Buddhism and Christianity in Japan: From Conflict to Dialogue, 1854-1899

Buddhism and Christianity in Japan: From Conflict to Dialogue, 1854-1899

Buddhism and Christianity in Japan: From Conflict to Dialogue, 1854-1899

Buddhism and Christianity in Japan: From Conflict to Dialogue, 1854-1899

Excerpt

It has been repeated over and over again that the present dialogue between Buddhists and Christians in Japan has introduced a radically new stage in the relationship between the two religions. One is often left with the impression that the encounter is a recent phenomenon, stimulated by trends in the World Council of Churches or inspired by the Second Vatican Council. It is certainly true that the dialogue in recent years has been characterized by a new intensity and depth, but the exaggerated emphasis on the uniqueness of the present situation reveals a lack of historical perspective.

My study of Buddhist-Christian relations in Japan convinced me that the radical transformation -- from conflict to dialogue -- took place primarily in the 1890s. The major part of the present study, therefore, consists of an examination of the dramatic and traumatic development in those years; it was a decade of bitter hostility and conflict, but it also became the starting point for dialogue and cooperation. My primary concern has been historical: to detect the origin of the peaceful dialogue, to examine its motives and trends, and to uncover the process through which dialogue became possible. This inevitably forced me to search further back: to the initial contact after the opening of Japan in the mid- nineteenth century, and even to the so-called Christian Century, which began with the arrival of Francis Xavier in 1549 and ended with the seclusion of the country and the proscription of Christianity. The relationship between Buddhism and Christianity at that early stage, however, will only be referred to as far as it bears upon the religious development in the nineteenth century.

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