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Buddhadharma : Fall 2010
BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 10 78 Book Briefs E ugène Burnouf (1801–1852) was one of the greatest Western scholars of Buddhist literature, and his Introduction to the His- tory of Indian Buddhism—translated here into English for the first time by Katia Buffetrille and Donald S. Lopez Jr. (Chicago 2010)—was his masterpiece. As Lopez points out, most Euro- peans learned that India was Buddhism’s native land through Burnouf’s widely read work. Although Burnouf’s book popularized his bias against Mahayana sutras and tantra, and helped establish the unfortunate habit of evaluating contemporary Buddhism solely according to the ideals and norms found in ancient texts, he nev- ertheless gave the West its first, and largely fair, portrait of the religion. American Buddhism as a Way of Life (SUNY 2010), edited by Gary Storhoff and John Whalen- Bridge, seeks to examine how Buddhism has spread into North American culture and daily life. The authors, most of whom are special- ists in American religion, tend toward a posi- tive view of Buddhism and the benefit it might bring to American society in discussions of abor- tion, environmentalism, and other current social issues. Roger Corless adds an interesting twist in his discussion of the American gay rights move- ment, suggesting that North American culture also has something to offer Buddhism and the international community of Buddhist theorists. The book begins with essays on two teachers who had a significant impact on Buddhism in America: D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts. Audrey Yoshiko Seo and Steven Addiss’ The Sound of One Hand (Shambhala 2010), is the first comprehensive collection of the art of the Japa- nese Zen master Hakuin, who is credited with revitalizing Rinzai Zen in the eighteenth century. The book is illustrated with masterpieces from temples and museums around the world, and its publication is timed to coincide with a major exhibition of Hakuin’s art, curated by the authors, that opens in New York in October and later travels to New Orleans and Los Angeles. As Seo and Addiss explain, Hakuin was involved in the restructuring of both monastic and lay practice, which is reflected in the stunning art he created throughout his life, from drawings of patriarchs and deities to the comic folk figure Hotei, all designed to inspire and teach. Even his simple image of an ant on a grindstone is instruc- tive, reminding all of the futility of samsara, and that one should strive toward liberation. Elegant Failure (Rodmell Press 2010) by Rich- ard Shrobe is a selection of twenty-two koans that the author has found valuable during more than thirty years of practicing and teaching. Shobe, the guiding teacher at the Chogye Interna- tional Zen Center of New York, drew the koans from three classic collections: the Blue Cliff Records, the Gateless Bar- rier, and the Book of Seren- ity. Shrobe explains the story behind each of the twenty-two koans and provides his own commentary, often describing his personal struggle with the koan or his students’ struggle with it, which gives the reader a more intimate view of this practice. Through- out the book, Shrobe takes the position that koans are not remote and impenetrable riddles, but rather practical tools for everyday reflection and practice. Anne Blackburn’s Locations of Buddhism (Chicago 2010) is a fascinating biography of Hikkaduve Sumangala (1827–1911), a Buddhist monk who was a leading scholar and teacher in nineteenth-century Sri Lanka and a prominent anti-colonial activist. More than just a biography, the book is a nuanced portrait of Sri Lankan Bud- dhism under British colonial rule, and includes timely discussions of the loaded terms “Buddhist revival,” “Buddhist Modernism,” and “Protestant Buddhism.” Blackburn divides her book into six chapters covering the life of Sumangala, includ- ing his involvement in Sri Lankan Buddhist insti- tutions and scholarship, and his outreach to international leaders and Buddhist activists (including Colonel Olcott of the Theosophists and his own student, Anagarika Dharma- pala of the Mahabodhi Soci- ety). Most interestingly, she and deities to the comic folk figure Hotei, all designed to inspire and teach. Even his simple image of an ant on a grindstone is instruc- 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. Records rier ity behind each of the twenty-two koans and provides his own commentary, often describing his personal struggle with the koan or his students’ struggle with it, which gives the reader tutions and scholarship, and his outreach to international leaders and Buddhist activists the Theosophists and his own student, Anagarika Dharma- pala of the Mahabodhi Soci- ety). Most interestingly, she by Alexander Gardner