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Why 'New' Buddhism? Modernity and the Buddhist Reform Movement in Modern Japan

Lecture by Seiji HOSHINO (Kokugakuin University). Sponsored by the Buddhist Studies Workshop.

Location: Room 137, 1879 Hall, Dept. of Religion

Date/Time: 04/10/12 at 4:30 pm - 04/10/12 at 6:00 pm

Why “New” Buddhism?
Modernity and the Buddhist Reform Movement in Modern Japan
Seiji HOSHINO (Kokugakuin University).
April 10, Tuesday, 4:30 pm, 1879 Hall, Room 137.


From the late 1880s, the idea of Buddhist reform emerged in Japan. It became popular especially among young Buddhist intellectuals; they were excited about this reformed version of Buddhism, namely, Shin Bukkyo (New Buddhism). First, I will briefly describe the history of this New Buddhism, which ranged mainly from the 1880s to the 1910s. I will mention some individuals as well as such lay-oriented organizations as the Hanseikai (Temperance Association) and the Shin Bukkyoto Doshikai (New Buddhist Society).
Generally speaking, the advocates of New Buddhism criticized existing Buddhism by, on the one hand, claiming that it was “old” Buddhism. On the other, they tried to counter Christianity—which they recognized as a critical challenge to Buddhism in Japan—by asserting that this “new” Buddhism could surpass Christianity. In both cases, what they called “New Buddhism” was, theoretically, understood as the ideal form of Buddhism. Therefore, secondly, I will address the question of what comprised their image of ideal Buddhism, or what was the novelty of this “new” Buddhism.
Lastly, their pursuit of “ideal” Buddhism was inevitably influenced by their understanding of “ideal” religion. Considering the fact that the concept of “shukyo (religion)” was itself developing in the same period, I will also examine their views of “shukyo (religion).” Furthermore, this examination will lead us to the broader issue of the interaction between Buddhism, religion, and modernity.

Sponsored by the Buddhist Studies Workshop.

Category: Public Lectures

Department: Buddhist Studies Workshop