Ibn 'Asakir of Damascus: Champion of Sunni Islam in the Time of the Crusades
Suleiman A. Mourad
‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir (1105-1176) was one of the most renowned experts on Hadith and Islamic history in the medieval era. His was a tumultuous time: centuries of Shi‘i rule had not long ended in central Syria, rival warlords sought control of the capital, and Crusaders had captured Jerusalem.
Seeking the unification of Syria and Egypt, and the revival of Sunnism in both, Ibn ‘Asakir served successive Muslim rulers, including Nur al-Din and Saladin, and produced propaganda against both the Christian invaders and the Shi‘is. This, together with his influential writings and his advocacy of major texts, helped to lay the foundations for the eventual Sunni domination of the Levant - a domination which continues to this day. (From publisher)
Classical stories and depictions of hungry ghosts not only tell us a great deal about Buddhism in the ancient world—they also speak to the modern human condition.
The realm of hungry ghosts is one of the unfortunate realms of rebirth in the Buddhist cycle of existence, and those reborn there are said to have led lives consumed by greed and spite. Hungry ghosts are often described as having enormous stomachs and tiny mouths, forever thwarted in their search for food.
One of the earliest sources about hungry ghosts is the ten stories about them in the Avadanasataka (One Hundred Stories), a Buddhist scripture from the early centuries of the Common Era, and these ten stories are elegantly translated in this volume. These hungry ghosts know the error of their ways, and they sometimes appear among humans, like the ghosts that haunt Ebenezer Scrooge, as augurs of what may await. Their bodies trigger disgust, but their aim is to inspire in us a disgust with the human thoughts that lead to such wretched bodies. Hungry-ghost stories are meant to shock us out of our complacency.
Artistic depictions of the travails of hungry ghosts are found throughout the Buddhist world, and Hungry Ghosts reproduces some of the best examples with detailed descriptions. The volume also begins with a meditation on meanness (matsarya), the mental state that engenders rebirth as a hungry ghost. We discover how the understanding of miserliness, cruelty, and bad faith found in the stories illuminates the human condition, offering insight and inspiring compassion for readers both in ancient times and in the world today.
Mormonism: The Basics
David Howlett and John-Charles Duffy
Although often regarded as marginal or obscure, Mormonism is a significant American religious minority, numerically and politically. The successes and struggles of this U.S. born religion reveal much about how religion operates in U.S. society. Mormonism: The Basics introduces the teachings, practices, evolution, and internal diversity of this movement, whose cultural icons range from Mitt Romney to the Twilight saga, from young male missionaries in white shirts and ties to polygamous women in pastel prairie dresses.
This is the first introductory text on Mormonism that tracks not only the mainstream LDS but also two other streams within the movement—the liberalized RLDS and the polygamous Fundamentalists—thus showing how Mormons have pursued different approaches to defining their identity and their place in society. The book addresses these questions.
- Are Mormons Christian, and why does it matter?
- How have Mormons worked out their relationship to the state?
- How have Mormons diverged in their thinking about gender and sexuality?
- How do rituals and regulations shape Mormon lives?
- What types of sacred spaces have Mormons created?
- What strategies have Mormons pursued to establish a global presence?
Mormonism: The Basics is an ideal introduction for anyone wanting to understand this religion within its primarily American but increasingly globalized contexts. (From publisher)
Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation
William Elison, Christian Lee Novetzke, and Andy Rotman
A Bollywood blockbuster when it was released in 1977, Amar Akbar Anthony has become a classic of Hindi cinema and a touchstone of Indian popular culture. Delighting audiences with its songs and madcap adventures, the film follows the heroics of three Bombay brothers separated in childhood from their parents and one another. Beyond the freewheeling comedy and camp, however, is a potent vision of social harmony, as the three protagonists, each raised in a different religion, discover they are true brothers in the end. William Elison, Christian Lee Novetzke, and Andy Rotman offer a sympathetic and layered interpretation of the film’s deeper symbolism, seeing it as a lens for understanding modern India’s experience with secular democracy.
Amar Akbar Anthony’s celebration of an India built on pluralism and religious tolerance continues to resonate with audiences today. But it also invites a critique of modernity’s mixed blessings. As the authors show, the film’s sunny exterior only partially conceals darker elements: the shadow of Partition, the crisis of Emergency Rule, and the vexed implications of the metaphor of the family for the nation. The lessons viewers draw from the film depend largely on which brother they recognize as its hero. Is it Amar, the straight-edge Hindu policeman? Is it Akbar, the romantic Muslim singer? Or is it Anthony, the Christian outlaw with a heart of gold? In this book’s innovative and multi-perspectival approach, each brother makes his case for himself (although the last word belongs to their mother).
Thus Have I Seen: Visualizing Faith in Early Indian Buddhism
Although Buddhism is often depicted as a religion of meditators and philosophers, some of the earliest writings extant in India offer a very different portrait of the Buddhist practitioner. In Indian Buddhist narratives from the early centuries of the Common Era, most lay religious practice consists not of reading, praying, or meditating, but of visually engaging with certain kinds of objects. These visual practices, moreover, are represented as the primary means of cultivating faith, a necessary precondition for proceeding along the Buddhist spiritual path. In Thus Have I Seen: Visualizing Faith in Early Indian Buddhism, Andy Rotman examines these visual practices and how they function as a kind of skeleton key for opening up Buddhist conceptualizations about the world and the ways it should be navigated.
Rotman's analysis is based primarily on stories from the Divyavadana (Divine Stories), one of the most important collections of ancient Buddhist narratives from India. Though discourses of the Buddha are well known for their opening words, "thus have I heard" - for Buddhist teachings were first preserved and transmitted orally - the Divyavadana presents a very different model for disseminating the Buddhist dharma. Devotees are enjoined to look, not just hear, and visual legacies and lineages are shown to trump their oral counterparts. As Rotman makes clear, this configuration of the visual fundamentally transforms the world of the Buddhist practitioner, changing what one sees, what one believes, and what one does.
Divine Stories: Translations from the Divyāvadāna, part 1
Divine Stories is the inaugural volume in a landmark translation series devoted to making the wealth of classical Indian Buddhism accessible to modern readers. The stories here, among the first texts to be inscribed by Buddhists, highlight the moral economy of karma, illustrating how gestures of faith, especially offerings, can bring the reward of future happiness and ultimate liberation. Originally contained in the Divyavadana, an enormous compendium of Sanskrit Buddhist narratives from the early Common Era, the stories in this collection express the moral and ethical impulses of Indian Buddhist thought and are a testament to the historical and social power of narrative. Long believed by followers to be the actual words of the Buddha himself, these divine stories are without a doubt some of the most influential stories in the history of Buddhism.
Divine Stories: Translations from the Divyāvadāna, part 2
Explore this second volume of translations, in vivid prose, from one of the most celebrated collections of ancient Buddhist stories.
Actions never come to naught, even after hundreds of millions of years. When the right conditions gather and the time is right, then they will have their effect on embodied beings.
Ancient Buddhist literature is filled with tales of past lives. The Buddha, surrounded by his followers, is asked how it came to be that a certain person has met a particular fate. With his omniscience, the Buddha looks into eons past and uncovers the events that led to the present outcome and foretells the future as well. With stories of wicked wives, patricidal princes, and shape-shifting serpents, Divine Stories offers a fascinating illustration of the law of karma—the truth that the power of good and bad deeds is never lost. These are some of the oldest Buddhist tales ever committed to writing, illuminating the culture of northern India in the early centuries of the common era and bringing to life the Buddhist values of generosity and faith.
Andy Rotman’s evocative translation combines accuracy with readability, with detailed editorial notes comparing readings in various Sanskrit, Pali, and Tibetan sources. Divine Stories is a major contribution to Indian and Buddhist studies.
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