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A recently retired religion professor at Smith College and author of River of Fire, River of Water, Unno here takes on the larger classroom of Westerners interested in Eastern religions to introduce Shin Buddhism, a sect that is dominant in modern Japan and exists in the U.S. as the Buddhist Churches of America. While Zen (and other schools) offers Buddhism for monks who have time and quiet to meditate themselves into enlightenment, Shin is a Buddhism for lay people with jobs and families. (A kind of "Pure Land" Buddhism that stresses compassion, humility and access to enlightenment, Shin was the first Japanese school to permit married clergy, after the fashion of 13th-century founder Shinran.) In unintimidating yet thorough fashion, Unno explains the history, practices and central ideas of Shin Buddhism, differentiating it even while locating the sect within the larger family of Buddhist teachings about suffering and enlightenment. Unno's accessibility is enhanced through use of personal story, quotations from poetry by Shin practitioners as well as such writers as Rainer Maria Rilke and T.S. Eliot, and liberal allusion to American cultural references as well as Buddhist parables. Book design is sensitive to its subject but not altogether successful. The screened art used on the title and part-title pages is lovely, but the brush-painterly typeface in which the table of contents and chapter titles are set is challenging to read. Unno's effort to convey more of Buddhism's 2,500 years of rich complexity should open new doors for Westerners.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Unno (religion, emeritus, Smith Coll.) follows his useful River of Fire, River of Water with this further discussion of Shin Buddhism. A form of Pure Land Buddhism begun in 12th-century Japan, Shin is widely practiced in Japan but is less well known in this country than forms such as Tibetan Buddhism and Zen. Centered on the recitation of the nembutsu, or the name of Amida Buddha, the simple practice of Shin is available to people in all walks of life and offers a framework for Buddhist practice to those for whom the monastically centered rigor demanded by other traditions is not practical or desirable. This book moves beyond the introductory River of Fire, River of Water to give a more comprehensive view of Shin practice. Those expecting a textbook approach, however, will find instead an accessibly written account of the spirit of Shin practice that will appeal to general readers. This is not an essential title but makes an excellent companion to Unno's earlier book. Given the book's reasonable price, the relative scarcity of titles on Shin Buddhism, and the wider following it is likely to attract in the West as a simpler and more accessible form of practice, this book is an excellent choice for most collections. Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
How exactly does it happen - this turning of rubble into gold? I keep looking for clues urgently, because, believe me, there's a lot of rubble. Read morePublished on January 25, 2009 by Francisco X. Stork