Buddhism and the Body

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2021) | Viewed by 31576

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Department of Religious Studies, Rhodes College, Memphis, TN 38112, USA
Interests: contemporary Buddhism in Thailand

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Scholarship related to religion and the body (Coakley 1997, Greenberg 2017, Shusterman 2012) has made important contributions to religious studies, reminding researchers that rituals, beliefs, and practices are not abstract, but grounded in the body and embodied. Literature on the monastic body (Cabezon 2017, Heirman & Torck 2012, Ohnuma 2007) has focused on purity, rules, sexuality, desire, gender, and gender presentation in Buddhist scriptures. While scholars of Buddhism have turned their attention towards the relationship between physicality and morality in Indian Buddhist literature (Mrozik 2007; Powers 2009), there is much more to uncover in the connection between Buddhism and the body. The second area of Buddhist studies scholarship, which has paid attention to the body and embodiment, is meditation. Scholars have located the practice of meditation in the body and study its effects on Buddhists, non-Buddhists, monastics, and laity (Cook 2010, Pagis 2019, Schedneck 2015). 

This Special Issue aims to advance the study of religion and the body by centering on Buddhism. Buddhist studies scholarship has mined texts from the early Indian tradition to understand aspects of Buddhism’s relationship to the body. The practice of meditation proved to inspire a more contemporary and ethnographic focus on the possibilities of embodiment through Buddhism. This Special Issue invites articles that provide more depth into these two topics and articles which take the study of Buddhism and the body to new and different places. Articles are open to any location or Buddhist community as well as an analysis of Buddhist textual sources. Some examples of article topics include but are not limited to: The lay Buddhist body vs. the monastic Buddhist body; the female monastic body; transgressive Buddhist bodies; reflections on embodiment in Buddhist doctrines; ideal bodies in Buddhist texts; investigations of virtue and the body; embodiment of meditation; ethnographies of embodied Buddhist practices.

For consideration in this Special Issue, email the guest editor, Brooke Schedneck at [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> with an abstract of your article. The deadline to receive full manuscripts is 31 December 2020. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the Special Issue website.

References

Cabezon, Jose. 2017. Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.

Coakley, Sarah, ed. 1997. Religion and the Body. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Cook, Joanna. 2010. Meditation in Modern Buddhism: Renunciation and Change in Thai Monastic Life. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Greenberg, Yudit Kornberg. 2017. The Body in Religion: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Bloomsbury.

Heirman, Ann & Mattieu Torck. 2012. A Pure Mind in a Clean Body: Bodily Care in the Buddhist Monasteries of Ancient India and China. Gingko Academia Press.

Mrozik, Susanne. 2007. Virtuous Bodies: The Physical Dimensions of Morality in Buddhist Ethics. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.

Ohnuma, Reiko. 2007. Head, Eyes, Flesh, and Blood: Giving Away the Body in Indian Buddhist Literature. New York: Columbia University Press.

Pagis, Michal. 2019. Inward: Vipassana Meditation and the Embodiment of the Self. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Powers, John. 2009. A Bull of a Man: Images of Masculinity, Sex, and the Body in Indian Buddhism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Schedneck, Brooke. 2015. Thailand’s International Meditation Centers: Tourism and the global commodification of religious practices. London & New York: Routledge.

Shusterman, Richard, 2012. Thinking through the Body. Essays in Somaesthetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dr. Brooke Schedneck
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Buddhism
  • embodiment
  • Theravada
  • Mahayana
  • Vajrayana
  • monasticism
  • gender
  • sexuality
  • meditation
  • ritual

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

17 pages, 413 KiB  
Article
“One’s Own Body of Pure Channels and Elements”: The Teaching and Practice of Tibetan Yoga at Namdroling
by Naomi Worth
Religions 2021, 12(6), 404; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12060404 - 31 May 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 4604
Abstract
The Tibetan yoga practice known as “winds, channels, and inner heat” (rtsa rlung gtum mo) is physically challenging, and yet is intentionally designed to transform the mind. This chapter explores the relationship between Buddhist doctrine and this physical practice aimed at [...] Read more.
The Tibetan yoga practice known as “winds, channels, and inner heat” (rtsa rlung gtum mo) is physically challenging, and yet is intentionally designed to transform the mind. This chapter explores the relationship between Buddhist doctrine and this physical practice aimed at enlightenment through the teachings of a contemporary yoga master at Namdroling Tibetan Buddhist Monastery and Nunnery in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, South India. This ethnographic profile exemplifies the role of a modern Tibetan lama who teaches a postural yoga practice and interprets the text and techniques for practitioners. While many modern postural yoga systems are divorced from religious doctrine, Tibetan Buddhist yoga is not. This essay highlights three key areas of Buddhist doctrine support the practice of Sky Dharma (gNam chos) yoga at Namdroling: (1) The history and legacy that accompany the practice, which identify the deity of Tibetan yoga as a wrathful form of Avalokiteśvara, the Buddha of compassion; (2) The role of deity yoga in the practice of Tibetan yoga, where the practitioner arises as the deity during yoga practice, an all-consuming inner contemplation; and (3) The framing of Tibetan yoga within the wider philosophy of karma theory and its relationship to Buddhist cosmology. Practitioners of Tibetan yoga endeavor to burn up karmic seeds that fuel the cycle of rebirth in the six realms of saṃsāra. In Tibetan yoga, the body acts in service of the text, the philosophy, and the mind to increasingly link the logic of texts to experience in meaningful ways. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism and the Body)
24 pages, 2084 KiB  
Article
Teaching Transnational Buddhist Meditation with Vipassanā (Neiguan 內觀) and Mindfulness (Zhengnian 正念) for Healing Depression in Contemporary China
by Ngar-sze Lau
Religions 2021, 12(3), 212; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12030212 - 20 Mar 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 5435
Abstract
This paper examines how the teaching of embodied practices of transnational Buddhist meditation has been designated for healing depression explicitly in contemporary Chinese Buddhist communities with the influences of Buddhist modernism in Southeast Asia and globalization. Despite the revival of traditional Chan school [...] Read more.
This paper examines how the teaching of embodied practices of transnational Buddhist meditation has been designated for healing depression explicitly in contemporary Chinese Buddhist communities with the influences of Buddhist modernism in Southeast Asia and globalization. Despite the revival of traditional Chan school meditation practices since the Open Policy, various transnational lay meditation practices, such as vipassanā and mindfulness, have been popularized in monastic and lay communities as a trendy way to heal physical and mental suffering in mainland China. Drawing from a recent ethnographic study of a meditation retreat held at a Chinese Buddhist monastery in South China, this paper examines how Buddhist monastics have promoted a hybrid mode of embodied Buddhist meditation practices, mindfulness and psychoanalytic exercises for healing depression in lay people. With analysis of the teaching and approach of the retreat guided by well-educated Chinese meditation monastics, I argue that some young generation Buddhist communities have contributed to giving active responses towards the recent yearning for individualized bodily practices and the social trend of the “subjective turn” and self-reflexivity in contemporary Chinese society. The hybrid inclusion of mindfulness exercises from secular programs and psychoanalytic exercises into a vipassanā meditation retreat may reflect an attempt to re-contextualize meditation in Chinese Buddhism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism and the Body)
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17 pages, 308 KiB  
Article
Embodied Transcendence: The Buddha’s Body in the Pāli Nikāyas
by Eviatar Shulman
Religions 2021, 12(3), 179; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12030179 - 9 Mar 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3008
Abstract
This article reassesses the role of the body in advanced meditation as it is presented in the early Buddhist Pāli discourses, showing that certain theorizations of liberation held that it contained a marked corporeal element. The article also reflects upon the understanding of [...] Read more.
This article reassesses the role of the body in advanced meditation as it is presented in the early Buddhist Pāli discourses, showing that certain theorizations of liberation held that it contained a marked corporeal element. The article also reflects upon the understanding of the Buddha’s body in this textual corpus, and demonstrates that for important strands of the early tradition, the Buddha’s liberation was thought to manifest in his body, so that liberation impacted his physical presence and the quality of his movement. There are also marked metaphysical dimensions to the Buddha’s body, so that its nature transcends the material. Common approaches that take liberation to be a purely psychological transformation thus ignore important aspects of the traditional understanding, which also directs us to think of a plurality of approaches to liberation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism and the Body)
12 pages, 263 KiB  
Article
Zen and the Body: A Postmodern Ascetic? Bodily Awakening in the Zen Memoirs of Shozan Jack Haubner
by Ben Van Overmeire
Religions 2021, 12(2), 122; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12020122 - 15 Feb 2021
Viewed by 3155
Abstract
In this article, I examine two memoirs by the American Zen Buddhist author Shozan Jack Haubner. Within the contemporary genre of American Zen autobiographical literature, Haubner’s books are special in that they explore Zen awakening as driven by the body. Penetration, pregnancy and [...] Read more.
In this article, I examine two memoirs by the American Zen Buddhist author Shozan Jack Haubner. Within the contemporary genre of American Zen autobiographical literature, Haubner’s books are special in that they explore Zen awakening as driven by the body. Penetration, pregnancy and sickness are the main figures Haubner uses to show how his autobiographical protagonist accesses the Buddhist truth of no-self. Though these books can thus be said to map an ascetic quest for the erasure of individuality, this quest proceeds not through the imposition of will onto the body, but the body imposing its will on the self. Because this is somewhat different from how the ascetic self is usually theorized, I propose to call Haubner’s main character a “postmodern ascetic”. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism and the Body)
18 pages, 2689 KiB  
Article
Preliminary Practices: Bloody Knees, Calloused Palms, and the Transformative Nature of Women’s Labor
by Kati Fitzgerald
Religions 2020, 11(12), 636; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11120636 - 26 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2819
Abstract
In this article, I explore the prostration accumulation portion of the Preliminary Practices of a specific group of Tibetan Buddhist women in Bongwa Mayma, a rural area of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province. I focus specifically on the nuns and lay [...] Read more.
In this article, I explore the prostration accumulation portion of the Preliminary Practices of a specific group of Tibetan Buddhist women in Bongwa Mayma, a rural area of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province. I focus specifically on the nuns and lay women who utilize this set of teachings and practices. The Preliminary Practices not only initiate practitioners into a specific tradition (that of the Drikung Kagyu and more specifically the Amitabha practices of this lineage), but also more fundamentally into Vajrayāna Buddhism as it is practiced in contemporary Tibet. Although monks and male lay practitioners in this region also tend to perform the same Preliminary Practices, I focus specifically on women because of their unique relationship with bodily labor. I begin this article with a discussion of the domestic and economic labor practices of contemporary Tibetan women in rural Yushu, followed by an analysis of Preliminary Practices as understood through the Preliminary Practice text and oral commentaries utilized by all interviewees and interviews (collected from 2016–2020) with female practitioners about their motivations, experiences, and realizations during the Refuge and prostration accumulation portion of their Preliminary Practices. Women themselves view bodily labor as a productive and inevitable aspect of life. On the one hand, women state openly that their domestic duties impede upon their ability to achieve religious realization. On the other, they frequently extol the virtues of hard work, perseverance, patience, and fortitude that their lives of labor helped them to cultivate. Prostration is meant to embody the act of going for Refuge, of submitting oneself to the teachings of the Buddha, to the path of the dharma, and to the community of religious practitioners with whom they will study and grow. Prostrations are meant to embody the extreme difficulty of Refuge, to remove obscurations, to crush the ego, and to confirm a dedication to endure the hardships on the path to realization. Buddhist women, despite their ambiguous relationship with physical labor, see the physical pain of this process as a transformative experience that allows them a glimpse of the spaciousness of mind and freedom from attachment-filled desire promised in the teachings they receive. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism and the Body)
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14 pages, 315 KiB  
Article
Zen in Distress: Theorizing Gender Dysphoria and Traumatic Remembrance within Sōtō Zen Meditation
by Ray Buckner
Religions 2020, 11(11), 582; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110582 - 4 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 5382
Abstract
Gender dysphoria is considered a pronounced experience of distress in the bodies and minds of some transgender people. Examining the text Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryū Suzuki, I analyze some of the difficulties that may arise for transgender practitioners experiencing acutely strong [...] Read more.
Gender dysphoria is considered a pronounced experience of distress in the bodies and minds of some transgender people. Examining the text Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryū Suzuki, I analyze some of the difficulties that may arise for transgender practitioners experiencing acutely strong gender dysphoria within the Sōtō Zen meditation experience. I seek to understand how physical and psychological gender distress may make concentration, and thereby realization, challenging and potentially harmful within a context of Sōtō Zen meditation. I consider how meditation can exacerbate the panic and traumatic remembrance of the body and mind, leading both to embodied struggles, as well as undoubtedly philosophical ones too. This paper theorizes gender dysphoria to exist beyond a state of unitary “distress” to include trauma. I put forward an understanding of gender dysphoria that is grounded in traumatic, gendered remembrances—what I call “sustained traumas.” Within the meditation experience, I argue trans, gender dysphoric people may experience heightened disconnect, separation, and deepening into their solid and suffering “self” rather than open to the fundamental nature of emptiness, non-duality, and an empty and move-able core. Ultimately, I argue meditation may lead to a deepening of traumatic remembrance, posing potential corporeal and philosophical problematics for gender dysphoric practitioners within Sōtō Zen meditation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism and the Body)
20 pages, 1022 KiB  
Article
The Bodily Discourse in Modern Chinese Buddhism—Asceticism and Its Presentation in Buddhist Periodicals
by Lianghao Lu
Religions 2020, 11(8), 400; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11080400 - 4 Aug 2020
Viewed by 3964
Abstract
This article focuses on accounts of bodily asceticism published in Buddhist periodicals in Republican China (1912–1949) in order to explore the mentality and motivation of publicly presenting this seemingly fanatic and backward tradition in an era marked by modernization. By zeroing in on [...] Read more.
This article focuses on accounts of bodily asceticism published in Buddhist periodicals in Republican China (1912–1949) in order to explore the mentality and motivation of publicly presenting this seemingly fanatic and backward tradition in an era marked by modernization. By zeroing in on practices of self-immolation, bodily mutilation, and blood writing, as presented in periodicals advocating either reform or preservation of Buddhist tradition, the article reveals that Buddhists with different visions for the modern form of Chinese Buddhism, despite their multifaceted responses, reached a consensus: ascetic practices were part of the tradition worthy of preservation and a strong testament of Buddhist morality. Arguments and eulogies about specific cases, preserved in these periodicals, made Buddhist asceticism an integral part of Chinese Buddhism’s modern transformation, which contributes to the rethinking of religion and modernity discourse. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism and the Body)
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