Printer Friendly

The Buddhist Heritage.

This book is a collection of papers that, for the most part, were originally delivered as part of a symposium of the same name held in 1985 at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London. According to the editor's "Preface," this volume is the first volume in a projected series entitled Buddhica Britannica intended to embrace studies on various aspects of Buddhist traditions throughout Asia. Appropriate then for the inauguration of this series, the subject of this first volume is the "Buddhist Heritage" in India and in the larger Asian and Western worlds, here amply celebrated by a highly diverse assemblage of articles considering both scriptural and wider-ranging cultural expressions.

The initial contribution, David L. Snellgrove's "Multiple Features of the Buddhist Heritage," also serves as a kind of introduction, first discussing some of the significant characteristics shared by various branches of the Buddhist tradition throughout Asia, and then examining some changes in Buddhist practice and, in particular, the influence of tantric developments. In addition to setting forth certain generalizations, Snellgrove wishes to correct others, particularly those concerning Theravada versus Mahayana, where typically the former is seen as less ritualistic and the latter as devaluing monastic life.

In "Aspects of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia," Heinz Bechert sketches some of the pivotal events and factors in the development of Buddhist religious life in Theravadin cultures. These include the institutional changes brought about by the progressive interaction of the original sangha with state authority, the interplay of "great" and "little" traditions, and the impact of the colonial period. In conclusion, Bechert refers to the problem of the emergence of Buddhist sects, which he sees as one of the most important and least understood factors in the development of Buddhism. To clarify this issue, Bechert appeals to a distinction between sects and schools, i.e., respectively disciplinary and doctrinal differences, which he has discussed at length in other works.

K. R. Norman, in "The Pali Language and Scriptures," systematically and with ample documentation from primary and secondary sources surveys the most important issues in the history of the Pali canon including among others: the councils, the bhanaka system, oral and written phases, linguistic developments, relationships with other traditions, later phases of the indigenous traditions, and Western scholarship. This paper develops topics covered in the author's Pali Literature (1983), to which it provides an important continuation and complement.

Building on the lifelong research of Christian Hooykaas, Anthony Christie, in "Buddhism in Southeast Asia: an Anecdotal Survey," discusses the relationship between Saiva and Buddhist ritualists in modern Bali. To his treatment, Christie contributes additional Southeast Asian material, consideration of the issue of vegetarianism and of the practice of constructing sand cetiyas.

In a long essay, "The Unique Features of Newar Buddhism," John K. Locke describes and explores the background and history of the salient characteristics of Newar Buddhism. Locke locates these unique features not simply in Newar Buddhism's being tantric or being "mixed up with Hinduism," but in its being "embedded in a dominant Hindu society confined within a very small geographical area." The expression of these unique features in the "lifestyle of the sangha and the viharas in which they live" is examined in terms of ritual, architecture, social history, and historical antecedents.

E. Zurcher, in "The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Culture in an Historical Perspective," concisely delineates the main strands of the history of Buddhism in China: the silk road and the geography of transmission, the main periods, the social stratification, state relations, and cultural vicissitudes in different periods.

In "Buddhist Monuments in China: Some Recent Finds of Sarira Deposits," Roderick Whitfield catalogues some of the numerous finds of sarira deposits recorded in Chinese archaeological journals from 1957 to 1988, arranged conveniently here by dynasty.

The Fang-shan Chinese stone carvings of the Buddhist canon form the topic of Lewis R. Lancaster's "The Rock Cut Canon in China: Findings at Fang-shan." Lancaster examines the history, archaeological details, and significance of the stone carvings begun in the seventh century by a monk named Ching-wan of the Chih-ch'uan monastery and continued in Fang-shan district during the next seven centuries to include ultimately a major portion of the Buddhist canon on 14,260 stone slabs. Containing in some cases versions of texts even earlier than those found at Tun-huang, and largely representing a version of the canon contemporaneous with the oldest sources for our current editions, the Fang-shan canon, Lancaster believes, is an invaluable source that must be used in any future critical studies of the Chinese canon.

Youngsook Pak, in "Excavations of Buddhist Temple Sites in Korea since 1960," surveys, with plates, excavation reports on five important temple complexes built in Korea between the fifth and tenth centuries. In addition, along with diagrams of groundplans, he discusses the layout of the monasteries uncovered at these sites with a view towards placing them in the history of sacred architecture in East Asia during this period.

In "Word and Wordlessness: The Spirit of Korean Buddhism," Hee-Sung Keel first presents a short overview of the basic social groups and major personalities of Korean Buddhism. Next, the author examines the key relationship in Korean Buddhism between Kyo (older established doctrinal schools) and Son (Ch'an or Zen), as exemplified in the writings of Hyujong, a central figure of the Yi dynasty, on the relationship between verbal doctrine and ineffable truth.

In "Contemporary Lay Buddhist Movements in Japan: A Comparison Between Reiyukai and Soka Gakkai," Kubo Tsugunari offers a conspectus, enriched by the knowledge and unique insights of an insider, on this pair of lay Buddhist religious groups. Both Reiyukai and Soka Gakkai, under the impetus of a common heritage of Buddhist thought and, in particular, the Lotus Sutra, have originated, expanded, and eventually flourished in modern era Japan. Kubo first sets out the personalities and history of each movement, succinctly situating each in its larger social context, then describes practice and belief, and, in conclusion, summarizes their most important similarities and divergencies.

A. Piatigorsky first presents some general observations about the nature of religious syncretism, connected here to the specific interaction between Buddhism and shamanism, in "Buddhism in Tuva: Preliminary Observations on Religious Syncretism." Following this treatment of Buddhism and shamanism, the author adds a short chronology of Buddhism in Tuva and concludes with personal ethnographic observations of the religious situation in Ivolga.

In "The Buddhist Notion of an 'Immanent Absolute' (tathagatagarbha) as a Problem in Hermeneutics," D. Seyfort Ruegg traces the attempts of the later Buddhist tradition to reconcile the notion of a spiritual germ, matrix or Buddhanature (gotra, tathagatagarbha) with the fundamental teaching of non-self or (anatman). One prominent mode of reconciliation was hermeneutical: drawing upon ideas shared with Indian poetics, Buddhist interpreters elaborated a hierarchy of statements, in which unacceptable overt declarations could be rendered acceptable by declaring them to be intentional surface presentations of deeper meanings accessible only through the requisite exegesis. For a more detailed treatment of this problem and its solutions, both hermeneutical and doctrinal, we are referred by the author to the first chapter of his Buddha-nature, Mind and the Problem of Gradualism in a Comparative Perspective (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1989).

In "Contemporary European Scholarship on Buddhism," a fitting final contribution to this wide-ranging volume, Russell Webb surveys the most prominent European researchers on Buddhism by area of specialization, with background information and bibliographical record of their publications and activities.

All scholars of Buddhism will undoubtedly find something of interest to be read with profit in this diverse collection of papers. The editor and the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Tring, are to be thanked for bringing about the publication of this, and we hope future volumes of the Buddhica Britannica series.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Oriental Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Cox, Collett
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Previous Article:An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices.
Next Article:The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters