Murōji: Rearranging Art and History at a Japanese Buddhist Temple – Sherry D. Fowler

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)


  • 210 / Religious Studies Review Volume 32 Number 3 / July 2006

    ritual place), to major citywide events like theSakae festival, offer people culturally signifi-cant ways of constructing meaning and power.Kawano provides a wealth of evidence that thisis, in fact, the case. What is less successful isher theoretical perspective. When she tries toexplain how rituals have the power to produceengaging moments of personal significance,she is far from clear about how they preserve aspiritual way of experiencing the world thatis somehow different from secularism. Per-haps her problem lies in these terms, sofreighted with Western baggage that they get inthe way of understanding her larger pointshow Japanese religiosity is somehow distinc-tive in its practices and how it has persisteddespite the dramatic changes of modernity,albeit in dynamically new guises.

    Mark MacWilliamsSt. Lawrence University

    THE OTHER SIDE OF ZEN: A SOCIALHISTORY OF ST ZEN BUDDHISM INTOKUGAWA JAPAN. By Duncan RykenWilliams. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UniversityPress, 2005. Pp. 296 + illus. $49.50, ISBN 978-0-691-11928-1.

    This concise but detailed social history ofthe St Zen is significant because it refocusesscholarly attention, which has dwelled exces-sively on the writings of the sects founderDgen and his sects important role in thedevelopment of the new Buddhism of theKamakura period. But why did the sect, bythe early eighteenth century, become the largestschool of Buddhism in Japan? Williams sets outto explore some of the reasons for its exponen-tial growth during this period. He argues that tounderstand this, we must abandon the conven-tional view that what made Zen popular was itsintriguing philosophy, its emphasis on medita-tion, and its key role in the arts and aestheticsof Japanese high culture. Rather, what is impor-tant to study is the social role played by Bud-dhist temples in the ordinary laypersons lifein the premodern period. What follows arechapters that are exquisitely drawn miniaturesthat intricately illustrate that role in the parish-ioners household, funerary rituals, medicineand faith healing, and so on. It is a fascinatingstudy of the other side of Zen that detailsthe ambiguous world of multiple meaningsand practices making up popular religiositynot only in the Tokugawa period, but today, asseen, for example, in I. Reader and G. TanabesPractically Religious: Worldly Benefits and theCommon Religion of Japan (1998). Williamssbook is an essential reading both for under-standing how St Zen intersected with popularreligiosity in the Tokugawa period and as apropaedeutic for understanding how divorcedthe contemporary ideological construct of Zenas the essence of Japanese high culture isfrom Zen temple Buddhism.

    Mark MacWilliamsSt. Lawrence University

    THE TAOIST CANON: A HISTORICALCOMPANION TO THE DAOZANG. Editedby Kristofer Schipper and Franciscus Verellen.Volume 1. Chicago: University of ChicagoPress, 2004. Volume 1. Pp. xxii + 630; illustra-tions. Volume 2. Pp. xiv + 631-1254; illustra-tions. Volume 3. Pp. x + 1255-1644. $175.00,ISBN (the set) 0-226-73817-5.

    This long-anticipated companion to theDaoist canon is an indispensable resource forscholars in Asian Studies. Well-written descrip-tive entries on individual texts are classifiedchronologically and typologically. Volume 1,Antiquity through the Middle Ages, is dividedinto parts 1 and 2 and consists of a generalintroduction. Volume 2, consisting of part 3, istitled The Modern Period. Volume 3 consistsof helpful biographical notices on the compilersof Daoist texts, a bibliography, and indexes.The introduction covers the history of differentversions of the Taoist Canon prior to the MingDynasty, gives an overview of the Ming Canon,and introduces the Tao-tsang Project from itsgenesis in 1976 to the publication of this work.Part 1 covers the period from the Eastern Zhouto the Six Dynasties, part 2 covers the Sui,Tang, and Five Dynasties, and part 3 covers theSong, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties. Each partis divided into two main sections, Texts inGeneral Circulation and Texts in InternalCirculation, and these are further subdividedinto detailed typological subsections. The fiveindexes at the end of volume 3 are: 1) classifiedtitle, 2) work number, 3) Pinyin title, 4) findinglist for other Daozang editions, and 5) general.

    Wendi AdamekBarnard College

    BuddhismTANTRIC REVISIONINGS: NEWUNDERSTANDINGS OF TIBETAN BUD-DHISM AND INDIAN RELIGION. ByGeoffrey Samuel. Delhi: Motilal Banardidass,2005. Pp. 384. Rs. 495.00, ISBN 978-0-7546-5280-9.

    This volume contains fifteen essays by Sam-uel, one of the most respected scholars in thefield of Buddhist Tantra. Five of the essays arenew, and ten have been previously published.Three of the new essays comprise of a sectionat the end of the book on the diaspora of TibetanBuddhism. This is a topic that Samuel toucheson in several of his early essays, but in thesethree articles, he examines the global networksof Tibetan Buddhism, lineage affiliations in thediaspora, and reasons why Tibetan Buddhismis popular. He rejects H. Urbans dismissiveattitude toward the westernization of TibetanBuddhism as just another moment of modernspiritual consumerism, seeing instead a realengagement with the nature of selfhood andvarious technologies of the self, citing Fou-cault. These chapters are recommended for the

    increasing number of courses taught on theWesternization of Asian religions. Samuel haslong been interested in the relationship of Bud-dhism and Tantra with folk religion. Whilemany recent studies (e.g., R. Davidsons IndianEsoteric Buddhism [2002]) have gone beyondSamuels, many of his articles remain valuable,including very good essays on The Indus ValleyCivilization and Early Tibet (2000) and Gesarof gLing: The Origins and Meanings of the EastTibetan Epic (1991). In his introduction, Sam-uel, like many others, backs away from callingTibetan lamas shamans. This is especially note-worthy, given that Samuels best-known workis titled Civilized Shamans (1993). MotilalBanarsidass is to be thanked for putting allthese articles together in one volume.

    Frederick M. SmithUniversity of Iowa

    HIMALAYAN HERMITESS: THE LIFEOF A TIBETAN BUDDHIST NUN. ByKurtis R. Schaeffer. New York, Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, 2004. Pp. 232. $22.00, ISBN:0-19-515299-9.

    This is the story of O. Chokyi (1675-1729),the first Tibetan woman to write a spiritualautobiography. Although biography and autobi-ography are important genres in Tibetan Bud-dhism, this is the first one written by a woman.Schaeffer provides statistics that bear this out:from the 8th to the 20th centuries, we know ofperhaps 2,000 Buddhist biographies from theTibetan cultural area. Among these are approx-imately 150 autobiographies, and among theseonly three of four are by women. Chokyi wasfrom Dolpo in the Nepal Himalayas, and shetraveled throughout the region, including theKathmandu valley. The autogiography, Schaef-fer notes, is closer to an autohagiography inwhich the author mixes events of her life withBuddhist teachings. Schaeffer divides the bookinto two parts. The first is a description of thegenre, the place of women within it, and thegender and doctrinal issues at stake in both thegenre and the life of Chokyi. The second partis a translation of the text. How, we wonder, dida village girl who herded goats and horses, andworked in a kitchen, become literate? After achildhood of suffering and hard work, sheseems to have had a near-death experience inwhich she was visited (possessed? Schaefferdoes not comment) by a 5kin7 or an accom-plished female Buddhist spirit. After this visi-tation, she was suddenly able to read and write.At length, she took monastic vows and becamea Buddhist exemplar. Schaeffer is to be thankedfor writing an excellent book that deserves aplace in a variety of classes on Buddhism andAsian religions.

    Frederick M. SmithUniversity of Iowa



  • Volume 32 Number 3 / July 2006 Religious Studies Review / 211

    York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.Pp. 273. $65.00, ISBN 0-19-512211-9.

    This excellent book takes on one of the mostdifficult, syncretistic, and interesting of theIndian Tantric texts, the K/lacakra (Wheel ofTime) Tantra (KT). This is the latest of thegreat Indian Buddhist Tantras, dating to theearly eleventh century. It is said to be anabridged version by Majurr7 Yaras of a muchlonger but now lost work, the Param/dibuddha-tantra. The study of the KT must be accompa-nied by a study of its principal commentary, theVimalaprabh5, by Kalkin Pu ar7ka, who livedone generation after Majurr7 Yaras. The sec-ond chapter of the KT deals with the nature ofthe individual. Wallace divides the material inthis chapter into four parts: 1) the cosmic body,2) the social body, 3) the gnostic body, and 4)the transformative body. Each one of thesebodies is a universe unto itself, a ma alathat functions in coordination with the others.The cosmic body is conceived as a geographi-cal universe in which the parts of the individualare homologized with the parts of the universe.The social body is a fascinating reinscription ofNorth India in the early eleventh century,including a depiction of Muslimsrare amongIndic texts. The gnostic body (j/nak/ya)describes the four bodies of the Buddha asaspects of enlightenment. The transformativebody is the initiated body, a stepwise processthat is lucidly articulated. This illuminating vol-ume is helped by a large number of charts andshould be accessible to graduate students. Itshould also be on the shelf of every Buddhistscholar.

    Frederick M. SmithUniversity of Iowa

    THE K::::LACAKRATANTRA: THE CHAP-TER ON THE INDIVIDUAL TOGETHERWITH THE VIMALAPRABH::::. By VesnaA. Wallace. New York: American Institute ofBuddhist Studies, Columbia University, 2004.Pp. 398. $49.00, ISBN 0-9753734-1-2.

    In this excellent follow-up to her earlierstudy, The Inner K/lacakra (OUP, 2001), Wal-lace presents a translation of the second chapterof the K/lacakra (Wheel of Time) Tantra(KT), one of the most difficult and interestingof Indian tantric texts, and the Vimalaprabh/commentary on this chapter. The translation isfrom Sanskrit, though the Tibetan and Mongo-lian versions of both text and commentary werealso used. Wallace has also given us here acritical edition of the Mongolian text (174verses, thus demonstrating a rare virtuosity inlanguages of the Buddhist canon) and a numberof appendices to help guide the reader throughthe text. This chapter of the KT is highly eclec-tic in its views and contains a strong infusionof tantric physiological principles, b+ja man-tras, attentiveness to astrological time units, andsonic descriptions of creation and dissolution.The author also demonstrates a command ofayurvedic pharmacopeia, which he uses to sup-

    nd. .

    nd. .

    port the tantric medicine discussed in the text.Many translations of philosophical or religioustexts are not to be read straight through. Butthis one should be read, or at least be addressed,sequentially. The translation is always lucidand free of unnecessary jargon and is thereforeaccessible to graduate students. This importantvolume belongs in research libraries, but it isalso affordable for Buddhist scholars.

    Frederick M. SmithUniversity of Iowa

    THE MAH::::-VAIROCANA-ABHISA BO-DHI TANTRA WITH BUDDHAGUHYASCOMMENTARY. Translated by StephenHodge. London, New York: RoutledgeCurzon,2003. Pp. 572. $112.65, ISBN 0-7007-1183-X.

    Hodge has performed a great service toBuddhist studies with this translation of a majorTantra composed in Northeastern India in San-skrit around the middle of the seventh century(this version is now lost) and translated intoTibetan and Chinese within about seventy-fiveyears. Thus, it is these versions that Hodge hastranslated, along with extracts from Buddhagu-hyas commentary. The text is quite long, andHodge explains in his introduction that it isprobably a patchwork of texts. As a Tantra, theMah/-Vairocana-Abhisa bodhi Tantra (MVT)deals not only with the Mah5y5na doctrine suchas sam/dhi without perceptual forms and thetraining of a bodhisattva, but also with an arrayof tantric material including forms of medita-tive practice, some of which unashamedly arefor the purpose of mundane accomplishments,others for attaining perfect enlightenment;mandalas, m!dras, mantras, and dh/ra +s to beused in creating internal images or construc-tions of Buddhas and other deities; speculationson the power of speech, especially the soundsof the Sanskrit alphabet; a spiritual physiologycommon to other Tantras; a number of otherrituals including fire offerings (homa); anddescriptions of Buddha realms. Though theMVT is a comprehensive presentation of Bud-dhist Tantra, Hodge is careful to point out thatit is not exhaustive. A glossary is included, butno index. This is a work of great linguistic andscholarly acumen that should find its way intoresearch libraries. As a translation, it is unfail-ingly lucid and will be utilized profitably bygraduate students and established Buddhistscholars.

    Frederick M. SmithUniversity of Iowa

    THE SOCIOLOGY OF EARLY BUD-DHISM. By Greg Bailey and Ian Mabbett.New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.Pp x + 294. $65.00, ISBN 978-0-521-02521-8.

    This study of early Buddhist asceticism inthe context of socioeconomic change in North-ern India explores the role of the Buddhistmonk as a mediator helping to negotiate cul-tural transitions during a period of economicexpansion. Many of the basic themes are mod-




    eled after P. Browns studies of Christian ascet-ics in late antiquity. The introductory chapterchallenges earlier studies that focused on Bud-dhism as an anodyne for social ills and suggestsinstead that it be seen as a response to socialopportunity. In Part 1, Context, Chapter 2surveys categories of social elites in a Weberianmanner, Chapter 3 examines the social role ofthe Buddhist Sa=gha in a diversifying economy,Chapter 4 takes up urbanization and aspects ofBuddhism that provide legitimation for stateformation, Chapter 5 discusses competitionwith Brahmins, and Chapter 6 concerns specu-lative ideas about folk religion. In Part 2,Mediation, Chapters 7-10 develop the themeof the Buddhist monk as a social mediator,Chapter 11 is a sociological analysis of almsmeals, and the concluding chapter reiterates theview of early Buddhism as a response to posi-tive social change. Many important topics areraised, but the quality of the analysis is uneven,and the book would have benefited from furtherediting to minimize repetition and to betterintegrate theoretical chapters with chaptersfocused on examples from early Buddhistliterature.

    Wendi AdamekBarnard College

    MURAAAAJI: REARRANGING ART ANDHISTORY AT A JAPANESE BUDDHISTTEMPLE. By Sherry D. Fowler. Honolulu:University of Hawaii Press, 2005. Pp. xiv +293; plates. $55.00, ISBN 0-8248-2792-9.

    Mur8ji is a famous temple dating back tothe eighth century that sits in a mountain settingabout fifteen mi...