Jessica L. Main

Jessica Main in Vancouver, 2014

Jessica L. Main

The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chair in Buddhism and Contemporary Society
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 is an associate professor at the Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia. She began work at UBC in 2009 as the Tung Lin Kok Yuen Canada Foundation Chair and Director of UBC’s Buddhism and Contemporary Society Program. In 2014, the program was renamed The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhism and Contemporary Society, and both the chair and program form part of a network of academic institutions and scholars around the world supported by The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation 何鴻毅家族基金. She wrote her PhD dissertation (McGill 2012) on the topic of descent-based discrimination, human rights, and Jōdo Shinshū Buddhism in Japan, looking especially at the problem of caste-based discrimination in Pure Land Buddhism against the burakumin. She is currently working on a manuscript on this topic entitled, No Hatred in the Pure Land: Burakumin Activism and the Shin Buddhist Response in Interwar Japan (forthcoming, Pure Land Buddhist Studies Series, University of Hawai’i Press). She is a member of the steering committee for the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies (IASBS). Her broader research interests include modern Buddhist ethics, social action, and institutional life in East and Southeast Asia, particularly in the areas of sectarian social policy, chaplaincy, physical culture, and professional or role-based ethics.

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. (2013) 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

Robert H. N. Ho and Jessica Main in 2014, at the Choi Building


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 she has offered:

  • ASIA 110: Religions in Asia
  • ASIA 211: Sex, Sexual Ethics, and Asian Religions
  • ASIA 250: Introduction to Buddhism: Modernism and Other Forms
  • ASIA 301: Buddhism in Modern Asia
  • ASIA 302: Theravada Buddhism
  • ASIA 303: Mahayana Buddhism
  • ASIA 450: Topics in Buddhist Studies
  • ASIA 468R: Approaches to Asian Religions
  • ASIA 562: Buddhism in Modern Asia

Selected Presentations & Publications

2019-06. “School for Sundays: Shin Buddhist Nikkō 日校 in Modern Japan.” Presentation, 19th Biennial Conference of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies (IASBS), DILA, Taiwan.

2018. “Race, Caste, Class in Buddhist Ethics.” Workshop Session, Journal of Buddhist Ethics Conference. University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

2018. “Public Health and Propaganda: Shin Buddhism and the Campaign to Eradicate Leprosy in the 1930s.” Lecture, Colloquium on Buddhism and Social Discrimination in Japan (Centres for Japanese Studies and Buddhist Studies) University of California, Berkeley.

2017. Curley, Melissa Anne-Marie, Jessica L. Main, and Melanie Coughlin. “The Self-Awareness of Evil in Pure Land Buddhism: A Translation of Contemporary Kyoto School Philosopher Keta Masako.”Philosophy East and West 67 (1): 192–201. (Translation of “On the Story of Ajātaśatru” by Keta Masako 気多雅子)

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. “‘Only Shinran Will Not Betray Us’: Takuechi Ryō’on (1891-1967), the Ōtani-Ha Administration, and Burakumin.” Ph.D. dissertation, Montreal: McGill University.

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.