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#5 Buddhism as a Religion of the Family

#5 Buddhism as a Religion of the Family

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Article CC:CCl Scottish journal of religious studies The Scottish journal of religious studies The Scottish journal of religious studies.
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Images in Soto Zen: Buddhism as a religion of the family in contemporaryJapan t" ", Reader, Ian 10 1

1989
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This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17.U.S. Code) System Date/Time: 5/10/2010 1:34:43 PM MST

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1 .IX No. Lampeter Shabbir Akhtar Lecturer and Author Bradford John Grimes Doctoral Graduate University of Madras For Emeritus Professor read Professor Neil Cooper University of Dundee. Williams Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies University of Wales.Contributors Ian Reader Lecturer in Japanese Studies University of Stirling Cyril G. Vol.

and continues to be. since the latter part of the nineteenth century. broad-based religious structure that also deals with. Zen priests have. very little has been written about Zen Buddhism in its present context in Japan. in English. and caters to. The large majority of priests marry and many also do other work to supplement the income they receive as priestS. but also has been. or about the ways in which temples with a Zen Buddhist affiliationrelate to people in Japanese sociery. Moreover. the needs of a wider populace. about Zen Buddhist religious organisations. like most other Buddhist priests in Japan.2 . In all. raised families and lived lives less focused on meditation and monastic principles than on performing funeral and other religious rituals for the laity. than about any other facet of religion in Japan-this has invariably focused on philosophical and theoretical aspects or. In contrast.000 temples belonging to the Soto Zen sect (the single largest Zen Buddhist organisation in Japan) are primatily monastic or meditation-orientated. the priesthood is more hereditary than vocational: a very high proportion of Soto priests have inherited their temple and the priesthood from their fathers who were priests before them. Despite the images of austere monasticism and penetrating philosophy implicit in most of the works about Zen Buddhism. in performing mortuary tituals and in providing a basis and situation through which people may venerate their family ancestors in much the same way as temples of all other branches of Japanese Buddhism. usually married. on the dramatic and often bizarre nature of encounters between Zen teachers and pupils. it has not always been much different from other branches of Buddhism in Japan.Images III Soto Zen: Buddhism as a Religion of the Family in Contemporary Japan Ian Reader Introduction Although much has been written about Zen Buddhism-probably more. a living. usually in a more popular vein.! There is little that enables us to know that Zen Buddhism is not just a somewhat abstruse or deeply philosophical means towards the attainment of a lofty enlightenment beyond the grasp of all but a few. only about 30 of the 15. Zen Buddhist temples are active in dealing with the death process.

but especially short books. and through it we shall be able to see the degree to which adherence to traditional values is important to organised Zen Buddhism. It has developed in Japan as a mainstream religion. This is of note because of the important role that the family and household as a unit has played in the world of Japanese religion in general and Buddhism in particular. exhibiting not just the universalisms implied in Zen doctrine and meditation. indeed. and many of the concerns manifested in the publications and pronouncements of the Sata Zen organisation can be found elsewhere in Japanese Buddhism and. there are some common themes and images that recur enough to make them stand out as particularly worthy of note. in its Japanese context. Zen Buddhism has a broad basis and function. pamphlets and leaflets. As I have already stated.6 In other words. but also the particularisms of the Japanese religious environment and world. . Another purpose is to provide an outline and picture of the major orientations of Japanese Buddhism in general. It is also of interest to look at the extended use made of family imagery precisely because the family as an institution stands in antithesis to the monastic ideals of Buddhism that lie at the heart of Zen's development. part of the religious mainstream establishment in Japan. is 'to leave one's home'. As such. priests and affiliated members throughout Japan. One aim of this article is to draw attention to these more overtly Japanese elements as seen through the eyes of one contemporary Zen Buddhist sect. help to provide a broader picture of Zen Buddhism than is generally gathered from the literature at hand. Soto Zen: this will. in other Japanese religious movements as well. Indeed. I hope. the literal meaning of the Japanese word for becoming a monk. produced at and issued by the Tokyo headquarters of the Sota Zen sect and sent out to its temples. shukke. will provide a window onto the overall world of Japanese Buddhism and the environment in which it exists and functions today. 3 The theme I intend to examine here is the use made of imagery revolving around the concept of the family. besides giving insights into the nature and character of Zen Buddhism in Japan. The documentary focus of this inquiry is to be found in the large amount of publications of all sorts. looking at some of the themes currently of importance to the Sato Zen sect. encompassing aspects of social as well as religious structure. and is. Although this corpus of literature is large and diverse in nature. Zen Buddhism in its institutionalised forms has been.

Eventually. it will be necessary to give a brief outline of the position of established Buddhism in Japan today. households acquired their own Buddhist altars (butsudan} at which the ancestors were also venerated. too. one of the major means by which it was popularised and brought into the sphere of peasant life was through asserting that it could offer the peasantry a more efficaciousmeans of hope and solace in death than could be found in the traditional folk religious structure. concemed with the processes of death and of upholding the extended family and household which was traditionally seen in Japan as a fusion of the living and the watchful. As such the Buddhist temple and priesthood became important both for handling the problem of death. and to which the Buddhist priest would be asked to come to offer prayers at regular intervals. protective spirits of the dead. especially after the formalisation of this temple-household system. Affiliation to a temple (and hence. especially ie. it was primarily. to a Buddhist sect) was through the household: there was little overt conception of personal.P In time Buddhist temples became major repositories of memorials to family ancestors and the site of family graves. rather than as individuals. through the performance of rituals and the use of Buddhist prayers and incantations. To this extent the role of Buddhism came to be seen by the populace as a whole to be primarily ritualistic and social. in its early centuries in Japan. the souls of the dead to the ancestral world.7 Before embarking on a discussion of these issues and of the ways in which such imagery appears in Soto literature." When it did so. from which they would guard and protect the living. chosen individual faith. It should perhaps also be noted that the household/family lineage (Japanese: ie) has always been the primary element in Japanese social structure: people were (and still are. Buddhism in Japan: Major Structural Themes Although Buddhism first appeared in Japan in the sixth cetury A. . Buddhism took on the role of guiding. This will make it clear why the family/household as a unit is so important to Japanese Buddhism and why it thus appears as a major theme in the religious writings of Buddhist organisations such as S6to. a religion of the court and the elite. for caring for the dead and for bringing the living and the dead.D. the household and its ancestors. together in a unity. to a great degree) defined by group. By assimilating traditional folk beliefs about the influence of the souls of dead members of the lineage on the living. It was not until the thirteenth century and after that it made any great advance into the mass society of the rural peasantry or the growing urban artisan classes.

Because contact with Buddhism is via a household relationship." Although the danka seido as an obligatory system was abolished in 1871 its influence still continues to this day. very large numbers of people do not see themselves as Buddhists in terms ofbe1ief. numbering approximately 80 per cent of the population. No one in our household has died yet'. All funerals had to be performed at the Buddhist temple to which one's household was affiliated.8 This occured during the Tokugawa (1600-1868) era. although permitted to carry out Shinto rites and services. Generally people tend to use such terms as 'our household . or no concern at all. while maintaining in the same breath that they (or. One university professor I know. when asked what sect of Buddhism he belonged to. This apparent strength is. replied 'I do not know. Often affiliation is because of tradition and inertia.a rule that extended to Shinto priests who. their households) are Buddhist. however. or have simply let them lapse. The householdtemple system (danka seido) was primarily designed as a means of making sure that people did not follow the forbidden religion of Christianity (the Buddhist temples were required to enforce an oath on each household which was vehemently anti-Christian) and as a means of social control and regulation (the temples becoming transformed into something akin to local government offices). rather misleading. when laws were passed forcing all households to belong formally to a Buddhist temple and sect.7 A preliminary look at the figures. and has formed the basis of relationships between the Japaneseand Buddhist temples and sects ever since. then. but in terms of circumstance. with belief and active involvement a secondary concern. had to die as Buddhists. The fees received from funerals and the series of rites that were required to transform the dead soul into a full ancestor formed the basis of the Buddhist temple's economy. but large numbers still follow the course of tradition and maintain an affiliationto the temple where their ancestors worshipped and are venerated.064. Many people and households have transferred their religious affiliationselsewhere. and for many Japanese conditioned very largely through the still socially necessary process of dealing with death through a particular medium.760 people were classifiedas Buddhist in 1986. would suggest that traditional Buddhism in Japan remains strong. a function they still have to this day. To a very great extent this accounts for the large numbers of people who count themselves (or are counted) as Buddhists in Japan: the latest religious yearbook published by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs shows that 92. Japanese people are liable to state that they have no religious belief or interest. more precisely.

"? When asked why they went to temples. while there were 1. shu rather than talk in personal terms. while over 90 per cent could not name either of the Japanese founding figures of Soto Zen even though both of them feature prominently in Soto literature. however. to a great extent. more an adjunct to the social system than anything else. it had an 'official' membership. This in itself shows clearly the degree to which the household as a unit is important to organised Buddhism in Japan-as well as the lack of focus on individuals.2 per cent indicated that they would do so in order to learn about Buddhist thought or to seek advice with their problems: 61 per cent said it would be to request a ritual connected with death and the ancestors. interest in and knowledge of Soto teaching itself was strikingly weak. Many people who belonged to Soto temples appeared to be remarkably ill-informed of the teachings of Soto.? If the vast discrepancy between officialand real support were not indicative enough of the soft centre of Buddhism's position. Again. of 6.135 people could be classified as active believers or participants in temple activities. in 1987. count not individuals but affiliated households and then multiply the number by the average family size. The inflated figures are really a distorted outline of the true depth of support that Buddhist organisations can call upon.8 per cent stated it was for reasons connected with funerals and mortuary rites: 7.8 per cent went for 'spiritual reasons' and the rest did not respond. For example. The Soto Zen sect.491.138 households affiliated to sect temples. has in recent years been conducting surveys of those formally affiliated to it. reports that. probably the most analytically frank of all Buddhist organisations in Japan.s An in-depth survey carried out by the sect in 1985. for a large number of people. in response to a question seeking to ascertain the times they would visit a priest. another survey carried out by the sect emphasises the point. 77. The numerical strength of Buddhism is thrown into further perspective when it is realised that Buddhist organisations. while very few professed any interest in Zen meditation (theoretically the basis of Zen Buddhism). Clearly. in reporting membership numbers. and has come up with many disarming figures to show the shallowness of commitment of those classifiedas members. Indeed.885.V . Buddhism is. only 5...sect' (lapanese: uchi wa ..9 belongs to ..t! While interest in ancestors and the rites surrounding them was strong.575 members. over 43 per cent of those surveyed did not know the name of the sect of the temple they were affiliated to. only 287.

for urbanisation in particular has loosened the links between the people and their temples. establishedreligious structures such as Buddhism.t+ When one considers the overriding importance of the traditional bond that existed between temples and the households affiliated to them. As will become dear. along with the extraordinary growth of new religious movements in the cities. modem developments such as more secularised burials. I shall shed some light on how. In fact the sect has responded to the problems of indifference and lack of solid support in many ways. and nowadays all their efforts are devoted to keeping the loyalty of the parishioners whose families have worshipped at their particular temples for generations. much of Soto's activity. Retaining Loyalties:The Happy Family 'In former times. However. As we have seen. a bond . Buddhist priests worked hard to win converts to their faith: but such times are long past. indeed for all established Buddhism in Japan) today. many of which are beginning to supplant traditional Buddhism by offering their own funeral and mortuary rites and services and by providing their own ways of venerating the ancestors. Cemented into the social system yet to a great degree religiously sterile. the implications of his words ring true for Soto Zen Buddhism (and. rural Buddhist temples (and Soto was always essentiallya rural movement) have seen their members disappear. is very clearly aimed at retaining the loyalties of those with long standing generationallinks to Soto temples. have clearly eroded the support of older. through the written word and skilful use of images. in the following section. especially in terms of its written material.10 Buddhism stands in a rather precariously fragile position in many ways in Japan. the Soto Zen organisation has been trying the counteract these problems.'1:} These words are spoken by the priest of a Pure Land Buddhist temple at the centre of 'The Buddha Tree'.its putative members are conditioned to feel that it is little more than a means of dealing with ancestors and death. Moreover. Despite the difference in sect and era. As people have moved into the cities. Even this is not always the case. all this does not necessarily mean that the established Buddhist orders lack vigour or ideas. and. a novel written by the ex-priest Niwa Fumio in the mid-reyes. much of the information about the fragilities of Soto Buddhism's relationship to its members comes from research financed and carried out by the sect itself. no doubt.

largely short booklets and leaflets. From its Tokyo headquarters it issuesa steady stream of literature of all sorts. it is hardly surprising to fmd that a major theme running through the attempts of Soto Zen to retain the loyalties of its traditional membership revolve around the intertwined themes of tradition. A poster displayed prominently outside a Soto temple I passed in the village of Nishijf in Nagano prefecture.II especially cemented through a connection to past generations. especially at the various times in the yearly calendrical cycle when the ancestors are honoured.I? The handwritten poster was presumably the work of the temple priest (although Soto itself has produced printed posters with very similar wording) but it mirrors themes that are predominant in contemporary Soto writing. Since the large majority of those who visit temples do so for reasons connected with Buddhism's social role in relation to the household. ancestral legacies and the importance of the family. bore the words: the prosperity of the family comes from worshipping the ancestors: let us meet them serenely before the statue of Buddha. and reflects the type of thinking that the sect encourages its priests to develop. to priests and. it is not surprising that much of this literature revolves around such themes as inherited tradition. Nonetheless. all of which transmit the messages and outlooks of the organisation. just as those involved with Soto who meditate are in a minoriry. such as an annual magazine aimed at young urbanities that is sold at bookshops. to those who come to Soto temples. heredity and the family as an enduring symbol. a mountainous area in central Japan. but occasionally longer works as well. exhortations to a moral family life and observance of customs and traditions predominate.}itti no shoo (ie. A volume produced by the sect for its priesthood and their families.I" For the most part. it quite probably uses such themes with greater dexterity and subtlety than most. these form a minority. Apart from an occasional exception. The Japanese sociologist of religion Morioka Kiyomi has noted the general tendency of Buddhism in Japan to focus in its teachings on the importance and role of the family. through them.P Soto is certainly no exception here: indeed. It should be stressed at this juncture that not all Soto publications are so focused: there are some that are more clearly centred on such aspectsas meditation and Buddhist practice. with Buddhist sermons almost invariably focusing on family roles. all such publications are distributed through the nationwide network of Soto temples. Book for a temple family) provides guidelines to priests on how they .

The family is defined as being a living continuum of the ancestors. as they have not only given life to the present generation but have also united them with the Buddhist tradition. becomes the basic model of a religious life.22 Inherent in the tradition that has been inherited from one's ancestors (and mirroring the implicit obligation of those in the ie to assure its continuation in the future) is the duty to pass it on. is upheld through a direct relationship to the temple and. to rear children. making tea for visitors and generally keeping it spotlessly clean. a life of belief). conservative ideal in Japan: it is frequently stressed by other religious groups as well and is a constant theme amongst those who feel that the growing fragmentation of traditional social values and roles is leading to unrest and social problems.P! It is a theme that occurs frequently elsewhere in Soto writing as wel1. which flows to the present generation through the blood stream of their ancestors. ways of venerating the ancestors and ceremonies connected with the death process. The children. to love them and . to Buddha. The wife should dutifully serve him. too.s? A long section at the end of the book. who has the active role of performing rituals and going out to talk about Buddhism. which includes praying to the ancestors both at one's home butsudan and in the temple. under the title Shinko no seikatsu (ie. Handbook for Soto sect followers) which provides advice and teachings about Soto for the ordinary member just as the Jitei no sho does for priests. as well as being on hand to help around the temple. The importance of family life is repeatedly stressed: the priest and his family should provide a working example to all around them of the ideal and harmonious family centred on the priest/father of the family. centres on ideal modes offamily life: belief is clearly equated with the correct etiquette of the traditional family."? This process of idealising the family in religious terms is carried further by a companion guidebook for Soto sect members Sotoshii danshinto hikkei. Harmonious family life. (ie. staying at home looking after the children and their educational needs. The ancestors are to be venerated.!" This type of idealised home structure closely mirrors the traditional. through that. which is depicted as peaceful and harmonious. This tradition. A large proportion of its 122 pages centres on family life. the current generation and those who are to come in future: the temple is the place that unites all these ages as it is the resting place of the ancestors. should help our here. with much emphasis being placed on correct table manners and other such aspects of daily life.I2 should conduct themselves and their temples so as to be a role model for others.

the parents/sect members as children.25 . Some years ago another Soto poster. The importance of maintaining a correct relationship with the ancestors. Dogen and Keizan. the ancestors who formerly visited Soto temples. the leaflet o-Butsudan no matsurikata (ie. thus ensuring that the roots of traditional Buddhism will be implanted in the next generation. The action of being a good parent becomes. forms a basic part of ordinary Soto teaching. designed to be displayed on notice boards outside Soto temples. as with the ideal priest's wife in the Jitei no sho. which will involve the family with the temple and sect. Many explanatory publications are devoted to explaining how one should care for the ancestors. For example. A series of posters produced by the sect in recent years depicts such a mother guiding her children in prayer: the accompanying captions carry such imprecations as 'let us live joining our hands together in prayer'. towards incorporating those figures as ancestors in their own right. then. and to the two Japanese monks who are seen as the founders of the Soto tradition in Japan. followers are encouraged to extend the process of venerating their ancestors to worshipping figures from the established Buddhist pantheon-and. as do past generations. gentle. and. at the same time. bring good results such as the development of 'Buddha mind' (busshin). Naturally. the ideal mother looks after the home. Often there is a particular focus on the mother (invariably depicted as kind. instills Buddhist actions into her children. is a recurrent theme that intertwines with the idealisation of the family structure. dutifully cleans the family butsudan and. The leaflet further ties in Soto teaching to the traditional structure of ancestor veneration by suggesting that one should have a memorial also to the Buddha.F' Here (a point that will be developed further later on). Parents are shown how to train their children to do so. Thus.v" The family as an idealised unit. how to worship at the family Buddhist altar) explains just that: to worship correctly and regularly will. importantly. one is informed. Frequently idealised as a model of selflesslove and compassion. a Buddhist practice in itself: parental love which thinks of the child is in itself the compassionate mind of Buddha. in such terms. read: If the mother worships. the child worships. humble) in her relationship with her children. this involves making sure one's children become good and dutiful supporters of the temple and sect. the relationship between the parent and child is made analogous to that between the parents and the great teachers of S6to Zen Buddhism: in this case. the teachers stand as parents. in the butsudan.13 bring them up as dutiful people who will love and obey their parents in life and after death.

14 The close links between the ancestors and Buddhism as it has evolved in Japan are perhaps nowhere more clearly expressed than in a short booklet Sotoshu no nenjugyoJi (ie. Images of the harmonious family whose life is upheld and enriched by it connection to a Soto. As has been . rituals and other such events. For instance. the tenth. Most of the articles centre on the etiquette of behaviour in dealing with the ancestors (one should regularly clean the butsudan and pray to the ancestors) and in affirming the importance of the temple in this. the ten articles of belief). 26 In a series of comments on these articles in the Soto almanac for 1982 the importance of the temple and its priest in such matters is brought to the fore in such a way as to imply that family fortune and unity are inextricably bound up with one's ties to Buddhism. ancestors. nine deal with the family in both its living and extended dimensions and only one.Zen temple extend further still to the point where the sect irself is transformed in image into an extended happy family. In it is a section entitled Shinkojiikun (ie. temple and sect are interwoven into a unity of identification and belonging. it comments on the sixth of these articles (which entreats members to have their children taken to the temple for a naming ceremony after birth and then to report the birth to the ancestors at the temple) as follows: to have one's children named by the priest who has for long looked after and guarded one's ancestors at the temple is a great blessing. Such children will surely grow up to be healthy and brightP As the children grow up the temple connection continues to be of importance: On entering school or coming of age one will first wish to go to the temple to purify one's mind and renew one's vow of hard work and thanks at the grave of the ancescors.P" In such ways family. yearly events in the Siito sect) published by the sect as a guide to yearly observances. which was designed as a basic set of principles for the ordinary Soto sect member. each component part presented as interdependent and vital to the growth and prosperity of the others. makes any mentioned of such Zen practices as meditation. Of the ten articles. The articles of belief offered to those associated with Soto temples thus reflect the powerful importance of the household-temple relationship to established Buddhism as well as showing the ways in which it is used to provide a means by which formally affiliated members may be persuaded to feel more closely involved with the temple. The mortuary tablets commemorating the ancestors should be enshrined at the temple and family members should visit the temple regularly to pay their respects and to report important events in family life to the ancestors enshrined there.

Degen. each is assigned a role function as ancestor. in the Danshinto hikkei. Thus these two monks from the past stand as sect ancestors.The Buddha also is referred to in ancestral terms. as well as family ancestors. was instrumental in developing. In fact. Degen and Keizan suitable for enshrinement in a butsudan for this very purpose. Their respective roles thus ideally translate in terms of imagery into father and mother roles. encountered the Soto tradition there and brought it to Japan. the two (or joint) founders: the ideogram so means not just founder but also ancestor. ancestors and the present generation are thus joined in familial unity. as the ultimate source of the lineage: all are children of the Buddha and to become a formal member of the sect is to become heir to his blood lineage. the arbiter of family conduct and law. Keizan is the rnorher'A? an image used in many other 50to pamphlets besides. Dfigen's Zen teaching to make it more compatible with the Japanese religious environment. the austere thirteenth century monk who went to China. Do gen and Keizan. Espousing the idea that Soto itself can be seen as a family the Soto priest Fujimoto Koho writes that 'if Degen is seen as the father. Keizan. to unite the present generation to Buddhism through the ancestors. it has produced a small hanging scroll depicting Buddha.15 mentioned earlier. D6gen is regarded by the sect as the original implanter of the seeds of Soto in Japan and Keizan is revered as the one who nurtured these seedsand brought them to fruition. Buddha. reflecting the traditional image of family roles in Japan. .U This analogy of the bloodstream has also been used elsewhere. in the butsudan. to enter the bloodstream of Buddhism. in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Soto encourages its members to venerate the Buddha. At times. the nurturer of children and mediator of the father's strictness. was a strict and at times uncompromising meditator and thinker who extolled the virtues of monasticism and adherence to strict Buddhist precepts. Moreover. Dogen and Keizan are formally referred to by Soto as the 'yoso. developed its funeral associations and became a large and important religious movement: previously it had been little more than a monastic backwater. and the mother as gentle and warm. part of the common heritage of all 50to members. which depict the father as stern. Degen becomes the 'strict father' and Keizan the 'gentle mother'30 . It was with Keizan and his successorsthat S6t6 Zen became fused with popular folk religious ideas. also a dedicated meditator and ascetic.

Through it they become models for further social peace. Preceptual ordination involves a commitment of faith in Soto Buddhist principles. makes great play of this relationship. One way of doing this. this action has particularly in the last hundred years been elevated by Soto into a vital area of religious action. Long used in Soto as a means of inducting people into a deeper relationship with Buddhism (indeed it was used by Dogen and was a major theme in Keizan's expansion of Soto). despite the formalistic aspects of Japanese Buddhism. As the leaflet Anata no bodaiji (ie. as is expressed in these words. taken from the Soto leaflet Anata no bodaiji: we must build the family and society on the practice. still a religious organisation are keen to encourage belief and active religious participation in their members. and vows of morally correct behaviour. formal commitment through the inertial processes of the Japanese socio-religious systemmay help keep the sect financially alive but it does not provide the sect with any true religious dynamic or. any committed followers. basic Buddhist principles. The ideals and beliefs expressed through it offer a means of upholding the principles of happy family life. As has been shown in this section. It is considered to be the equivalent. Soto Zen. in the long run. and equally enlightening. as well as being an affiliated member of the family temple. those involved in running what is. for the lay person.16 There is a religious motive behind this continued use of family images. This involves a formal lay Buddhist orientation: preceptual ordination as a believer had become instituted as the ideal for lay followers. By . it is felt. This is done by deepening the empathetic bonds people feel towards their family temples and by persuading them to make a more binding formal commitment to Buddhist principles. into a believer at that temple+' The pamphlets and publications designed to create a sense of empathy in the minds of formally affiliated members are designed to create the conditions whereby they will translate that senseof empathy and belonging into something deeper.active support of the temple and sect. and commitment to. in seeking to consolidate its position and to secure its foundations in the modern age. is to encourage people to develop a real awarenessof. Naturally. your family temple) puts it: we wish to make you.It thus offers a means of countering the troubles of modem society and a way of reorienting that society. of the strict monastic practices of meditation for the monk. vows and beliefs founded in taking the preceprs-? The importance of the family for the continuing well-being of Buddhism in Japan stems from the historical relationship between the ie and the temple. besides the obvious economic one of ensuring the continued loyalty of the household to the temple.33 Through preceptual commitment comes knowledge of the true nature of Buddhism and a realisation of the peace and contentedness that all people seek.

of the importance of the household and family in social and religious terms in Japan. In reality this is not so much a reaffirmation of tradition as it is a creation and idealisation of the notion of the past. The concern with tradition and. Conclusions The extensive uses made by one Buddhist organisation of images and themes about the family manifest a variety of interlocking concerns and provide us with a number of messages not just about that organisation but about the general state and nature of Buddhism in Japan in general. However.17 focusing on idealised images of the family and tradition it seeks both to preserve and deepen the links that bind people to Buddhism. indeed. is to a great degree related. the degree to which the family and household itself has been. the stylised images that bind it to tradition speak volumes about the strength and appeal of the notion of tradition itself as a quasi-religious ideal. or. So. a religious unit and principle in itself In addition to the concept of the family per se. at times on penalty of death. for all the problems it has faced and despite the numerous factors that have served to undermine it. . continues to be of vital importance for the continued prosperity of established Buddhism in Japan. and remains. There can be no clearer recognition of the dynamics underpinning established Buddhism in Japan. also. with ideas of what tradition represents. in Japan. That the deep-seated traditional ties that have bound people to Buddhist temples in ages past are so clearly reaffirmed shows that the danka seida. The image of the past is a creation distinct from its reality: in terms of the household-temple relationship things were not necessarilyas harmonious as they are depicted in Soto imagery. Tokugawa laws made people join temples and enforced their participation in Buddhist rituals. The ancestors whose blood lineage has transmitted Buddhism and a temple relationship to current Soto members may not necessarily have particularly desired to have that relationship: draconian laws insisted. an important factor in the Japanese religious world. more pertinently. does the continuing interrelationship of Buddhism and the ancestors. to definitions of Japanese identity set in contrast to the growing modernisation of Japanese society. too. the recourse to traditional images does not require factual accuracy: the importance lies in the nuances created by the image. that they did so. One can see. than the attention that has been paid to it in recent years in the writings emanating from the Soto Zen Buddhist sect.

is making some steps towards using its grounding as an indigenised and localised structure as a means of reasserting the universal. in these terms. with Japanese themes and spheres of concern used as a means of reintegrating the localised structure of Buddhism into its more universal dimensions. As I have implied. in Japan it has. of its transmigration. when linked to religious themes. at least in its Zen guise. one is struck by the intensely Japanese. as this article has shown.18 Modernisation is equated with Westernisation and implies. Any universal religion has localisingJparticularising tendencies when it encounters different cultures. at least. as opposed to universal. limiting its effectiveness as an active religious principle. that Soto Zen. It also shows the degree to which Buddhism in general. to redefine a sense of Japanese religious awarencss. especially in institutional terms. the loss of cultural identity. the legacies of the household system have tended to stultify Buddhism in Japan in the present day. Accordingly. become deeply rooted in the localised structure of society and in the environment conditioned by the existing religious beliefs and social customs of the Japanese. That the family both as a reality and as an ideal remains a pivotal point in this process is testimony to the continuing importance and centrality of the household past and present to Zen and all other forms of Japanese Buddhism. as well as Sot6 in particular. The fact that major Buddhist organisations such as Soto can recognise their problems and can take inventive steps towards restoring their strength and recreating the image of Buddhism is indicative of its continuing depths. In Soto's concern with ancestors and Japanese tradition one can see a clear example of the indigenisation of Buddhism. Indeed.P The extensive use of traditionalism in terms of family images used by S6to indicates the extent to which the idea of tradition as a cultural and religious principle is important in contemporary Japan. rather than as a theory. is inextricably tied to a particularised social and cultural environment in Japan. in its declared attempts to shift the focus of its membership from formal affiliation to commitment via belief in Buddhist principles. this does not mean that the Buddhist tradition is dead. indeed. However. There are indications. when one looks at the overall ways in which Zen Buddhism has evolved and exists in Japan as an actual entity. from being primarily monastic and meditative into being a religion of the household. and Zen Buddhism has been no exception. the use of idealised images of tradition seeks to reassert and recreate cultural identity and. Although Zen Buddhism (and Buddhism in general) espouses universal principles. ambiance it has acquired. .

however. that it became a real mass movement. Princeton UP. Some years ago a leading official of the sect suggested that over 80 per cent of its priests had other jobs (Tanaka Ryfisan in SSSMC (ed. Vo1.37). Where Japanese sources have been quoted. It was not till the thirteenth century. Outside of sectarian studies there has been very little in Japanese either. J98J p. Vol.) Genshoku Kenshii Vol. especially by M. SSMC(ed) Sotoshii shiisei sogochosa hokokusho Tokyo: SSSMC. USA: Harvard. 1984.J4/4. There is virtually nothing. although the 1987 survey suggests a lower figure somewhere around the 40 per cent mark (P. 3· I have discussed other themes in conternporary. I. 2. 1987 Pp. 5. macrons are used. 1987. In fact it was for long forbidden to give Buddhist teachings to the masses: Buddhism was seen by the elite as being its own special preserve and the key to power and privilege. head office of the Soto Zen Buddhist sect) Note: All Japanese names are given in Japanese style. Some attention has been paid in English to the study of the institutional structure and nature of Buddhism in Japan in earlier ages. NJ. 'Transformations and Changes in the Teachings of the Soto Zen Buddhist Sect' Japanese Religions.28-48 and 'Back to the Future: Images of Nostalgia and Renewal in a Japanese Religious Context'. on the contemporary situation. Reader.Soro thought and action in I. JapaneseJournal of Religious Studies. Cambridge. Princeton. All transliteration of Japanese into Roman script is done using the Hepburn system of romanisation.19 FOOTNOTES Abbreviation SSSMC Sotoshiishiimucho (ie. Where a vowel in Japanese is long. however. focusing on the souls of the dead as fixed entities.J02. Tokyo: SSSMC. 1981 and by N. Pp·287-303. appears to be somewhat antithetical to traditional Buddhist thought which holds that everything is impermanent and that there are no such things as 'souls'. 4. . the translations are my own. Nonetheless there was a growing tendency for religious ascetics to spread the word of Buddhism to the populace at large from around the eighth century onwards.2426 shows that over 80 per cent of Soto priests have inherited their temples and that in over 80 per cent of cases temple priests are married. with family name first followed by given name.I4/1. Collcutt Five Mountains: the Rinzai Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan. This orientation. McMullin Buddhism and the State in Sixteenth-Century Japan. 1985. PP.z.

1977.33-46. K. 1985. On the expansion and popularisation of Zen. 1987. Morioka. Strong) Tokyo: Tuttle. Princeton UP. 'The Daruma-shii. 17. Sotoshii danshinto hikkeiTokyo: SSSMC.ii. 40/1.99.39.• P. 42/1. P. The Buddha Tree (trans. p. 21. Vol.23-27. PP.cit. see H. pp. Reader 'Zazenless Zen? The Position of Zazen in Institutional Zen Buddhism'.cit. Kamata Shigeo Zen no ningenkan Tokyo: SSSMC.18 and P. SSSMC (ed) Satashii shiisei sago hokokusho.. Reader. K. pp. II. Monumenta Nipponica. pp. ibid. F. 13. Faure. 9. 1986. pp. 22. SSSMC (ed) Jitei no sho Tokyo: SSSMC. Vo1.26-27. p·4· . 10.cit. J6. see B. Morioka Religion in Changing Japan Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press. op. The original was of course in Japanese. In English the most accessible discussions of the danka seido are K. op. op. 20. Tokyo: Gyosei 1987..93-122.39-<>7 and K. op. On the importance of traditional family values in the newer Buddhist-oriented religious movements. Monumenta Nipponica.77. p. for example. 15. See. Degen and Soto Zen'. Bunkachd (Ministry of Cultural Affairs) (ed) Shukyo Nenkan. Niwa. PP. 7. Vol. 18. p. as are all other quotations from Soto literature discussed in this article. especially with regard to the use of charms and amulets. PP·89-II3. 6.20 Certainly this is a case of Buddhism being modified to fit into a more generally Japanese religious environment. 12. I have expanded on this theme. However there is little in Japanese Buddhist literature that deals with this apparent conflict or seeks to account for the seeming contradiction.39-42. ibid . 1984. 8. NJ. especially PP. SSSMC (ed). This issue has been discussed in greater depth in I.44-45.) Shiikyoshudan no ash ita e rIO kadai Tokyo: SSSMC 1984. SSI (Sotoshii sbiiseichosa iinkai) (ed.cit.214· 14. Marcure 'The Danka System'.7-27. Pp. 1976. 1985. 1986. Japanese Religions. ibid. Various Soto official have stated that this is the general intent of the sect: see Reader. Pp. 1980. 1975. 1976 pp. In Reader. 19.98-127.S6-S7. survey section PP..1987. Hardacre Lay Buddhism in Contemporary JapanReiyiikai KyOdan Princeton.14/3.. 25-55.

jz. Sotoshu horelei Tokyo: SSSMC. in August 1981. 34. danshinto hikkei. P. 26. 29. 25. See Reader. were collected from Soto temples in 1981-82 and during the period 1985-88. ibid. 35.4.28-29. p.cit . SSSMC (ed). p. Japan. o-butsudan no matsurikata (no date or pagination): this. in the short pamphlets and leaflets referred to in fn. (fn.10S.21 23. o-butsudan no matsurikata. The leaflet cited here was first seen in 1981 but is still available at present at sect temples and offices. 1981 pp. 32. Examples of such usage can be found in SSSMC (ed). 28. Siitiishi. SSSMC (ed). SSSMC (ed).. Anata no bodaiji. SSSMC (ed). 1981. P. and the other leaflets cited in this article.25 above). SSSMC (ed). Kaeriyuku hotoke wa tada no rengedai and Toshi ni ithido no o-kvakusama.z. op. op. Anata no bodaiji (no date or pagination. (see fn. 24. The others mentioned are currently distributed by the sect and can also be obtained at its head office in Tokyo. 27.3241. S~SMC (ed). This theme frequently occurs in Soto publications.1981). 1977. 30. Fujimoto Koho Gassho no seikatsu Tokyo: SSSMC. especially. a S6to temple in Hakodate in Hokkaido.29. Sotoshu no nenjiigyoji Tokyo: SSSMC. 1987.• PP.2S. This poster was displayed outside Kfizenji. On this point and the reasoning behind it see Reader. it seems. above). 1985. 3I.1981. but issued c. for a fuller analysis ofthis issue. . SSSMC (ed). 33. both issued c.cit.

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