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TransBuddhism: Transmission, Translation, and Transformation

Nalini Bhushan
Jay L. Garfield
Abraham Zablocki
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The global spread of Buddhism is giving rise to new forms of religious complexity, both in the West and in Asia. This collection of essays examines the religious and cultural conversations that are occurring in this process from a diverse range of disciplinary, methodological, and literary perspectives, including philosophy, ethnography, history, and cultural studies. The chapters in the first section explore the transmission of Buddhism to the West, ranging from the writings of one of its earliest western interpreters, the Wesleyan missionary R. Spence Hardy, to the globalization of Tibetan Buddhist reincarnation, to the development and practice of Buddhism within the American prison system. The concluding chapter of this section presents a case study of a Japanese Buddhist temple in Oregon that ultimately died out—an example of a transmission that failed. The second section looks at the complex issues that arise in the translation of Buddhist terms, texts, and concepts from one language or cultural milieu to another. Two chapters examine the challenges confronted by those who translate Buddhist texts—one exploring the contemporary translation of Tibetan Buddhism, the second analyzing an exchange of poetry in medieval Japan. The other two chapters describe the translation of Buddhist ideas into new cultural domains in America, specifically film and sports. The final section presents case studies in the transformation of Buddhism which is resulting from its new global interconnections. Topics include the role of women in transforming Buddhist patriarchy, BuddhistFreudian dialogue in relationship to mourning, and the interplay between Buddhism and the environmental movement. The book also includes images created by the noted artist Meridel Rubenstein which frame the individual chapters within a nonverbal exploration of the themes discussed. In addition to the editors, contributors include Mark Blum, Mario D’Amato, Sue Darlington, Elizabeth Eastman, Connie Kassor, Tom Rohlich, Judith Snodgrass, Jane Stangl, and Karma Lekshe Tsomo.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-070-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Introduction TransBuddhism: Authenticity in the Context of Transformation
    (pp. 1-18)
    Nalini Bhushan and Abraham Zablocki

    Buddhism is booming. In Western Europe, Australasia, and North America, Buddhism has attracted new converts not only in metropoles such as New York, San Francisco, London, and Paris but also in places such as Kansas and Ireland. In the former Soviet bloc, Buddhism has established a loyal following of new converts, while it is also undergoing a resurgence—after being suppressed for seven decades—in Mongolia and the Russian republics of Tuva, Kalmykia, and Buryatia. Buddhism is even growing in South and Central America, in Africa, and in Israel.

    In the United States, this boom has taken many forms. Buddhist...

  5. Part I Transmission

    • CHAPTER 1 Discourse, Authority, Demand: The Politics of Early English Publications on Buddhism
      (pp. 21-41)
      Judith Snodgrass

      A defining feature of Buddhism in its modern Asian and Western transformations—indeed, its very name—is the centrality of the Buddha Sakyamuni and the assumption that he was the founder of the religion. Many of the key features of transnational, translated modern Buddhisms depend on it. It is the premise that enabled the nineteenth-century definition of “real” Buddhism as a rational, humanist philosophy. It justified the dismissal by early scholars of traditional ritual practices and the trappings of institutional religion, the stripping away of two thousand years of “cultural accretions” and “priestcraft,” to create Buddhism as a universal teaching...

    • CHAPTER 2 Transnational Tulkus: The Globalization of Tibetan Buddhist Reincarnation
      (pp. 43-53)
      Abraham Zablocki

      Tibetans and their culture often seem to inspire fascination in their Others. Monks are used in advertising to signify otherworldliness, purity, or the simple life. Religious rituals are transformed into museum installations and concert recitals. Tibetan-inspired material culture is used to express certain kinds of subject positions, such as countercultural (through the deployment of Tibetan art), politically progressive (through the wearing of a Free Tibet T-shirt), or spiritual (by wearing the latest fashion accoutrement, the Tibetan rosary-as-bracelet).

      In each of these instances, Westerners utilize and consume Tibetan culture in order to participate in, and establish affinity with, the special qualities...

    • CHAPTER 3 Buddhism in American Prisons
      (pp. 55-67)
      Constance Kassor

      The rapidly growing interest in Buddhism in the West has led to the emergence of Buddhist practices among diverse communities.¹ Notably, one community in which Buddhist practice is beginning to take root is the American prison system. An increasing number of inmates are working to overcome their often violent and seemingly hopeless situations by adopting the compassionate, nonviolent, and mindful ideals of Buddhist practice while incarcerated, thus transforming their own experiences as well as contributing to changes in the prison system as a whole.

      It is difficult to characterize life within the prison system in comparison with life on the...

    • CHAPTER 4 Incense at a Funeral: The Rise and Fall of an American Shingon Temple
      (pp. 69-86)
      Elizabeth Eastman

      One of my earliest memories is of wandering the twisting paths in the overgrown garden behind my Watanabe great-grandparents’ house.¹ I would meander over the fish pond’s stone bridge, peering down through the tangle of weeds to catch a glimpse of fish darting in and out among the shadows. Then I would choose a path, turn a corner, and lose sight of the house behind me. One of these pathways, I knew, led to a church, though I couldn’t remember ever having been there.

      Although I didn’t know it at the time, the church next door to my great-grandparents’ house...

  6. Part II Translation

    • CHAPTER 5 Translation as Transmission and Transformation
      (pp. 89-103)
      Jay L. Garfield

      This is not a general chapter on the craft and institution of translation, though some of the claims and arguments I proffer here might generalize. I am concerned in particular with the activity of the translation of Asian Buddhist texts into English in the context of the current extensive transmission of Buddhism to the West, in the context of the absorption of cultural influences of the West by Asian Buddhist cultures, and in the context of the increased interaction between Buddhist practitioner communities and academics in Buddhist Studies. These three phenomena and their synergy are very much phenomena of the...

    • CHAPTER 6 Two Monks and the Mountain Village Ideal
      (pp. 105-117)
      Thomas H. Rohlich

      At some point in the middle of the twelfth century, two monks in Japan exchanged a series of ten poems each, matching one for one. Here is the first of the ten exchanges, as recorded in the personal poetry collection (Sankashū) of Saigyō, one of the poets (Gotō 1982, 342–46):

      1a.yamafukami / sa koso arame to / kikoetsutsu / oto aware naru / tani no kawamizu

      The mountains are so deep and yours perhaps the same, I hear, the sorrowful sound of the river in the valley. (Saigyō)

      1b.awaresa wa / koya to kimi mo / omoiyare...

    • CHAPTER 7 Text, Tradition, Transformation, and Transmission in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
      (pp. 119-133)
      Mario D’Amato

      One of the way s in which Buddhism enters the cultural imagination of the West is through film. This chapter addresses the imagination of Buddhism in the filmGhost Dog: The Way of the Samurai(Jarmusch 1999). I am interested both in how Buddhism has been imagined to play a role in the self-understanding of the film’s protagonist and in how we—as scholars of religion interested in the transformation and transmission of Buddhism across cultures—might imagine Buddhism through reflecting on the film. I will not focus primarily on the Buddhist motifs in the film (although they are certainly...

    • CHAPTER 8 Eastern Influences on Western Sport: Appropriating Buddhism in the G/Name of Golf
      (pp. 135-148)
      Jane M. Stangl

      In the cult golf filmCaddyshack(dir. Harold Ramis 1980), Bill Murray, playing the well-seasoned groundskeeper of Bushwood Country Club, recounts to a wide-eyed young caddy a story of Tibet and his experience caddying for the Dalai Lama. He tells the strapping youngster, while holding a pitchfork under his throat, about “getting on as a ‘looper’—a caddy . . .” on a course in the Himalayas. “So,” Murray says, “I tell them I’m a pro-jock, and who do they ‘gimme’? The Dalai Lama” (pronounced emphatically “lamb-a”). “The twelfth son of the lama—the flowing robes, grace, bald . ....

  7. Part III Transformation

    • CHAPTER 9 Global Exchange: Women in the Transmission and Transformation of Buddhism
      (pp. 151-165)
      Karma Lekshe Tsomo

      Despite its aspirations to facilitate liberation and enlightenment for all, and despite the fact that enlightenment has no gender, gender inequalities have existed in Buddhist institutions throughout their history and remain prevalent in Buddhist societies today. In all Buddhist cultures, women have historically devoted themselves to preserving and transmitting Buddhist teachings and values, and they continue to do so. Only recently, however, have their contributions begun drawing the broader attention they deserve. Many argue that this attention is closely linked with the transmission of Buddhism to the West and the reciprocal impact of Western cultures and ideas on Buddhism.


    • CHAPTER 10 Toward an Anatomy of Mourning: Discipline, Devotion, and Liberation in a Freudian-Buddhist Framework
      (pp. 167-181)
      Nalini Bhushan

      Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917) articulates an influential and persuasive psychoanalytic model of mourning that renders comprehensible, rational, and indeed, gives shape, to one form of human suffering, that borne of tragic loss, the death of one’s beloved. Freud invites us to conceive, in interestingly novel ways, of the mental and physical process of profound mourning asdisciplined. His introduction of the concept of discipline into the raw existential experience of profound mourning is fascinating in itself. This discipline, which gives shape to the mourning process, and makes possible a rare species of devotion, is indispensable for the sufferer’s eventual...

    • CHAPTER 11 Translating Modernity: Buddhist Response to the Thai Environmental Crisis
      (pp. 183-207)
      Susan M. Darlington

      It is hard to breathe in Bangkok. The capital of Thailand is a sprawling and congested city with major air and water pollution. Energy demand is high, forcing a dependency on oil and natural gas and the development of resources such as hydroelectric power. Large-scale dams bring additional problems of alternating flooding and drought, loss of agricultural and forest land, and relocation of large numbers of people. Since the 1960s, Thailand has faced an environmental crisis that has steadily worsened. Rapid economic development based on a Western model of growth, industrialization, and consumerism has led to depleted forests, soil erosion,...

    • CHAPTER 12 The Transcendentalist Ghost in EcoBuddhism
      (pp. 209-238)
      Mark L. Blum

      Within the worldwide ecology movement, the cause of environmentalism among countries with Buddhist populations, both East and West, is of high interest. In particular, the participation of the sangha in such activities, while certainly not traditional, nonetheless reflects a healthy activist stance toward societal problems. This kind of involvement is absolutely essential for Buddhism, and indeed all religions, to grow and prosper in the rapidly changing world today, for Buddhism is not only surrounded by that world, it is part of it. Nonetheless, I was taken aback when I read Sue Darlington’s description (revisited in chapter 11) of a ceremony...

    (pp. 239-252)
  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 253-254)
    (pp. 255-256)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 257-262)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 263-263)