Latest Issue: Vol 32, No 1 (2015) RSS2 logo

Buddhist Studies Review

Peter Harvey, University of Sunderland
Alice Collett, York St John University

Book Review Editor
Christopher Jones, Oxford University

Please send books for review to:
Christopher Jones
St Peter's College
New Inn Hall Street
OX1 2DL United Kingdom

Buddhist Studies Review is published by Equinox on behalf of the UK Association for Buddhist Studies. The Association was founded in 1996 and two years later took over publication of Buddhist Studies Review, which had been run since 1983 by Russell Webb and Sara Boin-Webb. Membership in the Association includes a subscription to the journal among other benefits.You can join the Association through the membership pages on their website.

The journal seeks to publish quality articles on any aspect of Buddhism, with submitted papers being blind peer-reviewed by two experts prior to acceptance. Relevant fields for the journal are: the different cultural areas where Buddhism exists or has existed (in South, Southeast, Central and East Asia); historical and contemporary aspects (including developments in 'Western' Buddhism); theoretical, practical and methodological issues; textual, linguistic, archaeological and art-historical studies; and different disciplinary approaches to the subject (e.g. Archaeology, Art History, Anthropology, Asian Studies, Comparative Religion, Law, Oriental Studies, Philosophy, Philology, Psychology, Religious Studies, Theology). It will consider articles from both established scholars and research students, from the UK or elsewhere.

Articles of Note from Recent Issues

Richard Gombrich, University of Oxford
Fifty years of Buddhist Studies in Britain, 2005, Vol. 22
Martin T. Adam, University of Victoria
Two Concepts of Meditation and Three Kinds of Wisdom in Bhāvanākramas: A Problem of Translation, 2006. Vol. 23
Jane Angell, University of Sunderland
Women in Brown: a Short History of the Order of Sīladharā, nuns of the English Forest Sangha, 2006, Vol. 23
Marcus Bingenheimer, Dharma Drum Buddhist College (Taiwan)
in the Chinese Saṃyuktāgamas, with a translation of the Māra Saṃyukta of the Bieyi za ahan jing (T.100), 2007, Vol. 24
Ulrich Pagel, School of Oriental and African Studies
Dhāraṇīs of the Mahāvyutpatti: Their Origin and Formation, 2007, Vol. 24
Horiko Kawanami, Lancaster University
The Bhikkhunī Ordination Debate: Global Aspirations, Local Concerns, with special emphasis on the views of the monastic community in Burma, 2007, Vol. 24
Anālayo, University of Hamburg
The Conversion of Aṅgulimāla in the Saṃyukta-āgama, 2008, Vol. 25
Ann Heirman, University of Ghent
Becoming a nun in the Dharmaguptaka tradition, 2008, Vol. 25
Martin Seeger, Leeds University
Phra Payutto and Debates "On the Very idea of the Pali Canon" in Thai Buddhism, 2009, Vol. 26
T.H. Barrett, School of Oriental and African Studies
Rebirth From China to Japan in Nara Hagiography: A Reconsideration, 2009, Vol. 26
Jeff Kuan, Yuan Ze University (Taiwan)
Rethinking Non-Self: A New Perspective from the Ekottarika-āgama, 2009, Vol.26
Peter Harvey, University of Sunderland
The Four Ariya-saccas as “True Realities for the Spiritually Ennobled”- the Painful, its Origin, its Cessation, and the Way Going to This – Rather than “Noble Truths” Concerning These, 2009, Vol. 26
Gisela Krey, University of Bonn
On Women as Teachers in Early Buddhism: Dhammadinnā and Khemā, 2010, Vol. 27
Anālayo, University of Hamburg and Dharma Drum Duddhist College (Taiwan)
Channa’s Suicide in the Saṃyukta-āgama, 2010, Vol. 27
John Kelly, Aide to Bhikkhu Bodhi with his Aṅguttara Nikāya translation
The Buddha's Teachings to Lay People 2011, Vol. 28
Richard Burnett, Teacher and Housemaster, Tonbridge School, Kent (UK)
Mindfulness in Secondary Schools: Learning Lessons from the Adults, Secular and Buddhist, 2011, Vol. 28
Ian Reader, University of Manchester
Buddhism in Crisis? Institutional Decline in Modern Japan, 2011, Vol. 28
Naomi Appleton, University of Cardiff
The Multi-Life Stories of Gautama Buddha and Vardhamāna Mahāvīra,2012, Vol. 29
John S. Strong, Bates College
Explicating the Buddha's Final Illness in the Context of his Other Ailments: The Making and Unmaking of some Jātaka Tales, 2012, Vol. 29
Khristos Nizamis, Independent Scholar (Australia)
"I" without "I am": On the Presence of Subjectivity in Early Buddhism, in the Light of Transcendental Phenomenology,2012, Vol. 29

Indexing and Abstracting

Bibliography of Humanities and Social Sciences Literature, K.G. Saur Verlag
Scopus Abstract and Citation Database
Web of Knowledge (Arts & Humanities Citation Index and Current Contents/Arts & Humanities)
European Reference Index (ERIH Plus)
ATLA Religion Database®

Publication and Frequency: May and November
ISSN:0265-2897 (print)
ISSN: 1747-9681 (online)

Editorial Address: Peter Harvey, School of Art, Design, Media and Culture, Priestman Building, Green Terrace, Sunderland SR2 3PZ.

Please send books for review to:

Christopher Jones
SCR, St Peter's College
New Inn Hall Street

Most Viewed Articles


The Bhikkhunī Ordination Debate: Global Aspirations, Local Concerns, with special emphasis on the views of the monastic community in Burma

This paper examines the recent events following the bhikkhunī revival in Sri Lanka, and looks at the position of the Burmese Saṅgha, which has traditionally seen itself as the custodian of an ‘authentic’ Buddhist legacy, thrown into a debate by the action of a Burmese bhikkhunī who was recently ordained in Sri Lanka. It introduces the early initiatives of revivalist monks in Burma as well as the viewpoints of Burmese Saṅgha and the nuns in regard to the bhikkhunī issue. Since most debate on the position of nuns take place without much reference to the local political contexts in which they stand, the state monastic organization in Burma is introduced to aid understanding of the framework in which the nuns operate today. At another level, the paper draws attention to the tension created between the international bhikkhunīs who promote liberal ideologies of gender equality, individual rights and universalism
into a faith based community, and local nuns who adhere to the traditional norms of religious duty, moral discipline and service to the community, and questions the ultimate aim in endorsing such secular ideals.
Posted: 2007-10-08More...

Popular Buddhist Ritual in Contemporary Hong Kong: Shuilu Fahui, a Buddhist Rite for Saving All Sentient Beings of Water and Land

Shuilu fahui (水陸法會) is a Buddhist rite for saving all sentient beings (pudu, 普度) with a complex layer of ritual activities incorporating elements of all schools of Chinese Buddhism, such as Tantric mantras, Tian Tai rituals of asking for forgiveness (chanfa, 懺法), and Pure Land reciting of Amitābha’s name. The ritual can be dated to the Tang Dynasty (c. 670–673 CE) and has been one of the most spectacular and popular rituals in Chinese Buddhism. Shuilu fahui is still performed in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, and continues to be very popular amongst such Chinese communities. This study is an aid to understanding how Chinese Buddhism is practised by monks and nuns in Hong Kong, and how they interact with lay Buddhists through Shuilu fahui. This rite constructs and represents a unified religious world that contains many important and profound religious meanings, and it continuous to ­develop in order to accommodate the various demands of people in Hong Kong.
Posted: 2008-05-18More...

Mindfulness in Schools: Learning Lessons from the Adults, Secular and Buddhist

This paper explores the adult mindfulness landscape, secular and Buddhist, in order to inform an approach to the teaching of mindfulness in secondary schools. The Introduction explains the background to the project and the significant overlap between secular and Buddhist practices. I explain what mindfulness is and highlight a number of important practical differences between the teaching of mindfulness in the adult world and in schools. ‘Balancing Calm and Insight’ looks at mindfulness through a lens infrequently explored in the therapeutic literature, and suggests that a slight shift in the centre of gravity towards Calm might be appropriate. ‘Defining Objectives’ considers how difficult it is to clearly articulate the objective of mindfulness in schools given a new context in which it functions as neither clinical application nor spiritual practice. A range of alternatives is considered. ‘Building a Scaffolding’ explains the importance of context in both Buddhist and secular practice. To succeed, mindfulness should be nested within a broader framework of understanding, or what Kabat-Zinn calls a ‘scaffolding’. I suggest that perhaps the best ‘scaffolding’ for mindfulness in schools is its sense of possibility. ‘Ethics and Community’ describes how ethics are more important in secular mindfulness than they at first appear. The shape ethics might take in a school context is considered, then an assessment of the role of the teacher and what equivalent there might be for what Buddhists call saṅgha, or Community.
Posted: 2011-07-07More...

The Multi-life Stories of Gautama Buddha and Vardhamana Mahavira

Like Buddhist traditions, Jain traditions preserve many stories about people’s past lives. Unlike Buddhist traditions, relatively few of these stories narrate the past lives of the tradition’s central figure, the jina. In Jainism there is no equivalent path to the bodhisatt(v)a path; the karma that guarantees jinahood is bound a mere two births before that attainment, and the person who attracts that karma cannot do so willfully, nor is he aware of it being bound. There is therefore no Jain equivalent to the ubiquitous jātaka literature. In this paper I will explore what the absence of a jātaka genre in Jain traditions tells us about the genre’s role in Buddhism. Focusing upon the multi-life stories of Gautama Buddha and Vardhamāna Mahāvīra, I will ask how these two strikingly similar narratives betray some fundamental differences between Buddhist and Jain understandings of the ultimate religious goal and the method of its attainment.
Posted: 2012-07-12More...

Cambodian Buddhism: History and Practice , Ian Harris (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005), 352pp, $62/£39.95, ISBN 0824827651

Posted: 2007-10-08More...

Most Recent Articles


Assertion and Restraint in Dhamma Transmission in Early Pāli Sources

The study seeks to elucidate the nature of early Dhamma-transmission. While Buddhism has achieved broad geographical dissemination, sometimes earning the epithet ‘missionary’, Pāli sources are ambivalent regarding approaches to potential followers. The Buddha’s final words do not instruct the sangha to spread the message; the exhortation, ‘walk, monks … for the blessing of the manyfolk’, rather appears to be an early, isolated episode. The Buddha’s own hesitation to teach provides the paradigm for the renunciant sangha, whose members rarely initiate teaching episodes, preferring to wait for specific questions, an approach still formalised in modern practice. Following brahmanical norms, excessive eagerness to communicate would have devalued the message. Capacity to understand varied between individuals, and intelligent questions indicated preparedness.
Given the dependence upon lay-followers, the alms-round ensured regular sangha visibility. Embodied serenity, closely regulated by the Vinaya, both excited curiosity and proved beneficial to onlookers – an affecting darśana. Frequently dāna, meal offerings, provided the locus for communicating Dhamma in a graduated, step-by-step manner, according to the capacity of the listeners. Kindness and generosity thus provided the point of departure, while miraculous displays were generally eschewed.
In the proposed model, the alms-round is viewed as being undertaken to occasion generosity, making available a merit-field to generate benefits for the givers, rather than promotionally. The infrequent hints of greater assertion are confined to lay-followers, who, building on friendships, may occasionally draw attention to Dhamma. Arguably, this complements the role of the renunciant sangha, the guardian of the tradition, for whom teaching was not in fact obligatory. Though some lay-followers instructed others, their practice focussed on generosity and devotion. Some commentators have suggested that the original zeal waned over the centuries. However, the broadly reticent approach emerges as authentic in underlining the importance of the teachings, valuing goodness in other traditions, and accepting progression across multiple lifetimes. Most significantly, it underlines that coercion sits uneasily within a tradition which insists on exploration and personal transformation.
Posted: 2015-10-28More...

Chiastic Structure of the Vessantara Jātaka: Textual Criticism and Interpretation Through Inverted Parallelism

The Vessantara Jātaka is not only the most popular of all the Buddhist Jātaka tales, but is important in the tradition as a whole, generally considered by the Theravādin tradition to display the epitome of the Bodhisatta’s perfection of giving (dānapāramī). While most studies have focused on philological approaches, numerous questions as to the text’s structure and how to interpret individual parts within that structure have remained unresolved (§1. The received tradition of the Vessantara Jātaka). My study shall employ the theory of ‘chiasmus’ (inverted parallelism) to shed new light on both the key message of the story and also the sub-themes within it (§2. Chiastic structures as textual approach). In terms of textual criticism, I shall first elucidate the chiastic structure of the text and discuss how this structure can provide insights on text-critical readings (§3. Textual criticism: Chiastic units and structure). In terms of interpretation, I shall then see how the structure clearly demarcates the text’s scope through its prologue and conclusion with surrounding framework, its paired parallel sub-themes, and its central climax point, all in the light of its chiastic structure (§4. Interpretation: A chiastic reading). Finally, considering broader implications, on comparison with other recently discovered Buddhist textual chiasmi I shall present a tentative hypothesis as to the origins of such structures in the ‘bodhisatt(v)a’ literary genre (§5. Conclusions: Critical and interpretive implications).
Posted: 2015-10-28More...

Ecology, Dharma and Direct Action: A Brief Survey of Contemporary Eco-Buddhist Activism in Korea

Over the last few decades there has emerged a small, yet influential eco-Buddhism movement in South Korea which, since the turn of the millennium, has seen several Sŏn (J. Zen) Buddhist clerics engage in high-profile protests and activism campaigns opposing massive development projects which threatened widespread ecological destruction. This article will survey the issues and events surrounding three such protests; the 2003 samboilbae, or ‘threesteps- one-bow’, march led by Venerable Sukyŏng against the Saemangeum Reclamation Project, Venerable Jiyul’s Anti-Mt. Chŏnsŏng tunnel hunger-strike campaign between 2002 and 2006, and lastly Venerable Munsu’s self-immolation protesting the Four Rivers Project in 2010. This article will additionally analyze the attempts by these clerics to deploy innovative and distinctively Buddhist forms of protest, the effects of these protests, and how these protests have altered public perceptions of the role of Buddhist clergy in Korean society. This study will additionally highlight issues relevant to the broader discourse regarding the intersection of Buddhism and social activism, such as the appropriation of traditional Buddhist practices as protest tactics and the potential for conflict between social engagement and the pursuit of Buddhist soteriological goals.
Posted: 2015-01-15More...

Fluid Minds: Being a Buddhist the Shambhalian Way

What are the criteria for counting something as Buddhist? This discipline-defining question has become increasingly perplexing as Buddhism is transmitted across the globe, taking new forms as it adapts to new contexts, especially as non-Buddhists increasingly come to participate in the meditation activities of Buddhist communities in the West. Through an ethnographic analysis of a Shambhala center in the southern United States, this article suggests that the best way to talk about such groups is neither through categorizing membership demographics, nor by ranking the different degrees of Buddhism practiced in Shambhala as more or less authentic, but rather by focusing on how the group ultimately coheres despite inevitable differences in opinion. Thus instead of defining what is ‘authentically’ Buddhist among Shambhalians, this article tracks the manner in which certain Buddhist forms of signification (especially meditation) are shared regardless of personal religious identities, forging a community through common interest.
Posted: 2015-01-15More...

The Gurudharmas in Buddhist Nunneries of Mainland China

According to tradition, when the Buddha’s aunt and stepmother Mahāprajāpatī was allowed to join the Buddhist monastic community, she accepted eight ‘fundamental rules’ (gurudharmas) that made the nuns’ order dependent upon the monks’ order. This story has given rise to much debate, in the past as well as in the present, and this is no less the case in Mainland China, where nunneries have started to re-emerge in recent decades. This article first presents new insight into Mainland Chinese monastic practitioners’ common perspectives and voices regarding the gurudharmas, which are rarely touched upon in scholarly work. Next, each of the rules is discussed in detail, allowing us to analyse various issues, until now understudied, regarding the applicability of the gurudharmas in Mainland Chinese contexts. This research thus provides a detailed overview of nuns’ perceptions of how traditional vinaya rules and procedures can be applied in contemporary Mainland Chinese monastic communities based on a cross-regional empirical study.
Posted: 2015-01-15More...


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