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Bonds of the DeadTemples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism$
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Mark Michael Rowe

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780226730134

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226730165.001.0001

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The “Death” of Japanese Buddhism

The “Death” of Japanese Buddhism

Chapter:
(p.17) Chapter One The “Death” of Japanese Buddhism
Source:
Bonds of the Dead
Author(s):

Mark Michael Rowe

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226730165.003.0002

This chapter endeavors to trace the main historical circumstances—from the Tokugawa era up to the present day—that have led to this dire assessment of Japanese Buddhism. The “death” of Buddhism covers three related connotations: the fundamental and long-standing relationship between Buddhist temples and death rites, the negative perceptions of this funerary Buddhism, and, finally, the fear that the tradition may not merely be dying but may be going extinct. Much of this historical overview focuses less on the explicitly “Buddhist” aspect of mortuary practices than on the social, economic, and legal developments that have had the greatest impact on temples. The intention here is not simply to decenter Buddhist sectarian or doctrinal history but rather to consider equally relevant forces such as changes in the civil code, postwar land reforms, new family structures, and the perennial desire for social status.

Keywords:   historical circumstances, tokugawa era, japanese buddhism, death rites, funerary buddhism, mortuary practices, doctrinal history

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