Lay Buddhism in Contemporary Japan

Lay Buddhism in Contemporary Japan: Reiyukai Kyodan

Helen Hardacre
Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    Lay Buddhism in Contemporary Japan
    Book Description:

    Basing her book on four years of field work (including interviews, a survey of 2,000 Reiyukai members, and eight months of residence with believers), she analyzes Reiyukai ancestor worship and veneration of the Lotus Sutra. She explains the enduring appeal of a religion, founded in 1919, that dedicates itself to the spread of true Buddhism" and that retains its core intact, in spite of a number of schisms.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5537-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Note on Romanization
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. Preface
    (pp. xvii-2)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 3-9)

    The idea that children owe to their parents a debt of such magnitude that it can never possibly be repaid was expounded by Nakae Tōju 中江藤樹 (1608–1648), a pioneer of Japanese Neo-Confucian thought. Employing in a style typical of his era a single idea as the center of his philosophical system, he emphasized filial piety as preeminent among virtues and spoke of theon恩 owed to parents as “higher than the mountains, deeper than the seas.”¹ The phrase appeared interakoya寺小屋 school-books and remained a standard tenet of morals courses down to 1945. The notion of this...

  9. Chapter One The History of Reiyukai
    (pp. 10-53)

    Most studies on the Japanese new religions explain their origins as the result of crisis. While a crisis may explain (in some weak sense of that word) why groups form at a particular time, it does not account for their persistence once the time of crisis has passed. The earthquake of 1923 played a role in the founding of Reiyukai, but neither its origin nor its continuation can be explained solely by reference to this crisis. To say of Reiyukai that it represents a reaction to crisis would ignore its positive attempts to address the problems of Japanese society and...

  10. Chapter Two Contemporary Activities and Organization
    (pp. 54-97)

    For its description of the contemporary activities and organization of Reiyukai, this chapter relies, in addition to primary and secondary literature, on information collected in 1976 – 1977 through field work among members of the Eighth Branch in Osaka and on the results of a questionnaire distributed to 2,000 members in 1977. Thus, my attempt to produce a coherent portrait of Reiyukai members and their activities rests on a variety of sources of information. Following an outline of organizational structure, I present basic statistical data on such matters as members’ occupations, income, ages, and educational levels and then discuss important group...

  11. Chapter Three Reiyukai and the Family
    (pp. 98-126)

    This chapter examines the relation between Reiyukai and the family. Reiyukai members are greatly concerned about what they see as a “breakdown” of the family, and they hope to restore its values. Members have strong opinions as to how the family should be organized and regulated that differ from those of the general populace.

    The family system has been undergoing radical change since 1945, but Reiyukai upholds the values of the family system as it was before 1945. Much of the thought and behavior of Reiyukai members is aimed at dealing with problems that arise within the family, and members...

  12. Chapter Four Reiyukai Ritual
    (pp. 127-154)

    Reiyukai’s ritual of ancestor worship, senzo kuyo, symbolically expresses the major tenets of the group’s world view. These include the power of the ancestors and of the Lotus Sutra to affect human life, and the ideal of harmony and reciprocity between ancestor and descendant, macrocosm and microcosm. Unlike other Buddhist schools of thought, Reiyukai insists on a direct ritual relation between ancestor and descendant, countenancing no priestly intervention. In its claim for direct reciprocity, Reiyukai takes sides in a debate concerning the nature of karma, merit transfer, and the status of the clergy that has a long history. Only by...

  13. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  14. Chapter Five Witnessing and Healing
    (pp. 155-187)

    This chapter introduces the phenomena of witnessing and healing in Reiyukai. Witnessing is an important practice in teaching the novice the group’s ideas and in developing a newcomer into a potential leader of others. Furthermore, it is in testimonial texts that we can best see how members make religious ideas an integral part of their lives. The texts reveal the major religious themes that actively come into play when a member is faced with a real problem. Testimonies show how traditional Buddhist ideas are reinterpreted and applied to contemporary situations.

    Reiyukai testimonies, calledtaiken体験, “experiences,” are among the most...

  15. Chapter Six The Role of Women in Reiyukai
    (pp. 188-223)

    Previous chapters have shown how and why the traditional family system, its roles and values take on religious significance in Reiyukai. Women’s normative confinement to the domestic sphere makes it only natural that they would be more involved in a religion centering on the family than would men, thus partially explaining their higher rate of participation, as seen in Chapter 2. Male leaders spontaneously declare that women are the center of the group and that without them, it could not survive. Although statistics presented earlier show women’s numerical strength, further examination of their role in the group is still required....

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 224-230)

    This book has dealt with the problem of the significance of Reiyukai belief and practice in the lives of its members. The assertion that membership in Reiyukai or groups like it has some instrumental effectiveness would not be problematic except for the existence of a tradition of scholarship that has tended to ignore the claims of religious groups in this area as unworthy of serious consideration. Any scholar who has absorbed a functionalist ethos even without finer points of theory is prepared “in principle” to say that membership in a religious group must “of course” yield some instrumental effectiveness. But...

  17. Appendix. Questionnaire Results
    (pp. 231-254)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 255-264)
  19. Index
    (pp. 265-267)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 268-268)