Countless Sands: Medieval Buddhists and Their Environments

Hardback: $72.00
ISBN-13: 9780824895730
Published: December 2024
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Additional Information

344 pages | 83 color & b&w illustrations
  • About the Book
  • Countless Sands presents engaging analyses of the diverse relationships between Buddhism and the environment that existed in medieval Asia. Recent years have witnessed a surge in publications across the humanities that advance powerful ethical and political arguments to account for the human failure to respond effectively to global climate change. While the contributors to this volume are attuned to this challenge, rather than present explicit political arguments, they pursue a subtler effort to historicize the environment as a site and subject of Buddhist practice while providing research grounded in rigorous analysis of complex and fragmentary sources. The volume thereby mitigates against the Orientalist, East-West binaries that have long informed the invocation of Buddhism in Euro-American environmental discourses. As the chapters collectively demonstrate, there was no singular, consistently “Buddhist” understanding of the natural world, but innumerable, varied engagements preserved in discrete texts, images, and artifacts. We title the volume Countless Sands to echo the Buddhist metaphor of “sands of the Ganges” that implies an uncountable number.

    Through specific case studies, the authors consider such questions as: How did premodern Buddhists understand what we today call “the environment”? How did they think about their earth? How, when, and where did the various processes of the earth actually impinge on the practices of historical Buddhists? What kinds of “environmental imaginations” informed specific Buddhist practices? In so doing, the authors explore the connections between the ways in which historical Buddhist communities interacted with their environments and how they understood those environments. In the broader field of Buddhist studies, Countless Sands contributes to ongoing efforts to expand the locus of inquiry from textually based investigations of Buddhist doctrine to a broader examination of the complex and varied place of Buddhism in the lives of historical communities. The book furthers this broader process by casting it in environmental terms and will engage readers looking for models of thought-provoking historical analysis on environmental themes.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Jeffrey Moser, Editor

      Jeffrey Moser is associate professor of history of art and architecture at Brown University.
    • Jason Protass, Editor

      Jason Protass is assistant professor of religious studies at Brown University.


    • Ryuichi Abe
    • Phillip E. Bloom
    • Megan Bryson
    • Maria Heim
    • Eric Huntington
    • Sonya S. Lee
    • D. Max Moerman
    • Jeffrey Moser
    • Reiko Ohnuma
    • Jason Protass
    • James Robson
    • Tamara Sears