Comparative Religion and Humanities

Daniel Veidlinger

My training is in the texts, languages and practices of South and Southeast Asian religions, in particular Buddhism and Hinduism. I am interested in studying and teaching these religions from historical, sociological and philosophical perspectives, with the aim of providing a rich understanding of these traditions that is ever more important in today's world. My research has focused on the roles that different communications media played in the formulation and transmission of religious texts and ideas in Asia. Currently, I am extending this study to encompass the role of modern mass media such as radio and the Internet in propagating Buddhist ideas around the world. I am particularly interested in examining the parallels between the rapid spread of Buddhism along the main communication route of the ancient world, the Silk Road, and the modern information highway, the World Wide Web. I am also involved in bringing Digital Humanities techniques to the study of Buddhism, and have studied the statistical programming language R in order to analyze word usage patterns in novel ways as found in Buddhist and other sacred texts.

My teaching responsibilities include RELS 110 Asian Religions, RELS 200 Religions of South Asia, and RELS 332 World Religions and Global Issues. I have also taught RELS capstone seminars on topics such as Asceticism, Mysticism and Religion, Public Life and the Professions.


Publications

 Digital Humanities and Buddhism

Digital Humanities and Buddhism: An Introduction

(De Gruyter, 2019)

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From Indra's Net to Internet book cover

From Indra's Net to Internet: Communication, Technology, and the Evolution of Buddhist Ideas

(University of Hawaii Press, 2018)

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Buddhism, the Internet Book Cover

Buddhism, the Internet, and Digital Media: The Pixel in the Lotus

(Routledge, 2014)

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Spreading the Dhamma book cover

Spreading the Dhamma: Writing, Orality, and Textual Transmission in Buddhist Northern Thailand

(University of Hawaii Press, 2006)

An important idea in this modern “information age” is that the medium through which a message is communicated affects the way this message is understood. While it seems to me self-evident that listening to a text provides a very different experience than does reading it, most studies of Buddhism have focused on the content of the sacred texts to the exclusion of the ways in which they were communicated to the faithful. In this book, I examine the two main ways by which Buddhist texts were historically disseminated in Southeast Asia: through the oral tradition and through written manuscripts. The book focuses mainly on the development of writing and its displacement of the oral tradition in northern Thailand, and is based on data drawn from extant manuscripts, inscriptions, chronicles, archaeological evidence and reports of early European and Chinese travelers. I have tried in this book to paint as detailed a picture as possible of the roles that both memory and manuscripts had in the dissemination and preservation of Buddhist canonical texts. I also touch upon the different attitudes that various segments of society had towards writing and the oral tradition, and show that not everyone was happy to see the written word eclipse the oral tradition as time went on.

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