Dharma and its Discontents

The Case of Kumarajiva

Authors

  • John Thompson Christopher Newport University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.43213

Keywords:

hagiography, monasticism, translation, violation

Abstract

This article critically re-examines the “received wisdom” on Buddhism— its history, traditional lore, monastic institutions, and ritual practices— acknowledging the fact of violence within Buddhism while striving for a nuanced understanding by looking at the life of Kumarajiva (ca. 344–413). A legendary figure in Sino-Japanese Buddhism, Kumarajiva has long been lauded as a wondrous exemplar of the Dharma at work, making accounts of his life valuable resources for understanding Buddhism in medieval China, including the place of violence. My intention is not to condemn Buddhism as a “violent religion” but to encourage us to consider just how pervasive and complex the role of “violence” seems to be within Buddhism (both in the past and in the present), and critically trace out some of its implications.

Author Biography

John Thompson, Christopher Newport University

John M. Thompson is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA where he teaches various courses in Religion and Asian Philosophy, and in the Honors Program. John has written and/or edited three books, and published numerous journal and encyclopedia articles, book chapters, and critical reviews. With broad interests in literature, art and diverse cultures, John sometimes styles himself a “man of letters;” fortunately, his beautiful wife, daughter, and son keep him moored to reality. In his spare time, he washes dishes, does yardwork, and cleans up after his dogs.

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Published

2021-07-28

How to Cite

Thompson, J. (2021). Dharma and its Discontents: The Case of Kumarajiva. Buddhist Studies Review, 38(1), 17–30. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.43213

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Section

Articles