Browsing Journal of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (JISASR). Vol. 3, Issue 1, (2016) by Issue Date
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- ItemMichael Pye, translating drunk - and Stark Naked: problems in presenting eighteenth century Japanese thought(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork, 2016) Barrett, Tim H.In 1990 Michael Pye published a full translation of the writings of the Japanese scholar Tominaga Nakamoto (1715-1746), to which I responded in a 1993 review illustrating a possible alternative approach by retranslating one chapter. In 1997 Michael Pye defended his original work. Here I show that this defence misunderstands at least some of the rationale for suggesting an alternative translation method, and provide a short passage of translation with commentary from Hattori Somon (1724-1769), a very similar but much less wellknown scholar, in order both to introduce his thought and to illustrate further the translation method I prefer. Finally some broader questions about the interpretation of Japanese eighteenth century thought are briefly indicated.
- ItemASR and RE(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork., 2016) Jensen, TimAs a university discipline, the academic study of religions (ASR) has produced a critical approach to the study of religion which is (or ought be), I think, of fundamental importance for a modern secular and enlightened democratic state. However, the "study-of-religions" approach has percolated with limited success into society at large as well as into the primary and secondary educational systems of Western democracies. Too often so-called religious education (RE) really is religious or confessional, and even so-called non-confessional RE is, mostly if not always, mixed with crypto-confessional approaches, inculcation of moral values (not least those claimed to be Christian) and the promoting of religion as a resource for a more "spiritual" approach to life. While these goals may be in line with the traditional use of the public school as the key instrument of the (nation-) state to try to confer its ideology to (future) citizens, it is not compatible with the ideals of the academic study of religion, nor with the ideals and ideas of the present writer as regards the secular, study-of religions based RE that I think ought be taught in public schools as a totally ordinary school subject and as such also true to its scientific basis. In what follows I map and evaluate some of the many approaches to RE as well as some of the obstacles to a study-of-religions approach. Likewise, I ever so briefly argue why my approach to RE may be seen as a 'natural' and 'good' kind of 'applied ASR ', as an obvious way to promote and strengthen the academic study of religions, --and as a positive value to the open, democratic and pluralistic society. I begin, however, with a statement by Prof. Brian Bocking, quoted in part below, which admirably describes the components and characteristics of the academic study of religions - and by extension - of a study-of- religions based RE.
- ItemRecent trends in the white light association (Byakkō Shinkōkai)(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork, 2016) Pye, MichaelAmong the various fascinating features of the religious scene in Japan, the activities of the new religions continue to attract attention. And yet, given their number, and given the predilection of some commentators to highlight sensational cases, the character and development of some of the more steady movements often goes largely unremarked. The opportunity is therefore taken here to present a brief review of recent developments in the White Light Association, or to give it its Japanese name, the Byakkō Shinkōkai.
- ItemMonotheism and modernity: W. E. Hearn, Ireland, empire and the household gods(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork., 2016) Foley, TadhgOperating with Darwinian categories, and beginning with Sir Henry Maine's Ancient Law (1861), scholars in comparative ethnology, jurisprudence, and philology claimed that some societies evolved organically in a series of stages while others failed to develop. In religious discourse a key indicator of modernity was a belief in monotheism. This belief, however, like the related achievement of 'civilisation', was generally held to be incapable of spontaneous growth in savage or barbaric societies and the transition from archaic polytheism to the monotheism of modernity was powerfully enabled by the spread of empire. W. E. Hearn (1826-1888) published The Aryan Household in 1878, with the subtitle An Introduction to Comparative Jurisprudence. He saw archaic society as household-centred, lacking both a state and law, operating a regime of what Maine termed 'status' rather than 'contract', where the foundation of human association was religion rather than kinship. This shared worship was symbolized by a common meal in honour of the household gods, the spirits of deceased ancestors. In Hearn's words, 'The common meal was the sole means by which a communication could be maintained between the spirit-world and the earth'. Christianity waged a 'war without parley and without truce' against the household gods but its victory in 'clannish' Ireland was far from complete, for Hearn saw Ireland, in many respects, as closer to archaic society than to modernity with its unreformed majority religion and its still unvanquished household gods.
- ItemBrian Bocking: Making the study of religions(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork., 2016) Scharbrodt, Oliver; Gerda Henkel FoundationWriting an academic biography of Brian Bocking is a formidable task for various reasons: first, there is the anticipation of a witty, self-ironic comment from him mocking the whole exercise itself and his own person at the same time: "Has my obituary already been written?" is the kind of comment one would expect from him. Second, there has always been something intimidating about Brian's physical and intellectual stature. Third, in a professional context, Brian has always been very discreet about his private life, first and foremost about his own religious convictions. Brian has been part of a generation of Study of Religions scholars who clearly separate their religious beliefs or unbeliefs which they hold in private from their professional engagement in the academic study of religions.
- ItemCrisis, change and 'the continuous art of individual interpretation and negotiation': The aftermath of clerical sexual abuse in Newfoundland(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork, 2016) Bowman, MarionAt the core of this article is a significant but generally neglected incident, the clerical sexual abuse scandals that came to light in Newfoundland, Canada in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The focus of this piece is what happened after the abuse was uncovered, so often the untold story following the flurry of attention surrounding initial revelation. In order to understand this aftermath, the religio-cultural context of the abuse, reactions to the revelations and the many ways in which change occurred in their wake are examined through the lens of vernacular religion. This case study prompts reflection on what can be learned about the ways in which a range of people are forced to negotiate and interpret their relationship with institutional religion in times of crisis and change, and how a vernacular religious approach helps us to understand and contextualise this.
- ItemProblematic conceptions and critical developments: the construction and relevance of 'religion' and religious studies in Japan(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork, 2016) Reader, IanIn this article I examine the concept of religion (shūkyō in Japanese) with reference to the claims that as a term and category it did not exist in Japan prior to the country's 19th century encounter with Western powers, and to the notion that 'Religious Studies' in Japan was simply implanted wholesale from the West. By referring to recent work in this area, I argue that such claims are overstated. I further examine some of the implications of the development of a concept of religion in pre-war and post-war Japan, and discuss why in the postwar era new laws and constitutional safeguards relating to religion were inaugurated. By looking at controversial areas in which actions are viewed as religious or not, while in parallel looking at how post-war academia has interpreted 'religion' and how Japanese Religious Studies (shūkyōgaku) has developed, I argue that the concept and discipline are highly important in the present day, and that suggestions that the term and the academic discipline be abandoned could have serious implications for contemporary society and Japanese civil liberties.
- ItemAll too human: the impact of international Buddhist networks on the life and posthumous conviction of the Burmese nationalist monk, Shin Ukkaṭṭha (1897-1978)(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork, 2016) Crosby, Kate; Ashin, JanakaThis article examines how the Buddhist, interfaith and nationalist networks centred on India in the first half of the 20th-century influenced the Burmese monk Shin Ukkaṭṭha. On his return to Burma in 1929, after seven years' travel, study and debate in India, Shin Ukkaṭṭha expressed his Buddhist nationalism by opening a Buddhist Mission school to combine Buddhist and secular learning and by publishing Buddhist tracts and works, including a bestselling work on comparative religion. He won an important Christian-Buddhist debate in 1936 which, widely reported in the national press, inspired many to convert back to Buddhism. Part of his success was due to his relativistic attitudes to texts. He was willing to dismiss as later fabrication parts of the Buddhist canon if they ran counter to current scientific thinking. Like other Buddhists influenced by Theosophy, he dismissed traditional cosmology and reinterpreted rebirth in line with Darwinian evolutionary theory. His stance ran counter to the Buddhist Sangha hierarchy, which regarded an anti-secular, fundamentalist as the best defence against the corruptions of colonialism. Under the British, the lack of a central Buddhist authority gave Shin Ukkaṭṭha the freedom to express his views. However, after Independence, he increasingly found himself at odds with the Sangha hierarchy, which he roundly insulted as naïve when he walked out on the Sixth Council citing its uncritical approach to the canonical texts as his reason. So significant was his challenge to authority, that in 1981 the State Sangha Leaders Committee set up under General Ne Win to try miscreant monks, selected Shin Ukkaṭṭha as the second case. The court found him guilty of heresy - posthumously, for Shin Ukkaṭṭha had died three years earlier.
- ItemEarly western lay Buddhists in colonial Asia: John Bowles Daly and the Buddhist Theosophical Society of Ceylon(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork., 2016) Cox, Laurence; Sirisena, MihiriniThe first westerners recorded as becoming lay Buddhists on Asian terms were members of the Buddhist Theosophical Society in Ceylon who took pansil (refuges and precepts) between 1880 to 1907 or later, tied to their work with the BTS' modernising Buddhist schools. This article uses the life of Dr John Bowles Daly as a lens to explore these "conversions" and the BTS' educational turn. Daly (c. 1844 - c. 1916), an Irish writer and ex-Anglican curate, played an important role in Buddhist schooling in Ceylon in the early 1890s. The article discusses why western BTS members took pansil and how this was understood, as well as the lack of western bhikkhu (monk) ordinations in Ceylon. The new layrun schools slowly became established as a suitable object of dana (Buddhist donations) in competition with the traditional temple-run schools, leading in time to the formation of a new lay Sinhala Buddhist elite. These histories show the strong predominance of this elite as against the agendas not only of Daly but the international Theosophical Society.
- ItemElder Gongga 貢噶老人 (1903-1997) between China, Tibet and Taiwan: assessing life, mission and mummification of a Buddhist woman(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork, 2016) Travagnin, StefaniaElder Gongga (1903-1997), a Chinese Buddhist woman native of Beiping, played a crucial role in the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism in China and Taiwan, bridged Dharma traditions, and merged Buddhist and cultural identities; she also became an eminent nun in the history of female Buddhism for life achievements and the worship of her mummified body after death. The analysis of Elder Gongga's life and works contributes to better understand history, dynamics and networks of Buddhism in twentieth century China and Taiwan: Elder Gongga's story is the story of a Chinese Buddhist woman who practiced and spread Tibetan Buddhism first in China and then in Taiwan, and therefore another portrayal of the conditions of women following Tibetan Buddhism in the Chinese region in the twentieth-century. The mummification of her body after death contributes to the debate on body and material culture in the Buddhist context.
- ItemPaganism and the world forum of religions(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork, 2016) York, MichaelUsing the sociological tool known as the ideal-type, there is a distinction to be made for ancient, indigenous and contemporary paganisms vis-à-vis the more established world such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. While both the New Age movement and contemporary Western paganism may be understood through what Gerlach and Hine identified as the segmented-polycentric-integrated-network (SPIN), New Age may be increasingly understood as one more denomination under the rubric of paganism. In general, pagan religiosity is to be identified through its corpo-spirituality, veneration of nature, this-worldly focus, plural understanding of the divine, humanistic undercurrent and pursuits of enchantment and pleasure. Diverging from the characteristics of the pagan ideal-type as well as deep, generic and/or vernacular paganisms are both gnostic and secular forms of paganism. The multiplicity of religions, however, allows and encourages the internal dialogue of paganism with itself as the external conversation with the other religions of the world.
- ItemPainting a picture(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork., 2016) Morgan, PeggyI have sought in this piece to locate Brian Bocking's distinguished leadership and contribution to the academic study of religions in various contexts against the background of some history of the field's development -by selecting key methods and emphases that are relevant, especially from the formative times in the new Department of Religious Studies in the University of Lancaster from 1967, of which Brian Bocking was a part as a student from the early 1970s. In doing this I have acknowledged as a 'wash' on the canvas of the picture my own perspectives and subjectivity in the construction of the story and of these developments.
- ItemBrian Bocking and the defence of study of religions as an academic discipline in universities and schools(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork., 2016) Cush, Denise; Robinson, CatherineIn this article we will explore the contribution made by Brian to establishing and defending study of religions as a discipline in its own right and argue for the importance of a holistic and polymethodic approach to studying religions as the most appropriate way forward for programmes for undergraduates at university and students in schools. We will include the major contributions made by Brian in the institutions in which he has taught, with particular attention to our own Bath Spa University. The title "study of religions" - contributed by a student of Brian's - implies something about both content and methodology as well as his attitude towards students as co-participants and potential colleagues. The content is determinedly plural, acknowledging the diversity of religious (and perhaps non-religious) worldviews in the contemporary world. The approach is open and non-confessional, a study rather than endorsement or refutation of the claims of religions. The methods of study are multiple, prioritising neither textual and historical, nor philosophical or theological, nor social scientific approaches. Following in a tradition associated with the name of Ninian Smart among others, we argue that an understanding of religions can only be gained by seeing the relationship between theory and practice, text and context and official doctrines and vernacular custom. Hence Brian and Bath Spa continued to be committed to our students being exposed both to primary texts and direct encounters with living religious communities. Moreover, these polymethodic studies should be undertaken from a global rather than narrowly "Western" perspective, building upon Brian's own specialism in Japanese Buddhism and entrepreneurial international links.
- ItemFrom non-Brahmin priests of the goddess to ascetics of god Mahima Alekha(ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork, 2016) Guzy, LidiaThis article deals with Mahima Dharma a contemporary vernacular ascetic religion of Odisha/Eastern India displaying a rich diversity in its regional configurations. In this paper the author proposes to look at the main protagonists of the religion, the ascetics (babas), as non-Brahmin priests, who have incorporated shakti, the power of local goddesses into their disciplined bodies and in doing so have transformed the feminine element of the Hindu belief into the belief of the indescribable and abstract god Alekha. Mahima Dharma is seen in this contribution as a sort of micro structure on the one hand of popular asceticism in rural India and on the other hand as a recent religious reform movement integrating local non-Brahmin priesthood and the local belief in goddesses into the mainstream of the male Hindu pantheon. This article draws on the author's PhD fieldwork research (1999-2002), published in 2002 as a monograph (Guzy 2002).