Democracy’s Dharma and Buddhist Pluralism

Recently I read a really good Buddhist Book: Richard Madsen’s Democracy’s Dharma. I don’t read a lot of really good Buddhist books, because most Buddhist books are dreadful. This is because so many of them fly too close to New Age and self-help and are more concerned with making the reader feel good than communicating something new and vital.

Democracy’s Dharma has something to say. It is a study of four major religious groups in Taiwan: Tzu Chi, Fo Guang Shan, Dharma Drum, and a predominantly Daoist group called Xingtian. The three former groups, all very active in the United States, are often underrepresented in English Buddhist writing, and they each receive in-depth treatment in Madsen’s book. A study and analysis of each of these groups’ founders, culture, and history would be valuable in its own right, but the book is more ambitious: Madsen looks at how each group was fostered by the democractizing and industrializing forces of Taiwan over the last few decades, and how the culture and character of each group serves a specific segment of Taiwan’s changing society. Continue reading “Democracy’s Dharma and Buddhist Pluralism”

Why Burn (Fake) Money?

For this summer, I will be spending about two months in Taiwan. I just arrived in Taipei Wednesday morning and my parents took me straight to the hill where my grandparents have their grave site. The entire area is a┬ácemetery, each person owning a certain enclosed spot separated by a small wall. There are no roads, no signs, and no permanent caretaker – the only way I would know where my grandparents are buried is through my parents.

Continue reading “Why Burn (Fake) Money?”