An article published in the Chicago Daily Tribune on September 19, 1886, offered a distinctively nineteenth-century angle on “The Buddhist Mahatma Craze” then sweeping through the ranks of the urban elite in the United States. If the Tribune article shows that religious ferment is a constant feature of American religious life, it also highlights elements of American journalism that have dramatically changed since the 1880s. What we would now consider editorializing is mostly absent from current religion coverage in our mainstream news media. Also, an unalloyed element of racism, coupled with almost uniformly uncritical support for missionary and military enterprises in Asia, once informed most of the reporting on immigrant Buddhists and Buddhism in general. This article explores how the largest daily newspapers in America's three most populous cities—the New York Times, the Chicago Daily Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times—reported on Buddhism from the 1870s to the present.
The article examines evidence for characteristic Buddhist positions regarding the nature and soteriological status of deities. It establishes that deities are but one of several classes of transient entities that need spiritual guidance and argues that by accepting the existence of such entities Buddhism is, according to the operating definition of the volume, a theistic tradition. It also shows that, whereas later Buddhist thinkers developed sophisticated critiques of concepts of a universal God developed within Indian Hindu tradition and are committed to a strongly atheist stance, texts representing early Buddhism tend to be epistemologically cautious rather than directly atheist. This is picture is explored through the exposition of verses from Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra and supplemented by reference to suttas and jātakas from the Pali canon. Finally, it dismisses a quasi-theistic interpretation of some aspects of Buddhist traditions.
Buddhism deals directly with the emotions as a chief concern of its doctrine and practice. The Buddha's core teaching of the Four Noble Truths begins with an emotional truth, that is, that life inevitably involves sorrow, suffering, and grief. Given their foundational concern with human vulnerability to suffering, it is not surprising that Buddhist traditions developed various systems of knowledge that explore human feeling with great subtlety, and advanced certain technologies to redress the pain in our emotional experience. In the various languages used by Buddhists, however, there is no term that corresponds exactly to the generic category “emotion,” and thus emotion as such is not theorized in Buddhist thought. This article reflects on how Buddhist thinkers have shaped human experience in distinctive ways through their analysis of affective life. It first discusses the Abhidhamma texts as the most systematic rendering of early Buddhist treatments of psychology. It then considers meditation techniques and their work with mental processes and examines the nuances of friendship and the social nature of other emotions.
Sharon A. Suh
This chapter examines the various attitudes toward female ordination and constructions of bodies in Buddhist texts, doctrine, and culture to provide an overview of the complexities of gender at play in the Buddhist tradition. It specifically explores the historical and contemporary struggles for the full ordination for nuns, themes of motherhood and the maternal in Buddhist literature, and attitudes toward bodies, non-self, and subjectivity. The latter section of this chapter moves beyond the more traditional subjects associated with topic of Buddhism and gender and focuses on role of the laity and laywomen, past and present, in the maintenance and flourishing of the Buddhist tradition. Thus, this section of the chapter explores dana (giving) as a form of pragmatic reciprocity to render a more complex and vibrant form of Buddhism that attends to the experiences of the multitude of peoples that make up the larger category of “Buddhists.”
Gregory Price Grieve and Daniel Veidlinger
Buddhism is flourishing on the Internet and digital media. However, the form and usage patterns of Buddhist media technologies have varied considerably from the earliest oral texts to the latest online versions of the Buddhist canon. Do such media transformations merely transmit the old dharma in a new bottle, or do they change Buddhism’s message? Are these changes to be welcomed or shunned? This chapter explores how various media technologies tend to promote particular aspects of Buddhism, and also how different Buddhist worldviews shape how these media are used. First, it sketches a short genealogy of Buddhist media technologies. Second, it concentrates on contemporary digital media, briefly describing Buddhist bulletin boards, email lists, websites, computer apps, virtual worlds, and video games. Third, the chapter explains digital media’s procedural, participatory, encyclopedic, and spatial affordances. Finally, it illuminates how digital media affordances are shaped by the technological worldview of convert Buddhism.
This chapter takes a step toward the theorization of discourses of race and racialization within the American Buddhist context. Far from being neutral observers, Buddhist Studies scholars have participated in the racialization of particular American Buddhisms. After mapping the landscape of key works on race, ethnicity, and American Buddhism, this chapter takes as a case study a collection of black Buddhist publications that reflect on race and ethnicity. Thus far, scholarship has ignored black Buddhists, yet black Buddhist reflections on race challenge dominant paradigms for the interpretation of the history of Buddhism and Buddhist teachings in the United States. This chapter concludes with suggestions for future avenues for research, including ways that we may connect the work of black Buddhists to the wider context of American religious history and American engagements with Asia.
B. Alan Wallace
While Buddhism is often referred to as a ‘non-theistic religion’, it has the potential to play a unique mediating role between theistic religions, with their emphasis on faith and divine revelation, and the natural sciences, with their ideals of empiricism, rationality, and scepticism. The main body of this article focuses on Buddhist approaches to cultivating eudaimonic well-being, probing the nature of consciousness, and understanding reality at large. In each case, religious, scientific, and philosophical elements are blended in ways that may not only lend themselves to dialogue with Western science, but push forward the frontiers of scientific research as well as interdisciplinary and cross-cultural inquiry. The article also argues that Buddhism has developed a science of consciousness, with a few exceptions regarding sciences with no controlled experiments.
The discourse about the similarity and compatibility between Buddhism and science has persisted from the late nineteenth century into the current day as a central feature of contemporary Buddhism. A consistent aspect of this meeting of traditional Buddhism and modern Western science is the desire to turn the moral narratives implied by scientific theories toward ethical and spiritual visions, in explicit opposition to mechanistic and matter-reductionistic worldviews. This chapter examines the most recent expressions of this impulse, which focus on the Buddhist doctrine of dependent arising (pratitya-samutpada) and displace reductionistic theories in evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and physics with new insights from systems science.
Buddhism has the reputation of being tolerant of people with non-normative sexual orientations, and for the most part of its history Buddhism does not seek to control laypeople’s sexuality. This chapter first draws from the discourses of contemporary Buddhist teachers to show the ways in which core Buddhist teachings, such as co-arising, compassionate alleviation of suffering, and middle way, can lend themselves in support of sexual and gender minorities. Then it goes further back to classical resources and explores the ways in which the traditional portrayal of the multimorphic bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Chinese: Guanyin; Vietnamese: Quan Am; Korean: Kwan Um; Japanese: Kannon; Tibetan: Chenrezig) can inspire some rethinking on the issues of minoritized identities.
Some Africans were aware of Buddhism at a very early stage in history—indeed, some of the earliest evidence for Western knowledge of Buddhist traditions comes from Northeast Africa—yet today Africa is the least Buddhist of the inhabited continents. This chapter charts the complex history of Buddhist traditions in Africa and sketches the current distribution of these traditions on the continent. Inevitably, legacies of colonial occupation have affected the distribution of Buddhist traditions in Africa. In South Africa there is an overwhelmingly white (Caucasian) convert community that barely interacts with small ethnic Buddhist traditions. Only in recent years has a new approach to Buddhist traditions arisen, a service-oriented approach that sees Africa not as a potential source of converts, but as a field for the practical application of compassion.