SHIN BUDDHISM: Bits of Rubble Turn into Gold

Taitetsu Unno, Author, Taitetsu Unno, Author . Doubleday/Image $12.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-50469-0

A recently retired religion professor at Smith College and author of River of Fire, River of Water, Unno here takes on the larger classroom of Westerners interested in Eastern religions to introduce Shin Buddhism, a sect that is dominant in modern Japan and exists in the U.S. as the Buddhist Churches of America. While Zen (and other schools) offers Buddhism for monks who have time and quiet to meditate themselves into enlightenment, Shin is a Buddhism for lay people with jobs and families. (A kind of "Pure Land" Buddhism that stresses compassion, humility and access to enlightenment, Shin was the first Japanese school to permit married clergy, after the fashion of 13th-century founder Shinran.) In unintimidating yet thorough fashion, Unno explains the history, practices and central ideas of Shin Buddhism, differentiating it even while locating the sect within the larger family of Buddhist teachings about suffering and enlightenment. Unno's accessibility is enhanced through use of personal story, quotations from poetry by Shin practitioners as well as such writers as Rainer Maria Rilke and T.S. Eliot, and liberal allusion to American cultural references as well as Buddhist parables. Book design is sensitive to its subject but not altogether successful. The screened art used on the title and part-title pages is lovely, but the brush-painterly typeface in which the table of contents and chapter titles are set is challenging to read. Unno's effort to convey more of Buddhism's 2,500 years of rich complexity should open new doors for Westerners. (Aug. 20)

Reviewed on: 06/10/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 157 pages - 978-0-385-50470-6
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