Jessica L. Main

Jessica L. Main 2018-05-14T20:00:25+00:00
Jessica Main in Vancouver, 2009

Jessica L. Main

The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chair in Buddhism and Contemporary Society
Institute of Asian Research and Department of Asian Studies

University of British Columbia
C.K. Choi Building, 1855 West Mall
Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z2

Tel: (604) 822-9305
Fax: (604) 822-5207

Jessica Main began work in the summer of 2009 as the Tung Lin Kok Yuen Canada Foundation Chair on Buddhism and Contemporary Society. The Chair is the steward of UBC’s Buddhism and Contemporary Society Program. Her research concerns modern Buddhist ethics, social action, and institutional life in East and Southeast Asia. She completed her dissertation on the modern history of human rights and descent-based discrimination in Japanese True Pure Land, or Shin Buddhism, at McGill University. She has had the opportunity to work with a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funded project on religion and health, investigating possible contributions of Buddhism to a physician’s ethic. She is also a member of the steering committee for the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies (IASBS).

Research Interests

  • Buddhism, Ethics, and Human Rights
  • Modern Buddhist Institutions, Law, and Governance
  • Buddhists and Buddhist Institutions Active in Modern Society: Social Welfare, Healthcare and Healing, Rehabilitation, Incarceration and Corrections
  • Modern Japanese Religions and Society
  • Japanese True Pure Land Buddhism (Jōdo Shinshū 浄土真宗)

Educational Background

  • Ph.D. (2012) Asian Religions, Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University
  • Cert. (2006-2008) Otani University, Kyoto
  • BA (1997) General Studies, University of Calgary
  • Cert. (1996-1997) Kansai Gaidai University, Osaka
Jessica Main in Japan, 2006


Asian Studies: Together with colleagues at Asian Studies, Jessica is working to expand the undergraduate and graduate course offerings covering Buddhism, Japanese religions, and religions in Asia. Courses currently offered and coming soon:

  • ASIA 110: Introduction to Major Eastern Traditions
  • ASIA 250: Introduction to Buddhism: Modernism and Other Forms
  • ASIA 211: Sex, Sexual Ethics, and Asian Religions
  • ASIA 450 (shell course): Topics in Buddhist Studies
  • ASIA 468 R1: Approaches to Asian Religions

Institute of Asian Research, new MPPGA Degree Program: Jessica is primarily involved with the MPPGA Program in the area of religion and public policy, religions in the Asia Pacific as transnational and local actors, and the effects of media representation and soft power on policy (class list coming soon).

Selected Presentations & Publications

[forthcoming]. Melissa Anne-Marie Curley, Jessica L. Main, and Melanie Coughlin, trans. “On the Story of Ajātaśatru.” Original essay by Keta Masako 気多雅子. Philosophy East and West 67 (1).

2015. “Pure Fire, A Revolutionary Play: Saikō Mankichi on the Liberation of the Burakumin and the Critique of Japanese Buddhism in the 1920s.” Conference, Institute for Buddhist Studies and Center for Japanese Studies at the U.C. Berkeley, “When Modernity Hits Hard: Creative Buddhist Responses in Meiji-Taishō-Early Shōwa Japan.” Berkeley.

2014. “Ōtani Sukauto and Honganji Sukauto: The Religious Life of Semi-Autonomous and Sectarian Shin Buddhist Scouting Movements.” Public Lecture, Shin Buddhist Comprehensive Research Institute, Ōtani University, Kyoto.

2014. “Transfiguring Pollution into Hygiene, Health, and Prosperity: Why Impurity and Religion Still Matter in Modern Descent-Based Discrimination.” Public Lecture, Punjabi University Patiala.

2013. Jessica L. Main and L. Rongdao Lai. “Reformulating ‘Socially Engaged Buddhism’ as an Analytical Category.” The Eastern Buddhist 44 (2): 1-34.

2013. Jessica L. Main and L. Rongdao Lai, eds. “Feature: Socially Engaged Buddhism.” The Eastern Buddhist 44 (2), Ōtani University, Kyoto, Japan.

2012. “The Admonishers (kyōkaishi 教誨師): Buddhist Prison Chaplains in Modern Japan.” Centre for Japanese Research Brown Bag Lunch Series. University of British Columbia.

2012. “Amida’s Righteous Anger (ikari 怒り): Shin Buddhism and Social Justice in the 1970s.” American Association for Asian Studies (AAS). Toronto.

2012. “Reducing Suffering with Reinterpretation: Modern Struggles with Discriminatory Terms in Japanese Buddhist Sacred Texts.” Risshō University Lotus Sūtra Seminar. Tokyo.

2011. “Shin Buddhism for the Good of Society: To Act Within or Beyond the Religious Organization (kyōdan 教団).” Public Lecture, Shin Buddhist Comprehensive Research Institute, Ōtani University, Kyoto.

2011. “A Shin Buddhism for the Left: Miura Sangendō and Interwar Japanese Buddhist Marxism.” American Academy of Religion (AAR), San Francisco.

2011. “A Humanistic Shinran: The Shin Buddhist Thought of Saikō Mankichi (1895-1970).” XVIth Congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (IABS), Taipei.

2010. “Venture Capitalism or Obligatory Donations?: The Ōtani-ha’s Search for Financial Stability in the Modern Era.” American Academy of Religion (AAR), Atlanta.

2010. “To Lament the Self: The Ethical Ideology of Takeuchi Ryō’on (1891-1968) and the Ōtani-ha Movement against Buraku Discrimination.” In The Social Dimension of Shin Buddhism, ed. Ugo Dessì, 112–131. Brill.

2009. “The Concrete Manifestations and Understandings of Buraku Discrimination within Ōtani-ha Shin Buddhism.” Public Lecture, Asian Studies Group, Kyoto.

2009. “The Constitution of a Religion: Ōtani-ha Shin Buddhism as Civil Society Actor.” Public Lecture, Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia.

2008. “The Karma of Others: Stories from the Milindapañha and the Petavatthu-aṭṭhakathā.” In Revisioning Karma: The eBook, ed. Charles S. Prebish, Damien Keown, and Dale S. Wright, 297–351. JBE Online Books.