Review Essay: One Korean's Approach to Buddhism: The Mom/Momjit Paradigm, by Sung Bae Park

When I was first invited by Prof. Kim Yong-pyo, editor of the IJBTC, to review this book, I declined, due to the fact that Prof. Park was my teacher and mentor at SUNY Stony Brook, not only as a graduate student, but as an undergraduate as well. For this reason I was afraid that I would not be able to bring the requisite critical distance to the task. After having had the opportunity to read the book, however, I changed my mind, for two main reasons: (1) I realized that it might be personally satisfying to take the opportunity to re-engage myself in the kind of Buddhist soteriological discourse that originally attracted me to Buddhist Studies to begin with, and (2) the potential for lapses in proper critical distance notwithstanding, I felt that there is some sense in which I could bring some insights into the appraisal of this book probably only accessible to myself, given my long relationship with Sung Bae Park and my deep personal interest in his project. So I hope readers of this review will accept it with these factors in mind. There is one question that we may want to ask before dealing with a book like this: Is there a place in our Buddhist Studies academia for the discussion of personal religious experience, or for the investigation of the phenomenon of religiosity? I know of more than a few who would answer such a question with an outright "no." Others might say, "It depends upon how one goes about it." And still others may be very excited by such a prospect.
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