Essays In Buddhist Theology

Buddhist-Christian Studies 22 (2002) 228-229



[Access article in PDF]

Book Review

Buddhist Theology:
Critical Reflections by Contemporary Buddhist Scholars


Buddhist Theology: Critical Reflections by Contemporary Buddhist Scholars. Edited by Roger R. Jackson and John J. Makransky. Surrey, England: Curzon Press, 2000. x + 410 pp.

This book is, in effect, an argument for and exemplification of a distinctive form of scholarly pursuit in the academy called "Buddhist Theology," and it owes its genesis to a panel of the same name at the American Academy of Religion meetings in 1996. Including introductory and concluding/responding essays, the book contains twenty-two essays by seventeen authors on a variety of relevant topics broadly divided into (1) explicit arguments for doing Buddhist theology (especially the "Editors' Introduction"; part 1, on "Buddhist Theology"; and part 3, titled "Critical Reflections") and (2) exemplifications of the same (part 2, "Exercises in Buddhist Theology").

These essays represent a considerable diversity in subject matter and style, and range from those offering specific critical studies of some aspect of the Buddhist tradition to those seeking to apply Buddhist principles to larger human concerns (for example social/ethical issues). While not all authors feel equally comfortable, it seems, wearing the label "Buddhist theology," one assumes their very presence in this volume affirms—minimally—their willingness to be (1) labeled "Buddhist" both personally and academically, and (2) associated with a theological enterprise in some way, shape, or form.

Be that as it may, for the most part these essays do not seem to be claiming any special knowledge, insight, experience, or authority because of their authors' connection [End Page 228] to Buddhism, though perhaps Roger Jackson's "In Search of a Postmodern Middle" (215-246) is the clearest articulation of what a Buddhist theological perspective in the academy might look like.

Indeed, what would a truly Buddhist theology look like, and how would it "play" in the halls of the academy or the pages of our disciplinary journals? Are we now to shift from talk about religion to religious talk? Do we now shift from talk about Dharma to Dharma-talk? To put it another way, would Zen Master Dogen be welcome here? Or, can self-confessing Buddhist scholars speak iconoclastically from out of emptiness and still get tenure?

It is not that this volume is insensitive to such issues, but it does not really test them, since for the most part the essays do not claim a "special transmission" outside the canons and criteria of scholarly work, nor do they Buddhistically challenge our forms of knowledge and usual modes of interpretation. Indeed, and again for the most part, these essays seem not to take seriously the practical implications of all this; namely the roots of a Buddhist theology (one presumes) in Buddhist practice and experience, and the implication of that for radically altered perspectives on any number of things. To put it another way, it is rather safe to do descriptive or historical theology in the academy, but what happens when one does a "constructive" theology or claims a special insight unavailable to most others?

Still another way in which the practical implications seem to be missing here is closely related to the above: What are the political (even personally economic) implications of all this in the academy? Is it not risky to reinsert a theological enterprise into Religious Studies in the academy just when we have begun to make the case with the larger community that Religious Studies and theology are distinct enterprises? Do we not lend credence to the current critique of Religious Studies as a "crypto-theology" by bringing theology (Buddhist or otherwise) back into the fold?

In brief, and not to give short shrift to the specific and often insightful essays making up this volume, 1Buddhist Theology raises as many questions as it seeks to answer, and it is hard not to see the forest for the trees or the tail wagging the dog.

Perhaps it would be better simply to drop the Buddhist (or Christian, etc.) part and grant that many of us are already doing theology...



  • How Christianity Interects with Other Religions
  • Buddhist Elements in the Film - "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring"
  • Free Market Capitalism vs. Egalitarian Communalism
  • The Role of Women in Tibetan Buddhism
  • The People of Tibet
  • The Sociology of Development: Case Study of Myanmar
  • Religion
  • The Religious Landscape of Australia
  • “the Self” According to Indian Philosophy
  • A Report on Buddhist and Christian Worldviews
  • Buddhist Ethnography
  • Abortion in Thai Perspective
  • Defining and Exploring Buddhism
  • The Tale of Genji
  • Hindu and Buddhist Gender Roles and Ideals: the Household and Abstract Concepts
  • The Basic Buddhist Teachings
  • Religions Around the World
  • Elements and Dimensions of Culture in Taiwan
  • Analysis of Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen
  • AP World History Compare and Contrast: The Spread of Christianity and Buddhism in the End of the Classical Period.
  • Alexander The Great
  • Jainism
  • Explaining the Idea of Ahimsa
  • The Heart of Understanding, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • The True Meaning of Happiness for Buddhism
  • Seeds of Trees
  • The Buddhas Four Noble Truths: A Logical Basis For Philosophy
  • The Effects of Buddhist Teachings
  • Buddhist and Hindu Temples
  • Hinduism and Buddhism
  • An Analysis Of Tibet's Governmental System and the Dalai Lama as Head of State
  • The Spread of Buddhism and Christianity
  • Ap Human Geo Nepal Essay
  • History of the Spread of Buddhism
  • Empress Wu and Buddhism: A Symbiotic Relationship
  • Women and Buddhism
  • Japan Religion
  • Taking a Look at Baha'i Faith
  • The Four Noble Truths
  • Belief Systems: Islam and Buddhism
  • Nichiren Diashonin's Buddhism
  • Indian Culture
  • History of Tea in Japan and the Japanese Tea Ceremony
  • Ancient Civilizations of India and China
  • AP Human Geography Religion Notes
  • Buddhism: The Inevitable Sweep
  • The Role and Status of Women in Buddhism and Confucianism
  • Women in Buddhism
  • University of Phoenix Material Appendix D
  • The Chaos and Division of Asia's History
  • Lang. activity
  • Zen and the Enlightened Mind
  • Analysis of Film The Matrix
  • Korean Culture and Traditions
  • Chinese Maze Murders
  • World Religion Studies of Siddhartha or the Buddha
  • Impermanence, Selflessness, And Dissatisfaction
  • Buddhist view on Abortion
  • The Dalai Lama: An Influential Icon
  • Buddhism And The Poetry Of Jac
  • Elements of Religious Traditions
  • Apwh Ch.9 Study Guide
  • The Differences Between Buddhism and Hinduism
  • Buddhism and Islam
  • The Spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in Southeast Asia
  • America Becoming a Godless Culture
  • Women in Buddhism
  • The Response to the Spread of Buddhism in China Differed According to One's Social Position
  • Gospel Presentation
  • Faith Diversity
  • The Relationship Between Confucianism And Buddhism
  • Reincarnation - Buddhism vs. Hinduism
  • Emerging as a Servant Leader
  • Buddhism is the Solution to Our Current Environmental Problems
  • Siddhartha the Life of a Prophet
  • Chinese Influence on Korea and Japan
  • What Is Buddhism?
  • The Tale of Genji
  • The Common Origins of the World’s Major Religions
  • in Ngugi’s A Grain Of Wheat, and in Silko’s Ceremony
  • Hinduism, Muslism, Christianity
  • World Religions: Comparative Discussions
  • Comparing Christianity and Buddhism
  • Siddhartha, Path to Enlightenment
  • To Live Is to Suffer - a Hindu/Buddhist Perspective
  • A Study on Leibniz's Philosophy of Mind
  • The Pol Pot Rule of Cambodia
  • The Impact of Chinese Culture on Its Asian Neighbors
  • The History and Practice of Buddhism (Mahayana Sect)
  • Religion: Gender Inequality
  • Similarities and Difference of Japan and Western Europe
  • The Religion of Buddhism is Based on Edifications of Siddhartha Gautama a.k.a. Buddha
  • Changes & Continuities of Silk Road
  • Buddhism Artwork Along Silk Road
  • The Historical Context of The Bhagavad Gita and Its Relation to Indian Religious Doctrines

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *