Megan Bryson and Kevin Buckelew

Sep 22, 2023

Buddhist Masculinities

Columbia University Press 2023

While early Buddhists hailed their religion's founder for opening a path to enlightenment, they also exalted him as the paragon of masculinity. According to Buddhist scriptures, the Buddha's body boasts thirty-two physical features, including lionlike jaws, thighs like a royal stag, broad shoulders, and a deep, resonant voice, that distinguish him from ordinary men. As Buddhism spread throughout Asia and around the world, the Buddha remained an exemplary man, but Buddhists in other times and places developed their own understandings of what it meant to be masculine.

This transdisciplinary book brings together essays that explore the variety and diversity of Buddhist masculinities, from early India to the contemporary United States, and from bodhisattva-kings to martial monks. Buddhist Masculinities (Columbia UP, 2023) adopts the methods of religious studies, anthropology, art history, textual-historical studies, and cultural studies to explore texts, images, films, media, and embodiments of masculinity across the Buddhist world, past and present. It turns scholarly attention to normative forms of masculinity that usually go unmarked and unstudied precisely because they are "normal," illuminating the religious and cultural processes that construct Buddhist masculinities. Engaging with contemporary issues of gender identity, intersectionality, and sexual ethics, Buddhist Masculinities ushers in a new era for the study of Buddhism and gender.

MEGAN BRYSON is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and chair of the Asian Studies program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She received her B.A. in Religious Studies and Chinese from University of Oregon, and her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Stanford University. Her research focuses primarily on themes of gender and ethnicity in Chinese religions, especially in the Dali region of Yunnan Province. The geographical specificity of her work is balanced by its temporal breadth, which ranges from the Nanzhao (649-903) and Dali (937-1253) kingdoms to the present, as reflected in her monograph, Goddess on the Frontier: Religion, Ethnicity, and Gender in Southwest China (Stanford University Press, 2016, an interview with her about this book is also on the New Books Network), which traces the worship of a local deity in Dali from the 12th to 21st centuries.

KEVIN BUCKELEW is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Northwestern University. He received his B.A. in the liberal arts from Sarah Lawrence College, and his Ph.D. from Columbia University's Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. His research focuses on Buddhism in premodern China, with special attention to the rise of the Chan (Zen) Buddhist tradition and to interactions between Chinese Buddhists and Daoists. Thematically, his work explores how religious identities take shape and assume social authority; how materiality, embodiment, and gender figure into Buddhist soteriology; and how Buddhists have grappled with the problem of human agency.

Jue Liang is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Case Western Reserve University. She is currently completing her first book, entitled Conceiving the Mother of Tibet: The Early Literary Lives of the Buddhist Saint Yeshé Tsogyel. She is also working on a second project, tentatively titled i. As a scholar of Buddhist literature, history, and culture in South and East Asia, she reflects in her research and teaching continuities as well as innovations in the gender discourses of Buddhist communities. She is also interested in the theory and practice of translation in general, and translating Tibetan literature in particular.

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Jue Liang

Jue Liang is a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism. She is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Severance Professor in the History of Religion at Case Western Reserve University.
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