Can enlightenment be attained through words? Understanding Prajna addresses this perennial issue in the study of mysticism through the work of Sengzhao (374-414), a Buddhist scholar-monk whose essay on prajna ("wisdom") created a sensation in early medieval China. Drawing on contemporary hermeneutic theory, this book presents a close reading of Sengzhao's work, placing it in proper context while highlighting his masterful techniques for conveying "wisdom" beyond ordinary language. Understanding Prajna includes translations of Sengzhao's essay and his correspondence with Liu Yimin, a "hermit-scholar" who yearned to grasp the Buddha's sage wisdom.
The Author: John M. Thompson is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. He earned his Ph.D. in the historical and cultural study of religions from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Although specializing in Buddhism and Chinese traditions, Dr. Thompson has broad interests in the fields of religion, theology, and philosophy, and has published widely in both scholarly and popular venues. His most recent book, a basic introduction to Buddhism, is part of a six-volume set on the world's religions.