Immigrants to the Pure Land

Immigrants to the Pure Land: The Modernization, Acculturation, and Globalization of Shin Buddhism, 1898-1941

Michihiro Ama
Copyright Date: 2011
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    Immigrants to the Pure Land
    Book Description:

    Religious acculturation is typically seen as a one-way process: The dominant religious culture imposes certain behavioral patterns, ethical standards, social values, and organizational and legal requirements onto the immigrant religious tradition. In this view, American society is the active partner in the relationship, while the newly introduced tradition is the passive recipient being changed. Michihiro Ama's investigation of the early period of Jodo Shinshu in Hawai'i and the United States sets a new standard for investigating the processes of religious acculturation and a radically new way of thinking about these processes.

    Most studies of American religious history are conceptually grounded in a European perspectival position, regarding the U.S. as a continuation of trends and historical events that begin in Europe. Only recently have scholars begun to shift their perspectival locus to Asia. Ama's use of materials spans the Pacific as he draws on never-before-studied archival works in Japan as well as the U.S. More important, Ama locates immigrant Jodo Shinshu at the interface of two expansionist nations. At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, both Japan and the U.S. were extending their realms of influence into the Pacific, where they came into contact-and eventually conflict-with one another. Jodo Shinshu in Hawai'i and California was altered in relation to a changing Japan just as it was responding to changes in the U.S. Because Jodo Shinshu's institutional history in the U.S. and the Pacific occurs at a contested interface, Ama defines its acculturation as a dual process of both "Japanization" and "Americanization."

    Immigrants to the Pure Landexplores in detail the activities of individual Shin Buddhist ministers responsible for making specific decisions regarding the practice of Jodo Shinshu in local sanghas. By focusing so closely, Ama reveals the contestation of immigrant communities faced with discrimination and exploitation in their new homes and with changing messages from Japan. The strategies employed, whether accommodation to the dominant religious culture or assertion of identity, uncover the history of an American church in the making.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6104-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Translation of Terms
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    On his way to San Francisco in 1899, Shūe Sonoda, later to become the first superintendent of the Buddhist Mission of North America (BMNA), expressed to his father-in-law his anxiety about leaving his family behind and his determination to transmit Shin Buddhism in the New World. One year earlier, Hōni Satomi had moved to Honolulu as the first superintendent of the Honpa Honganji Mission of Hawaii (HHMH).

    Prior to World War II, Jodō Shinshū had become a dominant form of ethnic Buddhism in North America. By the mid-1920s, HHMH had built more than thirty Shin missions throughout the Hawaiian Islands....

  7. Chapter One The Modern Development of Shin Buddhism
    (pp. 14-30)

    The Shin Buddhist response to modernity undertaken by the two Honganjis is worth examining for several reasons. In 1559, the head temple of Honganji achieved the rank ofmonzeki,which denotes a temple recognized by the emperor, imperial family, or an aristocrat.¹ By the sixteenth century, this temple complex had grown into “a formidable religious and political force” and “outstripped most other schools of Buddhism” in terms of its membership.² In the seventeenth century the Honganji was divided into Nishi (west) and Higashi (east) branches. The two Honganjis gave financial assistance to the Meiji government from the end of the...

  8. Chapter Two Changes in Organizational Style
    (pp. 31-58)

    The eastward transmission of Shin Buddhism commenced at the turn of the twentieth century. The Nishi Honganji initiated a full-scale campaign in North America after certain individuals laid the foundations of religious activities. These preliminary events, however, set a trajectory of propagation that resulted in different approaches in Hawaii and on the mainland. First, there were several Shin priests in Hawaii who had privately followed a large number of their fellow immigrants from Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures. Second, the Nishi Honganji had sent its scholar-priests to the mainland for religious study prior to consigningkaikyōshi(ministers) to the communities of...

  9. Chapter Three The Development of Shin Buddhist Ministries in North America
    (pp. 59-86)

    The Americanization and Japanization of the Honpa Honganji Mission of Hawaii (HHMH) and the Buddhist Mission of North America (BMNA) are coupled with the expansion of their ministries. Their structural features reflected the spiritual concerns of the Issei, Nisei, and Caucasian ministers, who simultaneously maintained and transformed the teachings, practices, ordinations, and other rituals. By the 1930s, the HHMH and the BMNA had established ministerial duties for the three groups of priests, but a watershed event in the history of Shin Buddhism took place in Hawaii and on the mainland during that time period. With the death on December 22,...

  10. Chapter Four The Transformation of Shin Buddhist Rituals and Architecture
    (pp. 87-109)

    Victor Turner defines the performance of ritual as “distinctive phases in the social process, whereby groups and individuals adjust to internal changes and adapt to their external environment.”¹ Issei Shin ministers at first practiced the ritual protocol prescribed by their head temple in Kyoto. Previous studies have said that Buddhist rituals became Protestantized when Issei ministers attempted to keep the interest of and cater to the demands of young Nisei followers. Referring to Isao Horinouchi, Carl Becker, for instance, writes:

    Since few white Americans ever set foot inside a Buddhist church in America, much less stay for a whole service,...

  11. Chapter Five Shin Buddhist Doctrine Reconstructed
    (pp. 110-144)

    Changes in organizational style and rituals correspond to the rethinking of Shinran’s teaching in North America. The reinterpretation of Shin doctrine was triggered by theological challenges from Christianity, interaction with Buddhists from other traditions, and democratic principles in the United States. In the prewar period, the two branches of the Honganji sent scholar-priests (gakusō) to various academic institutions in the United States and Western Europe. Several Nishi Honganjikaikyōshialso attended American universities and received Master of Arts degrees.¹

    These priests, however, were unconcerned with the adaptation of Shin doctrine to a new environment. Therefore, the primary focus of this...

  12. Chapter Six A History of the Higashi Honganji in North America
    (pp. 145-167)

    The Higashi Honganji propagation is historically important, as it illustrates simultaneous competition and cooperation between the two branches of the Honganji in North America. The Nishi Honganji and the Higashi Honganji are comparable in terms of size and membership in Japan, but the scale of the Higashi propagation in North America has always been smaller than that of the Nishi. In 1933 and 1934, the Higashi had seven ministers and 2,900 members in Hawaii, whereas the Nishi boasted sixty-one ministers and 14,464 members.¹ In Los Angeles alone, the Higashi had five ministers and one thousand members in 1937, while the...

  13. Chapter Seven Local and Translocal Activities of Issei Shin Buddhist Ministers
    (pp. 168-188)

    The acculturation of Shin Buddhism occurred in relation to the development of its organizations in Hawaii and on the mainland. In both regions, changes in organizational style, rituals, and doctrine reflected the processes of Japanization and Americanization, albeit on different levels. This chapter aims to go beyond the organizational settings and examine the sociopolitical implications of acculturation. When Shin ministers responded to the crises of the Nikkei community as a whole, their actions differed in these two regions.

    On the mainland, at two major international religious conferences, BMNA leaders appealed to the American public that Buddhism was a religion of...

  14. Conclusion Rethinking Acculturation in the Postmodern World
    (pp. 189-194)

    During the first half of the twentieth century, Japanese Buddhism established religious frontiers in three places. The present work is intended to contribute to the study of the religious frontier that emerged in North America, where Shin Buddhism became an interstitial religion despite its clergy’s efforts to promote the buddhadharma eastward (bukkyō tōzen), and discusses how the modernization of Shin Buddhism impacted and paralleled the acculturation of its counterpart in the United States.

    Prior to the eastward progression, religious frontiers had appeared within Japan. Both the Nishi Honganji and the Higashi Honganji sought domestic expansion by propagating in Hokkaido, Kagoshima,...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 195-268)
  16. References
    (pp. 269-298)
  17. Index
    (pp. 299-312)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 313-315)