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Buddhadharma : Summer 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 20 0 9 80 s Book Briefs Sallie B. King’s Socially Engaged Buddhism (Hawaii, 2009) is a general introduction to con- temporary Buddhist responses to social problems. Of course, Buddhism was never not engaged in the world and its problems. As King explains, the term “Engaged Buddhism” refers specifically to activism that arose in the second half of the twentieth century in response to various crises in Southeast Asia, including war, social inequalities, and ecological destruction. King, who is widely published on this topic, looks at how Engaged Buddhism combines traditional Buddhist teach- ings with Western approaches to social activism and Gandhian notions of nonviolence, producing not so much a new form of Buddhism but a new way to engage with modern society’s problems. Julia Huang’s Charisma and Compassion (Har- vard, 2009) is a full-length study of one of the groups examined by King: the Taiwanese charity Tzu Chi, founded in the 1960s by the Taiwanese nun Cheng Yen. Huang’s extensively researched ethnography charts the growth of Tzu Chi (which means “compassion relief”) from a small wom- en’s group in Taiwan to a global relief organiza- tion with more than five million members. Alan Cole’s Fathering Your Father: The Zen of Fabrication in Tang Buddhism (California, 2009) is a detailed study of the creation of, as Cole puts it, “Chinese Buddhas,” referring to Chinese Buddhist patriarchs who were said to possess the complete and perfect realization of the Buddha. According to Cole, the famous ineffability of the early Chan doctrine was developed by early Chi- nese Buddhist promoters as a cover for the fact that they actually had very little doctrine under their belts. Cole argues that only later, once Chan patriarchs had established the school’s institutions and its distinct Chinese identity, did Chan fill out and become the dynamic and complex philo- sophical and ritual tradition known to us today. Scholars have long known about the fabrication of the Chan lineage, motivated by politics and power struggles. Cole fills in important details about the Chan patriarch fabrication from the seventh and eighth century, which saw the rise of masters such as Huike and Hongran claiming to be direct descendents of Bodhidharma. Jeff Wilson’s Mourning the Unborn Dead (Oxford, 2009) presents a fascinating portrait of contemporary American Zen viewed through an unlikely lens: the Americanization of the miz- uko kuyo ritual, which is a funeral of sorts for aborted and miscarried fetuses. The ritual was originally developed in postwar Japan amid the explosion of so-called New Religions known for their focus on worldly concerns and dealing with spirits. American Zen com- munities are often depicted as rejecting ritual, and one might be surprised to find so many favoring this rite. But as Wil- son shows, female teachers and students in convert Zen temples have embraced the ritual and fashioned it to serve the American sangha. In Riven By Lust (Hawaii, 2009), Jonathan Silk takes an innovative approach to a central issue in Buddhist history: the schism of the early Indian Buddhist sangha. According to leg- end, the initial division of the sangha into the Mahasamgika and Sthaviravadin orders (subse- quent divisions of which produced the numer- ous Indian Buddhist sects) came about because a monk named Mahadeva taught five heretical doc- trines, all but one of which claimed that arhats were not fully enlightened. The Sthaviravadin, who rejected this teaching, disseminated a story about Mahadeva that eventually became wide- spread. According to the story, when Mahadeva was a young man, he took his mother as his lover, and killed his father, later killing an arhat to con- ceal his crime. He is said to have ordained in remorse and become a teacher. However, his doctrine, according to the story, was heretical. As Silk tells it, the story was created as an ad hominem attack on a rival sect’s teach- ing. Although Silk is inter- ested in the fabrication of the accusation and the motivation behind it, he’s more interested in the peculiar nature of the charge—that is, why incest would be a factor used in the attack. The book is therefore less a history of the schism than a thor- ough analysis of the story that is told about it, and of the motif of incest in Indian literature. s for their focus on worldly concerns and dealing with spirits. American Zen com- munities are often depicted as rejecting ritual, and one might be surprised to find so many favoring this rite. But as Wil- son shows, female teachers and students in convert Zen ALEXANDER GARDNER is the associate director of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation in New York. He has a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Michigan. ceal his crime. He is said to have ordained in remorse and become a teacher. However, his doctrine, according to the story, was heretical. was created as an ad hominem attack on a rival sect’s teach- ing. Although Silk is inter- by alexander Gardner