Buddhism and Medicine: An Anthology of Premodern Sources is a remarkable collection of translations of important primary sources related to the theory and practice of medicine and healing from across Buddhist Asia. There is nothing like it in English or any other modern language. Everyone who teaches Buddhism or Asian religions will need to acquire it and will find it of immediate value in their teaching and their deeper understanding of the Buddhist tradition and its many (sometimes unexpected) contributions to the cultures and societies of Asia. I hope that historians of European medicine will also incorporate this volume into their teaching and graduate training, since it offers an excellent introduction to a rapidly growing field of study. The volume is impressive not only because of its size (over 700 pages) and comprehensive scope, but also for the care with which it has been compiled. The individual chapters, written by an impressive array of both established and emerging scholars, are strong, but the editor, Pierce Salguero, has also given a great deal of thought to how such a complex volume might work as a single, integrated study. He is to be congratulated for having given us an essential and much-needed work. I know that I will be re-reading and referring to this volume for many years to come. It is hard to think of anyone better qualified to edit this volume. Salguero is trained as a historian of medicine, but has worked exclusively with Buddhist sources in his research. He has already written a number of important articles, as well as a monograph on Translating Buddhist Medicine in Medieval China (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014). He is also a practitioner of Thai medicine. His academic work has done much to galvanize and focus the efforts of other scholars with an interest in the medicinal aspects of Buddhist thought and practice. Because of his pivotal role in the emergence of this relatively new field of study, he has an unparalleled oversight of the work of researchers working across a vast temporal and geographical range. He should be applauded for having assembled such a talented team of scholars (fifty-eight contributors are listed, including himself) and for completing this complex and attractive volume in such a timely manner. I understand there will be further volumes that will address Buddhism and medicine in modern and contemporary times. The volume begins with a relatively brief introduction by the editor. There are sixty-two chapters broken out under these major headings: “Doctrinal Considerations,” “Healing and Monastic Discipline,” “Buddhist Healers,” “Healing Rites,” “Meditation as Cure and Illness,” “Hybridity in Buddhist Healing,” and “Buddhism and the Medical Traditions.” Because of the nature of the sources, which routinely cross boundaries of genre, language, and culture, it would be difficult and unproductive to force them into too tight a structure. The relatively loose and open-ended organization that Salguero has opted for works well to draw the reader into the rich diversity of the source material. An appendix (609–13) organizes the same sixty-two chapters geographically. There is a glossary (615–27) of terms compiled collectively by the contributors (who are introduced on pp. 667–74), a hefty set of references (629–66) for the entire volume, and an index (675–89). Each chapter, authored by an expert in the region or tradition, consists of a brief introduction, some suggestions for further reading, and a selection of translated passages from Buddhist texts, followed by endnotes. The volume will be much appreciated by all who teach Buddhism and Buddhist studies, at whatever level. It offers an unequaled overview of the topic and provides a wealth of detailed and specific examples of Buddhist ideas about medicine in action. The book is relatively sparsely illustrated (no doubt art historians will know of many Buddhist images and objects that speak to the topics discussed in these texts), but the illustrations and photographs that do appear are mostly clear and well reproduced. The “Suggestions for Further Reading” found in each chapter will be of value to those wanting to know more about a particular topic, although no doubt some East Asianists will lament the lack of Sinitic glyphs here and throughout the volume, especially for primary sources and works of East Asian scholarship that can be hard to locate from solely romanized names and titles. The index is compact, but the entries are well organized. I imagine this part of the book will be frequently consulted by researchers. It might seem ungrateful to demand more of an editor who has already given us so much already, but this anthology would seem to cry out for an associated online portal of resources that go beyond what is possible in a printed volume. One imagines a more extensive and continually updated set of “Further Readings,” as well as digital images and links to the sources in their original languages and formats. Perhaps such a resource will appear one day. There are other possibilities for enhancement within the actual volume. The glossary of terms is useful, but it might offer additional value were the terms to have been arranged topically also—for example, a glossary of terms used for diseases, drugs, and so on. As we would expect for an anthology of translated sources, the passages are not massively overburdened with annotations and apparatus. Those of us who use such anthologies in our undergraduate teaching will appreciate this uncluttered presentation, but scholars who work closely with some of the texts translated here may find the lack of detailed notes and scholarly apparatus frustrating. Given the vast scope of the volume and the relative underdevelopment of scholarship on medicine in the Buddhist world, it is not surprising that specialists will discover errors and omissions. The translations I read of material that I know in Chinese could have used more precision in places, particularly in the translation of technical terms. In the chapter on “Food and Medicine in the Chinese Vinayas,” for example, some important recent works in English on Buddhist vegetarianism are overlooked in favor of rather outdated studies from more than one hundred years ago. Also, no reference is made to scholarship on injunctions against consuming alcohol, although examples of such work are referenced elsewhere in the volume. The book is handsomely made; the printing is crisp, and the paper quality is high. For the undergraduate classroom, selections could certainly be used, but in graduate teaching or for PhD comprehensive examinations, one would hope to see students grapple with the entire collection. I teach a Health, Healing, and Medicine in Chinese Religions graduate seminar, and I would definitely draw on parts of this volume for that. But having spent some time with Buddhism and Medicine, I am now inspired to create a seminar on “Buddhism and Medicine” for which I would assign the whole volume, along with recent studies of the topic. Overall, this is an essential addition to the library of anyone working in Asian religions. The sources it presents are simply fascinating to read and far too important to be ignored. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Academy of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Journal of the American Academy of Religion – Oxford University Press
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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