Esoteric Buddhism at Dunhuang: Rites and Teachings for This Life and Beyond – Edited by Matthew T. Kapstein and Sam van Schaik

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  • ESTABLISHING THE REVOLUTIONARY: ANINTRODUCTION TO NEW RELIGIONS IN JAPAN.Edited by Birgit Staemmler and Ulrich Dehn.BunkaWenhua: Tuebingen East Asian Studies Volume 20.Berlin: LIT, 2011. Pp. x + 397. 29.90.

    As of December 2009, the Japanese Agency for CulturalAffairs registered 182,521 religious corporations (shukyohojin), primarily comprising religious sites (e.g., shrines,temples, and churches) administered by various Shinto andBuddhist traditions. This number also incorporates indi-vidual religions, many of which are commonly being labeledas new religious movements (NRMs; shinshukyo). Eventhough scholars of Japan are well aware that NRMs play avital role in modern society, research conducted in Westernlanguages is still urgently needed. The editors go some waytoward addressing this desideratum, offering a solidhandbook-like introduction to NRMs in Japan. Staemmler, aJapanologist specializing in NRMs (University of Tbingen),and Dehn, a theologian with sound Japanological expertise(University of Hamburg), have gathered a number ofrenowned Western and Japanese experts in the eld withinthis edited collection. The introductory section is based onfour essays expounding historical (Staemmler), soteriologi-cal (S. Shimazono), sociological (M. Watanabe), and eco-nomic (Y. Sakurai) aspects of NRMs in Japan. The ten casesstudies largely deal with the usual suspectsKofuku noKagaku, Mahikari, O moto, Aum Shinrikyo , Rissho Koseikai,Seicho no Ie, Sekai Kyuseikyo , Shinnyoen, Soka Gakkaibutalso include an engrossing account of the lesser knowngroups like Chino Shoho (Jimenez-Murguia). An unfortunateomission, for example, is Tenrikyo . All the papers in thiscollection are generally well crafted and similarly structuredto provide a basic understanding of historical, doctrinal,social, and ritual facets. In addition, readers will nd briefencyclopedic entries of roughly fty NRMs in the supple-ments. A considerable bibliography at the end of the volumecontains helpful further references in Japanese and severalWestern languages. This long-awaited volume will serve as auseful textbook and should be welcomed by those interestedin NRMs in East Asia and Japan.

    Lukas PokornyUniversity of Aberdeen

    HERMES UND BUDDHA: DIE NEURELIGISEBEWEGUNG KO FUKU NO KAGAKU IN JAPAN. ByFranz Winter. Edited by Michael Pye and Monika Schrimpf.Religise Gegenwart Asiens/Studies in Modern Asian Reli-gions Volume 6. Wien: LIT Verlag, 2012. Pp. 383. Paper,34.90.

    Kofuku no Kagaku (Science of Happiness) ranksamong the most remarkable new religious movements(NRMs) in contemporary Japan. Established by O kawaRyuho (b. 1956) in 1986, the group has aroused wide publicinterest since its inceptionbe it involving the long-lastingdispute with Kodansha, the severe opposition to AumShinrikyo , vast multimedia campaigns, or most recently, the

    foundation of a political spin-off (Kofuku Jitsugento). Winter,a docent of religious studies at the University of Vienna,presents an elaborate critical account of this multifacetedreligious organization, based on extensive eld research andan in-depth investigation of a variety of source material(movies, manga, and texts). He draws on a wide array ofJapanese and Western scholarship (including the valuablePhD dissertations of Baffelli, Huhtinen, and Fukui), prima-rily employing a historical and doctrinal approach, the latterbeing most refreshing given the majority of mainly sociologi-cal research in the eld. Winter is largely interested inexposing the traditio-historical localization of key doctrinesin O kawas thought, and thustaking into consideration bothWestern and Japanese formation historiesprovides animpressive contextualization of various central elementsincluding the lost continents, the ancient astronauts, the Jesusin Japan narrative, or the image of Hermes. Skillfullyweaving together a comprehensive background in the studyof esotericism, and detailed knowledge of modern Japanesereligious history, Winter sagaciously traces the doctrinalevolution and history of one of Japans most prominent reli-gious traditions. This work is, therefore, a must-read for allthose interested in Japanese and East Asian NRMs ingeneral.

    Lukas PokornyUniversity of Aberdeen

    BuddhismAS LONG AS SPACE ENDURES: ESSAYS ON THEKA LACAKRA TANTRA IN HONOR OF H.H. THEDALAI LAMA. Edited by Edward A. Arnold. Ithaca, NY:Snow Lion Publications, 2009. Pp. xvi + 479; plates. Paper,$29.95.

    This volume contains twenty-ve papers by a diversegroup of academic scholars, Western Buddhists, and tradi-tional Tibetan scholars. Most of the papers deal directly withsome aspect of the Vajrayana Buddhist Kalacakra Tantra(wheel of time system of mysticism), butdespite thesubtitleseveral treat unrelated miscellaneous topics inTibetan Buddhist doctrine and history. As is usually the casewith Festschrift volumes, the contributions vary in theapproach, scope, and philological and historical acumen oftheir authors. For example, one paper provides a meticulouscritical rst edition, translation, and analysis of an excerptfrom an important Sanskrit Tantric commentary; anotherpaper consists of a bare translation with no introduction ornotes, no information on the text upon which the translationis based, and no mention of previous translations of the sametext. Most of the contributors follow the methods and stan-dards of Western-style academic scholarship; severaloperate more in the traditional Tibetan mode, and a fewseem to mix the two approaches. Nevertheless, in general,the quality of the papers is strong, and the volume containsa wealth of information on the Kalacakra Tantra in India and

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  • Tibet. This book is recommended for specialists in Indianand Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism.

    John NewmanNew College of Florida

    LAMAS, SHAMANS AND ANCESTORS: VILLAGERELIGION IN SIKKIM. By Anna Balikci. Brills TibetanStudies Library, 17. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2008.Pp. xxi + 403. Cloth, $148.00.

    This books main argument is that village Buddhistlamas and bnpo shamanic practitioners coexist withouthostility, in large part because both share a shamanicworldview. In contrast to some studies of Himalayan syn-cretism, which have emphasized the opposition betweenBuddhist and non-Buddhist practices, Balikci argues thatboth lamas and shamans possess effective powers fordealing with a broad array of problems that are seen asoriginating in the displeasure of a large pantheon of spiritentities (ancestors, place deities, etc.). Indeed, when it comesto diagnosing and resolving pragmatic, this-worldly con-cerns, such as illness, the shamans are often regarded asmore effective than the Buddhist lamas. Balikci also arguesthat the main area of religious contestation is actually withinBuddhism, between village lamas and a representative ofconventional Buddhism. In one example, she shows howvillagers struggle with the orthodox Buddhist prohibition onanimal sacrice, in a context where harm-causing spiritssometimes demand to be fed. Besides a wealth of materialrelated to Himalayan village ritual practices, the book alsocontains extensive detail regarding the history of Sikkim, itseconomic and political transformations (especially withregard to the rise of cardamom cultivation, the inux ofNepali immigrants, and the end of the monarchy), and thesocial and cultural landscape of a Lhopo village. This bookwill be of great value not only for those interested in Hima-layan syncretism, bn, or shamanism in general, but also foranyone with an interest in Sikkim or a detailed ethnographicaccount of Himalayan village life.

    Abraham ZablockiAgnes Scott College

    NIRVANA: CONCEPT, IMAGERY, NARRATIVE. BySteven Collins. New York: Cambridge University Press,2010. Pp. vi + 197. Cloth, $70.00; paper, $24.99.

    This distillation of the rst part of Collinss inuentialscholarly study Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities isintended for a general readership, and especially for class-room use. Investigating the place of nirvana in the Paliimaginaire, Collins distinguishes between systematic andnarrative modes of thought, and argues that nirvana pro-vides a sense of closure in both. In systematic thought, andin the metaphors that constitute and elaborate the concept,this closure is semantic, expressed not only through explicitcontent but also through signicant silences. In narrativethought and literature, Collins argues, nirvana is instead thesyntactic full stop that brings closure to the individual

    stories that take place within a beginningless and endlessworld. Collins analyzes this function of nirvana in narrativesof past and future Buddhas, with attention to the productiveintersection of repetitive and non-repetitive aspects of time,as well as to the role of closure in the ritual performance ofsuch narratives. These arguments are both accessible andprovocative. Although instructors considering adoption ofthis study as a textbook should note that it does not aim toaddress representations of nirvana either in a social-historical framework or in the imaginative worlds of otherBuddhist traditions, the book remains an indispensable addi-tion to courses on Buddhism.

    Natalie GummerBeloit College

    ESOTERIC BUDDHISM AT DUNHUANG: RITESAND TEACHINGS FOR THIS LIFE AND BEYOND.Edited by Matthew T. Kapstein and Sam van Schaik. BrillsTibetan Studies Library, 25. Leiden: Brill, 2010. Pp. xxvi +253; B&W plates. Cloth, $146.00.

    This volume contains six essays on topics related toesoteric Buddhist texts and images from Dunhuang. All arebased upon close work with primary manuscript or artisticmaterials and represent the cutting edge of scholarship inthis area. It is highly recommended for those with an interestin esoteric Buddhism, providing as it does fascinatingglimpses into the textual history, doctrinal development,and ritual and artistic practices of communities in the laterst millennium. With the sole exception of the brief articleby Imaeda on the provenance (Tibetan or Indian) of the ideasin the Tibetan Book of the Dead, all of the contributions ontextual topics (Cantwell and Meyer, van Schaik, Takahashi,and Kapstein) contain transcribed or edited text and trans-lation of important manuscripts. Tsiangs essay on printedimages and texts is richly accompanied with illustrativeexamples. It might be noted that the quality of the booksprinting and binding does not meet Brills usual high stan-dards: the paper is rougher and darker, and the binding isglued, not sewn. This is all the more regrettable in light ofthe very high quality of, and lasting contributions made by,the scholarship it contains.

    Christian K. WedemeyerUniversity of Chicago

    HEVAJRA AND LAM BRAS LITERATURE OF INDIAAND TIBET AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OFA-MES-ZHABS. By Jan-Ulrich Sobisch. Contributions toTibetan Studies, 6. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag,2008. Pp. xv + 249; B&W illustrations. 68.00.

    This volume is a bibliographic study of the literaturecentral to the practice and theory of the Hevajra Tantra andthe related Path and Result Tradition of the Sa skya Schoolof Tibetan Buddhism. It is the third in a series of inquiries bySobisch drawing on the trove of collected manuscripts of Ames zhabs rendered in microlm by the Nepal-GermanManuscript Preservation Project. The book is a mine of infor-

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  • mation about how the Indic and Tibetan writings on thesetraditions were organized and conceptualized by Sa skyathinkers in the early second millennium. The rst part dealswith Hevajra literature from three sources: the curriculumset out in Notes on How to Enter into the Writings of theSakyapas (a work that found its nal form under A mes andthat is edited and translated in an appendix to the presentvolume); the works mentioned in A mes own works; and thelineages mentioned in his record of teachings received. Thesecond part of the book analyzes the literary corpus of

    the Lam bras as found in the catalogs of its early collectionsof sources: the so-called Yellow, Red, and Black Books, aswell as ancillary literature mentioned in the works of A mes.This is a specialists book, not one for a general audience; butthe presentation is systematic and clear, and it will be auseful point of reference for those seeking to navigate theimmense corpus of literature central to the practice of thisschool of Tibetan Buddhism.

    Christian K. WedemeyerUniversity of Chicago

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