Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism’

November 21st, 2013

Chinese religions in comparative historical perspective

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This short essay draws up the principal ideas from a book chapter concerning the historical field of Chinese religions in comparative context in order to identify its distinctive problems and possible pathways. In order to distinguish religions in the Sinosphere from other state-religion relationships in the longue durée, we need to identify how the state and religions have managed the question of transcendence. Scholars working with the Axial Age theories of religion have often expressed confusion or hesitation with regard to Chinese notions of transcendence. I argue that Chinese religions have a transcendent dimensions often missed by analysts because they operate with an Abrahamic notion of radical transcendence and dualism rather than what I call “dialogical transcendence.”

November 18th, 2013

Buddhism in context

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For Tricycle, an independent Buddhist publication, Linda Heuman interviews David McMahan, scholar of Buddhism and modernity, and author of The Making of Buddhist Modernism.

October 1st, 2013

What is religion in China? A brief history

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The complex and ever-changing relationship between the Chinese state and the nation’s religions stretches back thousands of years. While the state never struggled with religious leaders for power, it governed an embedded religiosity in the population, one best described as diffused, non-exclusive, and pluralistic. As a companion to The Immanent Frame’s newly launched series of essays on the state of religion in China, this piece embarks on a brief historical survey, outlining the wide variety of beliefs and practices that religion in China encapsulates, and paying particular attention to the events and philosophies that have shaped the policies of the atheist People’s Republic of China.

August 21st, 2013

Religion and the environment

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Climate change and the environment can be contentious issues, particularly in American politics. Despite political differences, weather events such as droughts, floods, hurricanes and wildfires in the United States have highlighted environmental issues for impacted communities, including various religious groups and faith traditions. In recent years religious individuals and organizations have become increasingly vocal about various environmental issues, and the following roundup presents some of the latest perspectives from different faiths.

July 9th, 2013

Buddhists, Time, and religious unrest in Burma

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At Religion Dispatches, Alan Senauke writes about Time magazine’s July 1st issue and its consequences in Burma.

August 23rd, 2012

Charles Taylor and Buddhism

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For Tricycle, an independent Buddhist publication, Linda Heuman writes on how to understand problems in the transmission of Buddhism to the West, drawing on, in particular, Charles Taylor’s work on secularism.

August 16th, 2012

Buddhism and the practices of contemporary education

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Recently, Matt Bieber interviewed Peter Hershock, author of Buddhism in the Public Sphere, for his blog The Wheat and Chaff.

June 20th, 2012

Ethno-religious clashes in Myanmar

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Last week in Myanmar,  ethnic and religious clashes between majority-group Rakhine Buddhists and minority-group Rohingya Muslims left at least a dozen dead and thousands displaced.

June 18th, 2012

New review of Bellah’s Religion in Human Evolution

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For Tricycle, an independent Buddhist publication, Linda Heuman reviews Robert Bellah’s Religion in Human Evolution, highlighting the place Bellah gives to reason in the book.

May 23rd, 2012

Dalai Lama to give Templeton money to charity

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Last week at BBC News, Robert Pigott reported that the Dalai Lama will give to charity the  £1.1 million in Templeton prize money that he was awarded earlier this month.

May 22nd, 2012

Buddhist manuscript to be released in book form

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BBC News reported recently on the release of a collection of rare fifth-century Buddhist manuscripts, known together as the Lotus Sutra, in book form in India.

May 2nd, 2012

Panchen Lama in Hong Kong

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On April 25th, 2012, Gyaltsen Norbu, the 11th Panchen Lama, delivered a speech for the first time outside of the Chinese mainland.

April 26th, 2012

Sacred space in Sri Lanka

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BBC news reports the ordered removal of a mosque in the central town of Dambulla, Sri Lanka.

February 1st, 2012

“On Being” Buddhistipalian with Rosanne Cash

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January 5, 2012’s episode of “On Being with Krista Tippet” is a conversation with Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, a singer-songwriter and author in her own right.

January 5th, 2012

Axial axioms

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The word “magisterial” in publishers’ blurbs usually means little more than “too long,” and indeed Religion in Human Evolution is very long, but it is also magisterial in many of the ways that the Oxford English Dictionary suggests: “Of, relating to, designating, or befitting a master, teacher, or other person qualified to speak with authority; masterly, authoritative, commanding.”   It is certainly all of those, a book full of the wisdom and erudition that comes only when someone quite brilliant has thought about a big subject for many years.

November 8th, 2011

Politics of Faith—The Role of Religion in Divided Societies

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America Abroad, the award-winning documentary radio program, has released a new documentary, “The Politics of Faith—The Role of Religion in Divided Societies.” Drawing from interviews with locals and experts, the documentary examines the religious undercurrents that are sharpening societal divides, from Egypt to China, from Russia to Malaysia.

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September 19th, 2011

A blast from the past: lessons in eastern religion and philosophy

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Fifty years ago, Alan Watts popularized ideas of eastern philosophy and religion. Open Culture shares a relic of the past.

March 23rd, 2011

The evolution of a text

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In his 1915 essay, “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death,” Sigmund Freud wrote, “It is indeed impossible to imagine our own death; and whenever we attempt to do so we can perceive that we are in fact still present as spectators.” Four years later, the American Theosophist Walter Evans-Wentz, traveling in the Himalayas, chanced upon a Tibetan text and asked the English teacher of the Maharaja’s Boarding School for boys in Gangtok, Sikkim to translate it for him. What is known in the West as The Tibetan Book of the Dead is the product of their collaboration.

December 9th, 2010

Buddhism and science

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At 13.7: Cosmos and Culture, a blog sponsored by NPR, astrophysicist Adam Frank takes on the changing relationship between Buddhism and science. Early interest in Buddhism among scientists had to do with an assumed parallel between the principles of quantum physics and ancient truths of eastern religion. In Frank’s estimation, this 1970s discussion was “mostly silly.”

More recently, however, the discussion has shifted. Today, scientists take an interest in Buddhism in hopes of learning something about mind and consciousness.

October 12th, 2010

Gaming reincarnation

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In the Oct. 4 issue of The New Yorker, Evan Osnos has a fascinating piece (sub. req.) on the uncertainties surrounding the current Dalai Lama’s succession—the only contemporary geopolitical issue, he remarks, that hangs on a matter of reincarnation. In the course of the article, Osnos also delivers an excellent overview of the Dalai Lama’s fraught role as the de facto leader of the Tibetan autonomy movement.

September 23rd, 2010

The future of China’s past: An interview with Mayfair Yang

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Anthropologist Mayfair Yang teaches in the Religious Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has done pioneering work discovering, describing, and reflecting on the fate of traditional culture in post-revolutionary China through numerous articles and edited volumes, two documentary films, and her book Gifts, Favors, and Banquets: the Art of Social Relationships in China. Throughout, she brings the insights of post-colonial theory and gender studies to bear on the living remnants of ancient ways of life. She is currently writing a new book, Re-Enchanting Modernity: Sovereignty, Ritual Economy, and Indigenous Civil Order in Coastal China.

August 3rd, 2010

Peter Berger on multilateral globalization

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Globalization is not defined by one-way Westernization, argues Peter Berger in his new blog at The American Interest Online. Rather, it is a far more complex process than is commonly imagined, and this is indicated, for starters, by the often overlooked influence of Eastern traditions on contemporary Western culture.

July 19th, 2010

Tradition Transformed: Tibetan Artists Respond

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The Rubin Museum of Art in New York City is currently exhibiting the work of nine contemporary Tibetan artists who incisively and imaginatively reinterpret the highly formalized tradition of Tibetan Buddhist art.

February 26th, 2010

Exploring Buddhist violence

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Michael Jerryson discusses his new book Buddhist Warfare, co-edited with Mark Juergensmeyer, at Religion Dispatches, explaining “how the notion of a purely mystical and otherworldly Buddhism—promoted by some of the great interpreters of the tradition—denies its adherents’ humanity.”

January 25th, 2010

The souls of animals

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The question of the week at The Guardian’s Belief page is, “Do Animals Have Souls?” Musab Bora offers a Muslim perspective.

January 14th, 2010

Dialogues concerning Hume and religion

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On the January 4th edition of FOX News Sunday, Brit Hume gave this surprising advice to Tiger Woods in the wake of his marital infidelity: “He is said to be a Buddhist. I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So, my message to Tiger would be, ‘Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.’” While not out of character for FOX News, these words triggered an immediate debate over the place of religious proselytizing in broadcast journalism.

December 11th, 2009

Colonialism and conflict

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keaneIf the idea of purification is to retain broad currency across the colonial landscape, it may need to be defined differently, more in terms of separating out truth from falsehood, or the divine from the diabolical, than of fixing boundaries between the spiritual and the material. While questions of ontological difference could be salient in Sumba and certain other mission fields, the distinctions drawn between persons and things in acts of purification fail to account for other important distinctions drawn between persons themselves.

August 1st, 2008

Let’s get clear about materialism

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David Brooks’s op-ed, “The Neural Buddhists,” is premised on a variety of conceptual confusions that are worth trying to clear up, although the widespread nature of some of these confusions says something quite interesting about innate human cognitive biases. I think he is mistaken about the precise character of the cultural impact of recent neuroscientific work, but the kinds of mistakes he makes points toward ways in which the contemporary neuroscientific model of the self continues to be misunderstood. […]

July 8th, 2008

The aesthetics of neural Buddhism

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The first three postings in this series remind us how complex the individual topics of cognitive science, Buddhism, and religious experience can be. Certainly there are many interpretations of each—many more than an entire monograph could account for, let alone a column in the New York Times—and reminders of the density of such topics are valuable and need to be repeated. But the cultural phenomenon that David Brooks’s column describes is its own topic altogether. Just what this phenomenon is will probably take a while for historians to describe and for critical scholars to assess. My preliminary suggestion is that we are witnessing an aesthetic urge, in which scientists and Buddhists find common cause in their pursuit of a beautiful—albeit potentially dangerous— “theory of everything.” […]

June 30th, 2008

Medical materialism revisited

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A century ago, in “Religion and Neurology,” the opening chapter of The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James argued against a “medical materialism” that would reduce religious experiences to their neurological causes for the purpose either of dismissing them or confirming them. Since that time, many have tried to understand religion through the study of religious experience and, like James, many have given special attention to mysticism. New techniques for the study of the brain have brought great advances, but David Brooks’s New York Times column “The Neural Buddhists” and the work of Andrew Newberg, to whom he refers, stand squarely in the tradition James was criticizing. […]

June 12th, 2008

The Buddha according to Brooks

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On Sunday May 25, 2008 the New York Times published an article entitled “Superhighway to Bliss” about Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist who suffered a stroke in 1996. After she regained the ability to speak, she described the experience as “nirvana.” Neuropathology as religious experience is nothing new, yet the next day, the piece was number one on the Times list of most e-mailed articles. In the Science Times section of the paper the following Tuesday, there was an article entitled “Lotus Therapy,” on the growing use of the meditation cushion to treat problems previously consigned to the analyst’s couch. The next day, “Lotus Therapy” had taken over the top spot as the most e-mailed article. Clearly, something is going on. But that had become clear two weeks earlier when the conservative commentator David Brooks entitled his May 13 op-ed piece, “The Neural Buddhists.” […]

May 30th, 2008

The cognitive revolution and the decline of monotheism

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To appreciate the cultural impact of the “cognitive revolution” discussed by David Brooks in his New York Times op-ed column “The Neural Buddhists” (May 13, 2008), we need to be clear about what has and has not been revolutionized by neuroscience. Brooks gets the research essentially right, but he overlooks some key issues raised by “neural Buddhism” that make me question his view of its future effects on religion and culture. […]