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Pure Land Buddhism

Pure Land Buddhism in Modern Japanese Culture by Elisabetta Porcu(Numen Book Series: Brill Academic Publishers) Despite being one of the most influential forms of Japanese Buddhism, the Pure Land tradition, and notably its impact on the development of Japanese cultural history, has often been overlooked outside Japan. Taking into account recent scholarship on orientalism and occidentalism, this book, written from the perspective of the Study of Religions, provides an analysis of the impact that the Pure Land tradition, in particular Shin Buddhism, has exerted on mainstream forms of artistic expression (especially creative arts, literature and the tea ceremony) in modern and contemporary Japan.

Excerpt: It was the Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci who in the 1930s developed the notion of egemonia (hegemony) in his Quaderni del Carcere. Here, in his notes on a history of intellectuals, while providing an analysis of their role within society and its political and cultural implications, Gramsci designated two "superstructural 'levels' ", namely "civil society" and the "political society or State". The former refers to "the function of `hegemony— exerted by the dominant group over society, and the latter to the function of "direct domination" by the State. Within this picture, the intellectuals are defined as the "performers" of the social hegemony of the dominant group, which directs social life through the " 'spontaneous' consent" given by the masses. According to Gramsci, this consent was historically linked to "the prestige received by the dominant group because of its position and function in the world of production".

Almost fifty years had passed after this Gramscian elaboration when Edward Said (1935-2003) could assert with regard to the key concept of hegemony that "In any society not totalitarian, then, certain cultural forms predominate over others, just as certain ideas are more influential than others" and that "the form of this cultural leadership is what Gramsci has identified as hegemony". According to Said, it is "hegemony, or rather the result of cultural hegemony at work, that gives Orientalism [its] durability and [its] strength". These reflections are found in his book Orientalism (1978), which gave rise to a scholarly debate on the subject which is still current. Here Said affirms that "Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed... as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient';' that is, as a distinctive case of cultural hegemony. Similarly, constructions of the 'Occident' from the 'Oriental' side constitute what is called coccidentalism; or "essentializing simplifications of the West". Here, it is the 'West' that becomes the object and the 'other' which the 'Orient' has to face. In such a process, the prestige acquired at the external level can enable a specific power to gain consent internally and continue to exert its influence on civil society. Both an orientalist and occidentalist approach is based on authority and power and, as it will be suggested further below, is of an exclusivist and reductive type. Moreover, such strategies eliminate the dynamic interactions among cultures and are distinguished by hidden agendas.

An occidentalist perspective in the specific Japanese context, closely linked to the concept of cultural nationalism, is also propounded by the promoters of nihonjinron (discourse on the Japanese) theories, which aim to propagate the 'uniqueness' of Japan in every aspect. In reference to this, Peter Dale has considered nihonjinron as the "commercialised expression of modern Japanese nationalism", and has identified, in this presentation of lapaneseness, the connection between trade interests, politics and a significant corpus of nationalistically minded intelligentsia as having an impact, in turn, on the way the outside world perceives Japan in all its aspects.' Nihonjinron theories, as well as orientalist and occidentalist ones, are based on a contrastive, monolithic model, i.e. Japan versus the 'West, expressed in various dichotomies, such as: love for nature/men dominate nature; blood purity and one race/various races; community/society; groupism/individualism; hierarchy/egalitarianism; spiritual/materialistic; polytheistic animism/ monotheistic; peaceful/bellicose; tolerant/intolerant; emotional/rational; subjective/objective; silence/talkativeness.

This process, however, does not remain confined to this first polarization (Japan/the West). It goes further, from the general to a more particular level: Buddhism/Christianity; Japanese Buddhism/other forms of Asian Buddhism; Zen Buddhism/other Buddhist traditions; the uniqueness of Japanese culture as an expression of Zen Buddhism/ cultural expressions of other Buddhist traditions; the uniqueness of some particular arts, such as sado in the view of Hisamatsu Shin'ichi (see Chapter Four)/other do arts, such as kyudo (archery), kado (the way of the flowers, ikebana), kodo (the way of incense), shodo (calligraphy). The result of such presentations is in fact a series of oppositions which can lead to the intensification of conflicts at various levels and thus the creation of a society in which harmony, a concept extensively used by the same promoters of this kind of hegemonic discourse, is hardly achievable. Thus, it is in such a discourse on cultural issues that representations and self-representations of religion, marked by traits of cultural hegemony in the Gramscian sense as mentioned above, and of orientalist and occidentalist attitudes, find their place.

The issues related to orientalism and occidentalism which have been presented above, though interesting in themselves, are relevant here because they provide a meaningful background for the analysis of Japanese Buddhism in its intersection with modern and contemporary Japanese culture in the fields of literature, creative arts and traditional arts, which is the object of the present study. Attention will be focused here on the Japanese Pure Land tradition, and in particular on Jodo Shinshu, which though constituting one of the largest Buddhist denominations in Japan, is not so well known outside Japan. This tradition has often been overlooked as a vital part in the creation of culture, also in non-Japanese academic circles. This research, made from the perspective of the Study of Religions (Religionswissenschaft), and far from wishing to defend and promote Shin Buddhism at the expense of other traditions, attempts to balance the presentation of Japanese culture, which has too often been reduced outside Japan to the equation 'Japanese culture equals Zen culture. It is argued that it would be preferable to avoid this in favour of one such as 'Japanese culture equals a multifaceted culture, and that in this context the Pure Land tradition needs to be seriously taken into account as a relevant source of influence. This is intended to make a contribution to the discipline of the Study of Religions, where the topic has not as yet been sufficiently explored.

What was the agenda behind a construction of the 'Orient' which tended to privilege some Buddhist traditions, especially Zen, while undervaluing the others? In this context, why has Shin Buddhism been marginalized in the creation of an image of Japan to be proposed to the 'West'? What is the real impact of Jodo Shinshu, and Pure Land Buddhism, in the creation of culture in modern and contemporary Japan?

Galen Amstutz has suggested that such marginalization and the almost exclusively dominion of "monastic, Zen, or gurucentric conceptions of Buddhism ... [in] Western thinking since the nineteenth century"," was dependent on "the strongly political nature of the Shin tradition". For Amstutz, this phenomenon was, "on both Western and Japanese sides", the "by-product of a polemical struggle to control world conceptions of Japanese culture, a struggle in which the Shin aspect of Japan has had little usefulness". What we see at work, according to him, is "a remarkable pattern of orientalist (and occidentalist) interpretation". Shin Buddhism, therefore, seems to have been regarded as not useful in the presentation of Japanese culture through agendas affected by orientalist and occidentalist approaches which have instead privileged other traditions, above all, a form of Zen Buddhism which has been adapted, decontextualized, simplified, and thus made more suitable for its popularization in the 'West'.

Within this context, Robert Sharf speaks of a "reconstructed Zen"," referring to "some sort of non-sectarian spiritual gnosis" as propagated in the twentieth century by a group of Japanese intellectuals, such as D.T. Suzuki, Nishitani Keiji and Abe Masao, who insisted on presenting "a way of experiencing the world, rather than a complex form of Buddhist

monastic practice"." Yet, focusing again on the notion of "pure Zen", which has also been taken into account by Bernard Faure, Sharf further comments that "in insisting that Zen could be, and indeed should be, distinguished from its monastic 'trappings' these writers effectively severed Zen's links to traditional Buddhist soteriological, cosmological, and ethical concerns". The result was, for him, a "free-floating Zen", apt to "be used to lend spiritual legitimacy to a host of contemporary social, philosophical, and political movements". For Sharf, the political implications of such a construction of Zen Buddhism are linked, among other things, to nationalistic views, leading to the proclamation of the superiority of Japan over other Asian countries, since "the foundation of Asian spirituality was Zen", which "survived in its 'pure' form only in Japan". There followed that "Japan had the right, and indeed the obligation, to assume the leadership of Asia" guiding its "disadvantaged brethren into the modern age" Such a Zen construct becomes also the foundation of the cultural sphere. Sharf again notes that in this way Zen becomes "the ground of Japanese aesthetic and ethical sensibilities". Moreover, in this process "all of the major Japanese artistic traditions are reinterpreted as expressions of the 'Zen experience, rendering Zen the metaphysical ground of Japanese culture itself". He has also argued that this notion of "pure Zen", abstracted from its political, historical, and social context, was itself useful to the `West; and was accepted as such, since it "offered an intellectually reputable escape from the epistemological anxiety of historicism and pluralism".

This perspective, in the specific context of the supremacy of Zen over Shin Buddhism in the 'West, for example, may also be linked to Amstutz's suggestion regarding the marginalization of the Shin tradition due to its "strongly political nature".

Yet, what kind of image of Zen Buddhism has been presented for its popularization outside Japan? As mentioned above, it has been a form of Zen decontextualized from its socio-historical sphere, non-institutionalized, simplified, and in a sense, idealized. Moreover, it has been deprived of its strict rules and codes which governed and still govern life inside the monastery; emphasis has been placed on a "transmission outside the teachings, not based upon words or letters", from the famous saying ascribed to Bodhidharma, and mostly on the notion of mu (nothingness, emptiness), and on the practice of zazen

or sitting meditation. In this regard, Michel Mohr insists on the fact that Zen should be always related to Buddhism and not be used as an isolated word, taken out from its context, as often occurs in the 'West, where, he claims, there is a tendency to make it "'something special, forgetting too easily that most of what makes the Zen school what it is originated somewhere in the Buddhist tradition. It is impossible to accept the claim that the Zen tradition is beyond the reach of rational articulation".

In the following a brief overview of each chapter will be provided. Chapter One, which serves mainly as preparatory ground, explores the creation of images of Japanese Buddhism and culture especially for a non-Japanese audience, starting from the presentation made at the end of the nineteenth century at the World's Parliament of Religions (Chicago 1893). The influential interpretations of D.T. Suzuki and Okakura Kakuzo, among others, will be explored also in their connection with nationalistic views and 'constructions' of Japanese Buddhism based on hegemonic agendas. Additionally, a section of this chapter is dedicated to representations of Japanese Buddhism during the Second World War. In particular, Giuseppe Tucci's writings on Japan during the fascist regime of Mussolini in the monthly periodical Yamato: Mensile Italo-Giapponese, and Ruth Benedict's influential book, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (1946) will be analysed as examples of representations of Japan and its religions which were serving national interests at a crucial historical juncture.

That D.T. Suzuki's interpretations have had a great influence on the perception of Japanese culture and Buddhism in the 'West' is a consolidated view. Therefore, part of this chapter will analyse his work and his legacy. However, this will not be confined to his contributions on Zen Buddhism. His interpretations of Shin Buddhism, as well as those of some exponents of the Kyoto school of philosophy, will also be taken into account. These will also function here as a transition between the first Chapter, which is mainly focused on Zen Buddhism and on stereotyped and essentialized images of Japanese Buddhism and culture, which had privileged certain traits and overlooked others, and the subsequent chapters, which present a more complex religious-cultural reality, with a focus on Pure Land Buddhism and the arts.

In Chapter Two attention will be drawn to elements of Jodo Shinshu in Japanese literature (mainly for a Japanese audience) through a choice of authors from the Meiji period (1868-1912) to the present. The number of books connected in various ways with Jodo and Jodoshu, currently available in Japan, is really impressive. To this should be added the publications of the two main branches of Shin Buddhism, the Honganji-ha and the Otani-ha, which count hundreds

of titles. Apart from the relevance attributed to both Shinran and Rennyo within such a vast literary production, elements of Shin Buddhism have strongly contributed to the work of well-known contemporary Japanese authors such as Itsuki Hiroyuki (b. 1932), who at the peak of his career, decided to study Buddhism at Ryukoku University (affiliated to the Honganji-ha), an experience which has also deeply influenced his writings; and Niwa Fumio (1904-2005), the son of a Shin Buddhist priest who abandoned his duties in inheriting his father's temple to become a writer. Shin Buddhism even contributed to the work of Natsume Soseki (1867-1916), surely one of the most renowned writers of the Meiji period, and of Kaneko Misuzu (1903-1930), a poetess whose writings and life gave rise to a real "Misuzu boom" in contemporary Japan.

Chapter Three explores the field of creative arts and aesthetics. It will analyse how a conception of artistic forms, strongly dependent on tariki 11J3 (other-power), which is a fundamental concept in the Shin Buddhist teaching, is of great significance, for example, in the woodblock artist Munakata Shiko (1903-1975), or in the aesthetic theory by Yanagi Muneyoshi (or Soetsu, 1889-1961), the founder of the mingei (the folk crafts) movement. Munakata's conception of the work of art as a creative product deriving from tariki, according to which the artist has no responsibility, and the influence such a conception and Shin Buddhism had on his work and even on the techniques he used, will be analysed here. A section is dedicated to Yanagi's later aesthetic conception. This is formulated on the basis of the Fourth Vow of Amida Buddha, as found in one of the essential texts of the Pure Land tradition, the Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra (Daimuryojukyo). Starting from the Fourth Vow, Yanagi himself was able to define his conception as a Buddhist aesthetics. This in turn, provided further support to the later development of the mingei movement, which is still visible today. In this chapter we will also take into account some other representatives of contemporary art in Japan, such as the internationally acknowledged artist Mori Mariko (b. 1967) and her installation entitled "Pure Land".

Chapter Four will analyse mainly two aspects of the tea ceremony in Japan: the practice and perception of one of the major schools of tea, the Urasenke within a Shin Buddhist environment, and the strong cultural ties between the Honganji-ha and the Yabunouchi school of tea, Yabunouchi-ryu, which have lasted for several centuries and date back to the Edo period (17th century). Even though the tea ceremony was not influenced by the Shin Buddhist teachings as such, elements taken from this tradition are used in the practice of the Yabunouchi school, and in its quarters items related to the Honganji-ha are to be found.

On the other hand, the role Zen Buddhism plays in this art, which is practised by adherents of different religious traditions, will be also considered. A significant part of this chapter is dedicated to my own fieldwork. From October 2004 I have actively participated in tea ceremony classes and tea gatherings in Kyoto, mainly within a Shin Buddhist environment. I have observed how Zen Buddhism is perceived by Japanese Shin Buddhist followers (and by followers of other traditions). As we will see, this is considered as an element which does not interfere with their religious practice as such. While the influence of Zen Buddhism on the way of tea will not at all be disclaimed in this chapter, the common assumption that traditional arts are exclusively an expression of this religious tradition will be questioned.

In the conclusions, we will reiterate the point of the discussion and argue that Pure Land Buddhism has indeed been an influential religious source in the development of Japanese culture, an aspect which cannot be ignored when analysing cultural and religious phenomena in Japan.

The role played by aspects of Pure Land Buddhism, and especially Shin Buddhism, in modern Japanese culture has been the main focus of this book. As has emerged from the above analyses, this religious tradition has been subjected to marginalization, not differently from other traditions, in modern discourses on Japanese culture. A reflection on the reasons underlying this marginalization has therefore been a necessary step for providing a background to the presentation of the main topic. In the Introduction and in Chapter One, renowned and influential representations of Zen Buddhism featured by traits of cultural hegemony have been illustrated in which, by reducing this tradition to the 'essence' of Japanese Buddhism, claiming its 'uniqueness' and even abstracting it from the Buddhist context in which it has originally developed,' it has been made into something 'unique, and 'uniquely Japanese. This form of decontextualized and deinstitutionalized Zen (Buddhism) has been constructed ad hoc for its dissemination in Europe and America. We have highlighted that such representational strategies have not been without their consequences, since other Buddhist traditions, have often been overlooked as not deserving the attention which Zen (Buddhism) has received. In this regard, it has been observed at the outset that orientalist and occidentalist interpretations have indeed been responsible for excluding some religious traditions while privileging others, and that the key concept of hegemony has been a fundamental tool for understanding such processes.

The presentation of Japanese culture as an exclusive product of the Zen tradition, as a 'unique' manifestation of a 'unique' religion, abstracted from its historical and socio-political environment, has undergone similar exclusivist strategies. Behind such (mis)representations, which also featured an aestheticization of death as seen in Chapter One, there lay a strong nationalist discourse and a rhetoric of war serving particular national interests at various historical junctures. One of the examples which have been considered, is the link between the samurai and Zen (Buddhism) as proposed by Suzuki and others. Within this context Zen has ended in being decontextualized from the historical background of wars and violence, and has been elevated to a 'spiritual' level, in which the 'warrior spirit' is an incarnation of the 'spirit of Japan' and an expression of an alleged 'pure essence'. Such biased understanding has been later uncritically accepted in the 'West'. We have also seen, in this respect, how less-known presentations of Japanese Buddhism and culture during WWII by the Italian buddhologist Giuseppe Tucci were serving the fascist cause and Italy's alliance with Japan (and vice versa), and how Ruth Benedict's influential presentation was functional to the cause of the United States in that same crucial period. To provide an example related to Shin Buddhism, in the case of Tucci its non celibacy was considered a productive element in society, which contributed to the growth of the overall family (of fascism, we should add), while in Benedict's view it was considered morally blameworthy. Or again, Tucci used Shinran's idea of dobo, or "fellow companions", to promote a sense of community where the individuals worked diligently and sacrificed themselves for the benefit of the state.

Indeed, to present a Buddhist tradition in the way Zen (Buddhism) has been set up for its exportation to the 'West, namely, in a decontextualized and idealized form, may easily divert attention from its implications in the socio-political sphere, making it become somehow `neutral. In brief, it could distract attention from its (as also in the case of other denominations) war responsibilities, gender discrimination and various other kinds of social discrimination, nationalism and anti-western attitudes, all matters which have strong political implications and hence in reality not being at all 'neutral' issues. Presenting Zen (Buddhism) as a form of Buddhism enclosed within the walls of a monastery where monks dedicate themselves almost exclusively to meditation, corresponded only in part to the real state of things in Japan. However, it was a way to construct an essentialized religion as a `unique' experience characterized by exotic and mystical traits, which could be presented as 'purer' than other forms of Buddhism. Here it is argued that this was particularly true for Shin Buddhism, because it is a non-monastic tradition which generally discards meditation as a "self-effort" practice. What was missing from these accounts was indeed a broader view of Zen Buddhism, in its institutional and historical development, not only confined to an idealized image of meditational practice within monasteries.

This image of Zen (Buddhism) has had a great appeal for Europe and America in a process which served a particular function at one time for both Japan and the accepting 'western' countries. On the one hand, Japan was promoting an aspect of its resources which could demonstrate its superior spiritual culture and thus enable it to gain status as a highly developed country. Thus the promotion was functional at a political level as well, as was particularly evident in the case of the presentation of Japanese Buddhism at the end of the nineteenth century. This can also be seen, as we have mentioned above, in later formulations such as the nihonjinron discourse, with its emphasis on the alleged 'uniqueness' and universality of Japanese culture.

On the other hand, for Europe and America the impact of such an exotic, decontextualized Zen had different layers of meaning. One significant example is provided by the implications of Asian spirituality for the counterculture movement, which were noted by Robert Bellah as early as the 1970s. Here, referring to the crisis in the sixties in America, he claimed that its deepest cause was "the inability of utilitarian individualism to provide a meaningful pattern of personal and social existence". Bellah noted that the deepest religious influences on the counterculture came from Mahayana Buddhism, and particularly from Zen, providing in several ways "a more thorough contrast to the rejected utilitarian individualism than did biblical religion. To external achievement it posed inner experience; to the exploitation of nature, harmony with nature; to impersonal organization, an intense relation to a guru". Thus, if it is true that the influence of this Zen spirituality also played a role in the formulation of a new view of society in the America of those years (but similar reflections can be applied also to Europe), it may also be argued that the stress on the "inner experience" and "mysticism"' placed by this decontextualized Zen (Buddhism) was not uninfluential in providing in the end a convenient distraction from the contradictions of capitalist society and political issues.

Various conditions may have provided fertile ground for this 'essentialized' Zen (Buddhism). Among these, the philosophical discourse on the critique of the subject, of knowledge and of rationality in very influential circles of the European and American intelligentsia since the end of the nineteenth century, or again the aforementioned spiritual search for a way of life characterized by non-attachment to the domain of consumerism.' One may argue, therefore, that it was precisely such a religious 'construction, and not some other forms of Japanese Buddhism, which was useful for both the proposing and the accepting countries, i.e. Japan and the 'West'. This process came full circle within Japan itself with the recognition of its own authority in the 'spiritual, and subsequently in the 'material' worlds.

In this framework, the marginalization of the Pure Land tradition in the creation of Japanese culture to be proposed to the 'West' can also be seen. Summarizing some of the reasons, we have seen at the outset that Shin Buddhism seems to have been regarded as not useful in the presentation of Japanese culture through agendas controlled by orientalism and occidentalism. As Galen Amstutz has also suggested such marginalization and the almost exclusively dominion of Zen Buddhism, was due to a "polemical struggle to control world conceptions of Japanese culture" from both Western and Japanese sides. Moreover, "the strongly political nature of the Shin tradition", Amstutz has theorized, discouraged Shinshu's appeal to the `West'. Another factor in the Shin marginalization has been the post-war propagation of Japanese Buddhism in the `West' by the influential figure of D.T. Suzuki and those who followed in his footsteps, who have surely been responsible for favouring Zen Buddhism while overlooking Shin Buddhism.'

Instead this study argues that such a popular tradition of Japanese Buddhism, despite its marginalization in representations of Japanese culture, has exerted major influence at various levels. Indeed, facets of Shin Buddhism and of Pure Land Buddhism in general have been identified in the field of literature; in creative arts, where the presence of this Buddhist tradition has played a relevant part in both artistic works and aesthetic theories; and in the field of traditional arts such as chanoyu, or the tea ceremony.

The case of the woodblock artist Munakata Shiko is indeed very significant. In the work of this prominent contemporary artist, the concept of other-power (tariki), which is fundamental to the Shin Buddhist tradition, appears to play a key role in his overall conception of art, to the extent that I have spoken of `tariki art' in his case. According to him, a work of art arises from within itself, and the conscious efforts of the artist do not have any significant role. This process, similar to the idea conveyed by the term 'naturalness, or jinen in Shin Buddhism, actually makes those who are involved in the creative production mere recipients of this religious power. It is significant in this regard that such dependence on Shin Buddhist ideas was explicitly formulated by Munakata on various occasions, in writings dedicated to the explanation of his own art, and again in his autobiographical writings, which are thought to be reliable accounts of the main steps in his artistic development. Munakata himself described his access to the dimension of other-power in unequivocally religious terms. Such a conception of art even had an impact on the techniques he used, which were illustrated by the artist himself at various times. We may recall here the emphasis placed by Munakata on the back-colouring technique (urazaishiki) which was interpreted as a way for allowing the colour to permeate the paper from behind. Here, saturation was for Munakata no less than an analogy to, or even one of the practical applications of, other-power. This is an approach which was aptly summarized by his saying that he was not at all responsible for his work.

It is not by chance that Munakata's career and, for example, the use of the back-colouring technique were deeply influenced by another of the prominent figures who have been considered in this study, Yanagi Muneyoshi. His later aesthetic conception, to which he dedicated a great deal of space, is formulated on the basis of the Fourth Vow of Amida Buddha, as found in one of the essential texts of the Pure Land tradition, the Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra (Daimuryoju-kyo). Yanagi took his cue from the idea found there, namely that in the Pure Land there is no discrimination between beauty and ugliness, to argue that folk craft objects, the artistic value of which was usually dismissed in aesthetic theories current at the time, were, in fact, expressions of "true beauty". It is on this foundation that Yanagi himself was able to define his conception as a Buddhist aesthetics, which in turn provided further support to the later development of the mingei movement. In this context, the Shin Buddhist notion of other-power plays a role similar to that found in Munakata. In fact, it is the acceptance of this religious power, and its "blessing", that allows for the creation of these "ordinary" works. It is also noteworthy here to point out Yanagi's interest in the figures of the myokonin (wondrous people), the Shin Buddhist 'saints', who are taken as a measure for the wondrousness of the folk crafts, renamed by a word-play as "myoko-hin" (wondrous works). It should be added that Yanagi's Buddhist aesthetic theory was also characterized by cultural nationalist traits. This led him to promote the 'uniqueness' of Japanese folk crafts and of Japanese culture and spirituality, which were permeated with Buddhism. In one of his writings, we have seen that he opposed two blocks, i.e. "Buddhist Aesthetics" and "Occidental Aesthetics" characterized by opposing features. Among them, the contrast between "self-power" and "other-power" was used to bestow upon Buddhist-Japanese aesthetics (characterized by "other-power") a higher status than that of its 'Western' counterpart.

In the field of literature, it has been shown that, quite apart from the prominent position occupied by the religious figures of both Shinran and Rennyo within the vast literary production in Japan, elements of Shin Buddhism strongly contribute to the work of such important contemporary authors as Itsuki Hiroyuki and Niwa Fumio, to that of Natsume Soseki, probably the foremost writer of the Meiji period, and to that of Kaneko Misuzu, a poetess who in Japan has gained a remarkable popularity.

The presence of themes related to Shin Buddhism in contemporary Japanese literature can hardly be better represented than by the work of Itsuki Hiroyuki, which has been analysed in Chapter Two. Here, the conception of other-power, tariki, is conceived, rather as in the cases of Munakata and Yanagi, as the source not only of the work of art, in this case literary production, but even of every aspect of reality. Here too the key feature is the overcoming of any form of self-effort in order to be able to accept Amida Buddha's compassion, which is the premise for a radical existential revolution, going far beyond the sphere of artistic creation. Itsuki's dependence on Shin Buddhist motives is also testified by his emphasis on the figure of Rennyo, who is prominent in this tradition. Rennyo has been featured by Itsuki in various, widely distributed productions, and celebrated as the institutional organizer and popularizer of Shin Buddhism, as well as for his key role in shaping a down-to-earth dimension in the Shin Buddhist teachings. A similar approach to the religious idea of tariki can be found in the non-Japanese author considered in this chapter, Harold Stewart. His book By the Old Walls of Kyoto has been analysed as an example of a deep commitment to Shin Buddhism and as a literary expression of his religious path from the jiriki (self-power) way, towards the Pure Land way of tariki (other-power), which Stewart himself asserted in unquestioned religious terms. His claim that the book was the work of Namu Amida Butsu resembles what Munakata Shiko said about his non responsibility for his works, this being due to the work of other-power.

The institutional and practical aspects of Shin Buddhism also provide the framework for the literary compositions of Niwa Fumio, who constantly presents a cross-section of everyday life in the Shin Buddhist temple as the backdrop for his narratives. Shin Buddhism in Niwa's work however is not only confined to the backdrop of his writings, but also constitutes their basic foundation. Moreover, these are expressions of a perspective from 'within, since Niwa himself was a priest belonging to the Takada-ha (one of the branches of Shin Buddhism), and the tariki element was a constant presence in his post-war writings. The poetess Kaneko Misuzu has also occasionally portrayed features of the life of Shin Buddhist practitioners. However, it is the presence in her poetry of motifs such as the Pure Land, compassion for all beings, and gratefulness to the Buddha, which were mediated by her belonging to the Shin Buddhist denomination, that makes her work representative of the impact of this religious tradition on modern Japanese culture.

As was also shown, such an influence can be traced even to some of the masterpieces of Natsume Soseki. On the basis of the analyses of I am a Cat and Kokoro, it is possible to argue that some of the characters are inspired by Shin Buddhist themes. These themes are not limited to membership in this particular tradition or to the characters' utterance of the nenbutsu, but even include events based on the life of Kiyozawa Manshi, widely acknowledged within influential sectors of Shin Buddhism as a modernizer of this tradition, as well as distinctive aspects of his thought.

The role played by Pure Land Buddhism in the development of the tea ceremony, was examined in Chapter Four, in which in particular the close and long-standing relationship between the Honganji-ha and the Yabunouchi school of tea was taken into account. This connection, dating back to the Edo period, continues until the present day with this particular school of tea occupying a significant place within the Buddhist institution. In the other direction, elements taken from this tradition are used in the practice of the Yabunouchi school, and Honganji-ha-related items may be seen in its quarters. We have also seen that in environments related to Pure Land Buddhism, especially to Shin Buddhism, chanoyu has been present from medieval times, and that it still constitutes even today an important cultural aspect within this religious tradition, such as, for example, in commemorative and ritual occasions, both at the official and unofficial levels. In this respect, the role played by Rennyo in the popularization of chanoyu (and no theatre and kyogen as well) as part of his strategies for the propagation of the Shin Buddhist teachings, should not be underestimated. On the other hand, in this chapter the tea ceremony (of the Urasenke school), as practised at a Shin Buddhist temple, has been also explored. It is not infrequent in this context that elements (for example, scrolls or tea bowls) derived from Shin Buddhism, namely the teacher's own religious tradition, are used during tea gatherings or lessons.

The cases taken into account in this study, some of which have been briefly summarized above, speak in favour of the presence of various concurrent elements in the shaping of Japanese culture and of the relevance of Pure Land Buddhism in this context. Of particular interest is the insistence on tariki which is not only noteworthy because of its well-known proponents, but may also be explained as a conscious attempt to reinterpret the activity of artistic creation and the broader issue of Japanese Buddhist aesthetics, starting from the perspective of "other-power". Therefore I have called `tariki art' and `tariki aesthetics' the artistic viewpoints expressed by Munakata Shiko and Yanagi Muneyoshi. This standpoint presents structural similarities to the conception of art as an expression of satori, or mu (nothingness), based on Zen Buddhism, which is commonly considered as being a distinctive and exclusive contribution of this latter tradition. In fact, both refer to the underlying Mahayana Buddhist doctrine in which self-attachment is an obstacle to religious liberation.

The concept of tariki is not the only religious idea deriving from Shin Buddhism which has been taken into account here. We have also seen the presence in some literary works (such as in the case of Niwa Fumio, Harold Stewart, and Natsume Soseki), of the concept of akunin shoki, namely the wicked person being the real object of Amida Buddha's compassion. Again, Shinran's idea of jinen honi, the spontaneous working of Amida's Vow, has been found both in literary works (such as in the case of Kaneko Misuzu, and Itsuki Hiroyuki), and in the artistic conception of Munakata Shiko and Yanagi Muneyoshi.

Finally, it should be re-emphasized that even presentations of the Pure Land tradition have not been immune from the claims of its being a superior religion, or from the assertion of Japaneseness' or of the `uniqueness' of Japanese culture.

Presentations of Japanese religions and culture should better take into account their diversification instead of proclaiming an alleged 'uniqueness'. This speaks once again of the need for a critical appraisal of the relationship between religion and culture in the Japanese context free from the seductions of exotic experiences and from the self-assuring pursuit of sectarian interests.

The Origins and Development of Pure Land Buddhism: A Study and Translation of Gyonen's Jodo Homon Genrusho by Mark L. Blum (Oxford University Press) In this study, Mark L. Blum combines a critical look at the thought and impact of the late‑thirteenth‑century intellectual Gyonen 1240‑1321) and the emergent Pure Land chool of Buddhism founded by Honen l 133‑1212). The author also provides a clear and fully annotated translation of Gyonen's Jodo homon genrusho, the first history of Pure Land Buddhism.

As the intellectual doyen of the ancient cathedral of Todaiji and Japan's most influential premodern Buddhist historian, Gyonen wrote over 180 books on topics ranging from Buddhist philosophy to temple histories to biographies to ritual music. His comprehensive histories of Buddhism detailed the process of sectarian development and doctrinal formation so accurately that they became normative in Japan for the next six centuries. An enormously influential figure, Gyonen reformed the Kegon school centered at Todaiji and created a hermeneutic that presented Buddhism as a historical expression of universal values with roots outside of Japan. Standing in sharp contrast to the deeply pessimistic historicism inherent in the contemporary doctrine of mappo‑which identified the period as an age of decline and loss of meaning‑Gyonen imagined an optimistic historical identity for Buddhism that harked back to the more ideal Nara period.

Gyonen was also a believer in Pure Land Buddhism, and composed no fewer than 22 works on Pure Land themes. His only known surviving Pure Land text is the unique historical monograph carefully translated here, a work that documents the transmission and philosophical evolution of this school from India to China to Japan. Translated here for the first time, with copious annotation and a reproduction of the most reliable xylograph edition, this history of the Pure Land Buddhist tradition is the first such record in any Buddhist country. In its historical perspective and comprehensive examination of contemporary developments, this work has long served as an unparalleled record of the remarkable surge of creative activity that transformed Pure Land Buddhism into a dominant religious force during the Kamakura period (1185‑1333).

Excerpt: By the dawn of the Kamakura period (1185‑1333), Buddhism had sunk its roots into the cultural soil of Japan for more than six centuries, and reference to the Pure Land is evident from the outset.` The present study focuses on the intellectual discourse that rationalized the new forms of Pure Land Buddhism taking shape during the thirteenth century, a time of great innovation and no small degree of unsettledness under two competing centers of political power, the court and the shogunate.

At the end of that century, it is commonly accepted that the watershed event for Pure Land Buddhism in Japan is the establishment of the Jodo school Jodoshi) by Honen  (1133‑1212), the first school or sect devoted to this system of belief and practice. While there is much evidence to suggest in the beginning of that century that Honen himself had little or no intention of founding a new religious order that would compete with the Tendai sect to which he belonged, by its end the relentless expansion of the lineages formed under the leadership of Honen's disciples support an impression that a new sectarian identity is present and not likely to soon disappear. Our look at this process of sectarian formation revolves around an interpretive axis dominated by the work of the contemporary Todaiji scholiast Gyonen (1240‑1321, a monk of the Kegon school who not only documents in unparalleled detail the doctrinal understandings and lines of transmission of these disciples of Honen, but also offers a groundbreaking historical analysis of the authoritative scriptures and patriarchs who preceded Honen in India, China, and Japan, and whom, in some sense, he represents. The Gyonen work looked at and translated here is the Jodo homon genrusho (hereafter abbreviated as Genrusho).' Completed exactly one hundred years after the death of Honen, it achieved wide circulation in printed editions from the early seventeenth century on, serving as a critical source text for the study of this period. In Gyonen we have a learned opinion in rare detail of how the next two generations of thinkers in this tradition made sense of this new Pure Land doctrine. But Gyonen was also hard at work carving out a new approach to understanding Buddhism that contextualized all of its forms historically, so we must also understand that his homage to the contributions of Honen and his disciples is an expression of an historian's recognition of their significance to the history of Buddhism as a whole. It is hoped that this attempt to explicate Gyonen's framing of the establishment of Jodo school will not only contribute to our understanding of the enduring legacy of the Pure Land Buddhist message, but also provide insight into the implications of this new historical consciousness in Japanese Buddhism championed if not fashioned by Gyonen.

Today, Pure Land Buddhism has a huge presence in Japan, and all groups or sects that define themselves as Pure Land trace their doctrinal and lineage identities back to the single figure of Honen. Shinran  (1173‑1262), founder of the Jodo Shin school (Jodoshinshu), presently the largest single religious organization in Japan, was a disciple of Honen and referred to him as the "original patriarch" (ganso) Shinran is quoted as declaring that he would not regret falling into hell as a result of the nenbutsu practice advocated by Honen. Tokugawa Ieyasu  (1542-1616), the powerful shogun who created a family dynasty that ruled Japan until 1868, was an ardent believer in nenbutsu, the orthopraxis of the Pure Land path as defined by Honen. When addressing his troops, he would raise banners with the invocation, "Disdain the Defiled World, Seek the Pure Land." After his entry into Edo, Ieyasu designating the Jodo monastery Zojoji to be the Tokugawa family temple (bodaiji), and subsequent Tokugawas remained active supporters of the Jodoshu institution throughout the Edo period.

Ultimately the story of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan expresses a spirituality transcending sectarian concerns that pervades Japanese culture surely as thoroughly as that of Zen, its better known cousin. Both schools were transmitted to Japan from the eighth century, and both experienced similar struggles to gain sectarian independence in the Kamakura period. While the Kamakura form of the Zen school has received considerable attention in the West, study of this formative period of sectarian Pure Land Buddhism has only just begun.

Gender Equality in Buddhism by Masatoshi Ueki (Asian Thought and Culture: Peter Lang) It was epoch making when Buddhism declared men and women equal in India where women traditionally were regarded as inferior to men. After the death of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, Buddhist monks, called Hinayana Buddhist, became conservative and authoritarian and began to make light of women as well as lay believers. While the Hinayana Buddhists discriminated against women, the Mahayana Buddhists tried to improve women's positions in society through their "Renaissance of Buddhism." Masatoshi Ueki discusses Nichiren's impartial view of women and insists that the male and female principles are indispensable for the perfection of personality.

I do not think there are many books published that discuss in detail the Buddhist views on women. In this book, however, Mr. Masatoshi Ueki goes deeply into detail on the important issues surrounding the matter of discrimination against women throughout the history of Buddhism. He has very meticulously and painstakingly done research on the matter and I am personally convinced that the fruits of his labor have untold value in the area of women's studies.


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