In offering a snapshot of influential Buddhist voices during the nineteenth century, Buddhism and Modernity makes a valuable contribution to the field of Buddhist studies in Japan that, heretofore, has typically focused on the premodern period. For this reason, it deserves a wide readership by those interested in the history of modern Japanese Buddhism.
REVIEW: Karma and Punishment: Prison Chaplaincy in Japan, by Adam Lyons
Adam Lyons begins one chapter of his volume, Karma and Punishment: Prison Chaplaincy in Japan, with a joke he says he heard regularly among kyōkaishi, a Japanese role he translates as “prison chaplain”: “Why did you become a prison chaplain? ‘Because I did something terrible in a past life to deserve it’” (p. 216). The wry joke encapsulates some of the heavy and complex stressors that the position entails. Adam Lyons’ volume skillfully navigates the complex tensions involved in the role at present and how it developed since the late 1800s. Karma and Punishment takes the reader on a historical journey to show the origins of kyōkaishi; he shows both how they changed and what stayed consistent through different periods of history. Along the way, Lyons ties these developments to a valuable discourse on the religion-state relations and the evolving laws that oversee those connections.
REVIEW: Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan, by Jolyon Baraka Thomas
Faking Liberties is divided into two main sections, each consisting of four chapters, with an introduction and conclusion outside of these sections. The sections, respectively, describe the attitudes toward religious freedom before and after the 1945 Occupation of Japan began.
Review: Seeking Śākyamuni
Seeking Śākyamuni: South Asia in the Formation of Modern Japanese Buddhism. By Richard M. Jaffe. University of Chicago Press, 2019. 320 pages. $32.50 (paperback). ISBN 9780226391151. Hillary Langberg Bard College For readers familiar with the turmoil associated with the transition to modernity for both Japanese Buddhism and Japan as a nation-state, Richard Jaffe’s recent monograph provides a wealth of richly-detailed…
Review: Guardians of the Buddha’s Home
Guardians of the Buddha’s Home. By Jessica Starling. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2019. 200 pages. $62.00 (hardcover), ISBN 9780824866921. Matthew Hayes University of California, Los Angeles In Guardians of the Buddha’s Home, Jessica Starling decenters our view of modern Jōdo Shinshū practice by calling into question the primacy of “orthodox” roles, physical spaces, and relationships, often occupied and defined…