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Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet: Book by Janet Gyatso

Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet

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ISBN: 9780231164962    Publisher: Columbia University Press Year of publishing: 2015     Format:  Hardback No of Pages: 544        Language: English
Critically exploring scientific thought and its relation to religion in traditional Tibetan medicine, Being Human expands our sense of Tibetan cultural history, unpacking the intersection of early modern...Read more
Critically exploring scientific thought and its relation to religion in traditional Tibetan medicine, Being Human expands our sense of Tibetan cultural history, unpacking the intersection of early modern sensibilities and religious ideals during the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama. Studying the adaptation of Buddhist concepts and values to medical concerns, the book also advances an appreciation of Buddhism's role in the development of Asian and global civilization. Through its unique focus and sophisticated reading of source materials, Being Human captures the religious character of medicine in Tibet during a period when it facilitated a singular involvement in issues associated with modernity and empirical science, all without discernible influence from the European Enlightenment. The book opens with the bold achievements of medical illustration, commentary, and institution building, then looks back to the work of earlier thinkers, tracing a subtle dialectic between scriptural and empirical authority on questions of history and the nature of human anatomy.
It follows key differences between medicine and Buddhism in attitudes toward gender and sex, and the shaping of medical ethics to serve both the physician and the patient's well-being. Being Human ultimately finds that Tibetan medical scholars absorbed ethical and epistemological categories from Buddhism yet shied away from ideal system and absolutes, embracing instead the imperfectability of the human condition.
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About the author: Janet Gyatso
Janet Gyatso is Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies at Harvard University, where she serves on the faculty of the Divinty School, the Study of Religion,... Read more
Janet Gyatso is Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies at Harvard University, where she serves on the faculty of the Divinty School, the Study of Religion, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and Inner Asian and Altaic Studies. Her writing has centered on Tibetan Buddhism and its cultural and intellectual history from the perspective of large issues in the humanities about human experience and its literary presentation. She is the author of Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary, as well as several edited volumes.
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Review:
An amazing book and a stellar contribution to Columbia University Press's growing catalog of Tibetan and Tibetan Buddhist studies, for it will be the key book on medicine and religion in Tibet for...Read more
An amazing book and a stellar contribution to Columbia University Press's growing catalog of Tibetan and Tibetan Buddhist studies, for it will be the key book on medicine and religion in Tibet for this generation. Like Janet Gyatso's book on autobiography, her new book on medicine will simply be field defining. Little of this literature has received attention to date, and in fact much of it has only been available to a contemporary international scholarly audience for a decade or so. -- Kurtis R. Schaeffer, University of Virginia Janet Gyatso's long-awaited Being Human in a Buddhist World is the most important study of Tibetan medicine in the English language, surpassing previous scholarship in the scope of its history, the extent of its research, and the depth of its insights. Yet it is also more than that. It is the rare work that causes us to rethink the foundations of our field, leaving readers with both answers and questions about what is encompassed by terms like 'Tibetan Buddhism' and 'medical science.' -- Donald Lopez, University of Michigan This book is a fascinating, lucid, and profound exploration of the history in Tibet of the mentality and practices, both empirical and discursive, of probative medicine within the context of Buddhist civilization, a concept introduced and used as a more broad category than that of a 'Buddhism' concerned primarily with ideals of human perfection and supernatural realms. Moving deftly between fine-grained analysis of textual and visual materials from the seventh to seventeenth centuries and an open-ended discussion of large-scale historical and cultural issues, the book makes a significant contribution not only to Tibetan and Buddhist studies but also to current debates on the historiography and philosophy of the interactions and conflicts between religion and science. -- Steven Collins, University of Chicago Janet Gyatso's book is an extraordinarily sophisticated presentation of the history of Tibetan Buddhist medical practice from the inside out--an account that is deeply grounded in Tibetan language sources while never losing sight of key analytical, historical, and methodological questions pertinent to recent debates in the history of medicine and Buddhist studies, not to mention wider studies in the history of culture and literature in South Asia and beyond. This book will be a landmark in the study of South Asian medical traditions. What distinguishes it from other studies is its complexity of vision. It deftly traces the surprising entanglements of Buddhist doctrine, state patronage, and social power with both scholastic medical traditions and medical practitioners on the ground to give us a historical picture that is compellingly nuanced and refreshingly open--clearing the path for future research. -- Daud Ali, University of Pennsylvania A fascinating intellectual history by a mature scholar at the top of her game. Choice
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