Eric Greene, graduate of the Group in Buddhist Studies, wins the Stanley Weinstein Dissertation Prize

May, 2013


The Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University is pleased to announce that the Stanley Weinstein Dissertation Prize for academic years 2010-2012 has been awarded to Eric Greene for his study of Buddhist meditative practices in China entitled "Meditation, Repentance, and Visionary Experience in Early Medieval Chinese Buddhism." Eric Greene completed his Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. He is currently a Teaching Fellow in East Asian Religions, and as of September 1st 2013, he will be Lecturer in East Asian Religions in the Department of Religion and Theology at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

The Selection Committee members were unanimous in ranking Greene's dissertation at the top of a very strong pool of nominations and provided the following report:

"Eric Greene's "Meditation, Repentance, and Visionary Experience in Early Medieval Chinese Buddhism" makes an extraordinary contribution. It presents a new account of the evolution of meditation in Chinese Buddhism, which necessitate serious rethinking about many familiar assumptions of existing scholarship. At the core of this dissertation is a remarkably coherent, rich, and many-sided account of the distinctive Buddhist meditation practice that appeared in the fifth and sixth century in China. Greene makes a strong case that it was only in the beginning of the fifth century that meditation became a regular practice in China. He then spells out how this practice was understood in that period by looking closely at texts that hitherto had largely been neglected, particularly the Scripture on the Secret Essentials Methods of Chan (T. 613) and the Essential Methods for Curing Chan Sickness (T. 620). The main part of the dissertation focuses on the emphasis on visions and repentance in these texts. Meditative practices are specifically linked there to confirmatory visions revealing one's karmic state of purity or impurity. This is in contrast to the later and now more common portrayal of meditation as a prelude to or an expression of Buddhist wisdom. A wider picture of the significance of these themes emerges as more familiar discussions of meditation, visions, and repentance, from roughly contemporary and later periods, are reviewed in the light of the new understanding of meditation practice. We are invited, for example, to rethink Tiantai Zhiyi's massive writings on meditation with a focus on the early and often neglected work; the proposed reading of the elaborate account of Pure Land visualization in the Contemplation SÅ«tra is convincing. The ground-breaking claims of this dissertation are supported by detailed readings of relevant primary sources. The author meticulously reviews previous scholarship, which is often highly specialized, and subjects it to critical reevaluation. The extended discussion on the modern discourse on visualization sets the stage for the methodologically sophisticated reading of the rich but confusing body of Chinese Buddhist sources."

The Stanley Weinstein Dissertation Prize was established in 2008 to honor Professor Weinstein's many contributions to the study of East Asian Buddhism in North America. The prize will be awarded once every two years to the best Ph.D. dissertation on East Asian Buddhism written in North America during the two previous years. The dissertation must be based on original research in the primary languages and should significantly advance our understanding of East Asian Buddhism. East Asian Buddhism is understood for this competition to refer to those traditions in East Asia that take Chinese translations of the Buddhist scriptures as their basis (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese). Studies of East Asian Buddhist communities in the West are not eligible for consideration. The recipient of the award will be invited to give a public lecture at Yale under the auspices of the Council of East Asian Studies. There is an honorarium of $1,000.