Re:- Buddhism

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Posted by Andy W. on May 19, 2003 at 22:13:49:

In Reply to: Buddhism posted by frank on May 19, 2003 at 04:56:34:

Hi Frank,

Buddhism was rather "out" as a religion in the Tokugawa Period, a time when Confucian philosophy came to the fore, and when (from the 18th century) Buddhist elements of Japanese culture began to be viewed by some thinkers (the Kokugaku school) as an unhealthy "foreign" influence.

Part of this had to do with the political power of Buddhism in the preceding period, and especially the influence of the Ikko Sect, which was incredibly popular with peasants and helped to unite them to fight against their slavelike conditions. Because of this potential political challenge, the unifiers of Japan attacked Buddhism hard, and temples took on more of a bureaucratic/social than living spiritual function in the Edo Period.

This said, however, there is no wiping out of a religious structure overnight by political decree. The very word "ukiyo" is a Buddhist term, meaning the world of dukha (suffering), literally "world of laments/sadness". This was taken over with a homophonous character to completely alter the meaning into "floating world". Generally, the ukiyo-e take on Buddhism runs parallel to this move: parody and revisionism prevailing. So you may see actors in the position of the dying Buddha in death prints, or actors as Buddhist guardians on the kabuki stage, or a kusazoshi work like "Shaka's Japanese Library". The influence of Buddhist philosophy, as you can see from this sort of thing, is extremely superficial, though there is some increased devotion and seriousness late in the Edo Period (prints of pilgrimages and Buddhist miracles, an extended series on Kanon etc.) Even this kind of thing, serious as it is, is more on the level of folk belief and practice than Buddhist philosophy. Deeper influences (as "culture") on people's character may be found, but very little philosophy I think.

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