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This beautifully written work sheds new light on the origins and nature of Mahayana Buddhism with close readings of four well-known texts—the Lotus Sutra, Diamond Sutra, Tathagatagarbha Sutra, and Vimalakirtinirdesa. Treating these sutras as literary works rather than as straightforward philosophic or doctrinal treatises, Alan Cole argues that these writings were carefully sculpted to undermine traditional monastic Buddhism and to gain legitimacy and authority for Mahayana Buddhism as it was veering away from Buddhism’s older oral and institutional forms. His sophisticated and sustained analysis of the narrative structures and seductive literary strategies used in these sutras suggests that they were specifically written to encourage devotion to the written word instead of other forms of authority, be they human, institutional, or iconic.
1. Text as Father
2. Who’s Your Daddy Now? Reissued Paternity in the Lotus Sutra
3. The Domino Effect: Everyone and His Brother Convert to the Lotus Sutra 000
4. “Be All You Can’t Be” and Other Gainful Losses in the Diamond Sutra
5. Sameness with a Difference in the Tathagatagarbha Sutra
6. Vimalakirti, or Why Bad Boys Finish First
Conclusion: A Cavalier Attitude toward Truth-Fathers
Alan Cole, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Lewis & Clark College, is author of Mothers and Sons in Chinese Buddhism (1998).
“His work is theoretically sophisticated, intellectually stimulating, and thoughtfully creative.. . . His methodology successfully extracts meanings previously unconsidered by modern scholars. . . . His lively and fluid style rises above the usual boring academic prose, offering surprising metaphors, humorous asides, and vivid examples, as well as irony and occasional sarcasm. . . . An important and rewarding work that merits the attention of any serious scholar or student of Buddhist literature.—H-Net Reviews
“Cole weaves his argument with a playful audacity that will delight and entertain many readers.”—Benjamin Bogin Buddhadharma
"Cole felicitously combines humor and a light touch with seriousness and clarity. He is, to use one of his favorite words, a master of seduction, and is one of the best stylists in the field of Buddhist studies. "—John Strong, author of Relics of the Buddha
"In brilliant prose, Cole convinces us that we can deduce what kind of reader was imaginatively addressed by Mahayana sutras, showing us something of that elusive but crucial thing, religious subjectivity."—Angela Zito, New York University