This article observes the growing presence of religion in higher education and how a Buddhist text--The Lotus Sutra--may present an ideal synthesis of religion and the academic discipline of rhetorical studies.
The acknowledgement of a specific religious text as a treatise on rhetoric may be a new beginning for the presence of spirituality as a systemic part of the humanities. It may be a new beginning for student and scholarly interests in both rhetoric and religion. It may be a new beginning for those seeking spiritual fulfillment but lacking a graspable and practical conduit. When it comes to spiritual renewal, those inside and outside of academia may benefit from a study of rhetoric, and a Buddhist text may provide the most salient opportunity.
In this essay, by initially acknowledging the inherent problems of communication that motivated the Buddha’s respect for rhetoric, I will show where the Buddha expresses the importance of rhetoric, how he exposes his own use of rhetoric, and what this implies about rhetoric, religion and academia: rhetoric is spirituality’s chaperon into the world; perhaps the study of rhetoric is the new focal point where religion and academia meet. Perhaps without rhetoric, we would not have religions, and religious figures would not be able to be religious figures. By examining a specific Buddhist text, The Lotus Sutra, I will show how rhetoric manifests in Buddhism and how Buddhism manifests in the rhetorical canon. The symbiosis of Buddhism and rhetoric is the bridge that can effectively connect religion and secular liberalism.