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                    Bryan D. Lowe Receives Stanley Weinstein Prize for Best Dissertation in East Asian Buddhism 2012-2014

The Yale Council on East Asian Studies has announced Bryan D. Lowe, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, the recipient of the Stanley Weinstein Dissertation Prize for best dissertation on East Asian Buddhism for the academic years 2012-2014. The Selection Committee chose his dissertation, “Rewriting Nara Buddhism: Sutra Transcription in Early Japan” (nominated by Jacqueline Stone, Princeton University) from a field of fine contributions. Jing Tsu, Chair of the Council of East Asian Buddhism and Professor of Chinese Literature and Comparative Literature, wrote in the announcement, “The committee was particularly impressed with the meticulousness of his study, which not only provided a detailed understanding of the sutra -copying itself as a religious activity, but also offered a more general portrait of Nara Buddhism.”

Dissertation Synopsis.  Lowe’s dissertation draws on a rich documentary record to analyze the institutional, ritual, cosmological, and social meanings of copying Buddhist scripture in ancient Japan (late seventh through early ninth centuries). Transcribing scripture was never a simple act of copying a text but a ritualized practice performed by people from diverse social and geographic backgrounds that helped them realize both this- and other-worldly ambitions. The dissertation uses the case study of sutra transcription to challenge dominant scholarly narratives regarding Buddhism in the Nara period (710-784), which have typically understood the religion of the era under a binary rubric of “state Buddhism” versus “popular Buddhism.” Rather than assuming that religious practices are best characterized by stable social categories such as “state Buddhism” or “popular Buddhism,” this dissertation explores the single practice of sutra transcription from multiple populations: lay scribes, royal patrons, and itinerant monks. In conclusion Lowe argues that the act of sutra copying united individuals from various backgrounds while simultaneously generating social distinctions between them. 

Prize. The prize honors Stanley Weinstein, Professor Emeritus of Buddhist Studies, Religious Studies, and East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale University, a specialist in the history and doctrines of the Buddhist schools of China and Japan. Prof. Lowe will deliver a public lecture at Yale University in 2015-16 academic year with honorarium. A full announcement can be found here:

Revised Book Manuscript Accepted. Since submitting the dissertation, the manuscript has been heavily revised and expanded, and has just been accepted for pulbication by the Kuroda Institute in their prestigious series titled "Studies in East Asian Buddhism," which will be published by the University of Hawaii Press. The tentative title of the book is "Ritualized Writing: Buddhist Practice and Scriptural Cultures in Ancient Japan."

Current. Prof. Lowe teaches courses on Japanese Buddhism, Japanese Religions, Zen Buddhism, and the majors’ required course in theories and methods in the academic study of religion. This fall he will offer a freshman seminar RLST 1111, “Buddhist Literature from Buddha to the Beats.” In addition, Lowe recently received a University Central Research Scholar Grant for his proposal titled "Beyond Sects and Founders: A New Ground-Level Approach to Buddhism” for research in Japan. This is the initial research for his next monograph.