Constructing Histories, Thinking Ritual Gatherings, and Rereading "Native" Religion: A Review of Recent Books Published in Japanese on Premodern Japanese Religion (Part Two)

By Ruppert, Brian O. | Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, July 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Constructing Histories, Thinking Ritual Gatherings, and Rereading "Native" Religion: A Review of Recent Books Published in Japanese on Premodern Japanese Religion (Part Two)


Ruppert, Brian O., Japanese Journal of Religious Studies


(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

Histories of Premodern Japanese Religion

We can start with Yoshida Kazuhiko's ... Kodai Bukky? o yominaosu ... (Tokyo: Yoshikawa K?bunkan, 2006), since it seems in many ways like a founder and precursor of the range of works written recently concerning early and, to some extent, medieval Japanese religion. Yoshida, who has long attempted to overcome common misconceptions concerning early Buddhism, succinctly tries to correct the public's "common sense" (j?shiki ...). Highlights include clarifications, including reference to primary and secondary sources that "Sh?toku Taishi" is a historical construction rather than a person, and even the story of the destruction of Buddhist images is based primarily on continental Buddhist sources; "popular Buddhism" does not begin in the Kamakura period, since even the new Kamakura Buddhisms as a group did not become promi- nent until the late fifteenth century; discourses on kami-Buddha relations in Japan were originally based on Chinese sources; for early Japanese Buddhists (including Saich?, K?kai, and so on), Japan was a Buddhist country modeling its Buddhism on the continent; and the term for the sovereign tenn?, written as "heavenly thearch" ..., was based on Chinese religious sources and only used from the late seventh century. Yoshida also includes an extensive discussion of the progress made in the study of women in early Japanese Buddhism.

Kamikawa Michio..., in his Nihon ch?sei Bukky? keiseishi ron ... (Tokyo: Azekura Shob?, 2007), begins his study by calling into question the ease and ambiguity with which historians of early Japan have used the term kokka Bukky? ("governmental Buddhism"),1 and uses Inoue Mitsusada's ... use of the term as a typical example (a move similar to that undertaken by Taira Masayuki in his most famous study).2 Critiquing Inoue's focus on kokka Bukky?, Kamikawa appeals to others who question its centrality, such as Yoshida Kazuhiko, who divides Buddhism into a series of levels. Nonetheless, Kamikawa sees ambiguity even in Yoshida's discussion, and criticizes the notion for the fol- lowing reasons: logical ambiguity; ignoring of Mah?y?na Buddhism (especially precepts) as a religious basis for Japanese Buddhism; forcing of Buddhism into an institutionally-based framework incapable of explaining Buddhism when the latter weakens (that is, post-Ritsury?); naïve assumption that the government simply believed in the thaumaturgical powers of Buddhist ritual rather than saw it as useful for other reasons; the assumption that Buddhism was accepted by the populace simply due to belief rather than complex political factors; and the ten- dency to analyze the history of Buddhism in terms of cultural changes or belief rather than the larger political history of East Asia. In the place of an Inoue- esque perspective, Kamikawa argues for a position closer to Ishimoda Sh? ... and, especially, Kuroda Toshio. Even so, he criticizes Kuroda's kenmitsu taisei theory for failure to address the larger impact of East Asia-especially the Mah?y?na Buddhist thought which constituted the foundation of East Asian Buddhism-and Kuroda's suggestion that it was as a specifically Japanese form of esoteric Buddhism that eventually reached the populace rather than what Kamikawa sees as a development rooted in the splintering of the wealthy classes throughout East Asia. Kamikawa offers "Mah?y?na Buddhism" as the concept to counter the tendency to analyze Buddhist history in terms of Buddhist institu- tions, arguing that acknowledgment of the centrality of Mah?y?na in East Asia means understanding that the monastic and lay are equally part of the Buddhist world and together attempt to follow the precepts. He also suggests that the his- tory of early Buddhism should be conducted as one aspect of a larger diplomatic history of Japan-within-East-Asia-one in which the public legitimacy of the Japanese sovereign (tenn?) was directly grounded in the imperatives of rulership in East Asia. …

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