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[book] Buddhism in Dialogue with Contemporary Societies

Buddhism in Dialogue with Contemporary SocietiesBuddhism in Dialogue with Contemporary Societies. Carola Roloff, Wolfram Weiße, Michael Zimmermann (Editor)

With contributions by
Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bhikkhunī Dhammadinnā, Jay L. Garfield, Huimin Bhikshu, Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Sallie B. King, Volker Küster, Miao Guang, Thea Mohr, Mario Poceski, Yangsi Rinpoche, Jan-Ulrich Sobisch, Sander G. Tideman, André Van der Braak, Michael von Brück, B. Alan Wallace

«The growing pluralization of religion and culture in Europe means that we encounter an increasing number of Buddhist immigrants as well as ‘Western’ converts. Against this background, in June 2018, the Academy of World Religions and the Numata Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg (Germany), invited scholars of Theravāda, East Asian and Tibetan Buddhism. The questions discussed referred to:
— Does Buddhism matter today? What can it contribute?
— Must Buddhism adapt to the modern world? How can Buddhism adapt to a non-Asia context?
— When Buddhism travels, what must be preserved if Buddhism is to remain Buddhism?

The contributions in this volume show not only that Buddhism matters in the West but that it already has its strong impact on our societies. Therefore, universities in Europe should include Buddhist theories and techniques in their curricula.»

[books] Building a Religious Empire

Building a Religious Empire

Brenton Sullivan. Building a Religious Empire. Tibetan Buddhism, Bureaucracy, and the Rise of the Gelukpa

The vast majority of monasteries in Tibet and nearly all of the monasteries in Mongolia belong to the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism, best known through its symbolic head, the Dalai Lama. Historically, these monasteries were some of the largest in the world, and even today some Geluk monasteries house thousands of monks, both in Tibet and in exile in India. In Building a Religious Empire, Brenton Sullivan examines the school’s expansion and consolidation of power along the frontier with China and Mongolia from the mid-seventeenth through the mid-eighteenth centuries to chart how its rise to dominance took shape.
In contrast to the practice in other schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Geluk lamas devoted an extraordinary amount of effort to establishing the institutional frameworks within which everyday aspects of monastic life, such as philosophizing, meditating, or conducting rituals, took place. In doing so, the lamas drew on administrative techniques usually associated with state-making—standardization, record-keeping, the conscription of young males, and the concentration of manpower in central cores, among others—thereby earning the moniker «lama official,» or «Buddhist bureaucrat.»

The deployment of these bureaucratic techniques to extend the Geluk «liberating umbrella» over increasing numbers of lands and peoples leads Sullivan to describe the result of this Geluk project as a «religious empire.» The Geluk lamas’ privileging of the monastic institution, Sullivan argues, fostered a common religious identity that insulated it from factionalism and provided legitimacy to the Geluk project of conversion, conquest, and expansion. Ultimately, this system succeeded in establishing a relatively uniform and resilient network of thousands of monasteries stretching from Nepal to Lake Baikal, from Beijing to the Caspian Sea.»

Buddhism & Psychology

«Buddhist communities in the United States and beyond have been shaped by psychological interpretation for nearly two centuries. Leading Asian Buddhist figures and leaders of Asian Buddhist communities used psychological theories to legitimate and explain their teachings—from Dharmapāla and Soen in the 19th century to Suzuki and Nyanaponika in the 20th century and to the Dalai Lama in the 21st century. US “convert” Buddhist communities, from the Zen Centers of the 1950s and 1960s to the so-called “insight” meditation groups of the 1990s, often simply assumed without discussion that Buddhist concepts such as rebirth should be viewed as psychological metaphors. These communities may not have always consciously drawn on psychological frames in their practice of a Buddhism that was understood to be, by definition, fundamentally psychological (as discussed in “Discovery of the Psychological Buddhism”). However, a marked turn was taken through the 1990s as a growing number of voices began to advocate explicitly for the active use of psychotherapeutic insights and practices within Buddhist communities.

Contemporary psychoanalytic clinician Paul Cooper suggests that the psychotherapeutic process can help unblock unconscious material that can otherwise thwart Buddhist meditators. Meanwhile, as Ann Gleig has discussed, “teacher scandals” are often cited as a prime example of how psychotherapeutic, and specifically psychoanalytic, theories can be essential for Buddhist communities. Psychoanalytic teachings, it is suggested, can help these communities work through the idealization of authority figures and transform an unhealthy repression of sexual desire into creative sublimation. Claims that psychodynamic concepts could be of benefit have not only come from psychologists who may be inclined to think their work has utility.»
Ira Helderman. Psychological Interpreters of Buddhism

[books] The Buddha’s Footprint

Johan Elverskog. The Buddha’s Footprint: An Environmental History of Asia.
buddhas_foot_«In the current popular imagination, Buddhism is often understood to be a religion intrinsically concerned with the environment. The Dharma, the name given to Buddhist teachings by Buddhists, states that all things are interconnected. Therefore, Buddhists are perceived as extending compassion beyond people and animals to include plants and the earth itself out of a concern for the total living environment. In The Buddha’s Footprint, Johan Elverskog contends that only by jettisoning this contemporary image of Buddhism as a purely ascetic and apolitical tradition of contemplation can we see the true nature of the Dharma. According to Elverskog, Buddhism is, in fact, an expansive religious and political system premised on generating wealth through the exploitation of natural resources.
Elverskog surveys the expansion of Buddhism across Asia in the period between 500 BCE and 1500 CE, when Buddhist institutions were built from Iran and Azerbaijan in the west, to Kazakhstan and Siberia in the north, Japan in the east, and Sri Lanka and Indonesia in the south. He examines the prosperity theology at the heart of the Dharma that declared riches to be a sign of good karma and the means by which spritiual status could be elevated through donations bequeathed to Buddhist institutions. He demonstrates how this scriptural tradition propelled Buddhists to seek wealth and power across Asia and to exploit both the people and the environment.

Elverskog shows the ways in which Buddhist expansion not only entailed the displacement of local gods and myths with those of the Dharma—as was the case with Christianity and Islam—but also involved fundamentally transforming earlier social and political structures and networks of economic exchange. The Buddha’s Footprint argues that the institutionalization of the Dharma was intimately connected to agricultural expansion, resource extraction, deforestation, urbanization, and the monumentalization of Buddhism itself.»

[books] In the service of the 13th and 14th Dalai Lama

kashopaJamyang Choegyal Kasho. In the service of the 13th and 14th Dalai Lama: Choegyal Nyima Lhundrup Kashopa — Untold stories of Tibet.
There is probably no personality in modern (pre ’59) Tibetan politics more colourful or controversial than Kashopa Choegyal Nyima. Most major histories of modern Tibet mention him, some like Shakabpa favourably, others like Goldstein in less flattering terms.
In spite of his lengthy and contentious political career Kashopa has, unfortunately, not received more in-depth attention from historians and scholars, which is a pity as he was quite deeply involved in some of the most consequential events of modern Tibetan history: the Lungshar conspiracy, the imprisonment of Gedun Choephel, the Sera War and more. One scholar has gone so far as to note that «Kashopa’s presence is felt in every aspect of Tibet’s recent history».
Kashopa’s son, Jamyang Choegyal, has now come out with a very personal and engaging biography of his famous father, which will definitely contribute to our understanding of that fascinating period in Tibetan history. For the general reader there is much to enjoy in this absorbing story of a politician’s life in old Lhasa, with all its rewards and pitfalls.
(Jamyang Norbu — Exile writer and essayist, and author of The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes, Warriors of Tibet and Shadow Tibet)

New Book: Forging the Golden Urn

000000_urnMax Oidtmann. Forging the Golden Urn: The Qing Empire and the Politics of Reincarnation in Tibet.

«In Forging the Golden Urn, Max Oidtmann ventures into the polyglot world of the Qing empire in search of the origins of the golden urn tradition. He seeks to understand the relationship between the Qing state and its most powerful partner in Inner Asia—the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. Why did the Qianlong emperor invent the golden urn lottery in 1792? What ability did the Qing state have to alter Tibetan religious and political traditions? What did this law mean to Qing rulers, their advisors, and Tibetan Buddhists? Working with both the Manchu-language archives of the empire’s colonial bureaucracy and the chronicles of Tibetan elites, Oidtmann traces how a Chinese bureaucratic technology—a lottery for assigning administrative posts—was exported to the Tibetan and Mongolian regions of the Qing empire and transformed into a ritual for identifying and authenticating reincarnations. Forging the Golden Urn sheds new light on how the empire’s frontier officers grappled with matters of sovereignty, faith, and law and reveals the role that Tibetan elites played in the production of new religious traditions in the context of Qing rule».