cover image Secularizing Buddhism: New Perspectives on a Dynamic Tradition

Secularizing Buddhism: New Perspectives on a Dynamic Tradition

Edited by Richard K. Payne. Shambhala, $16.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-61180-889-6

In this sweeping collection, scholars of Buddhism offer insights on secularizing processes within the tradition. Payne, a professor of Japanese Buddhist studies at the Institute of Buddhist Studies, argues that the pieces here aim to unlink the consonance between “secular” and “modern” and to investigate the relationship between the so-called “religious” and “secular” spheres in Buddhist contexts. Funie Hsu, a professor of transdisciplinary American studies at San Jose University, explores the racialization and secularization of mindfulness in American schools and posits the trends are “a reflection of the United States’ long-standing Orientalizing and exclusionary history.” Kate Crosby, Buddhist studies professor at King’s College, catalogs pro- and anti-secular responses to Western colonial hegemony in Theravada Buddhism. The strengths and weaknesses of the work of secular Buddhist teacher Stephen Batchelor are dissected by scholars Philippe Turenne and Roger R. Jackson, who suggest Batchelor’s claim to be both “presenting an interpretation of Buddhist praxis that is accessible” as well as teaching the “pure teachings” of Buddha is contradictory. Overall, the analysis casts doubt on many commonsense assumptions about Buddhism and effectively dispel the notion that Buddhism is distanced from the realm of the supernatural and naturally aligned with modern secularity, science, and rationality. This thorough work serves as a dense but nonetheless accessible introduction for readers interested in the history and culture of contemporary Western Buddhism. (Aug.)