The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality

The Red Thread
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Grasswick - - Hypatia 19 3 Framing his discussion on some of the most prominent Western thinkers of sexuality--Georges Bataille and Michel Foucault--Faure draws from different reservoirs of writings, such as the orthodox and heterodox "doctrines" of Buddhism, and its monastic codes. Categories: Workshop , Lecture. Event Poster. Review Of: Bernard Faure, D.

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Sort order. Sep 10, Phil rated it liked it Shelves: buddhism , sexuality. In an attempt to uncover "a Buddhist discourse on sex" Faure examines a wide variety of source, ranging from monastic texts, novels, plays, poetics, legal texts myths etc. Faure does not dwell overmuch on the Indian roots of Buddhism, and most of the materials he draws upon are The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality by Bernard Faure manages to be both scholarly and a fun read at the same time.

Faure does not dwell overmuch on the Indian roots of Buddhism, and most of the materials he draws upon are from Chinese and Japanese sources. A key point he makes is that there is really no universal Buddhism, but rather multivocal 'Buddhisms'. Faure notes, at the outset, that in the text: Woman is conspicuously absent, or she appears in as much as she is an element of the Buddhist discourse on sexuality: not for herself, as individual, but as one pole of attraction or repulsion in a gendered male discourse about sex.

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Denied the role of a subject in this discourse, she is primarily the emblem of larger generative, karmic or social processes, with positive or negative soteriological value. Indeed, The Red Thread does focus almost entirely on male desire for women or male-to-male desire, and whilst there are occasional references to women's desire for men or for other women this book is largely about addressing issues around desire from a male perspective - hence he does not really get past the portrayal of women as either dangerous seductresses or potential 'saviours' he promises to look more closely at gender issues in Buddhism in a future work.

Faure has a good deal to say about the problem of desire in the monastic Buddhist setting - there is an extensive examination of the Japanese nanshoku tradition of 'male love' ranging from aesthetics to jokes about Buddhist priests and their novices and the 'forced moving' of particularly alluring acolytes from monasteries; he also discusses Zen, the 'crazy wisdom' traditions and Buddhist Tantric instances.

Whilst I enjoyed reading The Red Thread I'd say its' probably better to view it as a 'sourcebook' rather than anything more substantive, particularly as Faure actively shies away from drawing anything that resembles an overall conclusion about the wealth of material he examines. Example of a Japanese 'joke' from Faure: "Once a priest and his disciple went to a benefactor's house with some religious papers. When they reached the door, they found that the disciple's belt had come loose and the papers had fallen out.

The Red Thread: Buddhist love and sex

Jul 09, Tim Pendry rated it really liked it Shelves: literature-general , religion-spiritual , sexuality-erotica , east-asian , cultural-studies , south-asian , early-medieval , medieval. A useful book on sexuality and the Buddhist phenomenon as seen through the eyes of a French academic happy to use the insights of Foucault and Bataille. He refuses to reify a way of seeing that goes back over two millennia and covers huge areas of Asian space but this means that his analysis is suggestive rather than conclusive.

This has the virtue of honesty. Similarly, Faure does not shy away from his own deep knowledge of Japanese literary and religious culture and his obvious interest in lead A useful book on sexuality and the Buddhist phenomenon as seen through the eyes of a French academic happy to use the insights of Foucault and Bataille.

Similarly, Faure does not shy away from his own deep knowledge of Japanese literary and religious culture and his obvious interest in leading us towards his next planned book on women in Buddhism. This means something of an over-emphasis on Japan and a tendency to a sub-feminist discourse but these are minor critisms of a book that should be essential reading for any sentimentalist about Buddhism.

The section on the paedophiliac rape culture of Japanese medieval Buddhism indicates a deviant and exploitative use by an essentially sex-negative culture not so different from Judaeo-Christianity. Indeed, the overwhelming impression of Buddhism is of yet another essentialist displacement of natural sexual urges into rules, neurosis and petty cruelties - fairly typical of all resource-poor cultures. Faure is kind to modern women's appropriation of Buddhism but one has to ask what the point of such detournements can possibly be when you could more happily ditch the old and start again.

These great religions seem to be little more than frameworks for inventing ways of managing power relations and sex is the greatest of all power plays.

The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality by Bernard Faure

Managing sex becomes central to religion. The suffering of the vulnerable - not only women but young men and children as well as the marginalised - imposed by the men of the text, generally linked to aristocratic authority, has been tragic. Still, given the structures of power built around lack of resources, the weak take what they can from the given system.

At least, the subversion of religion by say consensual homosexuals is heartening. The play between Power and the subjects of power becomes - in this Foucauldian analysis - a game making use of the weapons to hand and inherited religious forms are simply what is to hand. To anyone interested in Buddhist culture evolving over time and in the ideology and underlying meaning of religion not the texts but the real use of religion as power , this book will be highly stimulating. But a critique of religion which sees it for what it is without getting nasty about something that fulfils a desperate need, for all its absurdities and often unintended cruelties, is still needed.

It would be customary here to talk about the other side of religion - the high aesthetics, the comfort, the complex and subtle meanings, the welfare provision which was very real in very poor societies. But we have to ask why, especially in the sexual arena, contemporary, highly educated and intelligent people still cling to forms inherited from the Iron Age This paper will examine some of the ambivalent deities that haunted the high sea or the Japanese shores.

What such philosophically-minded scholars would see as a long-overdue purification process, however, others may see as an impoverishment, a form of reductionism. The same debate has been rehearsed, in one way or another, for more than a century. What gives it a renewed urgency is the advent of neuroscience.

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In particular, its reduction of mind to brain—of mental events to physical phenomena—presents Buddhism with a radical challenge. This paper will explore this challenge and examine the question of the naturalization of Buddhism using a two-pronged approach: a critical assessment of naturalism in general and of neuroscientific naturalism in particular; and a reevaluation of the most recent forms of Buddhist modernism and postmodernism, including the extraordinary success of mindfulness.

His work, influenced by anthropological history and cultural theory, has focused on topics such as the construction of orthodoxy and heterodoxy, the Buddhist cult of relics, iconography, sexuality and gender. His current research deals with the mythico-ritual system of esoteric Buddhism and its relationships with medieval Japanese religion. He has published a number of books in French and English.