Buddhist Literature as Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy as Literature

Edited by Rafal K. Stepien

Subjects: Buddhism, Religion, Asian Religion And Philosophy, Comparative Literature, Philosophy Of Literature
Paperback : 9781438480701, 398 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438480718, 398 pages, November 2020

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Explores the relationship between literature and philosophy in classical and contemporary Buddhist texts.


Can literature reveal reality? Is philosophical truth a literary artifice? How does the way we think affect what we can know? Buddhism has been grappling with these questions for centuries, and this book attempts to answer them by exploring the relationship between literature and philosophy across the classical and contemporary Buddhist worlds of India, Tibet, China, Japan, Korea, and North America. Written by leading scholars, the book examines literary texts composed over two millennia, ranging in form from lyric verse, narrative poetry, panegyric, hymn, and koan, to novel, hagiography, (secret) autobiography, autofiction, treatise, and sutra, all in sustained conversation with topics in metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, and the philosophies of mind, language, literature, and religion.

Interdisciplinary and cross-cultural, this book deliberately works across and against the boundaries separating three mainstays of humanistic pursuit—literature, philosophy, and religion—by focusing on the multiple relationships at play between content and form in works drawn from a truly diverse range of philosophical schools, literary genres, religious cultures, and historical eras. Overall, the book calls into question the very ways in which we do philosophy, study literature, and think about religious texts. It shows that Buddhist thought provides sophisticated responses to some of the perennial problems regarding how we find, create, and apply meaning—on the page, in the mind, and throughout our lives.

Rafal K. Stepien is Assistant Professor in Comparative Religion at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.


"This book provides readers with a deeper understanding of the relationship between religion, philosophy, and literature within Buddhism." — Religious Studies Review

"…[Stepien] should be commended for bringing together an excellent collection of essays and producing the first comprehensive volume that offers a coherent study of the relationship between Buddhist literature and philosophy. This book is an ambitious and praiseworthy project, which covers a wide range of Buddhist literary genres produced in India, Tibet, and East Asia over two millennia." — Philosophy East and West

"…this volume gathers some important studies on the relationship between literary genres and specimen in their articulation of Buddhist doctrines." — Religion

"This volume is a significant contribution to the growing critical awareness in the global humanities that scholarship confined solely to Western texts and approaches is seldom applicable to the wider world. While there are numerous books on Buddhist literature with philosophical content and contributions, this one explores the relationship more explicitly, and makes a great reader for courses on world literature, Buddhist literature, or Asian philosophy." — Michael R. Sheehy, coeditor of The Other Emptiness: Rethinking the Zhentong Buddhist Discourse in Tibet