Tibetan Tantric Manuscripts from Dunhuang: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Stein Collection at the British Library – By Jacob Dalton and Sam van Schaik

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  • science. Each section of the text is preceded by a brief syn-opsis, including an indication of the sections most interest-ing and often-discussed passages, and nearly every passageis punctuated by an excerpt from commentarial literature aswell as Van Nordens own insightful comments. This editionnot only illuminates the Mengzis milieu, but also that of ZhuXi and the Neo-Confucian orthodoxy that Zhu helped tocreate in medieval China. Moreover, Van Norden demon-strates how, despite the fact that Zhus interpretation (itselfdesignated canonical in the fourteenth century CE) elevatedthe Mengzi to canonical status as one of the so-called FourBooks of the Confucian curriculum, his metaphysicsderails his otherwise keen textual insight by often readingthis early pre-Buddhist text in terms of categories inheritedfrom a millennium of Chinese contact with Buddhistthought. Those who seek to encounter the most cogent,coherent, and comprehensible of Confucian classics in aninexpensive, idiomatic, and accurate edition with an ampleyet unobtrusive textual apparatus can do no better than toseek out this translation.

    Jeffrey L. RicheyBerea College

    BuddhismTIBETAN TANTRIC MANUSCRIPTS FROM DUN-HUANG: A DESCRIPTIVE CATALOGUE OF THESTEIN COLLECTION AT THE BRITISH LIBRARY. ByJacob Dalton and Sam van Schaik. Brills Tibetan StudiesLibrary, 12. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2006. Pp. xxxiv +390; plates. $219.00.

    The study of early Tibetan history and religion was revo-lutionized in the early twentieth century by the sensationaldiscoveries at Dunhuang. These materials provide an invalu-able lens on this late rst millennium Central Asian cross-roads, including remarkable documents relating to theculture and history of the Tibetan empire. Previously, schol-ars unable to travel to Europe had to rely on a limited selec-tion of published facsimiles; and all had to make do withpartial (and imperfect) catalogs. In recent years, however,the International Dunhuang Project (http://idp.bl.uk/) hasbeen making freely available on the Internet high-qualityscans of Dunhuang manuscripts from collections around theworld. Scholars of esoteric Buddhism may now more easilyexploit those documents held by the British Library (and to alesser extent the Bibliothque Nationale) courtesy of Daltonand van Schaiks excellent catalog of the Tantric manu-scripts held therein. They have done a thorough and admi-rable job, providing for each item a number within acomprehensive and systematic cataloging system (yetincluding references from older systems), a bibliographicdescription, titles, incipits and explicits, and canonical par-allels. Two indices allow quick reference to titles, names andterms, as well as to parallel texts in the French collection. Ofparticular consequence is the invaluable progress made in

    identifying whole volumes that have been scattered acrossthe English and French collections. In all, this publication isa signal achievement and should occasion a major leapforward in the scholarly analysis of these remarkableresources for the study of esoteric Buddhism.

    Christian K. WedemeyerUniversity of Chicago

    RELIGION, MEDICINE AND THE HUMAN EMBRYOIN TIBET. By Frances Garrett. Routledge Critical Studies inBuddhism. New York: Routledge, 2008. Pp. xvi + 208.$150.00.

    Garretts intellectually ambitious and well-researchedstudy of embryologies from eleventh to seventeenth centuryTibet not only elucidates the popularity of embryology as areligious topic in Buddhist Tibet during that period, but alsocritically evaluates the categories of medicine, science,and religion as they apply to the Tibetan context. Readingthem as narratives rather than logico-scientic accounts ofactual fetuses, Garrett articulates, often in fascinating detail,how embryologies composed by religious scholars such asLongchenpa and Gampopa, or medical commentators suchas Kyempa Tsewang, expressed diverse views about thenature of human existence, its social context, its physicaland moral causes, and its potential for freedom. She empha-sizes throughout that even in a medical context (and suchdisciplinary distinctions were drawn in pre-modern Tibet),embryological knowing [was] religious knowing. Theclarity and sharpness of Garretts argument sometimessuffers from her capacious reach. She attempts to tacklemore than her share of large theoretical issues, while alsometiculously laying out in detail a highly technical literaturethat spans more than half a millennium. Nonetheless, herwork makes a signicant methodological and material con-tribution to the history of Asian medical systems, and to agrowing body of work on the relationship between Buddhismand medicine in Asia.

    Amy Paris LangenbergBrown University

    ORNAMENT OF STAINLESS LIGHT: AN EXPOSI-TION OF THE KA LACAKRA TANTRA. By KhedrupNorsang Gyatso. Translated by Gavin Kilty. The Library ofTibetan Classics, Volume 14. Boston, MA: Wisdom Publica-tions, 2004. Pp. xvi + 709. $49.95.

    Gyatsos late-fteenth century Tibetan text is a standardmedium-length explanation of the important Kalacakratantra system of Buddhist mysticism. It eschews detailedexposition of the systems scientic subjects to focus onfundamentals of theory and practice. As such, it is an excel-lent introduction to the more advanced forms of IndianTibetan Vajrayana Buddhism in general. Kiltys translationis accurate and faithful to the original. Being a translationrather than an interpretation, the book presupposes that thereader has a solid foundation in basic Buddhism and theMahayana, and some acquaintance with the Vajrayana. This

    Religious Studies Review VOLUME 35 NUMBER 1 MARCH 2009


  • book is required reading for advanced students of Indian andTibetan Buddhism; it belongs in any library seeking thor-ough coverage of the Buddhist tradition.

    John NewmanNew College of Florida

    LIVING BUDDHIST STATUES IN EARLY MEDI-EVAL AND MODERN JAPAN. By Sarah J. Horton. NewYork: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Pp. 232 + ill. $69.95.

    Hortons thesis is that Japanese Buddhist statues arebest understood not as art objects appreciated for theirappearance, but as real presences. For Japanese worship-pers, these living images are treated as individuals witha history, personality, and certain propensities. Hortonexamines the spiritual lives of powerful statues of fourmajor Buddhist divinities: Sakyamuni, Amida, Kannon, andthe bodhisattva Jiz at famous temples like Kiyomizudera,Asakusadera, Zenkji, and so on. In her broad survey,which relies on extensive documentary research as well asher own eldwork, Horton proves that such a view ofimages is typical from early medieval Japan to the presentday. Horton, however, occasionally overlooks relevantsources, such as Faure on medieval icon worship, MiyataNoboru on premodern cults to hayarigami, and my ownwork on Kannon living icons. In addition, despite refer-ences to works like Freedbergs The Power of Images, sheoffers very little theoretically to explain how the linebetween the statue and the divinity represented disappearsin the Japanese devotional context. She concentratesinstead on relating the rich tradition of tales about thesemiraculous statues, which she supplements with materialfrom her own observation of temple rituals. Her anecdotalapproach makes this book useful in the classroom, and alsolls an important gap about how Buddhism is actually prac-ticed in Japan.

    Mark MacWilliamsSt. Lawrence University


    This excellent and pioneering book opens up anextremely important subject in the history of rNying maBuddhism: the views of the famous eleventh century teacherRongzom (Rong-zom Chos-kyi bzang-po). The book has vesections: an introduction to Rongzoms life and works, anintroduction to mantra from a Nyingma perspective, Rong-zoms views on Madhyamaka in relation to Mantra, his fourprinciples of reasoning as means for establishing purity, anda conclusion. In addition, there is a translation and compara-tive edition of Rongzoms text, Establishing Appearences asDivine (gSang sngags rdo rje theg pai tshul las snang ba lharbsgrub pa). This book, although comparatively small, is ofmajor signicance for our understanding of the early rNyingma. It opens up an understanding of Rongzoms fundamental

    views on the tantric notion of intrinsic purity, and how thiscolored his approach to Madhyamaka and to the use of rea-soning in Buddhism. Kppl has an extremely good commandof Tibetan and a deeply nuanced understanding of the con-temporary tradition. She fruitfully combines this with alively critical appraisal of the differences between Rongzomas presented by the modern tradition of Mipham, and thevoice of the actual author of this text. Since detailed histori-cal work still remains to be done, one cannot claim certaintythat this text is genuinely the unmodied work of Rongzom,although much of the contents make it seem likely that thismight be the case.

    Robert MayerWolfson College, Oxford University

    BUDDHIST RITUALS OF DEATH AND REBIRTH:CONTEMPORARY SRI LANKAN PRACTICE ANDITSORIGINS. By Rita Langer. Routledge Critical Studies inBuddhism. New York: Routledge, 2007. Pp. xii + 243.$160.00.

    This fascinating but absurdly expensive book (189pages of text) is divided into three chapters, each of whichhas three sections. The chapter titles are: Death and Dying,The Funeral, and Post-funerary Rites; the sections areentitled Contemporary Sri Lankan Practice, Commentary onthe Practice, and Some Historical Roots. The rst sectionsdraw on six months eldwork done in 1998-1999 and onquestionnaires distributed then; they are written mostly inshort, dramatic sentences, presenting the sometimes anec-dotal ethnography vividly. The second and third sections arewritten in a more distanced, interpretive style: the secondsections explore various topics, drawing on Langers ownexperience and on various textual and secondary sources.The third sections are by far the longest, and draw eclecti-cally on Vedic and later Hindu texts, on Pali and SanskritBuddhist texts, and on secondary sources dealing withhistory and archaeology, all of which are taken to providehints and suggestions as to the meaning and origin ofcontemporary practice. This approach provides a multi-directional, kaleidoscopic ensemble rather than a uniednarrative or linear argument. Langer concludes with thestatement that, whereas historical materials are usuallytaken to assist in understanding the modern world, thereverse might also be true: [a]cquainting oneself with con-temporary Buddhist culture and practice can only enhanceones understanding of the texts. That is surely true.

    Steven CollinsUniversity of Chicago

    REBUILDING BUDDHISM: THE THERAVADAMOVEMENT IN TWENTIETH-CENTURY NEPAL. BySarah LeVine and David N. Gellner. Cambridge, MA: HarvardUniversity Press, 2005. Pp ix + 377; photos, maps, charts.Cloth, $49.00; paper, $22.50.

    LeVine and Gellners book offers a new perspective onBuddhism in the Kathmandu Valley, providing a detailed

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  • local history of change over the course of the twentiethcentury, and rich ethnographic material collected from bothNepali monastics and laity. The book is particularly success-ful in its attention to the gender nuances of renunciation; itdraws attention both to the inequalities between monks andnuns, and to the gendered differences in the choice torenounce (or return to) householding. A second, highlyintriguing element of the bookthough not activelythematizedis its complex picture of international Buddhistexchanges: LeVine and Gellner reveal Nepali Buddhists trav-eling abroad for purposes ranging from pilgrimage to educa-tion to initiation, and negotiating a variety of linguisticbarriers. The book has two signicant weaknesses: its heavyreliance on the tired analogy of Buddhism to Christianity,and its apparent embrace of partisan Theravada rhetoric(i.e., that simple, scientic Theravada is superior to thedecaying, ritualistic Buddhism of Kathmandu). Althoughboth these tendencies have long pedigrees in Western schol-arship, it is perplexing to nd them in a book coauthored byGellner, whose previous work has argued for a far moresensitive conception of Buddhism in Nepal. Given a morenuanced framework, this book could have done true justiceto its fascinating dataas an account not of how Theravadarevived Kathmandu, but of how and why some Nepalis havecome to negatively evaluate local Mahayana Buddhism, andadopt in its place Theravada and the monastic lifestyle.

    Anne MockoUniversity of Chicago



    ). Translated by Joseph John Loizzo

    and the AIBS Translation Team. Edited by Robert A. F.Thurman, Thomas F. Yarnall, and Paul G. Hackett. CriticalEditions by Joseph John Loizzo and Paul G. Hackett. Treasuryof the Buddhist Sciences Series. New York: American Insti-tute of Buddhist Studies, 2007. Pp. xxix + 434. $49.00.

    Loizzo and the AIBS (American Institute of BuddhistStudies) TranslationTeams excellent English translation andmeticulous edition of the Tibetan translations of NagarjunasReason Sixty with Chandrakrtis commentary enhances ourunderstanding of this important but relatively unknownwork, rich in its philosophical and psychological insight.In a provocative introduction, Loizzo challenges previousWestern scholarly interpretations and translations of theseauthors works and argues for a cross-cultural comparison ofNagarjuna and Chandrakrti with Nietzsche, Wittgenstein,and their postmodern heirs. His close reading of the ReasonSixty and its commentary shows how these Indian philoso-phers use reason as a therapeutic tool to cut through thecognitive and affective resistances that impede the realiza-tion of compassion and nondualistic wisdom. The carefulannotation takes into account the Indian background of thetexts but also uses the writings of Geluk scholars, Gyaltsapand Tsong Khapa, to help resolve interpretative problems.This book is awelcome contribution to the growing number of

    translations of Indo-Tibetan texts of interest to both readerswith a background in Buddhism and in Western philosophy.

    Karen C. LangUniversity of Virginia

    LION OF SIDDHAS: THE LIFE AND TEACHINGS OFPADAMPA SANGYE. Translated by David Molk withLama Tsering Wangdu Rinpoche. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Pub-lications, 2008. Pp. ix + 336. Paper, $18.95.

    This work contains the English-language translations oftwo major texts associated with Padampa Sangye (d. ca.1117 CE), an Indian spiritual adept well-known for his teach-ings in Tibet, especially of the Shije and Chd traditions. ASun Ablaze with a Thousandfold Rays of Attainment is anineteenth-century biography of Padampa by C. Seng. Thisnarrative begins with Padampas previous lives, recounts hisunconventional teachings and activities as Padampa, andextends through the lives of his foremost male and femalestudentsa temporal sc...