As a 2,500-year old religion, Buddhism has a rich and diverse past
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    Saved by History Paid Member

    By her own account, Elaine Pagels is “incorrigibly religious.” For her, the historical study of religion is a passionate pursuit, one that engages the whole of one’s being. The Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University, Pagels is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost scholars of the history of early Christianity. Indeed, it would not be an overstatement to say that she has forever altered how we understand the historical foundations of Christian tradition. In the process, she has eloquently demonstrated how understanding humankind’s religious past can pave the way for a more inclusive and open-minded understanding of religious life today. More »
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    Modern Buddhism: So New, So Familiar Paid Member

    By seven o’clock on the morning of August 26, 1873, a crowd of some five thousand had gathered around a raised platform in the town of Panadure outside of Colombo, Ceylon—what is now Sri Lanka. On one side of the platform stood a table covered in white cloth and adorned with evergreens. This was the side occupied by the Christian party and its spokesman, Rev. David de Silva. The other side, more richly decorated, was filled by some two hundred Buddhist monastics and their spokesman, a monk named Gunananda. For the next two days, that platform would be the sparring ground for a heated debate over which religion would liberate the people of Ceylon: Buddhism or Christianity. More »
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    Romancing the Buddha Paid Member

    Was the Buddha really saying what we think he was? Thanissaro Bhikkhu explains how nineteenth-century Romanticism and modern psychology have shaped—and perhaps distorted—our understanding of the Buddha’s teachings.   More »
  • City of Screams Paid Member

    In February 2001, Mullah Omer, leader of the Taliban, issued his infamous decree: all pre-Islamic art in Afghanistan was to be destroyed, including the two great Buddhas carved into the sandstone cliffs of Bamiyan. When Rob Schultheis began this article—a history of the ancient monument and the people who built it—the Buddhas were still standing. More »
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    Yasutani Roshi: The Hardest Koan Paid Member

    In Zen at War (Weatherhill, 1997), Brian Victoria examined how the Japanese Zen clergy interpreted Buddhist teachings in ways that made Zen dharma—and themselves—complicit with the Imperial Forces for the success of what was called "The Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere." More »
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    Losing Our Religion Paid Member

    Robert Sharf's interest in Buddhism began in the early 1970s, when, as a seeker in sandals barely out of his teens, he hopped from one meditation retreat to the next, first in India and Burma, then back in North America. It was shortly after a three-month Vipassana meditation retreat in Bucksport, Maine, in 1975 that Sharf began to wonder whether the single-minded emphasis on meditation characteristic of much of Western Buddhism was in some way misguided. Over time, doubt and confusion gave way to a desire to better understand Buddhism's historical background, which in turn led him to pursue a career in Buddhist scholarship. Today Sharf is the D. H. Chen Distinguished Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. More »