this argument: when readers engage characters, they draw together textual and non-textual data to construct beings that are similar to themselves. This connection of a specific situation with a larger whole, a connection that is at the same time an organization, can be observed in how Buddhist biographies are built. Biographies of Shakyamuni, for example, contain many traces of changes motivated by local conditions. The body of Shakyamuni is used to authorize these changes: the local is situated at the heart of Buddhism. Biographies of Chinese Buddhist saints attest to the same process, as can be seen in the shifting representation of Indian saints in China or the literary transformations of the Patriarchs of the Chan school. While these changing representations reflect changes in historical Buddhist communities, they can also produce attitudes and regulate behaviors. The debate on the portrayal and effects of women and animals in Indian Buddhist texts provides an illustration of this, as does scholarship on how saintly ideals regulate behavior. The case of Buddhist autobiography, a genre at times so closely connected to biography that it is nearly indistinguishable from it, provides a final example of how identity is structured in Buddhist biography.


Buddhism and Globalization  

Jørn Borup

“Global Buddhism” can be broadly understood as the transnational and transcultural network of circulating Buddhists and dynamic flows of Buddhist ideas and practices. It is characterized by ideals of universally applicable values and individually accessible experiences transgressing historical and cultural particularities. Global Buddhism is one kind of globalized religion, being itself a specific domain within the general context of globalization. Globalization encompasses transnational processes of interchanging values, services, and products, typically related to the modern, capitalist world. However, globalization has also been understood as a framework constituting cultural and religious dynamics and centripetal forces involving circulating ideas, practices, and institutions in an open and interacting world. A broader spatial and temporal perspective on globalization situates it in broader historical contexts, but typically linking it to an affinity with postmodernity and with a historical focus on the time since the breakdown of the communist world. Proto-global elements of religion can likewise be found throughout history, especially in axial religions and in contexts of accelerated circulation and hybridization. Throughout Buddhist history, such elements have been characteristic of the religion’s evolution and dissemination. Mission and trade along the Silk Route and in southeast Asia created proto-global ramifications just like the advent of Western colonialism co-created reform movements and networks of people with international scope and impact on “Buddhist modernity.” Global aspects are thus inherently part of much of Buddhist history, but a more restricted use of the concept would place global Buddhism in the aftermath of modernity, typically pronounced in urban centres and de-territorialized (online) social networks. Resistance and relativization are potentially always part of global transfigurations has also been influential in Buddhist contexts. One specific kind of “glocal” Buddhism, (yet) mainly restricted to a North American context, concentrates on reactions towards the transfigurations of globalization. What constitutes this kind of “post-global Buddhism” is twofold: an unveiling of universalized, global Buddhism as basically particularized “white” Buddhism, and an ideological shift beyond such disguised hegemony envisioning itself with new practices, values, identities, and communities based on (gender and) ethnic/racial differentiation.


Buddhism and Healing in China  

Natalie Köhle

The history of Buddhism in China is deeply connected with healing. Some of the scriptures that were translated into Chinese discuss Indic conceptions of the body as an amalgamation of elements, and causes of illness in the tridoṣa, that is pathogenic body fluids and internal winds. Others discuss materia medica, and monastic rules on healing and hygiene in the monastery. Yet others set forth the ritual worship of the Medicine Buddha (Skt. Bhaiṣajyaguru; Ch. Yaoshi fo 藥師佛), the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin pusa 觀音菩薩), and other deities that promise healing. Apart from the translated scriptures, there is a huge body of indigenous works that synthesized the wealth of information on Indic healing which arrived in China between the 2nd and 10th centuries ce. Foremost among those are Yijing’s 義淨 (635–713) account of Indian monastic practices, Daoxuan’s 道宣 (596–667) vinaya commentary, and Daoshi’s 道世 (?–683) encyclopedia chapter on illness. Chinese compositions, such as Zhiyi’s 智顗 (538–597) treatises on meditation, and Huizhao’s 慧皎 (497–554) hagiographies bear witness to the hybridity to which the reception of Indic ideas in China gave rise. With the widening reach of Buddhism into every layer of Chinese society during the Sui and Tang dynasties, eminent Chinese physicians, such as Tao Hongjing 陶弘景 (452–536), Chao Yuanfang 巢元方 (550–630), Wang Tao 王焘 (670–755), and Sun Simiao 孫思邈 (581–682) also began to incorporate Buddhist ideas into their medical treatises. Chinese Buddhist monasteries introduced hospital services to China, and certain lineages of monks continued to provide medical care to the laity in late imperial China. Their healing was based on Chinese medical theories, however, and there is no evidence that they persisted in applying Indic medical ideas.


Buddhism and Media  

Scott A. Mitchell

Many approaches to the study of Buddhism and media overlap with traditional Buddhist studies methods such as textual analysis, art theory, ethnography, and ritual studies, as well as studies of material culture. Media studies may concern itself with contemporary media messages and forms, but it need not be limited to the realms of mass media and popular culture. In foregrounding media and material cultural, scholars can trace the development and flow of Buddhism as a global religion and cultural phenomenon. Such studies also invariably draw attention to the lived aspects of the religion: How do Buddhists enact or perform Buddhism? How do Buddhists communicate ideas about Buddhism both to other Buddhists as well as to outsiders? And how do these communicative acts change one’s understanding of Buddhism? Such questions go beyond the merely textual, historical, or philosophical and call us to answer deeper questions about the nature of Buddhism in the contemporary, global age.


Buddhism and Medicine in India  

Vesna A. Wallace

The Pāli Tripiṭaka demonstrates that Indian Buddhists were familiar not only with the classical Āyurveda of the late Vedic period but also with the Atharvaveda and with the oldest passages that precede the redaction of the Āyurvedic Saṃhitās. The Nikāyas, Pāli Vinaya, and certain noncanonical Pāli sources contain the earliest accounts of Buddhist knowledge of diseases, medicinal substances, dietary guidelines, herbal and surgical treatments, and illnesses specific to the life and practices of a bhikkhu, the most common of which were gastrointestinal ailments, digestive problems, piles, and skin-related diseases. These sources also offer the information on medical training, infirmaries, and caregivers. Knowledge of medicine in Pāli literature is a combination of popular and folk medicine and classical Āyurveda. In all of Indian Buddhist traditions, the knowledge of preventing illnesses, preserving good health, and securing longevity is closely related to the Buddhist conception of the preciousness and rarity of human life, and the importance of health for Buddhist practice is emphasized. The ultimate medicine is said to be the Buddha Dharma and the ultimate physician the Buddha. In the Pāli Vinaya Piṭaka, the Buddha himself acts as a physician, making a diagnosis and prescribing a treatment, although he himself at times succumbed to illness and physical pain. The Indian Mahāyana and Vajrayāna traditions also recognized the Medicine Buddha (Bhaiṣajyaguru), Amitābha, Āyurbuddha, and various Bodhisattvas as healers and designed the devotional, ritual, and meditational practices related to these celestial physicians. Another healer who is given attention in many Buddhist sources as early as the Pāli Vinaya is Jīvaka, “the king of physicians,” known for his superb diagnostic and surgical skills. Different classifications of diseases, ranging from 35 and 49 to 404, are given in various Pāli and Sanskrit sources. While certain Pāli noncanonical sources contain mutually differing lists of the eight causes of illness, including karma, some Sanskrit sources, like Garbhāvakrānti Sūtra, speak of 80,000 bodily worms as causes of human illnesses. All major Indian Buddhist traditions equally recognized various malicious entities as external causes of illness and offer diverse methods of healing the afflictions caused by these entities. In the Indian Buddhist tantric tradition, according to which only embodied human beings can practice tantra, the importance of maintaining health and ensuring a long life become of paramount importance. Since various yogic tantric practices are most intimately related to subtle physiological and prāṇic systems, the physiological aspects of illness are examined as well as, medicinal formulas, and medical treatments that accord with Āyurveda. But tantras and tantric-medical treatises also pay great attention to the preparations and usages of alchemical substances, knowledge of the drawings of yantras and maṇḍalas, ritual performances, astrological divinations, and applications of protective and healing mantras and dhāraṇīs as regular therapeutic methods. In this regard, the medical training of a tantric healer covered multifaceted aspects of tantric knowledge.


Buddhism and Medicine in Japan  

Katja Triplett

Buddhist institutions were first established in the Japanese archipelago in the 6th century ce. In the same period, the ruling families incorporated Chinese-style medicine and Daoist ritual healing techniques into Japanese culture and society. By the 8th century, Buddhism had become a dominant cultural force in Japan. The Japanese Buddhist textual tradition was shaped by translations from Sanskrit into classical Chinese, and Chinese texts remained paramount for all branches of scholarship. In the ensuing centuries, a rich and hybrid ritual, material, and intellectual culture emerged from combining these various religious and scholarly traditions, as well as elements of the local tradition of kami神 (gods) worship. This also resulted in a distinct tradition of Buddhist medicine, which blossomed in the Kamakura period (1185–1333). The esoteric (or tantric) tradition of Mahāyāna Buddhism with its idea of mutual empowerment (kaji加持) and unification of the ritualist and a buddha, bodhisattva, or other Buddhist deity, directing their power to heal, protect, etc., was the prevailing paradigm. Other traditions developed over the course of the centuries, too, notably Pure Land, Nichiren, and Zen Buddhism, and the vinaya restoration movement (Shingon Ritsu). These also had an impact on the ideas and practices of healing and medical care. All shared the aim of providing the means for salvation and ultimate liberation from sickness and suffering. Lay patrons in early and medieval Japan funded the construction of hospitals and other care facilities as well as medicinal gardens. The Japanese monastics who studied the classical Chinese medical texts and treated their patients following the ideal of the compassionate bodhisattva were also familiar with basic ideas from Indian Āyurveda from translated sutras and commentaries. As such, etiology and diagnosis in the Japanese Buddhist context included epistemic and cosmological thought from both China and India. In the Buddhist context, rituals such as elaborate fire-offering ceremonies (goma護摩) were commonly used to take care of patients of all ages. Buddhist treatments also included empowered medicines, acupuncture, and moxibustion. Buddhist priests provided palliative care, and deathbed rituals were conducted to protect the dying from evil forces and prepare them spiritually for a good death and future birth. Buddhist medical practitioners not only included monastic doctors, usually called sōi僧医 in modern literature, but also various kinds of exorcists and healers. These groups produced talismans and amulets, and offered protective rituals within the paradigmatic framework of Japanese Buddhism. Pilgrimage to sacred sites at Buddhist temples provided a way for monastics and lay people to find healing and support. The external treatment of afflictions often went hand in hand with internal, mental, or cognitive methods such as various forms of meditation. These methods were primarily practiced by the monastically trained, but some, such as naikan内観, “internal observation,” were practiced by a wider circle of practitioners. Buddhistic methods were also used to treat animals.


Buddhism and Medicine in Premodern Japan  

Andrew Macomber

Beliefs and practices surrounding the body, disease, and healing have defined Buddhist traditions around the world since the inception of the religion in northern India roughly two-and-a-half millennia ago. Buddhism’s therapeutic dimensions left a discernible impact on the history of premodern Japan, where Buddhism arrived in the 6th century of the common era. Because Buddhist healers practiced medicine on all levels of society on the archipelago, the Buddhist imagination of disease found wide and enduring acceptance throughout the ancient and medieval periods. This included the notion of “karmic illness,” which provided a compelling etiological explanation for disease, disability, and injury by reference to the “physiomoral” causality expressed in the Buddhist doctrine of karma. Another Buddhist etiology that saw pervasive acceptance in Japan, especially with the rise of esoteric Buddhism throughout the Heian period (794–1185), was the attribution of illness to demons, malicious instigators of pestilence who had much in common with the plague deities thought responsible for epidemics since the Nara period (710–794) and earlier. Buddhist healers in Japan engaged with disease through a staggering variety of ritual, devotional, and medical practices. In the Nara period, the state relied on large-scale sūtra recitation assemblies and repentance rituals, many of which were aimed at securing the safety of the realm at large by healing the body of the emperor. In the Heian period, political power became increasingly diffused over multiple political agents, a rising class of warriors, and powerful Buddhist monasteries; personal salvation became an urgent priority in what was considered the “age of the Final Dharma”; and private sponsorship of esoteric Buddhist rituals for therapeutic purposes became an everyday affair. These rituals, many of which were highly innovative, typically incorporated the use and ritual consumption of diverse medical substances. Some of these substances were acquired via trade with the continent, and others were found or cultivated locally on the archipelago. One consequence of the nearly ubiquitous use of physical therapeutic substances in rituals was that Buddhists in Japan came to possess extensive knowledge about materia medica. New research on Buddhism and medicine in premodern Japan elucidates the historical and social contexts of Buddhist medicine. This research highlights the dynamic interactions between Buddhist healers, therapists of non-Buddhist medical traditions, and their patients.


Buddhism and Print Culture in China  

T. H. Barrett

In premodern China all written materials were to be treated with respect, but Buddhist materials containing the words of the Buddha in particular embodied his surviving presence in the world just as much as an image, and so any means of multiplying them increased that presence, thus casting printing in a role far more significant than the mere provision of reading matter. Unfortunately, the study of Buddhism and print culture in China has been hindered by cultural factors that have so far resulted in an uneven coverage by existing research. The contributions of Buddhism to the early history of printing have been acknowledged by modern scholarship, and the importance of Buddhist doctrines and practices to the emergence of the technology continue to be explored. More recently the immense achievement of Chinese Buddhists in printing the Buddhist Canon in its entirety from woodblock in a dozen successive editions has also been recognized. But the investigation of extracanonical printing has not blossomed in the same way. Only in the case of the Chan school, whose writings as a result of their incorporation of vernacular elements present a somewhat anomalous case, has modern research been carried out to the degree that one might have expected, largely as the result of the work of Japanese scholars such as Ishii Shūdō 石井修道 and Shiina Kōyū 椎名宏雄. This leaves much of the printed output of Chinese Buddhists over more than a millennium almost completely unaccounted for, which has very serious implications for any estimation of China as a book culture in past history. Simple counting of the number of editions published in China and Europe ignores the reluctance of our sources to record Buddhist works. Under the circumstances the picture given can only be described as provisional. China for its part was not a stable concept throughout history. Historically printing in languages other than Chinese occurred in the territorial area that forms the contemporary nation-state, and printing in Chinese also took place in locations that fall within other territories.


Buddhism and Shinto  

Fabio Rambelli

Buddhism in Japan has long coexisted with native cults and beliefs, commonly known as Shinto. According to received understanding, Shinto (literally, in modern Japanese interpretation, “the way of the [Japanese] gods”) is the autochthonous religious tradition of Japan, whose origins date back to the beginning of the Japanese civilization. Its main features are an animistic belief in the sanctity of nature, shamanic practices, ancestor cults, respect for authority and communal value, and a strong capacity to integrate and homogenize foreign elements. This received understanding sees the history of Japanese Buddhism as a gradual process of “Japanization,” that is, of integration within Shinto beliefs and attitudes. This understanding, however, still broadly circulating in Japan and abroad in textbooks and popular media, has been questioned radically by scholarship in the past few decades. In fact, until approximately 150 years ago, Shinto (and local cults in general) was deeply connected to Japanese Buddhism: Buddhist authors were the first to write doctrines and tales about the Japanese local gods or Kami, and most shrines dedicated to the Kami used to belong to Buddhist temples or were in fact Buddhist temples themselves dedicated to the kami. Kami were normally understood as avatars (Japanese, gongen) of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other Buddhist divinities; some very popular kami even today, include Hachiman, who was evoked or discovered (if not created) by Buddhist monks, and Daikokuten and Benzaiten, two Buddhist deities from India (their Sanskrit names are, respectively, Mahākāla, the male counterpart of the goddess Kālī, and Sarasvatī, a water goddess). This situation of symbiosis, in which the Buddhist component was always at the top of the religious institutions’ hierarchy, also generated a number of conflicts that erupted in 1868, when the government decided to “separate” Shinto from Buddhism (shinbutsu bunri), an operation that resulted in the destruction of thousands of Buddhist temples and countless texts, images, and other artifacts, and, ultimately, in the creation of two separate religions. Any historical study of Shinto must therefore attempt to reconstruct this premodern situation of symbiosis and conflict.


Buddhism and the Environment  

William Edelglass

Buddhism is a vast and heterogeneous set of traditions embedded in many different environments over more than two millennia. Still, there have been some similar practices across Buddhist cultures that contributed to the construction of local Buddhist environments. These practices included innumerable stories placing prominent Buddhist figures, including the historical Buddha, in particular places. Many of these stories concerned the conversion of local serpent spirits, dragons, and other beings associated with a local place who then themselves became Buddhist and were said to protect Buddhism in their locales. Events in the stories as well as relics and landscape features were marked by pillars, reliquary shrines (stupas), caves, temples, or monasteries that often became the focus of pilgrimage or considered particularly auspicious places for Buddhist practice, where one could encounter buddhas and bodhisattvas. Through ritual practices such as pilgrimage, circumambulation, and offerings, Buddhists engaged environments and their local spirits. Landscapes were transformed into Buddhist sites that were mapped and made meaningful according to Buddhist stories and cosmology. Farmers, herders, traders, and others in Buddhist cultures whose livelihood depended on their environments engaged the spirits of the land, whose blessings they needed for their own good. Just as they transformed the meaning of local environments, Buddhists also transformed the material environment. In addition to building monasteries, stupas, and other religious structures, Buddhist monastics developed administrative and engineering expertise that enabled large-scale irrigation systems. As Buddhism spread through Asia, it brought agricultural technologies that created the watery landscapes enabling rice production and increasing the agricultural surplus that made possible large monasteries and urbanization. In the last decades of the 20th century and the first decades of the 21st, eco-Buddhist scholars and practitioners have found resources in Buddhist traditions to construct a Buddhist environmental ethic. Some have argued that concepts such as dependent origination, the ethics of loving-kindness and compassion, and other ideas from classical Buddhist traditions suggest that Buddhism has always been particularly attuned to the environment. Critics have charged that eco-Buddhists are distorting Buddhist traditions by claiming that premodern traditions were responding to contemporary environmental concerns. Moreover, they argue, Buddhist ideas such as dependent origination, or its more environmentally resonant interpretation as “interdependence,” do not in fact provide a satisfying grounding for an environmental ethic. Partly in response to such critics, much scholarly work on Buddhism and the environment became more focused on concrete phenomena, informed by a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, place studies, art history, pilgrimage studies, and the study of activism. Instead of focusing primarily on universal concepts found in ancient texts, scholars are just as likely to look at how local communities have drawn on Buddhist ontology, ethics, cosmology, symbolism, and rituals to develop Buddhist responses to local environmental needs, developing contemporary Buddhist environmentalisms.