Sumeru Publishes Charles Prebish’s An American Buddhist Life: Memoirs of a Modern Dharma Pioneer

I’m very pleased to tell you that our friend Charles Prebish — the recently-retired Charles Redd Chair in Religious Studies at Utah State University, and author of (among many other important works) Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America – has a new book out: An American Buddhist Life: Memoirs of a Modern Dharma Pioneer. It’s available right now at Barnes & Noble and at The official press release is below (click to enlarge the pages).

Congrats, Chuck! Can’t wait to read it!

Please Check Out My Latest Post for Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly Online: Remembrances of Dr. Leslie Kawamura by John Harding and Charles Prebish

Dr. Kawamura receiving the Order of the University of Calgary in June 2010.

Earlier in the week, I posted about the recent death of Dr. Leslie Kawamura — one of the titans of modern Buddhist Studies, Professor of Religious Studies and Holder of the Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies at the University of Calgary, and a significant figure in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in North America. Today, over at Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly Online, I posted interviews I conducted with two men who knew him well: John Harding — Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Lethbridge, and a co-editor of Wild Geese: Buddhism in Canadaand our friend Charles Prebish — the recently-retired Charles Redd Chair in Religious Studies at Utah State University, and author of (among many other important works) Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America. Here’s a snippet of my exchange with Chuck:

You were telling me that during your time as Numata Chair, you two 
ate lunch together every day and that “during those hours [you] got
 possibly the best Buddhist education [you’ve] ever received.” What
 exactly did Dr. Kawamura offer in those hours? How did his teachings
 accentuate the tremendous learning and research you’d already done at 
that point?

The highlight of my time in Calgary was our daily lunches. Usually, around noon, Leslie and I would meet in his office, often with other faculty members and students included, and just brainstorm about all things Buddhist. Nothing was ever pre-planned. We just spontaneously discussed whatever came up on any specific day. It didn’t matter whether it was Vinaya or Vimalakirti, monasticism or meditation, the discussions were lively and free-spirited.

Read the rest here.

Charles Prebish and Damien Keown’s Buddhism–The eBook is Now Available in Its Fourth Edition

Buddhism--The eBook -- An Online IntroductionThis via our friend, the super-great Charles Prebish, at H-Buddhism (The Buddhist Scholars Information Network):

The Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books Project would like to announce the publication of the 4th edition of Buddhism-The eBook. This eTextbook is available from our website at

New features in Buddhism–The eBook, Fourth Edition include:

  • A new chapter structure
  • New versions of several chapters
  • More material on the different schools of Buddhism including explanations in graphic form, monastic life, popular religion, Buddhist ethics, ritual, the Bodhisattva Path, the Jatakas, the transmission of Buddhism, and class, gender and race
  • Improved illustrations, charts, and graphics
  • Updated internet links

We continue to offer eBooks on Hinduism (by Hillary Rodrigues), Chinese Religions (by Mario Poceski), Daosim (by Livia Kohn), Japanese Religions (by Robert Ellwood), traditional Western Religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and American Religions), and World Religions.

As a courtesy to colleagues teaching Asian Religions survey courses, we have collected the Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese Religions, and Japanese Religions eBooks into an “Asian Religions Bundle” which offers students a 20% discount over against the individual prices of the eBooks. We are also willing to create individualized “bundles” to meet other academic needs of our colleagues.

Get your copy at

You Gotta Watch This…

Charles Prebish

I’ve blogged before about Utah State University’s wonderful Charles Prebish, who is (among many other things) effectively the Dean of the Study of Buddhism in North America. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the absolutely essential, must-reads Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America and Buddhist Monastic Discipline: The Sanskrit Prātimoksạ Sūtras of the Mahāsāmg̣hikas and Mūlasarvāstivādins. In addition, he is the co-founder of The Journal of Buddhist Ethics, the Buddhism Section of the American Academy of Religion, and Routledge’s “Critical Studies in Buddhism” series. Most recently, he was very deservedly honored with the “festschrift” Buddhist Studies from India to America: Essays in Honor of Charles S. Prebish in 2005, which acknowledges the tremendous debt our field owes him for all of his efforts.

Chuck, whom I had the great pleasure to meet at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting in San Diego in 2007 and today enjoy a lovely e-mail correspondence with, is retiring in December. His last academic presentation as “an employed scholar” was the keynote address at last month’s “Buddhism in Canada: Global Causes, Local Conditions” conference at the University of British Columbia: “The Swans Came to Canada Too: Looking Backward and Looking Forward”. The video of that address is below, and it’s an exceptional “state of the union” kind of talk about past and present trends in the study of Buddhism in North America.

Among other things, Chuck looks seriously at Buddhist blogs. In doing so, he ends up saying some really lovely things about this blog. I’m incredibly honored and flattered by his comments, especially since he’s been such a hero of mine as a young academic situated firmly in the “scholar-practitioner” category he defined. Anyway, if you want to skip ahead to the section of his talk on Buddhist blogs, click this link. Otherwise the entirety of his talk is below — and I strongly encourage everyone to watch it and (if you’re a blogger) blog your thoughts about it.

“American Zenophilia”

Humanities, a publication of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has a story in the latest issue about Buddhism in America.  Among others, author Sarah Pulliam Bailey talks to Christopher Queen, the Harvard scholar behind Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia (with Sallie B. King) and Engaged Buddhism in the West; David Grubin, director of PBS’s upcoming The Buddha; the one and only Robert Thurman; University of Texas scholar Thomas Tweed, author of The American Encounter with Buddhism, 1844-1912: Victorian Culture and the Limits of Dissent; Methodist Theological School’s Paul Numerich, author of Old Wisdom in the New World: Americanization in Two Immigrant Theravada Buddhist Temples; Utah State University’s Charles Prebish, author of many works on Buddhism in America, including Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America; and our pal in the Buddhoblogosphere Scott A. Mitchell of the buddha is my dj and the DharmaRealm podcast.  Take a look right here!

Buddhologists Charles Prebish and Damien Keown on Religious Studies eTextbooks

Over at JBE Online Books, Buddhologists Charles Prebish and Damien Keown have an intriguing piece entitled “Religious Studies eTextbooks: A Modest Experiment”.  In it, they write:

One decade later, it was becoming overwhelmingly apparent that textbook costs were mirroring the price explosion that had rocked the world of scholarly journals; and in subsequent years, our failing economy has only added to the dilemma. Today, for example, the retail cost of Mary Pat Fisher’s highly popular 7th edition of Living Religions is about $100., Warren Matthews’ fine World Religions sells for almost $110, and Robert Ellwood’s still popular Many People, Many Faiths (9th edition) costs nearly $90. For colleagues teaching in our discipline—Buddhist Studies—the situation is perhaps worse. One of the most successful introductory volumes on the Buddhist tradition is the course text now called Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction by Richard H. Robinson (the original author), Willard Johnson, and Thanissaro Bhikkhu. It’s a great book, but it costs $75. Since it is also important to have our students read textual materials, we need to add a book of scripture extracts like John Strong’s wonderful volumeThe Buddhist Experience: Sources and Interpretations. But that book sells for about $80, so students using those two volumes in an introductory course need to pony up more than $150.00 at the start. Even if one finds a solid but more economically priced introductory text, like Donald Mitchell’sBuddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience, which sells for $40, once you add in a volume of scriptures, the cost to students is still at least $100. To make matters worse, many students will buy the books, but do not even read them. Instead, in our new technological era, students’ avenue of entry into the subject matter of our field is often through the Internet. Then, at semester’s end, they simply sell the textbooks to a buyback dealer or their campus bookstore, and lose all but a few dollars of their original investment, while the bookstore or buyback dealer reaps a whirlwind of profit on the second (or third) time around.

Is there some reasonable way around this “lose-lose” situation in which the students lose money, the publishers ultimately lose money through book resales (forcing new editions to be published as a possible antidote, driving prices still higher), and the authors lose money as well in lost royalties…while the bookstores reap multiple-time profits? At a time when students are spending many hundreds of dollars per semester on textbooks, and thus putting an enormous strain on their personal and family finances, is it possible to turn this unfortunate circumstance into a “win-win” situation that puts cash back in students’ wallets, rewards authors for the often thankless task of writing excellent textbooks, provides great resources to students engaged in studying religions, and acknowledges what we all too clearly have learned in recent times: students live vast portions of their lives embraced by technology? Many, if not most students are rarely without their cellphone in their hand. They’re constantly calling, or texting their colleagues. Their iPods are dangling from their earphones. Twitter is the new craze, and many students now sit in their wi-fi classrooms surfing the Internet instead of listening to their professors’ lectures. One recent day, not too long ago, one of us walked out of class behind one of our students who immediately started texting someone on his cellphone. The student became so engrossed in his texting (or maybe even sexting) that he walked squarely into a lamppost, spilling coffee all over himself and breaking his eyeglasses! In 2004, we decided to embrace this new technology as a means of finding an alternative to continually rocketing textbook costs. We started the Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books project (

Read the rest here.