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Buddhadharma : Fall 2009
75 fall 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Reviews that self-immolation was an emblematic expression of faith and devotion in the Chinese tradition. Stevenson takes on devotional practices found more widely in Mahayana traditions: those subsumed under the rubric of the “cult of the book,” in which the texts themselves were viewed as the body of the Buddha and treated as the focus of contemplation and worship. Like other authors in this collec- tion, both Benn and Stevenson find their best material in the miraculous tales that were a central genre in medieval East Asian Buddhism. One of the few weaknesses of the collection is its scant atten- tion to Korea, disappointing in a work that proclaims an East Asian focus. In this regard, Tanabe’s essay stands out for its seri- ous treatment of Korean materials and history, while reminding us of the intimate connection of faith and art in Buddhism. Its scope is especially wide, exploring material from the Silk Road oasis of Dunhuang, from the Tangut realm, and from Korea and Japan. In terms of close attention to local differences across the region, hers is the richest entry in the collection. The final two essays focus on Japan, particularly on the Nichiren tradition, which is based in part on readings of the Lotus Sutra. Habito presents medieval Japanese traditions of Lotus recitation, including Nichiren’s writings on the person- and world-transforming nature of the practice. Habito then turns to modern Japanese Buddhists who took these readings as inspiration to “engage in tasks of social engagement and personal and global transformation with the aim of realizing a Lotus land here on earth.” Stone’s essay, the last in the volume, brings the discussion full circle to the more philosophical and textual focus of the book’s earlier chapters. She presents a lucid and subtle exploration of the range of doctrines and philosophical images that, in part, lay behind the sutra’s teaching of the “possibility of a ‘this- worldly’ buddha land.” In addition, Stone delves deeply into Lotus commentaries and, through a discussion of Nichiren’s thought, examines the world of modern Japanese Buddhism. Stone’s—and Habito’s—readings of some of the many ways that notions of an immanent buddha realm have been employed and understood in modern Japan clearly reveal how Buddhism remains rooted in traditional doctrines, even as the religion is adapted to lives and times very unlike those of medieval monks and philosophers. Stone’s essay, like others in this collection, is valuable not only for the content of its readings but also for the ways it models close analysis of a text and its traditions. Readings of the Lotus Sutra, the first in a series on Buddhist literature being published by Columbia University Press, sets a high standard indeed for subsequent volumes. www.samayadesigns.com Enter Promo Code: DHARMA for 10% off