INTERPRETING AMIDA: HISTORY AND ORIENTALISM IN THE STUDY OF PURE LAND BUDDHISM, by Galen Amstutz. Albany: SUNY Press, 1997. 248 pages.
$21.95. A landmark in the unveiling of still-prevailing orientalist biases in the study of non- Western religions. Pure Land Buddhism, based on Indian Mah_y_na sutras, was born in medieval China then transplanted to Japan.
The most successful Pure Land movement, Shinran's J_do Shinsh_ (also known as "Shin Buddhism"), evolved into the most widespread form of Buddhism in modern Japan (and among Japanese-Americans). But Western scholars have generally ignored it: they misinterpreted it as a parallel to Christianity, and turned to the more exotic traditions, like Zen, which they see as providing an interesting contrast with Western faiths. This sound and well-argued volume is an invaluable mirror for those who study non- Western religions, and will also interest scholars who scrutinize Western models for interpreting non-Western cultures.
Russell Kirkland, University of Georgia Athens, GA 30602 ... more. less.