It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. I am still practicing every morning for 30 minutes, but work and travel have been demanding a lot of my time in the past couple of months.
The biggest time demand has been a graduate course about Buddhism that I’m enrolled in. It’s challenging to keep up with graduate coursework while also holding down a full-time job (as some of you probably know). The reading assignments total about 150 pages a week, and now I’m working on a research paper (even more reading), which will count for most of the grade for the course.
I’ve been learning a lot and really enjoying this class very much. We are following a chronological and geographical path, starting in India with the life of Shakyamuni Buddha, examining the Madhyamaka and Yogacara traditions, moving east along the Silk Road to China (an entirely new area for me), then on to Korea and Japan. I’m fascinated to see how politics and governing factions interacted with the rise and fall of particular schools of Buddhism. As an American, I’ve had very little exposure to the history of India and China — a fact this course has helped me recognize.
One of the great resources I have encountered in this class is The Encyclopedia of Buddhism, edited by Robert E. Buswell, Jr., and published in 2004 by Macmillan. While the oversized two-volume set is priced at $300 (U.S.),* it is available as an e-book from Gale’s Virtual Reference Library. So I log on to the university library’s Web site, and I can download a clean, readable PDF document of any article in the encyclopedia. The articles were written by various modern scholars of Buddhism, and most of them are clear and highly readable.
Examples include entries on Wonhyo, “widely considered to be the most influential thinker, writer, and commentator in Korean Buddhist history”; Chan art, which, “from the point of view of art history … more than any other form of Buddhism, has long been associated with distinctive modes of visual representation”; and Pure Land schools, with separate sections about the traditions in China and in Japan. Some articles are as long as nine pages (e.g., the entry about India) and others are less than one page (e.g., the entry about hair and how it is cut, or worn, by monks).
So if you have access to a university library (or maybe even some public libraries), check and see if they have this e-book version of the encyclopedia. It’s really a wonderful way to find a fast answer to some of the questions that arise when you start studying the history and practice of Buddhism.
*Whoa! According to this page, you can download the whole encyclopedia (26 MB) for only $10. I have no idea if this works, but if you try it and it’s okay, please leave a comment here.