Comparative Religion and Humanities

Jason Clower

I teach about religion, society, and literature in in Asia, especially East Asia. I have offered courses on Asian literature, religion and film, Chinese religion, and more specialized seminars entitled “Communism as a Religion,” "Buddhist Philosophy: The Most Loved (and Feared) Texts," "Deep Background to Modern Chinese State-Society relations," and "Buddhist-Confucian Relations."

Most of my writings have to do with Mou Zongsan, the most influential (and in my opinion the best) modern Chinese philosopher. I have written one book about him, called The Unlikely Buddhologist, about how he borrowed many elements of his Confucian philosophy from Buddhism, and I have translated and edited another volume called Late Works of Mou Zongsan: Essays in Chinese Philosophy.

I am also researching two other topics. One is what I call the “Asian-inspired spirituality” scene in the New Age movement in California. My other subject is what one documentary called “the lost world of Communism”—its art and material culture, its pieties, its intellectual and institutional life, and the shared remnants of Stalinist heritage that can still be found from Pyongyang to Prague.


Publications

Late Works of Mou Zongsan Book Cover

Late Works of Mou Zongsan: Selected Essays on Chinese Philosophy

(Brill Academic Publishers, 2014)

I have tried to write a book that will accessible and enjoyable for anyone at all who is curious about contemporary Chinese philosophy. Now that more people have "woken up" to modern China as a place of interest, I thought it was time that we had a book in English about Mou Zongsan (1909-1995), the towering figure of modern Chinese philosophy. Famous for reviving Confucianism as a going concern in philosophy, Mou declared that he had actually drawn many of his key concepts from Buddhist thought, though it has long been hard to explain why or how he did that, or even what he thought some of these Buddhist concepts meant. Therefore I aimed to give a a reader-friendly unpacking of Mou’s ideas about Buddhism, Confucianism, and metaphysics with the precision needed to make them available for critical appraisal.

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The Unlikely Buddhologist Book Cover

The Unlikely Buddhologist: Tiantai Buddhism in Mou Zongsan's New Confucianism

(Brill Academic Publishers, 2010)

Mou Zongsan (1909-1995) was such a seminal, polymathic figure that scholars of Asian philosophy and religion will be absorbing his influence for at least a generation. Drawing on expertise in Confucian, Buddhist, Daoist, and modern Western thought, Mou built a system of “New Confucian” philosophy aimed at answering one of the great questions: “What is the relationship between value and being?” However, though Mou acknowledged that he derived his key concepts from Tiantai Buddhist philosophy, it remains unclear exactly how and why he did so.

In response, this book investigates Mou’s buddhological writings in the context of his larger corpus and explains how and why he incorporated Buddhist ideas selectively into his system. Written extremely accessible, it provides a comprehensive unpacking of Mou’s ideas about Buddhism, Confucianism, and metaphysics with the precision needed to make them available for critical appraisal.

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