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Buddhadharma : Fall 2018
BOOK BRIEFS 121 theravada Buddhism in Colonial Contexts (Routledge 2018), edited by Thomas Borchert, explores the role of colonialism in the formation of Theravada Buddhist communities in South and South- east Asia. Borchert notes in his introduction that the term “Thera- vada” did not come into common usage until the middle of the twentieth century, and that the Buddhist communities of South and Southeast Asia had long termed Buddhism “the teachings of the Bud- dha,” calling themselves “the people of the teachings of the Buddha.” It was only during and after colonial encounters that these groups felt compelled to more clearly distinguish their traditions from other forms of Buddhism, in part due to a heightened awareness of their “location within a broader conception of Buddhism that has by now been naturalized,” as Borchert puts it. This shift in religious identity was informed in part by the introduction of more efficient travel by the British and French and the expanded international networks that resulted. Yet many of the essays in this volume stress that Bud- dhists in these regions were not simply passive recipients of colonial influence; the power relationships were complex. While many suf- fered under and resisted authoritarian powers, others worked with colonial forces or simply ignored them, forging new identities and communities on their own terms. The Zen master Kosho Uchiyama (1912–1998) walked a remark- able and tragic path to Buddhist practice. He met his first wife at university, where he was studying Western philosophy with a focus on Kant, but lost her to tuberculosis several years later. He remar- ried, but his second wife then died along with their child during childbirth. Overcome by these losses, he turned to monastic life after attending a dharma talk by Kodo Sawaki Roshi (1880–1965), the strict Zen master whom he would eventually succeed at Antaiji Monastery with his own highly accessible teaching style. In deepest praCtiCe, deepest wisdom: three fasCiCles from shoBogenzo with Commentary (Wisdom 2018), Uchiyama provides com- mentary on Dogen’s famous masterwork the Shobogenzo. In this translation by Daitsu Tom Wright and Shohaku Okumura, Uchi- yama unpacks Dogen’s insights in everyday language, which Wright warns may strike some readers as overly simplistic. But Uchiyama’s jargon-free explanations add depth and even humor to Dogen’s text. Speaking about the relativity of descriptions, Uchiyama comments: “Comparatively speaking, when we inquire in detail, it is impossible to judge whether something is big or small. For instance, we think a flea’s testicles are small. But there must be some viruses that are parasitic on a flea’s testicles, and for those viruses, a flea’s testicles must be immeasurably vast.”