Reinventing the Wheel

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More About This Textbook

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295986494
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 7.29 (w) x 10.17 (h) x 1.14 (d)

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    history, varieties, and meaning of the wheel symbol in Buddhism

    Teiser--D. T. Sukuki professor in Buddhist Studies at Princeton--puts the classical source of the wheel as the preferred and eventually conventional symbol for the Buddhist spiritual concept of a series of lifetimes for nearly every person with the Mulasarvastivada school of Indian Buddhism. Although this school is only one of many schools of Buddhism which have grown up throughout Asia over centuries, the location of the Mulasarvastivada school in north-central India where Buddhism originated and the time of its formation in the early though not the initial development of Indian Buddhism gave its teachings and practices an exceptional canonical authority. '[A]s the canonical story of the wheel of rebirth shows, the vinaya [the 'voluminous canon of monastic discipline'] provided the narrative authority for a collective enterprise that drew lay people to Buddhist temples and sent monks and nuns out into the lay community.' The circular shape of the wheel is the basic configuration uniting this central symbol of Buddhism as it spread throughout Asia in the following centuries. Like the cross of Christianity, the wheel of Buddhism has become identified with this world religion. But different features of the wheel symbolizing different concepts and tenets of Buddhism have been emphasized in different regions and different times. The wheel's hub, spokes, and rim are three 'compositional elements' highlighted by Teiser with the hub, for instance, signifying both a focus and 'what drives the wheel, what makes it go around.' The fourth 'property of the wheel is that it marks off an inside from an outside.' This most complex compositional element of a wheel represents the closed system involving endless cycles of death and rebirth, but also indicates transcendence beyond this since the Buddhist wheel is always in the context of a square frame putting the wheel into perspective and suggesting that there is a realm of spirituality outside of it. 'The point of the wheel, so to speak, is to move outside of it.' With keen aesthetic discernment, extensive historical scholarship, and sensitivity to Buddhist spirituality, this work seamlessly studies all significant aspects of the Buddhist wheel found in old Buddhist temples while bringing in relevant dimensions of Buddhist spirituality. Art, symbology, history, culture, and spirituality are interwoven in an engrossing, enlightening manner.

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