Review by Choice Review
Johnston (history emeritus, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst) presents 625 signed articles on historical and current monasticism, Buddhist and Christian (both Eastern and Western). Almost 300 scholars and practitioners living in 25 countries contributed articles from a rich diversity of academic backgrounds (history, architecture, music, art, world religions, philosophy, spirituality, and sociology; English, German, and Tibetan languages; and medieval, Asian, Japanese, Buddhist, and Turkish studies). Features adding value include current bibliographies, notes on contributors, glossaries, cross-references, and an excellent, detailed index with contents notes for terms with multiple page references. The essay on the Internet is supplemented by listing Web sites in some article bibliographies. Both volumes are amply illustrated with high-quality photographs and 75 color plates. Although more explication of the context and general significance of key personalities may be found in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. by Mircea Eliade (16v., CH, Jun'88), or Dictionary of the Middle Ages, ed. by Joseph R. Strayer (13v., CH, Feb'89), this Encyclopedia stands alone in offering broad and deep coverage of Buddhist and Christian monastic places, concerns and controversies, ideas, spirituality, social dynamics, and practices. A superb resource for historical, cross-cultural, sociological, and phenomenological studies. D. R. Rodgers; Shawnee State University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
Throughout history, human beings have struggled to discover what gives life its ultimate meaning and purpose. Many have explored these questions in the world's religious traditions, and some of these have found answers in a profoundly personal and interior pursuit. That pursuit, the monastic life, is the subject of a wonderful new reference work. For the purposes of this encyclopedia, "monasticism is defined as a single-minded commitment to religious life conducted apart from the surrounding society (almost always in celibacy and relative poverty) and following a rule that usually involves emulating or obeying a founder." The strength of this treatment is its descriptions of and comparisons among three great monastic traditions: Buddhist, Eastern Christian, and Western Christian. More than 600 entries are alphabetically arranged and cover important persons, such as the founders of particular orders or great reformers; concepts; doctrines; practices; and the monastic history of places, whether country, city, or individual monastery. Aspects of monastic life such as celibacy and fasting are described in both their Buddhist and Christian contexts. One would expect entries for the various monastic rules that have guided Buddhist and Christian communities, but this work includes entries one might not expect, such as monastic attitudes toward animals (Animals, Attitude toward: Buddhist Perspectives; Animals, Attitude toward: Christian Perspectives) and the contributions of Western Christian monasteries to the development of pharmacology. The encyclopedia is historical in scope but includes specific concerns of the twentieth century as well, including intermonastic dialogue between Buddhists and Christians, the growth of Buddhism in the U.S., and the use of the Internet by Buddhist and Christian monasteries. The entry Internet, Buddhist and Christian even includes Web and e-mail addresses, demonstrating just how contemporary ancient lifestyles can be. Entries conclude with supplemental bibliographies and are signed by the scholars who wrote them. Cross-references lead readers to appropriate headings or related text. The work is illustrated throughout, including 48 pages of well-chosen color plates, and concludes with a thorough index. An alphabetical list of entries and an outline of entries by theme precede the main text. As the introduction states, "except in one or two comparative entries, the Encyclopedia of Monasticism does not encompass Hindu, Jain, Daoist, or Islamic monastics or confraternities." This is really too bad, given the paucity of encyclopedic reference sources in English for these traditions, with the exception of Islam. Interested readers will have to rely upon the Encyclopedia of Religion (Macmillan, 1987) and the Encyclopedia of Islam (Brill, 1960^-). Withdrawal from society and its cares is a hallmark of monastic life, but this is not to say that monastic seclusion has had no influence on the broader society. The contributions of monastics to art, architecture, agriculture, philosophy, theology, and even the brewing of beer (covered in Brewing, Western Christian) are immense. The Encyclopedia of Monasticism presents these contributions as well, making it a reference tool of use to interests other than religion. Highly recommended for all academic and large public libraries.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review
Edited by Johnston (Recent Reference Books in Religion), this work is unique in its focus on monasticism, defined as "a single-minded commitment to religious life conducted apart from the surrounding society," and its coverage of three traditions (Buddhism, Eastern Christianity, and Western Christianity). Over 250 scholars from 25 countries have contributed essays falling into one of four categories: persons, places, practices and pursuits, and institutions. These essays embrace a vast number of topics, from architecture to 20th-century issues to Zen in the West. Volume 1 contains both an alphabetical list of entries and a complex thematic outline. Signed essays end with a secondary bibliography and cross references to other articles, and cross references to correct article titles (e.g., Aquinas, Thomas see Thomas Aquinas, St.) appear throughout the set. The detailed index at the end of Volume 2 includes See references as well. In addition, a glossary aids readers unfamiliar with the terminology. One unfortunate aspect of the book's structure is that the color plates are grouped together in the middle of each volume and are not numbered or referenced in the corresponding essays or index. Thus, most people will never know about a related color plate, making the plates' inclusion almost pointless. The essays themselves vary in quality, consistency, and coherency, and some authors assume advanced knowledge of religious history. Thus, many readers will need to use this worthy but very specialized encyclopedia in conjunction with other subject references. Recommended for special and academic libraries where religious studies are actively pursued.DCynthia A. Johnson, Barnard Coll. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.