_Making Sense of Tantric Buddhism_ fundamentally rethinks the nature of the transgressive theories and practices of the Buddhist Tantric traditions, challenging the notion that the Tantras were "marginal" or primitive and situating them instead -- both ideologically and institutionally -- within larger trends in mainstream Buddhist and Indian culture. Critically surveying prior scholarship, Wedemeyer exposes the fallacies of attributing Tantric transgression to either the passions of lusty monks, primitive tribal rites, or slavish imitation of Saiva traditions. Through comparative analysis of (...) modern historical narratives -- that depict Tantrism as a degenerate form of Buddhism, a primal religious undercurrent, or medieval ritualism -- he likewise demonstrates these to be stock patterns in the European historical imagination. Through close analysis of primary sources, Wedemeyer reveals the lived world of Tantric Buddhism as largely continuous with the Indian religious mainstream and deploys contemporary methods of semiotic and structural analysis to make sense of its seemingly repellent and immoral injunctions. Innovative, semiological readings of the influential _Guhyasamaja Tantra_ underscore the text's overriding concern with purity, pollution, and transcendent insight -- issues shared by all Indic religions -- and a large-scale, quantitative study of Tantric literature shows its radical antinomianism to be a highly managed ritual observance restricted to a sacerdotal elite. These insights into Tantric scripture and ritual clarify the continuities between South Asian Tantrism and broader currents in Indian religion, illustrating how thoroughly these "radical" communities were integrated into the intellectual, institutional, and social structures of South Asian Buddhism. (shrink)
Innovative readings of the "Guhyasamaja Tantra" underscore the text's overriding concern with purity, pollution, and transcendent insight and a large-scale, quantitative study of Tantric literature shows its radical antinomianism to be a ...
Critically exploring medical thought in a cultural milieu with no discernible influence from the European Enlightenment, _Being Human_ reveals an otherwise unnoticed intersection of early modern sensibilities and religious values in traditional Tibetan medicine. It further studies the adaptation of Buddhist concepts and values to medical concerns and suggests important dimensions of Buddhism's role in the development of Asian and global civilization. Through its unique focus and sophisticated reading of source materials,_ Being Human_ adds a crucial chapter in the (...) larger historiography of science and religion. The book opens with the bold achievements in Tibetan medical illustration, commentary, and institution building during the period of the Fifth Dalai Lama and his regent, Desi Sangye Gyatso, then looks back to the work of earlier thinkers, tracing a strategically astute dialectic between scriptural and empirical authority on questions of history and the nature of human anatomy. It follows key differences between medicine and Buddhism in attitudes toward gender and sex and the moral character of the physician, who had to serve both the patient's and the practitioner's well-being. _Being Human_ ultimately finds that Tibetan medical scholars absorbed ethical and epistemological categories from Buddhism yet shied away from ideal systems and absolutes, instead embracing the imperfectability of the human condition. (shrink)
The article discusses the first attempt to establish an independent bhikkhu-sa?gha in England in 1956 and the reasons that this initial attempt failed. The account draws on testimony from George Blake, one of the monks ordained under this initiative. After a short contextualization of the situation in which Blake met with Buddhism in London, there follows a further discussion of two issues on which his evidence sheds fresh light: the falling out of the British monk Kapilava??ho with Luang Por (...) Sodh (Phra Mongkolthepmuni), the abbot of Wat Paknam in Bangkok; and the move away from the teaching of the so?asak?ya meditation at the English Sangha Trust in London. (shrink)
Hegel inverted the Tantric Buddhist, Bönpo and Stoic view of human spiritual and social evolution by presenting it as a progressive perfecting rather than as a progressive degeneration impelled by the gradual development of the basic human delusion called avidya (unawareness). Since he cancelled the crucial map /territory distinction, he had to explain change in nature as the negation of the immediately preceding state, and since he wanted spiritual and social evolution to be a process of perfecting, he had to (...) invent a negation that, rather than canceling former negations, or incorporating them and thus increasing fragmentation and delusion, incorporated them and thereby produced an increase of wholeness and truth: the Aufhebung or sublation, not found in any existing process—whether logical or in phenomenological—and existing only in Hegel’s imagination. The only existing negation that incorporates the preceding negation, rather than canceling or annulling it (as logical negation does), is the phenomenological negation occurring in Sartre’s bad faith, which Laing illustrated with a “spiral of pretenses,” and Hegel’s sublation is a misrepresentation of this phenomenological negation that he fancied to make his inverted view of spiritual, social and political evolution possible. In the Tantric Buddhist, Bönpo and Stoic view what increases is fragmentation and delusion. When these reach their logical extreme,they achieve their reductio ad absurdum in ecological crisis. (shrink)
Philosophy has long become a key term in the study of Buddhism, defining the moral and rational essence of the Buddha’s teaching, emblematic of its Indian origins. In this essay, I suggest that the relation of Buddhism and philosophy, which prior to the mid-nineteenth century was framed as the relation of the Religion of Fo to the cult of voidness, was reformulated in the self-styled language of science in the wake of the study of Buddhism from Sanskrit (...) sources. Specifically, I suggest that the philosophical dimension of Eugène Burnouf’s reading of the Divyāvadāna and his idea of “simple sūtra” played a crucial role in defining Buddhism as a philosophy for the late nineteenth and into the twentieth century. The idea of a “simple moral philosophy” emerged in Burnouf’s particular reading of the story of the Buddha’s last days in the Divyāvadāna and the Mahāparinibbāṇa Sutta, as the play of magic and death unfolds in the theme of the master’s denial of the will to live. Burnouf’s philosophical reading rests on the purification, in the theme of the Buddha’s parinirvāṇa, of the foundations of magical power that articulate knowledge of this world and beyond in the Buddha’s discourses. In the conclusion, I reformulate Burnouf’s question about the Buddha’s moral philosophy in his study of the simple sūtras vis-à-vis the historically self-conscious question about the Buddha’s ability to defer death by magic that traces back to the early debate of Buddhist exegetical traditions. (shrink)
This article has developed in response to a series of observations made over a decade ago by Wilfred Cantwell Smith in his The Meaning and End of Religion . In that work, Smith made the point that the concepts ‘religion’, ‘religions’, ‘Hinduism’ and ‘Buddhism’ are rather recent, of Western origin, and, in an attempt to understand mankind's religiousness, inadequate. In developing his argument, Smith considered the Buddhist case with penetrating insight but, because his thesis was of such comprehensive scope, (...) chose not to go into a detailed consideration of relevant matters in the Theravāda Buddhist tradition. (shrink)
This article has developed in response to a series of observations made over a decade ago by Wilfred Cantwell Smith in his The Meaning and End of Religion. In that work, Smith made the point that the concepts ‘religion’, ‘religions’, ‘Hinduism’ and ‘Buddhism’ are rather recent, of Western origin, and, in an attempt to understand mankind's religiousness, inadequate. In developing his argument, Smith considered the Buddhist case with penetrating insight but, because his thesis was of such comprehensive scope, chose (...) not to go into a detailed consideration of relevant matters in the Theravāda Buddhist tradition. (shrink)