Leah Kalmanson, “The Reality/Unreality of Pure Lands and Their Roles in Social-Political Transformation”
This module engages the Pure Land lineages of East Asian Buddhism, with a focus on how this “imagined” paradise impacts “actual” political and economic conditions. The majority of our readings explore the use of Pure Land imagery in Meiji and post-Meiji Japanese political thought as a means toward the radical transformation of the existing socio-political order. We contextualize these studies both in terms of the history of the buddha-field concept as a cosmological theory of world-creation in Mahāyāna thought, as well as in terms of Ruist (Confucian) political influences on Buddhist practice in East Asia overall. In particular, certain Ruist conceptions of the relationship between mental cultivation, moral excellence, and political health prove instructive for discussing how Buddhists hailing from a Ruist culture might understand the activity of imagination. Our goal is to critically assess the assumed distinction between the imagined and the real, not only to better appreciate the radical vision of various Japanese political thinkers but also to deepen our engagement with the transformative power of the imagination as a topic of philosophical inquiry today.
- 2:00 - 2:45
- 2:45 - 3:30
Leah Kalmanson is an Associate Professor and the Bhagwan Adinath Professor of Jain Studies at University of North Texas. Dr. Kalmanson holds a Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. Before joining UNT, she was an Associate Professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where she had worked since 2010. Dr. Kalmanson is actively committed to fostering diversity and inclusivity in the discipline of philosophy in both scholarly and pedagogical contexts. She works at the intersection of comparative philosophy and postcolonial theory, with special interests in the liberational philosophies of China’s Song dynasty and related discourses on issues of cultivation and transformation in philosophy more broadly, both personal and socio-political. She is the author of the 2020 book Cross-Cultural Existentialism and co-author of the 2021 A Practical Guide to World Philosophies. Her essays appear in journals including Comparative and Continental Philosophy, Continental Philosophy Review, Frontiers of Philosophy in China, Hypatia, Journal of World Philosophies, Philosophy East & West, Shofar, and Studies in Chinese Religions.