MemberScott Mitchell

…Institute Of Buddhist Studies…
…ctives on Buddhism in the United States, co-edited with Natalie E.F. Quli, SUNY Press, 2015.
“The Ritual Use of Music in US Jōdo Shinshū Buddhist Communities,” Contemporary Buddhism, 2014.
“The Tranquil Meditator: representing Buddhism and Buddhists in US popular media,” Religion Compass, 2014.
“‘Christianity is for Rubes; Buddhism is for Actors’: Media Representations of Buddhism in the Wake of the Tiger Woods Scandal,” The Journal of Global Buddhism, 2012.
“Locally Translocal American Shin Buddhism,” Pacific World: the Journal of the Institute of Buddhist Studies Third Series, 2010.
“Sunday Morning Songs: English Language Gāthās in American Shinshū Temples,” The Pure Land, 2006.

Scott Mitchell is the Dean of Students and Faculty Affairs and holds the Yoshitaka Tamai Professorial Chair at the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Berkeley, CA, and co-host of the DharmaRealm podcast. He teaches and writes about Buddhism in the West, Buddhist modernism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Buddhism and media.

MemberMatthew McMullen

Currently, I am a post-doc research fellow at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture in Nagoya, Japan, where I assist with editing for the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. I also serve as a network editor for H-Buddhism and an associate editor for the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism. I completed a PhD in Buddhist Studies at UC Berkeley in 2016 and have spent time at Columbia University, Waseda University, University of Virginia, Taisho University, and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. My research primarily focuses on Japanese esoteric Buddhism, but my interests extend to Buddhist thought and practice in general.

MemberErik Hammerstrom

I teach about religion in China and East Asia, with a focus on Buddhism. In my research I specialize in the intellectual and institutional history of Chinese Buddhism during the modern period. I have studied Buddhist responses to elements of modernity, such as the discourses surrounding both religion and modern science; and I am currently writing a “biography” of Huáyán 華嚴 school of Chinese Buddhism in the early twentieth century. As an extension of my work on Chinese Buddhism, I helped establish the Database of Modern Chinese Buddhism.

MemberBryan Lowe

I specialize in East Asian religions with a focus on Buddhism in ancient Japan (seventh through ninth centuries). In the most general terms, my research challenges elite-centered narratives that have dominated scholarship on Japanese Buddhism and religious studies more broadly. In contrast, I study Buddhism as it was lived and practiced by individuals and communities from diverse backgrounds. My research and teaching are interdisciplinary; I engage scholarship in history, art history, literature, political science, and book history to explore issues related to ritual studies, material culture, and religion and the state. My award-winning first book, Ritualized Writing: Buddhist Practice and Scriptural Cultures in Ancient Japan, examines the ritual practice of transcribing Buddhist scriptures (sutras). It questions the standard historical narratives of Japanese Buddhism, which have focused exclusively on the ways the state regulated and utilized religion for ideological purposes in the eighth century. Instead, I highlight the activities of individuals from a range of social classes and geographic regions in Japan to show that Buddhist practice was not limited to the throne and fulfilled a variety of social, political, and spiritual roles beyond ideological justification of imperial rule. The book introduces and translates a large number of previously unstudied archival sources in manuscript form, including scriptorium documents and colophons. It argues for a practice-based approach to ritual and reassesses scripture as a category constructed in part through ritual practices. My second book asks how Buddhism spread in ancient Japan. It offers one answer through a case study of provincial preaching. It highlights two features: mobility and the message. I argue that the construction of roads not only allowed preachers to travel to the provinces far earlier than previously thought but also that mass mobility created new ritual demands that Buddhism could meet. I pay close attention to the ways that preachers mobilized their messages by crafting doctrines in response to the needs of their village audiences and employing lively homiletic strategies to make their points. In addition to these book projects, I have published in English and Japanese on a variety of other topics including the  nature and structure of East Asian Buddhist canons, nineteenth- and twentieth- century debates over the state’s position relative to religion, sutras produced in China, and the religious practices of scribes and patrons. I teach undergraduate and graduate students in courses on Japanese religions, mythology, Zen, Buddhism and literature, and theory and method. I completed my undergraduate studies at Middlebury College in Vermont with a double major in Japanese and Religion. After graduating, I spent two years in Japan as a Coordinator for International Relations on the JET program in Nagano prefecture. I did my graduate work at Princeton University and was a research fellow at Otani University in Kyoto from 2010-2011. I have also had extended stays in other parts of Japan including Yokohama, Nagoya, and Himeji. I have received generous support for my research from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright IIE, ACLS/Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, Japan Foundation, Vanderbilt University Research Scholars Grant, the International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies (Tokyo), and others. My first book was awarded the John Whitney Hall Prize from he Association of Asian Studies. My 2012 dissertation won the  Stanley Weinstein Prize awarded to the best Ph.D. dissertation on East Asian Buddhism written in North America during the two previous years. I also edit an online  Guide to Shōsōin Research, where I blog about the Shōsōin. Interviews about my first book can be found in the Authorial Intentions podcast by Chris Benda and on the New Books Network with Luke Thompson.

MemberJames A Benn

My field of research is religion in medieval China (roughly fourth to tenth century, CE). To date I have concentrated on three major areas of interest: bodily practice in Chinese Religions; the creation and transmission of new religious practices and doctrines; and the religious dimensions of commodity culture.  In particular, I have focused on self-immolation, Chinese Buddhist apocrypha, the history of tea, and religion and the military.  I work with primary sources written in literary Chinese and my research engages with that of scholars who publish in English and French as well as in modern Chinese and Japanese.  Although my work is grounded in traditional Sinology—a discipline based on knowledge of the literature, history, and culture of pre-modern China—my publicationsare also aimed towards scholars of Religious Studies. I Self-immolation Self-immolation is an under-researched topic that is important for our understanding both of Buddhism in China and also the bodily forms of religious practice that appear in other cultures.  In my research I seek to explain how seemingly anomalous practices can provide new ways of understanding religion.  This project has resulted in a book, and a number of articles and book chapters. My first article on the topic, “Where Text Meets Flesh: Burning the Body as an ‘Apocryphal Practice’ in Chinese Buddhism” (1998), explores how texts (both apocryphal and canonical) and practices in Chinese Buddhism operated in a mutually reinforcing cycle so that doctrinal innovations spurred new modes of bodily piety while, conversely, practices that lacked textual sanction drove the creation of scripture. The book, Burning for the Buddha, is a comprehensive study of the subject.  It seeks first to place self-immolation in historical, social, ethical, cultural and doctrinal context via a thorough investigation of the practice throughout Chinese history.  Second, it investigates how self-immolation was constructed as a Chinese Buddhist practice by three types of historical actors: self-immolators, their biographers, and the compilers of hagiographical collections.  The book offers a detailed history of self-immolation in China from medieval times until the early twentieth century, and includes many annotated translations from primary sources. Four related articles and book chapters—“Spontaneous Human Combustion: Some Remarks on a Phenomenon in Chinese Buddhism”; “Fire and the Sword: Some Connections between Self-immolation and Religious Persecution in the History of Chinese Buddhism”; “Self-immolation in the Context of War and Other Natural Disasters”; and “Written in Flames: Self-immolation in Sixth Century Sichuan”—explore in more detail aspects of self-immolation that are only touched upon briefly in the book, such as the spontaneous nature of holy death, self-immolators as martyrs, self-immolation as a response to war and natural disasters, and self-immolation as a practice suitable for end-times. I have also published an article on Chinese Buddhist self-immolation in historical context and some annotated biographies of medieval self-immolators. II Apocrypha My studies on Chinese Buddhist apocrypha address how new concepts of religious practice entered the Buddhist canon in the form of scriptures composed in medieval China, rather than works translated from Indic languages. My article on a major apocryphal Buddhist text that decisively shaped Chinese Buddhism (“Another look at the pseudo-Śūramgama sūtra”) is the first study of the text in any European language. This study lays the foundation for my SSHRC-funded project, a scholarly translation (from Chinese to English) and book-length study of the Śūramgama sūtra.  “The Silent Samgha: Some Observations on Mute Sheep Monks” presents a new perspective on how monastic practice in medieval China was re-imagined on the basis of certain obscure passages of Buddhist scripture. III Tea The project on the role of tea in Chinese religions takes the form of a book-length monograph currently forthcoming from University of Hawai’i Press and a number of articles.  The chapter “Buddhism, Alcohol, and Tea in Medieval China,” in a volume on food and religion in traditional China, describes how Buddhists were active not only in changing people’s attitudes towards intoxicating substances, but also in spreading tea drinking throughout the empire. The book, Tea in China: A Religious and Cultural History, explores the contours of religious and cultural change in traditional China from the point of view of a commodity. I trace the development of tea drinking from its mythic origins to the late-imperial period (sixteenth to nineteenth centuries), and examine the changes in aesthetics, ritual, science, health, and knowledge which tea brought with it. The book contains many translations from the Chinese primary sources, including poetry. IV Religion and the Military in Medieval China The objectives of this SSHRC-sponsored project are to understand connections between the world of religion and the world of the military in medieval China (roughly fourth to tenth centuries CE). In particular, the research examines the interfaces between Buddhist and Daoist doctrine and practice and the concepts, institutions, and individuals that can be understood to constitute the “military” in medieval China. The issues are examined both from the side of the military, using historical documents from official and unofficial sources, and from the perspective of Buddhism and Daoism as seen in textual and art historical materials. Some questions that drive this research include: how did religious concepts and practices fit into the worldview of professional and conscript soldiers? What specific ritual practices were deployed in military life? Why and how did military leaders become patrons of religious institutions? Conversely, how and why did Buddhist and Daoist practitioners and scriptures make use of military concepts and images? The answers to such questions are clearly not restricted to the military arena, but will help us to understand better the seen and unseen worlds that medieval Chinese people inhabited. The project offers insight into the conceptual underpinnings of much of the later (post year 1000 AD) religious traditions of China, and allows us to see the significance of foundational Chinese ideas about martial practice and imagery for the religion and culture of neighbouring countries such as Korea, Japan and Vietnam.

MemberSarah Magnatta

Sarah received her PhD in Art History from The Ohio State University, specializing in Tibetan and South Asian art.  Her upcoming article is titled “Common Ground: Place and Identity in Contemporary Tibetan Art,” in a special issue of the Journal of the British Association for South Asian Studies.  She is currently an affiliate faculty member at the University of Denver, where she has taught since 2010.  Her courses include Asian art history, Tibetan art, Sacred Spaces, Politics in Art, and Buddhism in Art. She also teaches a travel course each summer that brings students to the galleries of New York City.  Titled “Tibet on Display,” the students learn how institutional motivations vary between places like the Met, the Natural History Museum, the Tibet House, and the Rubin Museum of Art. Sarah spent three years as the Interpretive Specialist of Asian Art at the Denver Art Museum, where she worked on exhibitions such as Ganesha: The Playful Protector and Linking Asia, for which she wrote the catalog essay “The Transmission of Buddhist Imagery throughout Asia.”  Sarah is now working on various exhibitions throughout Denver, including curating an exhibition with contemporary Cambodian artist Leang Seckon at McNichols Civic Center and an exhibition with contemporary Tibetan artist Tenzing Rigdol at the Emmanuel Art Gallery on Auraria campus.

MemberMartino Dibeltulo Concu

Martino Dibeltulo Concu is a historian of Buddhism who holds a Ph.D. in Tibetan and Buddhist Studies from the University of Michigan. His area of expertise is the history and historiography of Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist relations. His current projects include a study of the modern incorporation of China into the global flow of European ideas about the Buddha and a monograph on how the study of Buddhist Tantra has influenced Enlightenment legacies and global thought during the modern age.

MemberMichael Stanley-Baker

I am an historian of Chinese Medicine and Religion, with a focus first in the early Imperial period, and secondly in contemporary Taiwan, China and Han diasporic communities. I also have a clinical degree in Chinese medicine, and am interested in how healing practices bridge multiple personal, embodied and social dimensions. I am currently writing a book on the emergence of medicine and religion as different but closely related fields of practice in early imperial China, provisionally titled Situating Practice: Medicine and Religion in Early Imperial China. I am also co-editing two other books, the Routledge Handbook of Chinese Medicine and Situating Medicine and Religion Across Asia.  I am project lead on a Digital Humanities project titled Drugs Across Asia. This data-mines the Buddhist, Daoist and medical corpora for data concerning materia medica. This project combines text-marking, statistical analysis, network visualisation and GIS mapping to provide entirely new levels of analysis of pre-modern text corpora, showing the distribution of drug terms across time, space, and textual genre. It is a collaborative venture between the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, National Taiwan University and Dharma Drum Institute for Liberal Arts, with contributors from Fu-jen University, Taipei. The primary toolsets are DocuSky and MARKUS. I also serve as a Vice-President of the International Association for the Study of Asian Medicine (IASTAM), a multi-disciplinary society including history, anthropology, ethno-botany, ethno-pharmacology, public health, clinical trials, and is the only society of its kind to include practitioners. We publish the journal Asian Medicine, host conferences, and are engaged in collaborative research as well as advocacy to global institutions such as the WHO, the Humboldt Forum, and the WHS.