The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhism and Contemporary Society is delighted to welcome Professor Richard Jaffe, who will present a keynote address for our annual conference, “Buddhism in the Global Eye”:

“Japanese Buddhism’s ‘Western Turn’: South/Southeast Asia and the Forging of the Japanese Buddhist Modern”

Wednesday, August 10, 2016 | 7:30 to 9:00 pm
UBC | Asian Centre | Auditorium | 1871 West Mall

Oshio-Takakusu India Map

Map of Indian Buddhist History, by Ōshio Dokuzan (1890–?)

Scholars have long portrayed the construction of twentieth-century Buddhism in Japan as a result of changes forced upon or willfully adopted by Japanese Buddhists as a result of ever more frequent contacts with the “West,” that is, the United States and Europe. The intellectual, scholarly, and religious exchanges that reshaped the Japanese Buddhist world from the late-nineteenth and first half of the twentieth-centuries, thus largely have been understood as overwhelmingly bipolar ones. The received narrative describing the numerous changes in modern Japanese Buddhism as a product of “Westernization,” however, overlooks almost completely the role played by cultural flows between Japan and Asia, especially South and Southeast Asia, in catalyzing the reconceptualization of Japanese Buddhism as a pan-Asian and, even, global, tradition. South and Southeast Asia served as crucial contact zones for Asian Buddhists. During the Meiji, Taishō, and early Shōwa eras Japanese Buddhists traveled along the new “Cotton Road” living, practicing, and studying in such enterpots as Bangkok, Benares, Bombay, Calcutta, Chittagong, Lhasa, and Rangoon. There they encountered Buddhists and Buddhist sympathizers from around the world, exchanging practices, texts, ideas, and material cultural objects. Returning to Japan in the wake of these Asian encounters, Japanese Buddhists were stimulated to reshape numerous facets of their tradition, including sectarian scholarship, the practice of the precepts, denominational structure, and Buddhist material culture. In this presentation, I will show how this Asian turn was a crucial element in creating a distinctive Japanese Buddhist modernity.


***Lectures are free and open to the public. No registration required. Seating on a first-come, first-served basis.***

Click here to visit the conference webpage

Richard M. Jaffe is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Duke University. He received his Ph.D. in religious studies with a concentration in Buddhist studies from Yale University in 1995. A specialist of Japanese Buddhism and modernity, he authored Neither Monk nor Layman: Clerical Marriage in Modern Japanese Buddhism (Princeton University Press, 2002). He is currently working on a study of travel and encounters between Japanese and other Buddhists during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as overseeing the publication of four volumes of the writings of D.T. Suzuki (plus a one-volume Suzuki Reader from the University of California Press). The first two volumes were recently published: Selected Works of D.T. Suzuki, Volume I: Zen (2014) and Volume II: Pure Land (2015), the latter edited by James C. Dobbins. His faculty profile may be viewed here.