Zen in Brazil

Zen in Brazil: The Quest for Cosmopolitan Modernity

Copyright Date: 2006
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    Zen in Brazil
    Book Description:

    Widely perceived as an overwhelmingly Catholic nation, Brazil has experienced in recent years a growth in the popularity of Buddhism among the urban, cosmopolitan upper classes. In the 1990s Buddhism in general and Zen in particular were adopted by national elites, the media, and popular culture as a set of humanistic values to counter the rampant violence and crime in Brazilian society. Despite national media attention, the rapidly expanding Brazilian market for Buddhist books and events, and general interest in the globalization of Buddhism, the Brazilian case has received little scholarly attention. Cristina Rocha addresses that shortcoming in Zen in Brazil. Drawing on fieldwork in Japan and Brazil, she examines Brazilian history, culture, and literature to uncover the mainly Catholic, Spiritist, and Afro-Brazilian religious matrices responsible for this particular indigenization of Buddhism. In her analysis of Japanese immigration and the adoption and creolization of the Sôtôshû school of Zen Buddhism in Brazil, she offers the fascinating insight that the latter is part of a process of "cannibalizing" the modern other to become modern oneself. She shows, moreover, that in practicing Zen, the Brazilian intellectual elites from the 1950s onward have been driven by a desire to acquire and accumulate cultural capital both locally and overseas. Their consumption of Zen, Rocha contends, has been an expression of their desire to distinguish themselves from popular taste at home while at the same time associating themselves with overseas cultural elites.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6566-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Series Editor’s Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    George J. Tanabe Jr.
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    In February 2003, there was heated discussion on the Brazilian e-mail list Buddhismo-L over a widely watched, popular Sunday variety program on the TV Globo network.¹ The controversy arose when the program featured a woman who claimed to be a Buddhist but resorted to Afro-Brazilian and French-Brazilian Spiritist beliefs to prescribe a solution for personal problems. One of the first messages posted explained the issues at stake.

    Yesterday, by a samsaric² [sic] misfortune, I was watching theFaustãoTV program. A woman, who claimed to be an astrologer, tarot reader, futurologist, Buddhist—obviously a deceiver—was there making predictions. Yes,...

  6. 1 The Japanese-Brazilian Junction: Establishing Zen Missions
    (pp. 23-62)

    The room is buzzing with excitement. Folding chairs are arranged in rows. Japanese men wearing suits and ties are sitting in the front and Japanese women are at the back, as is appropriate in Japanese culture, where men take precedence. In the middle are many T-shirted non-Japanese Brazilians, men and women mixed, as befits their culture. This is the Forty-Seventh General Assembly of the Comunidade Budista Sōtō Zenshū da América do Sul (Sōtō Zenshū Buddhist Community of South America), and, as usual, it is taking place in the basement of Busshinji Temple in São Paulo City. There are about 115...

  7. 2 Non-Japanese Brazilians and the Orientalist Shaping of Zen
    (pp. 63-90)

    In this chapter I will examine how European Orientalist imaginings mediated the Brazilian cultural elite’s perceptions of Japan, Buddhism in general, and Zen. Rather than viewing Japanese immigrant communities in Brazil as a source of the “exotic East,” Brazilian artists and intellectuals—and eventually the general public—have been inspired either indirectly by ideas of Orientalism originating from cultural centers in the West such as France, England, and the United States or directly through assumptions about the “authenticity” of Japan itself.³ As a result, Zen was never confined to the narrow boundaries of Sōtōshū’s temples in Brazil, but has been...

  8. 3 The Brazilian Religious Field: Where does Zen Fit In?
    (pp. 91-126)

    In January 2002 I was participating in a one-year memorial ceremony for a Japanese-Brazilian family at Tenzui Zen Dōjō, the temple Coensenseihad established the month before. During the ceremony, I overheard two girls who were sitting behind me whispering—one was telling the other that she was not feeling well. Immediately after that, the sick girl left her seat and went to speak to a woman sitting in the front row. This was Nícia, a Japanese-Brazilian woman who had organized this memorial rite for her mother. When both Nícia and the non-Japanese-Brazilian girl were preparing to leave the...

  9. 4 The Brazilian Imaginary of Zen: Global Influences, Rhizomatic Forms
    (pp. 127-152)

    In 1997 the glossy, upmarket Brazilian magazineCasa Vogue,a local version ofVogue Living,featured a cover story on “Zen Style.” The magazine invited twelve prominent Brazilian architects and interior decorators to produce designs that evoked ambiences of “Zen.” Each professional was asked to define the qualities of this “Zen Style.” The story was reported under the heading “Zen Style: More than a Decorating Style, It is a Life Style.” The list of attributes provided by the twelve professionals continued along the same lines.

    Zen has to do with culture, refinement, and it is contemporary; it reflects a particular...

  10. 5 Doing Zen, Being Zen: Creolizing “Ethnic” and “Convert” Buddhism
    (pp. 153-192)

    In 2000, I was at Busshinji Temple for thehiganfestivities.Higan,literally “the other shore” (a reference to full enlightenment), occurs at the spring and autumn equinoxes. It is the time when Japanese people visit family graves and ask a priest to read Buddhist prayers for ancestors to reach “the other shore.” At Busshinji Temple parishioners usually make a money donation for the names of their ancestors to be read during the ritual. On that Sunday morning there were many non-Japanese Brazilians actively participating in this rite of ancestor worship. If non-Japanese-Brazilian Zen practice were solely about meditation, one...

  11. Conclusion: Translocal Flows: The “Meditodrome” as a Zen Style of Governing
    (pp. 193-198)

    With 1.5 million inhabitants, Recife is not a small town. However, located in the less developed and more traditional northeastern Brazil, it has not anywhere near the cosmopolitanism of the southeastern region (São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro). ThisFolha de São Paulonewspaper story reveals that the deployment of Zen as a lifestyle and an umbrella word, which encompasses all sorts of alternative spirituality (in this case Transcendental Meditation), has traveled a long way inside the country—2,660 kilometers. Furthermore, the mayor’s idea of creating a “meditodrome,” possibly as an answer to Rio de Janeiro’s celebrated “sambadrome,” is not...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 199-232)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-248)
  14. Index
    (pp. 249-256)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-258)