After months of learning WordPress and gathering links and making lists, I am finally “going live” with this Buddhist Fiction Blog. I hope that this blog evolves into a space for conversation and thought about novels and short stories that have been labeled “Buddhist Fiction,” as well as discussion about the label “Buddhist Fiction” itself.

In the next two posts I will explore this label, “Buddhist Fiction,” what it could mean and/or represent. In future posts, I will write about works that have been labeled Buddhist Fiction and what they can possibly reveal about modern Buddhism as it is developing in an English speaking and reading context.

Until then, sapere aude (dare to know).

10 responses to “Live!

  1. Good idea for a blog. You can put sharing links on your blog posts in WordPress for twitter, facebook and others-its in the dashboard under sharing. There is much to discuss on this topic and I wish you success with this blog.

  2. Don’t forget Bangkok Haunts, Bangkok Tattoo and The Godfather of Kathmandu, also by John Burdett who wrote Bangkok 8. And then there’s Red Poppies, by Alai.

  3. Oh, and how could you leave out “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”?

    • I may have left it out because it wasn’t mentioned in the book reviews or blogs about Buddhist Fiction from which I have developed the list. But now that you have mentioned it, Pirsig’s book is Buddhist Fiction list-worthy!

  4. This may be really elitist, but I would be really interested in a distinction between those works that are seen by authorized Buddhist teachers to have some sort of teaching value – or to have come from authors who have attained some degree of insight/understanding – vs. those works that simply deal with Buddhist themes and concepts, from authors who may not really “get it”….

    • I don’t think your sentiment is really elitist. It’s a good question. This is similar to the question behind some of my research, especially the focus groups I conduct wherein I ask people who practice Buddhism (some lay people and some teachers, some monks and nuns) to read two short stories of Buddhist Fiction and discuss the stories (see the “Research” page on the blog). I try to get at whether there is, or to what extent there is, Buddha dharma in these works. In the background, I always have to keep in mind that the novels and short story anthologies I have listed were labeled “Buddhist Fiction” by reviewers, bloggers and authors who are themselves Buddhist practitioners or sympathizers (see the “Lists and Reviews” page on the blog). Contemporary genre theory holds that it is this communal recognition of a group of materials that generates genre categories. So in this way, perhaps Buddhist Fiction is a reflection of a shift away from the need for “authorized Buddhist teachers” to label something Buddhist. This shift seems to me at once Buddhist and modern; Buddhist in light of the Buddhist teaching in the Kalama Sutra to question what has been recounted or passed on by tradition and determine for oneself which teachings to accept as true; and, modern in a collective, democratic fashion that reflects the way in which entire Buddhist communities in the West are organized and run by lay people. As one of my focus group participants noted, when your practice becomes your lifestyle, you see the dharma in everything.

      • Maybe I’m not only elitist but also traditionalist/fundamentalist. But I actually think there is insight, which Buddhism seeks to cultivate. I also think it’s very easy – even for long-time practitioners – to get tripped out on Buddhist concepts and get it all wrong. (Buddhism is all about making the distinction, even if it takes the Zen Master’s stick.) Furthermore, the former may have no Buddhist signatures at all, while the latter may be all gussied up in Buddhist clothes. Personally, I really have no interest in the latter, while I would be very interested in fiction (whether Buddhist or not) that does reflect Buddhist insight.

      • Sorry for the delayed response – work keeps getting in the way of my fun! I agree that fiction which reflects Buddhist insight is material that would interest Buddhists who also enjoy reading fiction. I like to think of such Buddhist insight as bits of dharma hidden in the fiction. Yet picking out these bits of dharma is a highly subjective matter. Fiction readers who are new to Buddhist practice may not see the deep Buddhist insights in the work of something as highly literate and complex as Charles Johnson’s novels (here I am thinking of “Oxherding Tale” and “Middle Passage”). If the Buddhist insights in Johnson’s novels are overlooked, does this make either the new Buddhist or Charles Johnson’s work less Buddhist? On the other hand, a novel such as “Hidden Buddhas: A Novel of Karma and Chaos” by Liza Dalby is so well researched and filled with information on Buddhism in Japan that I would be inclined to use it to help teach a university level course on Shingon. If a new Buddhist learns more about Buddhism from Dalby’s novel, does this make either the new Buddhist or Dalby’s work more Buddhist? I really don’t have good answers to my own questions here. I rely on literati to label what might be considered Buddhist Fiction and I try to examine these works in the context of Buddhism as it is developing in both Canada and the U.S. In doing so, what I am coming to understand is that by examining this emerging sub-genre that has been labeled Buddhist Fiction I am also examining the identity label “Buddhist” and the creative act that is reading. If you have any insights on these, please share. In the mean time, I hope in this reply that I have listed three works that may interest you enough to read and let me know what you think of them. Thank-you so much for your thoughtful comments – they have been a wonderful start for this blog!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.