Buddhist East Asia:   The Interplay of Religion, the Arts and Politics

An NEH Summer Institute ~ May 28 to June 22, 2018 ~ Honolulu, Hawaii ~ Hosted by the Asian Studies Development Program

Buddhist East Asia:  The Interplay of Religion, The Arts and Politics
An NEH Summer Institute

Click here to edit subtitle

Week Three:  Kami, Karma, Self and State:  Buddhism and Japanese Identity

The adoption of Buddhism in Japan was deeply enmeshed with efforts to unify the archipelago politically and dramatically shaped Japanese cultural identity. On Monday, Thomas Kasulis (Ohio State University) will examine how Buddhist teachings and practices transmitted from Korea in the 6th century were at first contested by those who believed this foreign religion would offend native kami (spirit forces), but quickly came into symbiotic relationship with the imperial state and aristocratic society. Following this, he will discuss the spread of Buddhism among the common people and the emergence of Tendai and Shingon in the Heian (794-1185) period as distinctively Japanese Buddhist reform movements fusing of concerns for state security and prosperity with convictions that enlightenment can be realized “in this very body” (sokushin jōbutsu). On Tuesday, he will discuss the doctrinal and practical innovations of the Kamakura (1185-1333) period traditions of Pure Land, Nichiren and Zen, focusing in particular on Zen thought and practice and their impacts on Japanese aesthetics.


Life of Nichiren:  A Vision of Prayer on the Waves, Edo            John Szostak (University of Hawaii) will follow this by exploring how Buddhism influenced

period; Photo Credit:  www.metmuseum.org                          premodern Japanese aesthetics, art and architecture, making use of architectural works, icons

                                                                                              and ritual objects, calligraphy, gardens and illustrations from popular Buddhist texts. On Thursday morning, Lori Meeks (USC) will investigate the profound interdependence of religion and politics in premodern Japan, including a discussion about gender in Buddhist institutions, after which Keller Kimbrough (Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) will explore how Buddhism shaped the Japanese literary imagination and aesthetic ideals, focusing on the roles of preachers, poets and women in expressing the meaning of the Buddhist path in premodern Japan. The week will end with a participant-led panel discussion featuring Professors Kasulis, Szostak, Meeks and Kimbrough.