Monday, June 05, 2006

religious exchanges 1

Because I'm now rather consumed with manuscript prep, cover design, and other aspects of my book, I'm going to cheat a bit and post some email exchanges I've had with Soen Joon Sunim, the former Andi Young. SJSn (or "Sneem," as we now say privately) currently blogs at One Robe, One Bowl. Her writing is perceptive, engaging, eloquent, and inspiring. A better window into the monastic life would be hard to find.

This first exchange starts in the middle... a discussion about good Buddhism references turned into a conversation about one Buddhist scholar, Paul Groner of the University of Virginia. I wasn't that impressed with Groner when I met him-- not for any scholarly reasons, but because he came off as uninterested in my own field of study: interreligious dialogue.

I had mentioned to Soen Joon Sunim that I'd bought this cool book on Tibetan debate. Our conversation starts there, and segues into the Groner thing.

May 19, 2006. Me to Sneem:


The Tibetan debate book's biblio information:

Perdue, Daniel E. Debate in Tibetan Buddhism. Ithaca: Snow Lion
Publications, 1992.
(approx. 954 pages; ISBN: 0-937938-76-9)

I bought it for W27,800. The book's original price was $38.95. You might find an el-cheapo copy of it through Amazon, though there might be a problem getting it shipped to Korea.

The book's back jacket says that Daniel Perdue is a graduate of the University of Virginia's Buddhist Studies program. By strange coincidence, that's where my prof, Dr. Jones, also did his grad work. Dr. Jones studied under Paul Groner, whom I met. I thought Groner was an asshole, but Jones loves him. During my meeting with him in the late 1990s, Groner dismissed my interest in interreligious issues. "People hear the term 'interreligious dialogue' and usually shrug," he said. I resented that remark, but have come to see that most people are, in truth, as uninterested as Groner said. Groner did (does?) work in Japanese and Tibetan Buddhism, and I bet that Daniel Perdue did his work under Groner, too. If Dr. Jones is to be believed, Groner runs a tight ship and graduates of the UVA Buddhist Studies program DO know their stuff by the time they're done. (Actually, my info is a few years old and may be out of date. I haven't checked the UVA site to see whether Groner still heads up the department. He seemed to be in his late 40s when I met him; I imagine he's still quite active even now.)

I have yet to see-- much less buy-- a book by Paul Groner. Perhaps I should go looking... but I'm in no hurry. Heh.


May 19, 2006 (same day). Me to Sneem (again):


Groner's info is here (I was mistaken about Tibetan Buddhism; the
entry says his field is Japanese and CHINESE Buddhism):


I had no idea that UVA's religious faculty roster was so huge. At
CUA-- perhaps ironically for a school with a religious orientation--
we don't have that many people on staff.


May 19, 2006 (same day). Sneem to me:

Ah, Groner...

I audited (which means I largely missed) a class on Zen by Groner in my last semester--if you think CUA's staff is small, you should see Yale, which is embarassingly behind on anything not Biblical or Anglo-centric (in literature)--we're an IVY fer cryin' out loud! We had to bring Groner in as a pinch-hitter when we finally fired the asshole (and I mean it; Groner can't possibly be worse) of a Tibetan Buddhist scholar who managed to mangle all but the most hardy or crazy of students interested in non-Judaic religion. I actually liked Groner, what little interaction I had with him--perhaps because he was so genuinely passionate about East Asian Buddhism, and (at least for us) so non-stuffy about it. Yale had some brilliant pompous jerks on campus. It was as hard not to suffocate in their egos as to not admire and worship their command of their respective fields.

Whew. Past curricular and staff grievances aside, I should try and find out more about current Buddhist scholarship in the States. Thanks for the link on Groner.

Thanks for the Tibetan book info. I'm still trying to track down the ISBN for the Han-Yeong Buddhist Dictionary. Migraines are back today, alas...


More later.


No comments: