bridging the divide

One of my objectives with this new iteration of the blog is to provide readers with more resources on the study of Buddhism. I believe deeply in the academic study of Buddhism — and not just because I have a vested interest in it as a professional academic! I believe that the textual, doctrinal, philosophical, and historical study of one’s tradition is necessarily a good thing, whether you decide to devote your life to it or not, regardless of whether or not you decide to enroll in some formal program of study.

Too often I fear, those on the practitioner’s side delude themselves into thinking that Buddhism is all experience, that they need not bother with formal study. This seems like willful ignorance to me, a sort of anti-intellectualism that we’re quick to denounce in other areas of our public discourse — why not in Buddhism?

But I also fear that those on the scholar’s side delude themselves into thinking that what they’re working on has no relevance for practitioners or, worse, that what they’re working on is real Buddhism, that practitioners (particularly those in the west) aren’t authentically Buddhist. This is a sort of academic elitism that we need to work hard against.

The truth is, without scholars (both secular academics and monastics) practitioners would have little knowledge of Buddhism. (That translation of the Lotus Sutra you carry around with you? Who do you think translated it?) And scholars need to recognize that without pracitioners, no one would buy their books. We are nothing without the other. We need to bridge this imarginary and useless gap between scholars and practitioners.

To that end, I have the following two bits of news to share. First, the H-Buddhism email list has started a Twiter feed. H-Buddhism is a list for scholars of Buddhism, a way to share information about new journals, calls for papers, jobs, and the like. Also, there’s some fairly good discussion there now and again about the subtlities and complexities of Buddhism. To subscribe, you need to be a professional academic (or on your way to becoming one), but the archives have always been open to the public. It’s great that the moderators have chosen to feed these archives to Twitter. It will no doubt allow for a greater number of people to discover what’s happening in the field.

Secondly, a new social networking site has come to my attention, Academia.edu, a sort of LinkedIn meets Facebook for professional academics. The service allows you to follow particular people as well as journals and what not. It’s new, and I’m not 100% sure how it all works (or if it’ll be actually useful in the long run), but in the interest of giving the new thing a shot, here it is. And here I am, if you’re interested.

So. The more you know.

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