POPULAR RELIGION IN CHANGING JAPAN Notes Past Midterm Essay

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POPULAR RELIGION IN CHANGING JAPAN – Class Notes

October 15, 2013

Presentations – Bonds of the Dead, Ch. 1
Buddhism about death is not real Buddhism; it is a corruption of real Buddhism
Buddhism – adapting to landscape of Japan
Shift in the way death was looked at
Real Buddhism vs. Mortuary View Buddhism
Struggle in duality is not just external, but also internal
Internal: Buddhist Mortuary practices becoming too lavish and commercialized.
Some questions about how we conceptualize the dead
Where are the dead
In heaven, reincarnated, feces of worms, just gone, in dirt, hell
Our view impacts how we interact with the dead
Does dead matter to us?
Yes, memories.
Japanese thought Christians are immoral because they didn’t venerate the dead.
What do I want to happen at my funeral?
I don’t want people to mourn as much as I want people to celebrate my life
Good food, music
I want my family and friends
How do my life goals fit with that?
Dentist – good deeds – good deeds should be celebrated
Help people
Vast majority of American households don’t have a place for the dead.
Japan
Thirst/hunger – demands care harder to forget
If not taken care of, they could get grumpy
Active agents
If you forget them, they can remind you of themselves by causing suffering
Desire recognition
Remembered 3 or 4 times a year
1) Obon
Ancestors understood as coming back to the home
2,3) Equinoxes
4) Death anniversary
Many people think of religion as coherent.
Not coherent, not good
Religions are not systematic philosophies.
Vast majority of people are not seen as enlightened when they die.
Morality behind all of this.
Forgetting dead: Ungrateful, not recognizing them as important
Moral obligation to remember dead
Fail to remember dead – sign of moral decline
If you remember the dead
For ex, you won’t steal because you know the dead are watching over you
Steal Snickers and you get caught
Find out you were high also
Japan – you have bought shame to your family

What is the history of mortuary practices in Japan since the 17th century?
Tokugawa: 1603-1868
Buddhist priests have rights to funerals given by government.
Generation upon generation had memorials/funeral rites/grieves at particular temple.
Shinto priests not allowed to give funeral rights.
Meiji: 1869 – 1912
Danka system ends
People no longer legally tied to temple.

October 16, 2013

Agenda
Brief review
History of mortuary practices
Presentation
What are “eternal memorial graves” (eitai kuyou bo) and what is their significance?

Key Review Points
“Funerary Buddhism” (i.e., Buddhist temples focus on mortuary rites) is not necessarily a decline of Buddhism or a corruption of Buddhism
There is tension in Buddhism, like other religions, between doctrine and practice
Doctrine and practice don’t match  religion is corrupted
THAT IS NOT TRUE
Religion is not primarily about doctrine
The ancestors in Japan are conceived as active agents, who want recognition and who thirst and hunger.
The way we conceive the dead influence what we do.

History of Mortuary Practices in Tokugawa Period (1603-1868)
Temple certification issued by priests to validate membership to temple and non-Christian status
Forced to affiliate with a particular temple
Buddhist temples  Much more organized than Shinto temples
Danka system
Four classes of legal social status: samurai (bushi), farmers, craftsman, merchants  very Confucian idea; money seen as polluted
Legally instituted classes
Outside of classes, other groups of people
Outcast system, different from India
Many people that belong to outcast don’t realize till later in life, age 15-30
How would someone find out?
Trying to get into prestigious company
Parents don’t really talk about this to their children
Legally, no longer an outcast system – But it matters as long as people care about it
How does discrimination work? It can work in invisible ways!
Priests have unique status outside of four classes
Priests can’t get married, eat meat, and wear Priest robes except Shin…