Education About Asia: Online Archives

Buddhism in Practice

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Many new and some surprising English translations of texts have been collected in an anthology by Donald Lopez with thirty-nine contributors. In all there are forty-eight texts with extensive introductions. The impression gleaned from the variety reveals Buddhism as quite a varied and complex tradition.

Like an all-star professional athletic team, the contributors to this volume bring credentials as world famous scholars of Buddhism, if mostly in American institutions. A trust in the validity of the book may in part be dependent upon the respect one holds for the illustrious company who prepared this tome. At the same time, readers may still wonder what was the principle of selection of the texts which were included in the volume? Who found these texts? Did each contributor pick her own? Or did the text get chosen for them and sent to them to read and offer an introduction? Lopez explains in the introduction that the intent was “identifying areas of shared concern and continuity, as well as areas of contestation and conflict among the widely varied practices of different Buddhist communities.” The volume certainly goes a long way in achieving such an aim.

One may wonder which of the forty-eight selections were originally complete texts or taken from longer works. Each seems to be treated in the volume as a complete and separate piece. The introductions are sometimes as long as the text which they introduce, often showing different principles of hermeneutics from the scholar who presents the very next text. But such is the case in all-star games, as well.