While early Buddhists hailed their religion's founder for opening a path to enlightenment, they also exalted him as the paragon of masculinity. According to Buddhist scriptures, the Buddha's body boasts thirty-two physical features, including lionlike jaws, thighs like a royal stag, broad shoulders, and a deep, resonant voice, that distinguish him from ordinary men. As Buddhism spread throughout Asia and around the world, the Buddha remained an exemplary man, but Buddhists in other times and places developed their own understandings of what it meant to be masculine.
This transdisciplinary book brings together essays that explore the variety and diversity of Buddhist masculinities, from early India to the contemporary United States and from bodhisattva-kings to martial monks. Buddhist Masculinities adopts the methods of religious studies, anthropology, art history, textual-historical studies, and cultural studies to explore texts, images, films, media, and embodiments of masculinity across the Buddhist world, past and present. It turns scholarly attention to normative forms of masculinity that usually go unmarked and unstudied precisely because they are "normal," illuminating the religious and cultural processes that construct Buddhist masculinities. Engaging with contemporary issues of gender identity, intersectionality, and sexual ethics, Buddhist Masculinities ushers in a new era for the study of Buddhism and gender.
Buddhist Masculinities, Megan Bryson and Kevin Buckelew (Editors), Columbia University Press, Paperback, 352 pages, $35.00