This book introduces contemporary Buddhists from across Asia and from various walks of life. Eschewing traditional hagiographies, the editors have collected sixty-six profiles of individuals who would be excluded from most Buddhist histories and ethnographies. In addition to monks and nuns, readers will encounter artists, psychologists, social workers, part-time priests, healers, and librarians as well as charlatans, hucksters, profiteers, and rabble-rousers—all whose lives reflect changes in modern Buddhism even as they themselves shape the course of these changes.
The editors and contributors are fundamentally concerned with how individual Buddhists make meaning and display this understanding to others. Some practitioners profiled look to the past, lamenting the transformations Buddhism has undergone in recent times, while others embrace these. Some have adopted a “new asceticism,” while others are eager to explore different religious traditions as they think about their own ways of being Buddhist. Arranging the profiles according to these themes—looking backward, forward, inward, and outward—reveals the value of studying individual Buddhists and their idiosyncratic religious backgrounds and attitudes, thus highlighting the diversity of approaches to the practice and study of Buddhism in Asia today. Students and teachers will welcome sections on further readings and additional tables of contents that organize the profiles thematically, as well as by tradition (Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana), region, and country.
"This is an unprecedented, kaleidoscopic portrait of contemporary Buddhism presented through short biographical vignettes of Buddhist individuals worldwide. Eschewing familiar geographical or doctrinal categories, the work examines its subject through four thematic lenses: Looking Backward: Inventing Tradition in the Modern World; Looking Forward: Social-Psychological Care in a Troubled World; Looking Inward: New Asceticism in Modern Buddhism; and Looking Outward: Local Buddhists Becoming Global Citizens. The result is a wholly original and thought-provoking approach to the varieties of Buddhism in today’s globalized, interrelated world." —Steven Collins, University of Chicago
"Impressive in aim and scope, Figures of Buddhist Modernity in Asia explores how individual Buddhists across a range of schools and practices respond to and are engulfed by modern contexts and circumstances. The numerous biographies provide students with insight into the reality of lived Buddhist practices and their articulation in the lives of Buddhists today. The multiple tables of contents are handy for accessing the profiles by region, country, and tradition as well as by the themes, making this collection especially useful when used in conjunction with traditional textbooks on Buddhism. I look forward to using it in the classroom." —Juliane Schober, Arizona State University
"Figures of Buddhist Modernity in Asia profiles a strikingly diverse range of men and women working creatively to preserve, adapt, reform, and disseminate Buddhism for the contemporary world. Crossing traditional boundaries of region and sect as well as the lay-monastic divide, their stories convey the richness and vibrancy of lived Buddhism in Asia today. This volume will complement, and complicate, our present treatments of modern transnational and global Buddhism." —Jacqueline Stone, Princeton University
Editor: Samuels, Jeffrey; McDaniel, Justin Thomas; Rowe, Mark Michael;Jeffrey Samuels
is professor of religious studies at Western Kentucky University.
Justin Thomas McDaniel is professor and chair of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
Mark Michael Rowe is associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies, McMaster University.