Bringing together fifteen essays by outstanding Buddhist scholars from Asia, Europe, and North America, this book offers a distinctive portrayal of the "life of Buddhism." The contributors focus on a number of religious practices across the Buddhist world, from Sri Lanka to New York, Japan to Tibet. The essays highlight not so much Buddhist doctrine or sacred texts, but rather the actual behavior and lived experience of Buddhist adherents.
A general introduction by Frank E. Reynolds and Jason A. Carbine provides a historical overview and briefly characterizes the three major variants of Buddhist tradition—the Hinayana/Theravada branch practiced in Sri Lanka and much of Southeast Asia; the Mahayana branch located most notably in East Asia; and the Vajrayana/Esoteric branch established in Tibet and Japan. It also takes note of a distinctive form of Buddhism that is now emerging among non-Asian practitioners in the West. The editors introduce each essay with a brief commentary that situates its contents within the Buddhist tradition as a whole.
The pieces offer concise depictions and analyses of particular aspects of Buddhist life, including temple architecture and iconography, the consecration of sacred objects, meditative practices, devotional expressions, exorcisms, and pilgrimage journeys. Topics discussed also include the construction of religio-political and religio-social hierarchies, gender roles, the management of asocial behavior, and confrontations with dying and death.
Frank E. Reynolds is Professor of Buddhist Studies and History of Religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His many edited books include Myth and Philosophy (1990) and Religion and Practical Reason (1994). Jason A. Carbine specializes in Buddhist Studies within the History of Religions Program at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
"At last an anthology that fills the need for a set of informed, authoritative descriptions of Buddhism as it is lived and practiced in the world today! Textbooks focussing on Buddhist ritual are few; this is easily the best and most usable of them. Carbine and Reynolds have done us all a great service. Their selection of significant excerpts from the writings of a variety of anthropologists and historians of religion covers the gamut of Buddhist practice. The examples come from a diversity of Buddhist traditions. While each piece is grounded in a concrete and culturally specific situation, taken together they act as effective springboards to a more general consideration of the reality of Buddhist ritual life. I look forward to using this reader in the classroom." —John Strong, author of The Experience of Buddhism
"Spanning many Buddhist cultures, the reader gets an exciting tour of Buddhist practices, rituals, and life experiences, focusing on both the monastic and lay traditions. This book will prove to be valuable reading for the classroom and beyond."—Charles S. Prebish, author of Luminous Passage
"Whereas traditional scholarship has focused on voices of elite groups, philosophies of different sects, and textual ideals, The Life of Buddhism presents a wide range of Buddhist practice in relatively contemporary contexts. The book represents a step forward by emphasizing the iconography, individualized and communal rituals, in addition to diverse practices and devotional expressions of both monastic and lay communities, and will make a significant contribution to the field of both religious studies and Buddhist studies. "—Bernard Faure, author of The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality, The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism, and Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism.
"This volume is a treasure-trove of issues currently being debated in Buddhist studies. Carbine and Reynolds's compilation breaks through the belief-centered, artificially purified world apparent in other anthologies. The Life of Buddhism will help redirect pedagogical attention to the many ways in which the historical and cultural setting help to make sense of Buddhist beliefs."—Stephen F. Teiser, D.T. Suzuki Professor in Buddhist Studies, Princeton University