Using Atlas.ti for Buddhist cannonical analysis

Over at the Atlas.ti blog is an interesting article on the uses of its software in the analysis of Buddhist canonical texts. Atlas.ti is a prominent qualitative data analysis (QDA) software that I’m a little familiar with through my anthropological work. It’s main function is to allow researchers to code and analysis large amounts of text in order to find patterns and connections which aid the process of interpretation. 

This paper, by Fung Kei Cheng and entitled “Utilising Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software in Buddhist Canonical Analysis” shows how useful the software can be for finding patterns within enormous tracts of text such as Buddhist sutras. In Fung’s words:

This work specifies how to use ATLAS.ti 7, one of the leading computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS), or briefly, qualitative data analysis software (QDAS) (Lewins & Silver, 2007), in analysing the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra (henceforth called the Sūtra), the Buddhist canon adopted in the current research for conceptualising a Buddhist-based counselling framework. Therefore, it exemplifies only the relevant constituents, rather than the entire scriptural text, which aligns with the research objective and research questions.

The full text of the article is here.

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New Book: Spells, Images, and Mandalas: Tracing the Evolution of Esoteric Buddhist Rituals

Here’s an announcement regarding a new book on Buddhist ritual that might be of interest to readers:

Columbia University Press is pleased to announce the publication of Spells, Images, and Mandalas: Tracing the Evolution of Esoteric Buddhist Rituals by Koichi Shinohara.

  • A new study of the relationships between esoteric Buddhist rituals in India and manifestations in China
  • The second book in the Sheng Yen Series in Chinese Buddhism
  • Based on an enormous collection of research on Buddhist ritual texts
  • Explains both in theoretical and historical terms how Buddhist rituals and Buddhist Art interacted with each other

“Shinohara has given us an insightful and detailed examination of the transition between Mahāyāna and early Esoteric Buddhism based on Chinese sources. He has illuminated the development of practices that include the worship of images, visualizations, and the use of mandalas, and his painstaking discussions of rituals give us a vivid sense of how practices might have been performed.”
— Paul Groner, University of Virginia

Koichi Shinohara traces the evolution of Esoteric Buddhist rituals from the simple recitation of spells in the fifth century to complex systems involving image worship, mandala initiation, and visualization practices in the ninth century. He presents an important new reading of a seventh-century Chinese text called the Collected Dharani Sūtras, which shows how earlier rituals for specific deities were synthesized into a general Esoteric initiation ceremony and how, for the first time, the notion of an Esoteric Buddhist pantheon emerged.

In the Collected Dharani Sūtras, rituals for specific deities were typically performed around images of the deities, yet Esoteric Buddhist rituals in earlier sources involved the recitation of spells rather than the use of images. The first part of this study explores how such simpler rituals came to be associated with the images of specific deities and ultimately gave rise to the general Esoteric initiation ceremony described in the crucial example of the All-Gathering mandala ritual in the Collected Dharani Sūtras. The visualization practices so important to later Esoteric Buddhist rituals were absent from this ceremony, and their introduction would fundamentally change Esoteric Buddhist practice.

This study examines the translations of dhāranī sūtras made by Bodhiruci in the early eighth century and later Esoteric texts, such as Yixing’s commentary on the Mahāvairocana sūtra and Amoghavajra’s ritual manuals, to show how incorporation of visualization greatly enriched Esoteric rituals and helped develop elaborate iconographies for the deities. Over time, the ritual function of images became less certain, and the emphasis shifted toward visualization. This study clarifies the complex relationship between images and ritual, changing how we perceive Esoteric Buddhist art as well as ritual.

Koichi Shinohara teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University.

To find out more about this book, see:

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CfP: International Conference on Buddhism & Australia 2015

Call for Papers: IC Buddhism & Australia 2015

The 4th International Conference Buddhism & Australia will be held on
26-28 February, 2015 in Perth, Western Australia.

This conference investigates the history, current and future
directions of Buddhism in Australasian region; theme for Buddhism &
Australia 2015 will be Buddhist Symbols and Symbolism

The organizers are open to proposals for contributions on Buddhist
history, philosophy, texts as well for proposals on any related theme.

All Buddhists, scholars and members of the general public interested
in Buddhism are invited to present their papers in this coming
conference. Researchers across a broad range of disciplines are
welcomed as well the submission of pre-formed panel proposals.

What to Send

Proposals may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information:

  • author(s);
  • affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme
  • email address,
  • title of proposal,
  • body of proposal; no more than 300 words,
  • up to 10 keywords.
  • CV max 2 pages

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using
footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as
bold, italics or underline).

Proposals should be submitted by November 25, 2014 by the following
email: If a proposal is accepted for the
conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by January 20,
2015. We acknowledge receipt and answer to all proposals submitted

For further details of the conference, please visit:

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New Buddhist Institute in Europe

One of the less discussed modes in which transnational Buddhist connections and interactions are taking place globally is through education, particularly university-level institutions. Increasingly we are seeing the organisation of Buddhist education at a global scale through organisations like the International Association of Buddhist Universities, The International Association of Theravada Buddhist Universities, or through specific Buddhist universities with a global focus, such as The World Buddhist University. Interestingly, Thailand has a particularly important role in the international Buddhist education scene, a fact which has, as far as I know, not yet received detailed scholarly attention.

In an interesting new development, a new Institute has recently been established in Hungary through cooperation between the Dharma Gate Buddhist College and Mahachulongkornrajavidayala University, Thailand’s biggest Buddhist university.

The prestigious Mahachulongkornrajavidayala University of Thailand (MCU) is *opening wide* the gate of the Dharma in Europe.

The new institute, the European Buddhist Training Center (EBTC) is a cooperative effort between *Dharma Gate Buddhist College (DGBC),Hungary and MCU.

From September, 2014, we will open the Master of Arts Program in Buddhist Studies, an MCU accredited degree available at DGBC, Budapest. Language of instruction is English.

The EBTC is unique in a sense that this is the only school, where both religious practice *and* academic research of Buddhism meet in one state-accredited institute of higher education in Europe.

Please find more information on EBTC here:

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Latest JGB article: “Cultivating Charisma” by Clark Chilson

Our latest JGB article is now online. Here are the details:

“Cultivating Charisma: Ikeda Daisaku’s Self Presentations and Transformational Leadership” by Clark Chilson, University of Pittsburgh.

Abstract: Although social scientific studies of leadership have progressed significantly since the 1960s, discussions of popular religious leaders remain grounded in Weberian ideas on “charisma.” Because “charisma” in Weber’s writings lacks conceptual clarity and analytical precision, it fails to illuminate how specific understandings of popular leaders develop or how leaders create affective ties with followers. Weber’s discussions of charisma, however, can still lead to important questions. Using a Weberian statement on charisma as a departure point, this article argues on the basis of the published diary of Ikeda Daisaku, leader of the Nichiren Buddhist organization Sōka Gakkai, that self-representations by a leader can influence how followers understand him or her in a way that cultivates charisma. More specifically it argues that by depicting the mentor-disciple relationship as empowering, Ikeda’s diary can serve as a method for transformational leadership that fosters a sense of intimacy and nurtures affective ties with him.

Edit: I forgot to add a link to the article. Here it is (PDF).

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Conference on violence and non-violence in Japanese religions

Relevant to my most recent post, I’d like to mention that there is a conference coming up in Hawaii on the the subject of violence and non-violence in Japanese religion. Here are the details:

Numata Conference in Buddhist Studies, University of Hawaii. March 20–21, 2014 in the Hawaii Imin International Conference Center, Keoni Auditorium.

For two days, presentations, discussions, and movies will focus on the following theme: Violence, Nonviolence, and Japanese Religions: Past, Present, and Future

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Daizen Brian Victoria on D.T. Suzuki and the Nazis

The Asia Pacific Journal has recently published a series of three articles by Daizen Brian Victoria on the subject of D.T. Suzuki and the Nazis. This is the latest contribution by Victoria in his long-term research on the relationship between Zen Buddhism and war in Japan.

Here are the links to part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Over at the Sweeping Zen site, there’s an interesting (and robust) discussion going on the subject here: “An Article Concerning “D. T. Suzuki and the Nazis”“. As can be seen from the heated nature of the discussion it’s an extremely controversial subject. It’s thought-provoking stuff and well worth investigating.

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JGB volume 15 now online

I’m happy to announce that volume 15 of the Journal of Global Buddhism is now underway. The first three articles and one book review are now online, with much more in the pipeline. 

Here are the details of our first offerings for 2104:


Almost a Proper Buddhist: the Post-secular Complexity of Heritage Buddhist Teen Identity in Britain
By Phra Nicholas Thanissaro 
[abstract] [full textPage 1

From Buddhist Hippies to Buddhist Geeks: The Emergence of Buddhist Postmodernism?
By Ann Gleig 
[abstract] [full textPage 15

Diversification in the Buddhist Churches of America: Demographic Trends and Their Implications for the Future Study of U.S. Buddhist Groups
By Anne C. Spencer 
[abstract] [full textPage 35

Book review

The Arts of Contemplative Care: Pioneering Voices in Buddhist Chaplaincy and Pastoral Work by Cheryl A. Giles and Willa B. Miller. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2012, vii + 345 pages, ISBN 978-0-86171-664-7 (cloth), $34.95.

Reviewed by Wendy Cadge
[full textPage 63

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JewBu: Teaching resources on Jewish Buddhist encounters

A very interesting initiative I recently learnt about is called Jewish Buddhist Encounters, a website providing teaching resources on the intersection of Jewish and Buddhist religious identities in the USA. The site address issues to do with multiple religious identifications, the relationship between Jewish and Buddhist contemplative traditions, and the problem of multiple religious belonging for membership in religious organisations. The resources include literature on general issues of multiple religious identification, but the emphasis is on case studies “designed to enhance the ways in which theological and religious studies educators teach about the changing religious landscape in America”. The site would seem to offer an excellent set of resources, not only for teaching on  (and researching) the articulation of Judaism and Buddhism in the USA, but also for those interested in broader issues of religious belonging, transformation, “hybridity”, “Buddhism in the West”, and so forth.

These resources  were designed by Emily Sigalow and Wendy Cadge  of Brandeis University and Ellie Pierce at Harvard. The project receives support from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.

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Vello Vaartnou and the Encyclopedia of Chinese Buddhism

CBE Logo

Logo of the Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia

The following is an interview with Australian-based Estonian Buddhist monk and scholar Vello Vaartnou. It details an exciting project he has been working on since 2012 to develop the Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia, an online Wikipedia-style production which seeks to collect and curate knowledge about Buddhism. The emphasis is on Chinese Buddhism, as the name suggests, but the the Encyclopedia sets out to provide a repository of knowledge about Buddhism generally. It therefore promises to be of interest to Buddhists, regardless of tradition.

The interview has been reproduced with permission.


The First Year of Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia

The end of the year 2012 marked an important milestone in academic Buddhism.             During the PNC conference held at Berkeley University on 7-9 December, Vello Vaartnou , a Buddhist monk from Australia,  launched his voluminous new project, an online Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia.

Delegates attending the Berkeley conference.

Delegates attending the Berkeley conference.

It has taken Vaartnou many years to accumulate the knowledge and merit to start such a massive undertaking – one that is expected to continue long after most of our lifetimes.

Vello Vaartnou has been a dedicated Buddhist for over 40 years and has educated people in Buddhism in many countries. He established the practical Buddhist tradition and the first nyingma movement, the Estonian Buddhist Brotherhood  in 1980 and introduced the first Buddhist objects into the Estonian intellectual and religious landscape.

He has translated books and texts, built seven stupas (including the first stupas of Northern Europe), and prayer wheels and temples.

Vello Vaartnou himself is a significant person in terms of modernizing Buddhist teachings and making them more available. He is the first ever to start using computers to paint thangkas and design temples with 3-D software and is today the author of two online Buddhist Encyclopedias and founder of two annual international Buddhist conference  in Europe and Australia. Since 2010 Vaartnou has been developing international educational projects in the Australasian region, initiating the international conferences Buddhism & Australia, an online History of Buddhist Australia, series of exhibitions and an online Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia (CBE).

Vaartnou giving an interview in Hongkong

Vaartnou giving an interview in Hongkong

The first entries for the Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia were posted  in December 2012 and it has since grown to 20 000 articles in English and 4000 in Chinese. Vaartnou has continued his work on the project which is already considered one of the biggest online resources on Buddhism.

Let`s have a look at the CBE on its first birthday, and ask its author more about it.

Continue reading

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