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The Border between Truth and the Mundane World (眞俗) and Buddhist Life: Focusing on the Japanese Layman Buddhist Movement in Modern Times

  • 불교학리뷰
  • Abbr : Critical Review for Buddhist Studies
  • 2023, (33), pp.77-98
  • Publisher : Geumgang Center for Buddhist Studies
  • Research Area : Humanities > Buddhist Studies
  • Published : April 30, 2023

Won Yong Sang 1

1원광대학교

Irregular Papers

ABSTRACT

This study examined the possibility of living a Buddhist life through analysing the Japanese Buddhist Layman Movement in modern times. The diversity and dynamism of Japanese Buddhism is already well known. And the phenomenon of layman Buddhism, which errupted like an active volcano in the modern era, in particular, shows a spirit of reform in Mahayana Buddhism. In this sense, Japanese Buddhist history can be seen as a process of identifying Buddhist indigeneity by making the teachings of the Buddha a legitimate path for laymen to follow. Phase 1 was utilization of the teachings of the Buddha for educating the people, by Prince Shōtoku (聖德太子), Phase 2 was establishment of the Complete Precepts by efforts, by Saichō (最澄), and Japanese monks in Tendai Buddhism (天台佛敎), and Phase3 was the appearance of medieval New-Buddhism. Since then, Haibutsu kisyaku (廢佛毁釋), which arose with the establishment of the modern nation, caused Buddhism to awaken. Accordingly, Buddhist education and academic development formed the basis for the Layman Buddhist Movement. The occurrences of layman Buddhism, in the modern era, are as follows: First, laymen like Ōuchi Seiran (大內靑巒) with thoughts of intermediate or holistic teaching (通佛敎) activities, appeared. Second, new religious bodies emerged, like those of renunciant practitioners that broke away from existing religious bodies, such as Tanaka Chigaku (田中智學)’s Society of Risshō Ankoku (立正安國會). Third, social movements, based on the teachings of the Buddha, formed in response to changing society, such as Girō Senoo (妹尾義郞)’s new Buddhism Youth Union. Issues revealed through the activities of layman Buddhism are as follows: First, how do the laymen’s interpretations of the teachings of the Buddha and their social practice correlate with those of traditional renunciants (those renouncing secular life to become a monk) or the religious bodies of renunciant practitioners. Second comes the question of how far it is possible for layman Buddhists to participate in politics? In what way can laymen’s social activities, based on the teachings of the Buddha, reveal the possibilities for living a Buddhist life? The characteristics of the practice of Engaged Buddhism, by Japanese layman Buddhists, are based on traditional religious bodies’ Buddhicization of laymen, various social countermeasures by the religious bodies of laymen, and the Mahayana Buddhism’s spirit of actual timing (時機相應). The Japanese Buddhist Layman Movement that arose during a period of social confusion is thought to offer great hope for present and future Buddhism.

Citation status

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