Sunday, May 31, 2015

BOOK NOTICE: Buddhist Monasticism

I’m always thrilled to find another exceptional rare Dharma book for free online. The latest treasure for me came  as I was looking to answer a question I had about what ethical advice we might find for our secular lives within Asian monastic traditions. Buddhist Monasticism in East Asia - Places of Practice ; Edited by James A. Benn, Lori Meeks, James Robson is an anthology of scholarly essays loosely tied together around the theme of monasteries and monastic life in mediaeval Japan. The book would be invaluable for the opening summary alone - Neither Too Far, Nor Too Near: The Historical and Cultural Contexts of Buddhist Monasteries in Medieval China and Japan, Robson reviews the various critical perspectives on Japanese Buddhism, especially the distinction between the New Kamakura Buddhism and the Esoteric-Exoteric Establishment theories. He covers the developments of ideas of monasticism in Europe and Asia as well.

Other essays included are:
 1. Taking a Meal at a Lay Supporter’s Residence: The Evolution of the Practice in Chinese Vinaya Commentaries; Koichi Shinohara
2. Monastic Spaces and Sacred Traces: Facets of Chinese Buddhist Monastic Records; James Robson 

3. Pictorial Program in the Making of Monastic Space: From Jing’aisi of Luoyang to Cave 217 at Dunhuang ; Eugene Wang
4. The Monastery Cat in Cross-cultural Perspective: Cat Poems of the Zen Masters; T.H. Barrett
5. The Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan: The Insider’s View ; William Bodiford
6. Vows for the Masses: Eison and the Popular Expansion of Precept-Conferral Ceremonies in Premodern Japan;  Lori Meeks
7. Koen and the “Consecrated Ordination” Within Japanese Tendai; Paul Groner

All of the titles are equally high quality from some of the finest Buddhologists around. For those of us in the Tendai line, Paul Groner is one of our clearest and most important English voices. Not all of the essays are equally captivating (for me at least), however, they all provided rare contributions tor my understanding of Japanese Buddhism. I recently re-read Suzuki’s 1934 classic on Zen monasticism, and the contrast between it, and its many romanticized and narrow notions of monastic life and this anthology is refreshing. This book brings a balance and realism to the forms and functions of Japanese monastic life.

I could not track down the exact download link, but I can send you a copy (PDF, 1.0 MB).

Yours in the Dharma,                          
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu                        


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