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 from Bernard Faure - highly recommended books on Critical Buddhist studies

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Join date : 2010-11-13
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PostSubject: from Bernard Faure - highly recommended books on Critical Buddhist studies   from Bernard Faure - highly recommended books on Critical Buddhist studies EmptySat Jan 14, 2012 2:16 am

CHAN INSIGHTS AND OVERSIGHTS: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Tradition by Bernard Faure

For many people attracted to Eastern religions (particularly Zen Buddhism), Asia seems the source of all wisdom. As Bernard Faure examines the study of Chan/Zen from the standpoint of postmodern human sciences and literary criticism, he challenges this inversion of traditional "Orientalist" discourse: whether the Other is caricatured or idealized, ethnocentric premises marginalize important parts of Chan thought. Questioning the assumptions of "Easterners" as well, including those of the charismatic D. T. Suzuki, Faure demonstrates how both West and East have come to overlook significant components of a complex and elusive tradition. Throughout the book Faure reveals surprising hidden agendas in the modern enterprise of Chan studies and in Chan itself. After describing how Jesuit missionaries brought Chan to the West, he shows how the prejudices they engendered were influenced by the sectarian constraints of Sino-Japanese discourse. He then assesses structural, hermeneutical, and performative ways of looking at Chan, analyzes the relationship of Chan and local religion, and discusses Chan concepts of temporality, language, writing, and the self.

Read alone or with its companion volume, The Rhetoric of Immediacy, this work offers a critical introduction not only to Chinese and Japanese Buddhism but also to "theory" in the human sciences.

Review from Amazon: “Faure's book is a very ambitious attempt to look at the history of Zen and its relationship with the West, and attempt to see how this has been from the start shaped through ideological battles. He traces the history of this East-West interaction from the first landing of the Jesuits Matteo Ricci and Frances Xavier in China and Japan, respectively, up to Kerouac and the Beat generation in the 1960s. At the same time, Faure employs the concepts, methodologies and epistemological insights of post-structuralist thinkers from Foucault, Derrida, Michel de Certeau, Deleuze and others.

The first part of the book is more straightforwardly history and historiography, where Faure develops his main claim that the split between the Northern and Southern Chan schools in China should *not* be equated with the separate approaches of Soto and Rinzai (gradual vs. sudden enlightenment) Chan/Zen. He sees this as a later invention. He also questions the lineages of the Zen/Chan patriarchs as serving ideological purposes, rather than being factually historical.

The second part of the book is where Faure develops his post-structuralist thought in examining questions of space and place, time, language, writing, and individuality (a chapter on each of these). This will be quite interesting for those unfamiliar with post-structuralist thought, but the cognoscenti may be disappointed by Faure's conclusions.

In general, a good work especially for those who have up to now reacted allergically to "postmodernism" or "deconstruction", since while Faure employs the thinking of these "theorists", he does so in very easy to understand language. Unfortunately, for those who *do* know these thinkers and their works, Faure's efforts may seem only half-successful. For example, while he criticizes other scholars for failing to see the ways in which they were themselves implicated in their theories and writings (he does this to E. Said, DT Suzuki, and many others), he fails to historicize himself, or examining his own ideological "place", his own use of rhetorical techniques, etc.

Still, a very good work, and virtually a must read for those studying Zen history and historiography.”

THE RHETORIC OF IMMEDIACY: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism by Bernard Faure –

Through a highly sensitive exploration of key concepts and metaphors, Bernard Faure guides Western readers in appreciating some of the more elusive aspects of the Chinese tradition of Chan Buddhism and its outgrowth, Japanese Zen. He focuses on Chan's insistence on "immediacy"--its denial of all traditional mediations, including scripture, ritual, good works--and yet shows how these mediations have always been present in Chan. Given this apparent duplicity in its discourse, Faure reveals how Chan structures its practice and doctrine on such mental paradigms as mediacy/immediacy, sudden/gradual, and center/margins.

“Not since D. T. Suzuki (1870-1966) has any responsible scholar attempted in English to synthesize such a broad stretch of the history of Zen Buddhism as has Bernard Faure.... [The book] offers the best narration in English of the role that magicians, healers, jesters, relics, mummies, dreams, funerals, deities, and mundane rituals play in a tradition that lays claim to emptiness.” -- Stephen F. Teiser, Journal of Religion

From Amazon.com: After reading the only existing review of this book, I felt the need to offer a counter-view. From the perspective of a scholar, this book fundamentally reshaped Chan/Zen studies. But from the perspective of a practitioner it also reshapes our views. Faure forces us to rethink the cherished illusions of Zen. Whether scholar or practitioner, we had best take up the challenge. It is tough going, but it is work which we all must do to be worthy of the tradition we study.

THE WILL TO ORTHODOXY: A Critical Genealogy of Northern Chan Buddhism by Bernard Faure –

Marking a complete break with previous scholarship in the field, this book rewrites the history of early Chan (Zen) Buddhism, focusing on the genealogy and doctrine of one of its dominant strains, the so-called Northern school that flourished at the turn of the eighth century.

The traditional interpretation of the Northern school was heavily influenced by the polemics of one of its opponents, the monk Shenhiu, who characterized the Northern school’s teaching as propounding the belief that enlightenment occurred gradually, was measurable, and could be expressed in conventional language. To all this, Shenhiu and his teaching of “sudden enlightenment” were opposed, and Shenhiu’s school and its version of history would later prevail. On the basis of documents found at Dunhuang, this book shows how the traditional view is incorrect, that Shenhiu’s imposition of a debate between gradual and sudden conceals the doctrinal continuity between the two schools and the diversity of Chan thought in the period. The author buttresses his conclusions by placing the evolution of early Chan in the intellectual, political, social, and economic context of the mid-Tang.

The book is in three parts. The first part treats the biography and thought of the “founder” of the Northern school, Shenxiu, the nature of his followers, and his affinities for Buddhistic scholasticism. The second part studies the way in which the Northern school, after Shenxiu, adapted to new circumstances: changes in imperial policies, the rise of rival schools, and changes in the nature of its followers. The third part focuses on the internecine struggles around the genealogy of Chan as reflected in the Lengqie shizi ji (Record of the Masters and Disciples of the Lankavatara [School]) by the monk Jingjue. A close reading of this work reveals that it foreshadowed many of the themes and issues that would later come to the forefront in Zen, and contributes significantly to our reassessment of the teachings and practices of “pre-classical” Chan.


"An ideal introduction to the tradition that debunks many of the Orientialist stereotypes by relentlessly highlighting the complexity and diversity of Buddhism in its localized and ritualized forms. It serves as an excellent way for readers to understand the work of one of the leading and groundbreaking scholars of Buddhist studies of this generation." -- –Steven Heine, Florida International University

"Many people know something about Buddhism, but, for interesting historical reasons, much of what they know is wrong. In Unmasking Buddhism, Bernard Faure offers a clear catalogue of these misconceptions and then compassionately dispels the darkness of ignorance." -- –Donald S. Lopez, University of Michigan

DOUBLE EXPOSURE: Cutting across Buddhist and Western Discourses by Bernard Faure

This book explores the possible relations between Western types of
rationality and Buddhism. It also examines some clichés about Buddhism
and questions the old antinomies of Western culture (“faith and reason,”
or “idealism and materialism”). The use of the Buddhist notion of the
Two Truths as a hermeneutic device leads to a double or multiple
exposure that will call into question our mental habits and force us to
ask questions differently, to think “in a new key.”

Double Exposure is somewhat of an oddity. Written by a specialist for
non-specialists, it is not a book of vulgarization. Although it aims at a
better integration of Western and Buddhist thought, it is not an
exercise in comparative philosophy or religion. It is neither a
contribution to Buddhist scholarship in the narrow sense, nor a
contribution to some vague Western “spirituality.” Cutting across
traditional disciplines and blurring established genres, it provides a
leisurely but deeply insightful stroll through philosophical and
literary texts, dreams, poetry, and paradoxes.

THE POWER OF DENIAL: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender by Bernard Faure –

Innumerable studies have appeared in recent decades about practically
every aspect of women's lives in Western societies. The few such works
on Buddhism have been quite limited in scope. In The Power of Denial,
Bernard Faure takes an important step toward redressing this situation
by boldly asking: does Buddhism offer women liberation or limitation?
Continuing the innovative exploration of sexuality in Buddhism he began
in The Red Thread, here he moves from his earlier focus on male monastic
sexuality to Buddhist conceptions of women and constructions of gender.
Faure argues that Buddhism is neither as sexist nor as egalitarian as
is usually thought. Above all, he asserts, the study of Buddhism through
the gender lens leads us to question what we uncritically call
Buddhism, in the singular.

Faure challenges the conventional view that the history of women in
Buddhism is a linear narrative of progress from oppression to
liberation. Examining Buddhist discourse on gender in traditions such as
that of Japan, he shows that patriarchy--indeed, misogyny--has long
been central to Buddhism. But women were not always silent, passive
victims. Faure points to the central role not only of nuns and mothers
(and wives) of monks but of female mediums and courtesans, whose
colorful relations with Buddhist monks he considers in particular.

Ultimately, Faure concludes that while Buddhism is, in practice,
relentlessly misogynist, as far as misogynist discourses go it is one of
the most flexible and open to contradiction. And, he suggests,
unyielding in-depth examination can help revitalize Buddhism's deeper,
more ancient egalitarianism and thus subvert its existing gender
hierarchy. This groundbreaking book offers a fresh, comprehensive
understanding of what Buddhism
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