Wisdom as a Way of Life

Theravāda Buddhism Reimagined

Steven Collins. Edited by Justin McDaniel. Preface by Dan Arnold. Afterword by Charles Hallisey.

Columbia University Press

Wisdom as a Way of Life

Pub Date: July 2020

ISBN: 9780231197212

304 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $35.00£30.00

Pub Date: July 2020

ISBN: 9780231197205

304 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $140.00£115.00

Pub Date: July 2020

ISBN: 9780231552042

304 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£30.00

Wisdom as a Way of Life

Theravāda Buddhism Reimagined

Steven Collins. Edited by Justin McDaniel. Preface by Dan Arnold. Afterword by Charles Hallisey.

Columbia University Press

This wide-ranging and powerful book argues that Theravāda Buddhism provides ways of thinking about the self that can reinvigorate the humanities and offer broader insights into how to learn and how to act. Steven Collins argues that Buddhist philosophy should be approached in the spirit of its historical teachers and visionaries, who saw themselves not as preservers of an archaic body of rules but as part of a timeless effort to understand what it means to lead a worthy life. He contends that Buddhism should be studied philosophically, literarily, and ethically using its own vocabulary and rhetorical tools. Approached in this manner, Buddhist notions of the self help us rethink contemporary ideas of self-care and the promotion of human flourishing.

Collins details the insights of Buddhist texts and practices that promote the ideal of active and engaged learning, offering an expansive and lyrical reflection on Theravāda approaches to meditation, asceticism, and physical training. He explores views of monastic life and contemplative practices as complementing and reinforcing textual learning, and argues that the Buddhist tenet that the study of philosophy and ethics involves both rigorous reading and an ascetic lifestyle has striking resonance with modern and postmodern ideas. A bold reappraisal of the history of Buddhist literature and practice, Wisdom as a Way of Life offers students and scholars across the disciplines a nuanced understanding of the significance of Buddhist ways of knowing for the world today.
Collins’ previous books have all been field-changing works. Wisdom as a Way of Life is no exception. This powerful work provides original and stimulating ways of understanding Pali texts, while creating a bridge between scholars of the Pali world and intellectual historians working elsewhere. His thoughtful comparative engagement with studies of asceticism and courtly-literary culture offers much of value to scholars of South and Southeast Asia, as well as other premodern arenas. Anne M. Blackburn, author of Locations of Buddhism: Colonialism and Modernity in Sri Lanka
Wisdom as a Way of Life shows a brilliant mind at work and at struggle with the problems of his primary field of interest. Steven Collins introduces us to the blacksmith's shop: we feel his sweat, we sense his temper, we regret a few easy or even failed strokes, but we see the artwork taking shape. Louis Gabaude, Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient
Preface, by Dan Arnold
Editor’s Introduction, by Justin Thomas McDaniel
Part One: Wisdom
Part Two: Practices of Self
Conclusion
Afterword: Reading Collins Today, and Tomorrow, by Charles Hallisey
Notes
Index

About the Author

Steven Collins (1951–2018) was Chester D. Tripp Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago, where he was affiliated with the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and with the Divinity School. Among his many works are Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities: Utopias of the Pali Imaginaire (1998) and, as editor, Readings of the Vessantara Jātaka (Columbia, 2016).

Justin McDaniel is professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk: Practicing Buddhism in Modern Thailand (Columbia, 2011).

Dan Arnold is associate professor of philosophy of religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His books include Brains, Buddhas, and Believing: The Problem of Intentionality in Classical Buddhist and Cognitive-Scientific Philosophy of Mind (Columbia, 2012).

Charles Hallisey is Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist Literatures at Harvard Divinity School. His books include Therigatha: Poems of the First Buddhist Women (2015).