using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Fall 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 09 74 reception of Buddhism itself.” In medieval China, as well, the text had a profound influence, and the philosophical commen- taries on the Lotus composed in China provided templates for later East Asian examples of the genre. Tales of the scripture’s miraculous potencies were also immensely popular, and helped inspire a thriving tradition of Buddhist tale literature in medi- eval East Asia. Because of the importance of the sutra, and the uniform clarity and excellence of this new volume, Readings of the Lotus Sutra provides an ideal introduction to East Asian Bud- dhist traditions, premodern and modern, one that will be wel- comed not only by professors seeking to anchor a course on these matters, but by anyone interested in the practice and philosophy of Buddhism in East Asia. The collection begins with a focus on the sutra itself and on what we can infer of its original contexts and impact. It then moves to considerations of the text’s reception in China, followed by an exploration of art inspired by the sutra, and finally to essays mainly concerned with its reception in Japa- nese Buddhism. Teiser and Stone begin with a long and wide-ranging intro- duction called “Interpreting the Lotus Sutra.” The essays that follow are: “Expedient Devices, The One Vehicle, and the Lifespan of the Buddha,” by Carl Bielefeldt; “Gender and Hier- archy in the Lotus Sutra,” by Jan Nattier; “The Lotus Sutra and Self-Immolation,” by James Benn; “Buddhist Practice and the Lotus Sutra in China,” by Daniel B. Stevenson; “Art of the Lotus Sutra,” by Willa Jane Tanabe; “Bodily Reading of the Lotus Sutra,” by Ruben L. F. Habito; and “Realizing This World as the Buddha Land,” by Jacqueline Stone. The introduction is the longest work in the book. In it, Stone and Teiser foreshadow the later discussions and offer their own readings of the text, clearly laying out the interpre- tive and philosophical issues. Were it simply a stand-alone essay, it would probably be the best short introduction to East Asian Buddhist practice and thought available. Com- bined with the essays that follow, it is all the more powerful. Its discussion of the different and contrasting interpretations the sutra has received in history, for example, when combined with Bielefeldt’s more in-depth treatment in his essay, provides a strong basis for both solitary consideration and seminars. Bielefeldt’s and Nattier’s essays focus, respectively, on central themes and doctrines of the scripture itself, and on its original contexts. Bielefeldt, who came up with the “lord of hosts” comparison, presents an overview of three of the sutra’s revolutionary aspects: the importance it places on the pragmatic notion of “expedient devices,” or upaya; the con- cept of “one vehicle” as the true Buddhist path, as opposed to older divisions into two or three vehicles; and the view of the Buddha as a cosmic being rather than a man. Bielefeldt’s essay offers a particularly helpful discussion of the connection between the scripture’s exalted picture of the Buddha—the Buddha “defined as everything”—and the other two themes of his essay, showing how the new view restructures most of the central concepts of the tradition. As he notes, “[once] the Buddha is defined as everything, it becomes obvious that he (it?) has only one true body... The various vehicles taught by the Buddha, including the one carrying the bodhisattva to buddhahood, are merely provisional, expedient devices accommodated to the followers’ misguided sense of them- selves as unenlightened beings. The real buddha vehicle goes nowhere; it is sudden because, like the Buddha himself, it has already arrived at the end of the path.” The “ambiguous consequences, both theoretical and practical” of these ideas, Bielefeldt notes, became fertile ground for interpretation and tradition-building. Nattier takes on the difficult issue of the sutra’s implicit devaluation of women—and, as well, of people of low social status and of nonhumans. The essay is a model of interpretive and scholarly clarity—a model that in itself offers a power- ful resource for readers. Nattier shows that, contrary to the modern view of Buddhism as an egalitarian teaching, a close reading of the Lotus Sutra reminds us that the tradition was steeped in hierarchies, including those of caste, seniority, and, most important for her essay, gender. The Mahayana heritage, in particular, was built around a deeply androcentric view of the cosmos. Nattier shows that the passage most often cited as evidence against this picture of Buddhism—the magical gender transformations of the naga princess—actually does more to cement traditional Indian gen- der hierarchies than any other passage in the work. However, as Nattier observes, the Lotus is profoundly split between its earlier and later chapters. In the later chapters, where the Bud- dha, as Bielefeldt put it, “is everything,” hierarchies mainly disappear, leaving only the one dividing those who follow the Lotus Sutra from those who don’t. Turning toward the history of the sutra’s reception in East Asia, Benn and Stevenson focus on traditional Chinese Bud- dhist practices of bodily devotion, which are based on the belief that certain objects are “repositories of sacred power.” In Benn’s essay, that object is the body of the practitioner; and in one devotional practice inspired by the sutra, the practitio- ner ritually soaks his body in fragrant oils and sets it on fire. Benn’s essay, like Nattier’s account of the gender hierarchies at the core of traditional Buddhism, presents a picture of practice that is shocking to the modern mind. But Benn makes clear Reviews