pure land buddhism in modern japanese culture – by elisabetta porcu

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  • Scholars of Chinese religion will nd this book highly usefulfor its conceptual foundations and detailed information, butthe essays are readily accessible to those who are not spe-cialists. Scholars in other elds of modern Chinese studiesand in comparative religious studies have much to gain fromthis book.

    Peter DitmansonOriental Institute, Oxford University

    BuddhismDIVINE KNOWLEDGE: BUDDHIST MATHEMATICSACCORDING TO THE ANONYMOUS MANUAL OFMONGOLIAN ASTROLOGY AND DIVINATION. ByBrian G. Baumann. Brills Inner Asia Library, 20. Leiden:Brill, 2008. Pp. xviii + 894; tables, indices. $295.00.

    Baumanns book is a transcription, translation, andstudy of an anonymous Mongolian text known as the Manualof Mongolian Astrology and Divination. The text deals withdivination of various kinds, such as auspicious times fordifferent undertakings. Ancient cultures used a commonname for a certain collection of sciences (some now consid-ered pseudoscience), including not only astrology and divi-nation, but also calendrics, astronomy, and mathematics.Baumann uses mathematics for this conglomerate, a usagethat is somewhat confusing to the modern reader; the Mon-golian text does not contain any computational material (nordoes Baumanns study). This aside, the book is a valuablecontribution to the study of divination. Baumanns compre-hensive study discusses time, metaphysics, divination, andother subjects, contextualizing the Mongolian text andexplaining its dependence on other traditions. Especiallyvaluable for a comparative study of omen material are someof Baumanns appendices, such as a list of omen protasesfrom the Mongolian text. Overall, the book is a good startingpoint for a study of Mongolian divination and also a usefulresource for those studying omens in the ancient world.

    Toke L. KnudsenSUNY College at Oneonta

    THE STANZA OF THE BELL IN THE WIND: ZENAND NENBUTSU IN THE EARLY KAMAKURAPERIOD. By Frdric Girard. Studia Philologica Buddhica,Occasional Papers Series, XIV. Tokyo: The InternationalInstitute for Buddhist Studies, 2007. Pp. iii + 83 pages.500.00.

    Anyone who has read at least as far as the secondchapter of Dogens Shbgenz has encountered thefollowing:

    [78] My late master, the eternal buddha, says:Whole body like a mouth, hanging in space;Not asking if the wind is east, west, south, or north,For all others equally, it speaks praja .Chin ten ton ryan chin ten ton.

    (Gudo Wafu Nishijima and Chodo Cross, trs. Shobogenzo:The True Dharma-Eye Treasury, 4 vols. Berkeley, CA:Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research,2007. I, 33.) This bemusing stanza turns out to have a muchwider use than simply Dogens. Attributed to DogensChinese teacher, Rujing, it is striking that this same stanzashould come to play a role in Japanese Pure Land(Amidist in Girards usage), as found in the Myogishingyoshu . By focusing on this specic item, Girard devel-ops a new hypothesis regarding the history of both PureLand and Zen in Japan. Rather than a development ofpopular religious sensibilities on the one hand, and a trans-mission solely dependent on its Chinese sourcesas thestandard history would have itGirard suggests that the twostrains are both to be found among the low-ranking monas-tics from a very early period. Despite the supposed contra-dictions of Zen and Pure Land, Girard points out that thedifferences between the Nenbutsu new sects and the Zennew sects may only concern the conceptual and habit cloth-ings, and behind these differences, the similarities andafnities may be stronger than we expect.

    Richard PayneInstitute of Buddhist Studies at the Graduate Theological


    A GARLAND OF FEMINIST REFLECTIONS: FORTYYEARS OF RELIGIOUS EXPLORATION. By Rita M.Gross. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.Pp. 340. Cloth, $60.00; paper, $24.95.

    Grosss new book contains already published andnewly penned essays selected by the author to highlightimportant moments in her forty-year career as a prominentBuddhist theologian and feminist thinker. Major themesinclude the methodological contribution of the feministparadigm shift to the study of religion, religion as aresource for feminists, and the fruitful but fraught mar-riage of feminism and Buddhism in Grosss own intellec-tual journey. This bold and unapologetically opinionatedwork mixes autobiography, political reection, and aca-demic theory, making it of interest to Buddhist construc-tive thinkers and potentially useful (if properlycontextualized) in undergraduate classes on gender andreligion. Grosss constricted conceptualization of gender,which she describes repeatedly as a prison-like set ofnorms (rather than a complex and potentially creative cat-egory), will quell any interest this book might have held forfeminist scholars in other humanistic elds and will repre-sent a source of frustration for younger feminist scholars ofreligion. Her historically ungrounded and monolithic refer-ences to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Vajrayana, andher excessive reliance on secondary literature mean thatthis book will hold little interest for serious historians ofBuddhism or South Asian religion.

    Amy Paris LangenbergBrown University

    Religious Studies Review VOLUME 35 NUMBER 4 DECEMBER 2009


  • ZEN SKIN, ZEN MARROW: WILL THE REAL ZENBUDDHISM PLEASE STAND UP? By Steven Heine.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Pp. x + 218. $24.95.

    A recent work by Alan Cole (Fathering Your Father, Uni-versity of California Press, 2009) employs postmodernistrhetoric to enliven our understanding of the realities ofChan/Zen. Here, Heine (author of several ne studies previ-ously reviewed here) employs postmodernist wordplayhumorlessly, indeed sanctimoniously, in a diatribe thatcensures, and demands repentence from, everyone whostudies or thinks about Zen from any perspective other thanhis own. The book was admittedly sparked by a panel atwhich Heine saw two people talking past each other; so heclaims to offer a Tiantai Middle Way of understanding Zen,while chastising all othersZen followers, Zen critics (heredemonized in the most virulent terms), and even Pope Bene-dict! Heine posits an irreconcilable hostility between follow-ers of TZN and HCCabbreviations for methodologicalstances coined by Heine: the Traditional Zen Narrative andHistorical Cultural Criticism. To Heine, the latter refersnot to honest, insightful studies by living scholars (e.g., inYanagidas tradition), but to some Critical Buddhist project(apparently another reied attitude) with its. . . excessiverhetoric and hyperbole, which is unforgiving of the mis-deeds of others, such as anyone sympathetic to Zen. Yet,Zen itself must be also castigated: Zen must correct thewrongs it has perpetrated, for which it must be held account-able, so that it can vigorously pursue a regimen of socialright, that is, by having Zen abbots propagate healthy socialvalues, instead of unhealthy values as they have purportedlydone in the past. For those who care deeply about Zen andits place in Japan and the worldwhich here appears toinclude no one except Heine himselfthe challenge is tohelp dene Zens role creatively lest the tradition be buriedunder the avalanche of criticism. One cannot imagine anystudent of Zen nding any insight here into the actual eldof study or to the actual methods of todays scholars.

    Russell KirklandUniversity of Georgia

    THE HONGZHOU SCHOOL OF CHAN BUDDHISMIN EIGHTH THROUGH TENTH CENTURY CHINA.By Jinhua Jia. Albany: State University of New York Press,2006. Pp. xv + 220. Cloth, $65.00; paper, $22.95.

    A classic example of the iconoclastic Chan monk, MazuDaoyi (709-788 CE), one of the fathers of Chan in the TangPeriod, is usually depicted in encounter dialogues withmonks using witty paradoxical remarks and illogical actionsto awaken the monk on the spot. Yet the author argues thatthis image of Mazu was largely manufactured by latermembers of the Hongzhou lineage, the school that claimeddescent from Mazu. Using reliably datable texts, includingextant stele inscriptions, he separates out authentic Mazutexts from those fabricated by later generations of disciples;these reveal a Mazu who gave sermons, frequently quotedBuddhist scriptures, and was in general rather conservative.

    The Hongzhou-School re-writing of the received historicalrecord tracks the great evolutionary change that took placebetween early Chan (based on the Lankavatara Su tra,tathagata-garbha thought, and prajaparamita theory) andmature Chan that was not based on words and letters, butwas conceived as a separate transmission beyond scrip-ture. Mazus ideasordinary mind is the way, originalenlightenment, no cultivationmotivated the eventual devel-opment of encounter dialogue in which the Chan masterused verbal paradox and illogical action to awaken his dis-ciples on the spot. Mazus house style was not only carriedon by later generations; his many disciples established mon-asteries through north and south China, nally establishingthe Hongzhou School as orthodox Chan.

    Victor HoriMcGill University

    HEAD, EYES, FLESH, AND BLOOD: GIVING AWAYTHE BODY IN INDIAN BUDDHIST LITERATURE. ByReiko Ohnuma. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.Pp. xx + 372; illustrations. $48.50.

    The body parts for which Ohnumas revised doctoraldissertation is named belong to the bodhisattvas who popu-late ja taka and avadana tales that date from the thirdcentury BCE to the late second millennium CE. The storieson which Ohnuma focuses are those in which bodhisattvasgive away their bodies and lives for the sake of otherbeingspitiful ones in mortal danger, evil ones who aremerely cruel, and the deity Sakra testing for generosity. Thisgift-of-the-body subgenre, as Ohnuma astutely observes,bears Hindu inuence yet reects Buddhist innovation:bodhisattvas not only give their bodies downward. . . out ofpure. . . compassion in the manner of generous ksatriya

    kings and give


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