Bonds of the DeadTemples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism

Bonds of the DeadTemples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism

Mark Michael Rowe

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226730134

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Despite popular images of priests seeking enlightenment in snow-covered mountain temples, the central concern of Japanese Buddhism is death. For that reason, Japanese Buddhism's social and economic base has long been in mortuary services—a base now threatened by public debate over the status, treatment, and location of the dead. This book explores the crisis brought on by this debate and investigates what changing burial forms reveal about the ways temple Buddhism is perceived and propagated in contemporary Japan. It offers an account of how religious, political, social, and economic forces in the twentieth century led to the emergence of new funerary practices in Japan and how, as a result, the care of the dead has become the most fundamental challenge to the continued existence of Japanese temple Buddhism. Far from marking the death of Buddhism in Japan, the book argues, funerary Buddhism reveals the tradition at its most vibrant.