Buddhism Buddhism and New Religions in Japan (Shinshūkyō)
by
Erica Baffelli
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0172

Introduction

The term “new religious movements” (NRMs) is an umbrella term used for movements or organizations that are sometimes called “alternative religions,” “nonconventional religions,” or “new religious groups.” The criteria used to define a group as “new” and to distinguish a “new religion” from a “traditional” religious movement or from a sectarian organization are controversial and they change over time. “New” is always a relative term. For example, when does a new religion cease to be called “new”? Some “new” religions are now more than a hundred years old. In Japan, the concept of “new religions” (shinshūkyō 新宗教) was first used after the end of World War II, and the term indicates a number of groups that arose since the mid-19th century. “New religions” is a useful chronological category, but it is important to note that these religious groups are rooted in different traditions and developed a wide variety of teachings and practices. However, some characteristics have been recognized as common to many (if not all) of these groups: the role of a (charismatic) leader; references to different religious traditions; the ability to change quite radically in a short period of time; and the focus on communal activities. The size of “new religions” also varies greatly: some groups claim membership of millions (Sōka Gakkai 創価学会 became one of the biggest organizations in Japan), while other groups only reached a few thousand members. Some of them tried, with some success, to internationalize their messages, and some became dynamically involved in political activities. Several Japanese new religions founded during the 19th and 20th centuries have been located (or locate themselves) in the Buddhist tradition. Some of them, such as Sōka Gakkai, Risshō Kosei kai 立正佼成会, and Reiyūkai 霊友会 are based on Nichiren Buddhism, while others such as Agonshū 阿含宗 and Shinnyoen 真如苑 derive their teachings from esoteric Buddhism. This article will first provide an overview of scholarly debates regarding the definition of NRMs and then focus on some religious groups that are generally considered NRMs (not always without disagreement) and have been situated (or define themselves) inside the Buddhist tradition. Because their roots are from the Japanese religious tradition, most Japanese new religions include elements from Buddhist cosmology and practice. However, this article will focus on groups markedly known as Buddhist. Significant amounts of work on Japanese new religions have been produced in the 1960s and 1970s, but this article will generally focus on more recent publications in the field.

General Overviews

In a series of articles published by the journal Nova Religio between 2004 and 2005, experts on the field of new religious movements (NRMs) investigated different approaches to and definitions of NRMs. Melton 2004 identifies the “outsider status” as the fundamental characteristic of NRMs. Similarly, Bromley 2004 uses the level of “alignment” with dominant cultural patterns and social institutions as criteria to distinguish between “new religious groups,” “dominant religious groups,” and “sectarian religious groups.” Barker 2004 focuses on the “newness” as an important quality of these groups often associated with other characteristics (such as charismatic leadership). Robbins 2005 proposed a distinction between groups recently emerged (new religions) and groups representing an alternative to dominant cultural and institutional patterns (alternative religions). Finally, Reader 2005 critically evaluates the previous definitions considering other, non-Western geographical and cultural contexts, in which NRMs are found. Reader 1991 and Reader and Tanabe 1998 provide valuable introductions to the study of religion in modern and contemporary Japan. The former uses a series of case studies (from Shinto, Buddhism, and new religions) to investigate religious practices in contemporary Japan, while the latter discusses the concepts and practices of “practical benefits” (genze riyaku 現世利益) as a common religious activity in Japan. Finally, Wessinger 2000 investigates millennial expectations of some NRMs and the reasons for violence associated with them.

  • Barker, Eileen. “Perspective: What Are We Studying? A Sociological Case for Keeping the ‘Nova’?” Nova Religio 8.1 (2004): 88–102.

    DOI: 10.1525/nr.2004.8.1.88Save Citation »Export Citation »

    In this article Barker argues that the utility of the term “new religion” lies in the fact that the “newness” is a significant and defining quality of these groups.

    Find this resource:

  • Bromley, David G. “Perspective: Whither New Religious Studies? Defining and Shaping a New Area of Study.” Nova Religio 8.2 (2004): 83–97.

    DOI: 10.1525/nr.2004.8.2.83Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Bromley distinguishes between “new religious groups,” “dominant religious groups,” and “sectarian religious groups” using their level of alignment with dominant institutions and cultural patterns.

    Find this resource:

  • Melton, Gordon, J. “Perspective: Toward a Definition of ‘New Religion.’” Nova Religio 8.1 (2004): 73–87.

    DOI: 10.1525/nr.2004.8.1.73Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Melton argues that new religions are defined more by their “outsider status” than by the characteristics that they share with each other.

    Find this resource:

  • Reader, Ian. Religion in Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230375840Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Uses a series of case studies to examine the role of religion and religious practices in contemporary Japan (up to the late 1980s).

    Find this resource:

  • Reader, Ian. “Perspective: Chronologies, Commonalities and Alternative Status in Japanese New Religious Movements. Defining NRMs Outside the Western Cul-de-Sac.” Nova Religio 9.2 (2005): 84–96.

    DOI: 10.1525/nr.2005.9.2.084Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Reader argues that analysis and theoretical discussions based on Western-oriented frameworks are inadequate to provide a definition of new religions in other places such as Japan.

    Find this resource:

  • Reader, Ian, and George J. Tanabe. Practically Religious: Worldly Benefits and the Common Religion on Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An elaborate discussion and analysis of concepts and practices of practical benefits (genze riyaku) in Japanese religions.

    Find this resource:

  • Robbins, Thomas. “Perspective: New Religions and Alternative Religions.” Nova Religio 8.3 (2005): 104–111.

    DOI: 10.1525/nr.2005.8.3.104Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Discusses the definition of “new religions” and “alternative religions” and focuses on the concept of group’s alignment to dominant sociocultural patterns.

    Find this resource:

  • Wessinger, Catherine. How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate. New York: Seven Bridges, 2000.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A study of seven religious groups: the Peoples Temple, the Branch Davidians, Aum Shinrikyō オウム真理教, the Montana Freemen, Solar Temple, Heaven’s Gate, and Chen Tao focusing on their “millennial” expectations and discussing the reasons of why membership in some of these sects have led to violence and suicide.

    Find this resource:

Reference Works

Although there are there are no reference works focused solely on Buddhism and new religions, the following works contain useful bibliographical guidance and short overview articles. The two encyclopedic works, Inoue, et al. 1990 and Inoue, et al. 1996, represent a collaborative effort by several Japanese scholars in the field of religious studies and sociology of religion. They provide both useful data (although now slightly outdated) and thematic approaches. Swanson and Chilson 2006 is an outstanding guide to the study of Japanese religions with contribution from well-known experts in the field. Clarke 1999 includes fifteen hundred bibliographical entries and brief profiles of some Japanese new religions, while Clarke 2008 provides short profiles and thematic entries on numerous new religious movements. The Japanese New Religions Project, directed by Ian Reader, Erica Baffelli and Birgit Staemmler, is part of the World Religion and Spiritual Project. The website will include thematic articles and profiles of Japanese New Religions.

Journals

Although there are no specific journals for Buddhism and new religions, articles on Japanese new religions and Buddhism have been published in a number of periodicals. The Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Japanese Religions, and Journal of Religion in Japan are devoted to the academic studies of Japanese Religions, while Asian Ethnology is more broadly focused on Asian cultures. The Journal of Global Buddhism is published online and promotes the study of Buddhism’s globalization. The Journal of Global Buddhism has a cross-disciplinary approach and focuses on the study on Buddhism in the modern world. Nova Religio, the Journal of Contemporary Religion, and the newly established International Journal for the Study of New Religions are extremely useful locations for information on Buddhism and new religious movements.

Statistics and Databases

Data regarding new religious movements (NRMs) numbers and membership are difficult to collect. The Agency for Cultural Affairs within the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Monbu kagakushō 文部科学省) publishes annual statistics regarding religious organizations in Japan (Shūkyō nenkan). The Religious Information Research Centre website includes a database with information on numerous new religions.

Japanese “New Religions”

The term “shinshūkyō” 新宗教 (shūkyō 宗教 is usually translated as “religion” and shin 新 means “new”) is applied to religious groups founded in Japan since the mid-19th century to distinguish them from the so-called institutionalized religions (kisei shūkyō 既成宗教) or traditional religions (dentō shūkyō 伝統宗教), namely the various schools of Buddhism and shrine Shintō. Other terms used to define these groups are shinkō shūkyō 新興宗教 (this term has a pejorative connotation emphasizing the short history and sudden growth of new religious movements [NRMs]), “new new religions” (shinshinshūkyō 新新宗教, referring to movements founded after the 1970s), and “new spiritual movements and culture” (shinreisei undō 新霊性運動). Shimazono 1992 provides a theoretical study and discusses new religions from a sociological, historical, and typological prospective. Berthon and Kashio 1998 presents an overview of religiosity in contemporary Japan and of terminology used to describe NRMs. Nishiyama 1979 contributed to the discussion of definitions of new religions in Japan by introducing the category of “new new religions” (shin shinshūkyō) to indicate groups founded in the 1970s. Astley 2006 provides a useful introduction to the definition of NRMs in Japan, their classifications, and an overview of the field of study. Inoue 1996 investigates the development of NRMs in Japan. Dehn and Staemmler 2011 is the most recent publication dealing with the wider spectrum of Japanese new religions, while Clarke 2000 addresses the relationship between new religions and globalization. Kisala 1999 investigates new religions from the perspectives of their peace programs.

  • Astley, Trevor. “New Religions.” In Nanzan Guide to Japanese Religions. Edited by Paul Swanson and Clark Chilson, 91–114. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An up-to-date introduction to Japanese new religions, their definition and classification, and an overview of the field of study.

    Find this resource:

  • Berthon, Jean-Pierre, and Naoki Kashio. “Les nouvelles religions Japonaises: Histoire d’un concept.” In Japon Pluriel 3. Edited by Jean-Pierre Berthon and Anne Gossot, 181–187. Arles, France: Éditions P. Picquier, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A picture of religiosity in contemporary Japan and a discussion of the terminology used to describe religious changes.

    Find this resource:

  • Clarke, Peter B., ed. Japanese New Religions in Global Perspective. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 2000.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Investigates the relationship between Japanese new religions and globalization through several case studies, including Seichō no Ie 成長の家, Mahikari 真光, Oomoto 大本, Zen, Sōka Gakkai 創価学会, Kōfuku no kagaku 幸福の科学, Shin Buddhism, and focusing on countries in western Europe, Brazil, Australia, and the United States.

    Find this resource:

  • Dehn, Ulrich, and Birgit Staemmler, eds. Establishing the Revolutionary: An Introduction to Japanese New Religions. Hamburg, Germany: Lit Verlag, 2011.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A recent work dealing with the wider spectrum of Japanese new religions including a general introduction and in-depth analysis of ten groups: Oomoto, Seichō no Ie, Sekai kyūseikyō 世界救世教, Shinnyoen 真如苑, Sōka Gakkai, Risshō Kōseikai 立正佼成会, Sekai Mahikari Bunmei kyōdan 世界真光文明教団 and Sūkyo Mahikari 崇教真光, Kōfuku no kagaku, Aum Shinrikyō オウム真理教/Aleph アレフ/Hikari no Wa ひかりの輪, and Pana-Wave Laboratory パナウェーブ研究所.

    Find this resource:

  • Inoue, Nobutaka. Shinshūkyō no kaidoku. Tokyo: Chikuma shobō, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An investigation of the developments of new religions in contemporary Japan, including a discussion on the relationship between Japanese new religions and media.

    Find this resource:

  • Kisala, Robert. Prophets of Peace: Pacifism and Cultural Identity in Japan’s New Religions. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An investigation of the peace programs of six Japanese new religions, including Sōka Gakkai and Risshō Kōseikai.

    Find this resource:

  • Nishiyama, Shigeru. “Shinshūkyō no genkyō: ‘Datsu-kindaika’ ni muketa ishiki hendō no shiza kara.” Rekishi kōron 5.7 (1979): 33–37.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    In this essay Nishiyama introduced the term “shin shinshūkyō” (new new religions) to describe groups that emerged in the 1970s.

    Find this resource:

  • Shimazono, Susumu. Gendai kyūsai shūkyōron. Tokyo: Seikyūsha, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Provides a theory-based study on new religions. In particular, chapters 4 and 5 discuss the relationship between Buddhism and new religions.

    Find this resource:

Agonshū

Agonshū 阿含宗 was established in late 1970 from a previous organization founded in the 1950s. The group focuses on a charismatic leader, and its cosmology draws mainly from esoteric Buddhism and Shugendō 修験道. Agonshū gained public attention in the 1980s for its massive public events and intensive use of mass media, but very few academic studies have been conducted on the group. Clarke 1999 and Inoue, et al. 1990 provide brief introductions to the group, its leader, and its teachings. Reader 1991 analyzes the creation of what he defines a “user-friendly” religion through the creation of big public events and the use of media. Reader 1994 discusses the use of esoteric motifs in Agonshū, and Prohl 2004 investigates Agonshū’s teachings and practices in relation to the ancestors.

  • Clarke, Peter B., ed. A Bibliography of Japanese New Religions: With Annotations and an Introduction to Japanese New Religions at Home and Abroad. Richmond, UK: Japan Library, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Includes a brief profile of Agonshū, with relevant publications on the group.

    Find this resource:

  • Inoue, Nobutaka, et al., eds. Shinshūkyō jiten. Tokyo: Kōbundō, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Includes some information regarding the group’s leader, history, teaching, practices, and use of media.

    Find this resource:

  • Prohl, Inken. “Solving Everyday Problems with the Help of the Ancestors: Representations of Ghosts in the New Religions Agonshū and World Mate.” In Practicing the Afterlife: Perspectives from Japan. Edited by Susanne Formanek and William LaFleur, 461–483. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of ancestors-related practices in two new religious movements.

    Find this resource:

  • Reader, Ian. “Spirits, Satellites and a User-Friendly Religion; Agonshū and the New Religions.” In Religion in Contemporary Japan. By Ian Reader, 194–233. London: Macmillan, 1991.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230375840Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of Agonshū as a “user-friendly” religion and its use of media in 1980s.

    Find this resource:

  • Reader, Ian. “Appropriated Images: Esoteric Themes in a Japanese New Religion.” In Esoteric Buddhism in Japan. Edited by Ian Astley, 36–63. Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark: Seminar for Buddhist Studies, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A discussion of esoteric motifs in Agonshū’s teachings.

    Find this resource:

Aum Shinrikyō

Several studies on Aum Shinrikyō オウム真理教 appeared after the group committed a sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995 and several members, including the leader, were arrested for the attack and other crimes. Among early studies Shimazono 1997 and Reader 2000a represent the most comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the history, teachings, and practices of the group and its path to violence. Kisala and Mullins 2001 introduces a different perspective by investigating the social repercussions of the Aum affair. Reader 2000b presents a thought-provoking analysis of the role played by academia in shaping the discourse about Aum Shinrikyō. More recent publications have discussed thematic issues regarding the consequences of the Aum affair, such as changes in legislation regarding religious groups (Wilkinson 2009) and victims’ association activities (Pendleton 2009). Inoue 2011 presents the result of a collective effort by researchers affiliated with the Religious Information Research Center who analyzed thousands of documents (books, magazines, audiocassettes, and videocassettes) produced by Aum. Finally, Baffelli and Reader 2012 investigates the ramifications of the Aum affair in a variety of contexts.

  • Baffelli, Erica, and Ian Reader, eds. Special Issue: Aftermath: The Impact and Ramifications of the Aum Affair. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 39.1 (2012).

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A collection of essays discussing the ramifications of Aum affair in a variety of contexts (Aum members, other religious organizations, politics, academia, anti-terrorism, popular culture) within and outside Japan.

    Find this resource:

  • Inoue, Nobutaka, ed. Jōhō jidai no Oumu shinrikyō. Tokyo: Shunjūsha, 2011.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A useful collection of unpublished material produced by Aum Shinrikyō and analyzed by researchers affiliated with the Religious Information Research Centre.

    Find this resource:

  • Kisala, Robert J., and Mark R. Mullins, eds. Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society through the Aum Affair. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A collection of chapters investigating the reactions and responses to the Aum affair by social groups and institutions.

    Find this resource:

  • Pendleton, Mark. “Mourning as a Global Politics: Embodied Grief and Activism in Post-Aum Tokyo.” Asia Studies Review 33 (2009): 333–347.

    DOI: 10.1080/10357820903153731Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of victims’ activism through the case study of Takahashi Shizue 高橋シズエ, a well-known representative of victims’ right organization called Chikatetsu Sarin Jiken Higaisha no Kai 地下鉄サリン事件被害者の会 (Subway Sarin Incident Victims’ Association).

    Find this resource:

  • Reader, Ian. Religious Violence in Contemporary Japan: The Case of Aum Shinrikyō. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2000a.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A comprehensive and in-depth analysis of Aum, its history, leader, teachings, practices, and development.

    Find this resource:

  • Reader, Ian. “Scholarship, Aum Shinrikyō and Academic Integrity.” Nova Religio 3 (2000b): 368–382.

    DOI: 10.1525/nr.2000.3.2.368Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis and discussion of the controversial relationship between Aum and academia.

    Find this resource:

  • Shimazono, Susumu. Gendai shūkyō no kanōsei: Oumu to bōryoku. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    One of the first comprehensive studies on Aum Shinrikyō, investigating its path to violence.

    Find this resource:

  • Wilkinson, Gregory. “The Next Aum: Religious Violence and New Religious Movements in Twenty-First Century Japan.” PhD diss., University of Iowa, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of the impact that the Aum affair had on other new religious movements.

    Find this resource:

Kōfuku No Kagaku

Founded in 1986 by Ōkawa Ryūhō 大川隆法 as a study group on human happiness, the group Kōfuku no kagaku 幸福の科学 explicitly defined itself as part of the Buddhist tradition in the early 1990s. The first monographic work on Kōfuku no kagaku was published by Franz Winter (Winter 2012). Astley 1995 and Berthon 1991 represent earlier introductions to the group, its teaching and activities during the first years of its formation. Baffelli 2011 offers an updated introduction to the group’s history, doctrine, membership, and activities. Baffelli 2007 and Baffelli 2010 investigates Kōfuku no kagaku’s use of media, as the group is well-known in Japan for its intensive use of advertising and big events in the 1990s. In particular, Baffelli 2007 analyzes the early 1990s period, while Baffelli 2010 focuses on the group’s Internet use. In the 1990s Kōfuku no kagaku was seen as Aum Shinrikyō オウム真理教’s rival, and Baffelli and Reader 2011 investigates the competition between the two groups especially related to end-of-the-world prophecies. In 2009 the group entered the political area with the foundation of a new party called Kōfuku jitsugentō 幸福実現党 (Happiness Realization Party). Klein 2011 follows the formation and developments of the new party.

  • Astley, Trevor. “The Transformations of a Recent Japanese New Religion: Ōkawa Ryūhō and Kōfuku no Kagaku.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22.3–4 (1995): 343–380.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An introduction to Kōfuku no kagaku history, teachings, and activities up to the mid-1990s.

    Find this resource:

  • Baffelli, Erica. “Mass Media and Religion in Japan: Mediating the Leader’s Image.” Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture (WPCC) 4.1 (2007): 83–99.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A discussion of Kōfuku no kagaku’s use of media in early 1990s, focusing on the relationship between media and charismatic leadership.

    Find this resource:

  • Baffelli, Erica. “Japanese New Religions and the Internet: A Case Study.” Australian Religious Studies Review 23.3 (2010): 255–276.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of Kōfuku no kagaku’s use of the Internet in the early 2000s.

    Find this resource:

  • Baffelli, Erica. “Kōfuku no kagaku.” In Establishing the Revolutionary: An Introduction to New Religious in Japan. Edited by Ulrich Dehn and Birgit Staemmler, 259–275. Hamburg, Germany: Lit, 2011.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An introduction to Kōfuku no kagaku’s history, doctrine, activities, and use of media.

    Find this resource:

  • Baffelli Erica, and Ian Reader. “Competing for the Apocalypse: Religious Rivalry and Millennial Transformations in a Japanese New Religion.” International Journal for the Study of New Religions 2.1 (2011): 5–28.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of Kōfuku no kagaku and Aum Shinrikyō’s rivalry in 1990s through an analysis of their millennial motifs.

    Find this resource:

  • Berthon, Jean-Pierre. “Naissance d’une nouvelle religion: La Science du Bonheur.” Chambre de Commerce et d’industrie du Japon FJE 49 (1991): 33–36.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An introduction on Kōfuku no kagaku’s early activities.

    Find this resource:

  • Klein, Axel. “Wenn Religionsgemeinschaften zur politischen Reformation ansetzen: Der Fall der Japanischen ‘Kōfuku no kagaku.’” Asien: The German Journal on Contemporary Asia 119 (2011): 9–25.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of Kōfuku no kagaku’s engagement with politics and the creation of a new party in 2009.

    Find this resource:

  • Winter, Franz. Hermes und Buddha: Die neureligiöse Bewegung Kōfuku no kagaku in Japan. Hamburg, Germany: Lit, 2012.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    The first monographic work on Kōfuku no kagaku from its foundation to the 2000s.

    Find this resource:

Reiyūkai

Reiyūkai 霊友会 is a Buddhist lay movement founded in 1925 by Kubo Kakutarō 久保角太郎 and his sister-in-law Kotani Kimi 小谷喜美. Reiyūkai was the most successful of the modern Nichiren movements in the prewar and early postwar period and inspired several schismatic groups, including Risshō Kōseikai 立正佼成会. Clarke 1999 includes a brief profile of the group, while Hardacre 1984 offers an engaging and carefully researched study on Reiyūkai based on three years fieldwork in Japan. Shimazono 2004 investigates the development of thought and ideas related to experimentalism in Reiyūkai’s teachings.

  • Clarke, Peter B., ed. A Bibliography of Japanese New Religions: With Annotations and an Introduction to Japanese New Religions at Home and Abroad. Richmond, UK: Japan Library/Curzon, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Provides a brief profile of Reiyūkai.

    Find this resource:

  • Hardacre, Helen. Lay Buddhism in Contemporary Japan: Reiyūkai Kyōdan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    The first English-language study on Reiyūkai based on years of participant observation.

    Find this resource:

  • Shimazono, Susumu. “Popularism Derived from the Lotus Sutra Tradition.” In From Salvation to Spirituality: Popular Religious Movements in Modern Japan. Edited by Shimazono Susumu, 91–108. Melbourne, Australia: Trans Pacific, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of Reiyūkai’s teachings and ideas related to experientialism derived from Lotus Sutra Buddhism and Nichiren sect.

    Find this resource:

Risshō Kōseikai

Risshō kōseikai 立正佼成会, a new religion based on the Lotus Sutra, was founded in 1938 by Naganuma Myōkō and Niwano Nikkyō. It is the second-largest Buddhist lay organization in Japan claiming around 2.05 million households. Morioka 1989 presents a detailed study of the first thirty years of the group’s history, while Guthrie 1988 is one of the first ethnographic studies conducted on Japanese new religions, and it is based on fieldwork carried out in a mountain village. The well-known peace-related activities promoted by the group are examined by Kisala 1999 through an investigation of Risshō Kōseikai’s idea of pacifism. Two of the selected articles focus on conflicts, Anderson 1994 on internal conflicts between members, and Morioka 1994 on the development of the so-called Yomiuri affair and the conflict between the group and the newspaper Yomiuri Shinbun. Nakamura 1997 uses Risshō Kōseikai as one case study to investigate religious consciousness and activities of women in contemporary Japan.

  • Anderson, Richard. “Risshō Kōseikai and the Bodhisattva Way: Religious Ideals, Gender, and Status.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 21.2–3 (1994): 311–337.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A discussion of conflicts aroused within Risshō Kōseikai’s members related to the group’s emphasis on the teaching of “following the bodhisattva way.”

    Find this resource:

  • Guthrie, Stewart Elliott. A Japanese New Religion: Rissho Kosei-kai in a Mountain Hamlet. Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies, Number 1. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 1988.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    One of the first ethnographic studies conducted on Japanese new religions.

    Find this resource:

  • Kisala, Robert. Prophets of Peace: Pacifism and Cultural Identity in Japan’s New Religions. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    In chapter 4, Kisala deals with Risshō Kōseikai’s idea of pacifism and its religious path aimed at the transformation of the world.

    Find this resource:

  • Morioka, Kiyomi. Shin shūkyō undō no tenkai katei. Tokyo: Sobunsha, 1989.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Morioka’s study focuses on the first thirty years of Risshō Kōseikai’s history and introduces the definition “life circle” to describe the development of a religious movements toward maturity.

    Find this resource:

  • Morioka, Kiyomi. “Attacks on the New Religion: Rissho Koseikai and the ‘Yomiuri Affair.’” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 21.2–3 (1994): 281–310.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of the relationship between media and new religions through the detailed analysis of the “Yomiuri affair,” a conflict emerged after the newspaper Yomiuri Shinbun published a series of articles critical of Risshō Kōseikai and its activities in mid-1950s.

    Find this resource:

  • Nakamura, Kyōko. “The Religious Consciousness and Activities of Contemporary Japanese Women.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 24 (1997): 87–120.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Examines the results of a survey on religious consciousness and practice among women conducted on Risshō Kōseikai and the Episcopal Church of Japan.

    Find this resource:

Shinnyoen

Founded in 1936 by Itō Shinjo 伊藤真乗 and his wife Tomoji 友司, Shinnyoen 真如苑 defines itself as a “Buddhism community” (bukkyō kyōdan 仏教教団), and its teachings combine elements of Shingon Buddhism and the practice of sesshin (接心): that is, receiving guidance from a spiritual medium (reinōsha 霊能者) whose spiritual powers are recognized by the group. Monika Schrimpf did an extensive study on the group. Schrimpf 2011 offers a useful and informed introduction to Shinnyoen’s history, structure, and doctrine. Schrimpf 2004 analyzes the shinnyomitsu (shinnyo esotericism), a new form of esoteric Buddhism that Shinnyoen claims to have created. Nagai 1995 investigates the relationship between self-cultivation and “magic” elements in Shinnyoen sesshin practice. Usui 2003 uses Shinnyoen as a case study to investigate gender issues in the study of Japanese new religions.

  • Nagai, Mikiko. “Magic and Self-Cultivation in a New Religion: The Case of Shinnyoen.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22.3–4 (1995): 301–320.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of Shinnyoen teaching and practices from the point of view of the relation between self-cultivation and “magic” elements.

    Find this resource:

  • Schrimpf, Monika. “Notions of Secrecy in a New Religious Movement: A Study of Shinnyo-en.” In Unterwegs: Neue Pfade in der Religionswissenschaft. Festschrift für Michael Pye zum 65. Geburtstag. New Paths in the Study of Religions. Festschrift in Honour of Michael Pye on his 65th Birthday. Edited by Christoph Kleine, M. Schrimpf, and K. Triplett, 309–318. Munich, Germany: Biblion Verlag, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of the modern form of Buddhism esotericism and so-called shinnyo esotericism.

    Find this resource:

  • Schrimpf, Monika. “Shinnyoen.” In Establishing the Revolutionary: An Introduction to New Religious in Japan. Edited by Ulrich Dehn and Birgit Staemmler, 181–200. Hamburg, Germany: Lit, 2011.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An introduction to Shinnyoen’s history, doctrine, and practices.

    Find this resource:

  • Usui, Atsuko. “‘Experience’ in New Religious Movements: The Case of Shinnyoen.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 30.3–4 (2003): 217–241.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An investigation of gender categories in relation to Shinnyoen’s doctrine and practice.

    Find this resource:

Sōka Gakkai

Despite being Japan’s largest new religion Sōka Gakkai 創価学会 remains under-researched, and it is especially difficult to find balanced study on the group (most of the studies tend to be highly polemical or highly sympathetic). Because an article devoted to Sōka Gakkai has already been included in these bibliographies (see the separate article Sōka Gakkai), the selection here is limited to recent works and publications placing Sōka Gakkai in the wider context of lay modern Nichiren Buddhism. An overview of recent works in Japanese on Sōka Gakkai is provided by Tamano 2008. Levi 2009 combines ethnographic method and archival research to provide an account of Sōka Gakkai development. The same approach is used in Levi 2003, which investigates the activities of a symphony orchestra organized by Sōka Gakkai. Nishiyama’s publications in the 1970s and 1980s offer valuable information on Sōka Gakkai’s history, doctrine, and relationship to Nichiren lay Buddhism movements (Nishiyama 1985). Stone 2003a investigates the issue of the Ordination Platform (kaidan 戒壇) and its appropriation in modern lay Nichiren movements, and Stone 2003b discusses political activism in some modern Nichiren movements. Levi 2012 investigates anti–Sōka Gakkai campaigns before and after the sarin gas attack committed by Aum Shinrikyōオウム真理教’s members in 1995.

  • Levi, McLaughlin. “Faith and Practice: Bringing Religion, Music and Beethoven to Life in Soka Gakkai.” Social Science Japan Journal 6.2 (2003): 161–179.

    DOI: 10.1093/ssjj/6.2.161Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Examines the complexities of religious experience by Sōka Gakkai members through the activities of a symphony orchestra organized by the group.

    Find this resource:

  • Levi, McLaughlin. “Soka Gakkai in Japan.” PhD diss., Princeton University, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Combining ethnography and archival research Levi investigates Sōka Gakkai’s development privileging a grassroots point of view.

    Find this resource:

  • Levi, McLaughlin. “Did Aum Change Everything? What Soka Gakkai before, during and after the Aum Shinrikyō Affair Tells Us about the Persistent ‘Otherness’ of New Religions in Japan.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 39.1 (2012): 51–75.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Investigates the complex relationship among politics, media, and Sōka Gakkai before and after the Aum affair in 1995.

    Find this resource:

  • Nishiyama, Shigeru. “Butsuryuko to sōka gakkai ni miru kindai hokekei kyōdan hatten no nazo.” In Nichiren to hokekyō shinkō. Edited by Tamura Yoshirō, et al, 128–129. Tokyo: Yomiuri Shinbunsha, 1985.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A discussion of Sōka Gakkai’s historical connections to lay Nichiren Buddhist movements.

    Find this resource:

  • Stone, Jacqueline I. “By Imperial Edict and Shogunal Decree: Politics and the Issue of the Ordination Platform in Modern Lay Nichiren Buddhism.” In Buddhism in the Modern World: Adaptations of an Ancient Tradition. Edited by Steven Heine and Charles Prebish, 193–220. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003a.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A discussion of the issue of the great ordination platform (kaidan) and its appropriation in Tanaka Chigaku 田中智學’s religious nationalism and in Sōka Gakkai’s political vision.

    Find this resource:

  • Stone, Jacqueline I. “Nichiren’s Activist Heirs: Sōka Gakkai, Risshō Kōseikai立正佼成会, Nipponzan Myōhōji.” In Action Dharma: New Studies in Engaged Buddhism. Edited by Christopher Queen, Charles Prebish, and Damien Keown, 63–94. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003b.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A discussion of political activism in Sōka Gakkai, Risshō Kōseikai, and Nipponzan Myōhōji 日本山妙法寺. The paper traces the roots of political activism to the link between veneration to the Lotus Sutra with peace and prosperity in Nichiren’s thoughts.

    Find this resource:

  • Tamano, Kazushi. Sōka gakkai no kenkyū. Tokyo: Kodansha, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An overview of Japanese-language scholarship on Sōka Gakkai.

    Find this resource:

Zen

Although Zen is not usually considered in the discussion regarding Buddhism and new religious movements, Sharf 1995 and Erez 2010 offer interesting discussions on lay Zen groups in contemporary Japan and where to locate these movements in relation to new religions.

  • Erez, Joskovich. “How Old Is the Wine? Ningen Zen, Kyōdan and the Formation of Lay Zen Practice in Modern Japan.” International Journal for the Study of New Religions 1.2 (2010): 65–84.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of the development of Ningen zen kyōdan 人間禅教団, a modern Japanese Zen lay organization.

    Find this resource:

  • Sharf, Robert. “Sanbōkyōdan: Zen and the Way of the New Religions.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22.3 (1995): 417–458.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of the Japanese school Sanbōkyōdan 三宝教団, which significantly influenced the reception of Zen outside Japan and how it shaped Zen Buddhism in a radical new way and made it adaptable to different cultural contexts.

    Find this resource:

Politics

Some Japanese Buddhist new religions, especially modern Nichiren movements, have been politically very active. In the postwar period many supported political candidates or joined political committees. Three of them (Sōka Gakkai 創価学会, Aum Shinrikyō オウム真理教, and Kōfuku no kagaku 幸福の科学) established political parties, but only the Kōmeitō 公明党 (Clean Government Party), founded in 1964 by Sōka Gakkai, has been able to establish itself as a stable presence in the Japanese electoral system. Nakano 2003 presents an analysis of the political activities and relationship between political parties and religious groups in the postwar period. Ehrhardt et al. 2014 is the first comprehensive analysis of Kōmeitō published in English. Baffelli 2010 provides an overview of the history of Kōmeitō and Sōka Gakkai’s political vision, while Ehrhardt 2009 who did extensive study on Kōmeitō offers in this paper an analysis of the party’s electorate. The foundation and activities of Shinritō 真理党, founded by Aum Shinrikyō in 1989, is discussed in Tsukada 2011, and the most recently formed party, Kōfuku jitsugentō 幸福の実現党, is investigated in Klein 2011. The profound impact of the Aum affair on the relationship between politics and religion in Japan is discussed in Klein 2012.

New Religions and Nationalism

A growing area of research focuses on the issue of new religions and nationalism. Cornille 1999 investigates nationalistic and ethnocentric teachings developed in three Japanese new religious movements (NRMs). Reader 2002 discusses how three NRMs developed their nationalist themes through self-identification as Buddhist revival movements. Cornille 2000 provides an account of several religious movements and argues that while these groups seem universalistic in their teachings, many of their ideas rest on ethnocentric foundations. Prohl 2004 argues that the analysis of the writings of new religions’ founders is fundamental to understand the relationship between religion and national identity in contemporary Japan. Tsukada has been conducting extensive research in the topic and in this article (Tsukada 2009) discusses how universalism and nationalism coexist in two NRMs.

  • Cornille, Catherine. “Nationalism in New Japanese Religions.” Nova Religio 2.2 (1999): 228–244.

    DOI: 10.1525/nr.1999.2.2.228Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of nationalistic teachings in Tenrikyō 天理教, Mahikari 真光, and Kōfuku no kagaku幸福の科学.

    Find this resource:

  • Cornille, Catherine. “New Japanese Religions in the West, between Nationalism and Universalism.” In Japanese New Religions in Global Perspective. Edited by P. B. Clarke, 10–34. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 2000.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An overview of ethnocentric and nationalistic teachings in several new religions, including several Buddhist new religions such as Sōka Gakkai 創価学会, Risshō kōseikai 立正佼成会, Shinnyoen 真如苑, and Kōfuku no kagaku.

    Find this resource:

  • Prohl, Inken. “Religion and National Identity in Contemporary Japan.” In Civil Society, Religion and the Nation. Edited by Gerrit Steunebrink and Evert van der Zweerde, 135–150. Amsterdam and New York: Radopi, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Investigates the relationship between religion and national identity in modern Japan, focusing on new religions’ teachings and on the discourse created by scholars of religion.

    Find this resource:

  • Reader, Ian. “Identity and Nationalism in the ‘New’ New Religions: Buddhism as a Motif for the New Age in Japan.” In Religion and National Identity in the Japanese Context. Edited by Klaus Antoni, et al., 13–36. Münster, Germany: Lit, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Reader analyzes how Agonshū 阿含宗, Kōfuku no kagaku, and Aum shinrikyōオウム真理教 used Buddhism to construct their nationalist and millennialist discourse.

    Find this resource:

  • Tsukada, Hotaka. “Shinshinshūkyō ni okeru bunkateki nashonarizumu no shosō: Mahikari to Kōfuku no kagaku ni okeru nihon nihonjinkan no ronri to hensen.” Religion and Society 15 (2009): 67–90.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An analysis of developments and changes in nationalistic thoughts in Mahikari and Kōfuku no kagaku, focusing especially on the 1990s.

    Find this resource:

Role of the Media

The intensive use of media is often mentioned as one of the defining characteristics of Japanese new religions. At the same time, media has been playing a central role in shaping the discourse on new religions in Japan. Attacks by media on new religions are discussed in Baffelli 2007 and Morioka 1994, the former investigating the use of media by Kōfuku no kagaku 幸福の科学 in early 1990s and the so-called Kōdansha affair, the latter focusing on the conflict between Risshō kōseikai 立正佼成会 and the press in the mid-1950s. The role of media in shaping public discourse on Aum Shinrikyō オウム真理教 immediately after the sarin gas attack is discussed in Hardacre 2007. The Japanese film director Mori Tatsuya produced two valuable documentaries on Aum Shinrikyō members in 1998 and 2001 (Mori 1998, Mori 2001), and the first film is analyzed in Gardner 2001 in the broader context of media’s response to Aum. Baffelli 2011 investigates the use of the Internet by three new religions and how the Aum affair impacted on new religions’ use of new media.

  • Baffelli, Erica. “Mass Media and Religion in Japan: Mediating the Leader’s Image.” Westminster Paper in Communication and Culture 4.1 (2007): 83–99.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    The role of the charismatic leader in new religious movements is analyzed through the creation of Ōkawa Ryūhō’s 大川隆法 (Kōfuku no kagaku’s founder) media image in the early 1990s.

    Find this resource:

  • Baffelli, Erica. “Charismatic Blogger? Authority and New Religions on the Web 2.0.” In Japanese Religions on the Internet: Innovation, Representation, and Authority. Edited by Erica Baffelli, Ian Reader, and Birgit Staemmler, 118–135. London and New York: Routledge, 2011.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Baffelli investigates the use of the Internet by Agonshū 阿含宗, Kōfuku no kagaku, and Hikari no Waひかりの輪 especially in relation to the developments of so-called Web 2.0 (in particular blogs and social networking sites).

    Find this resource:

  • Gardner, Richard A. “Aum and the Media: Lost in the Cosmos and the Need to Know.” In Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society through the Aum Affair. Edited by Robert J. Kisala and Mark R. Mullins, 133–162. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Gardner discusses the media responses to the Aum affair and analyzes the documentary produced by Mori Tatsuya 森達也.

    Find this resource:

  • Hardacre, Helen. “Aum Shinrikyō and the Japanese Media: The Pied Piper Meets the Lamb of God.” History of Religions 47.2–3 (2007): 171–204.

    DOI: 10.1086/524209Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Discusses the role of media in shaping the discourse about Aum Shinrikyō immediately after the sarin gas attack in 1995.

    Find this resource:

  • Mori, Tatsuya. A. DVD. Tokyo: Maxam, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A valuable documentary on Aum Shinrikyō and its members’ life and activities from around March 1996 to November 1997 (with a final mention of spring 1997). A central focus is placed on Araki Hiroshi 荒木浩, a young member who found himself in the role of chief spokesman after leaders and top-ranked members were arrested.

    Find this resource:

  • Mori, Tatsuya. A2. DVD. Tokyo: Maxam, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Mori went back to Aum (now renamed Aleph アレフ) a few years later to document the changes in the group in late 1990s and early 2000s.

    Find this resource:

  • Morioka, Kiyomi. “Attacks on the New Religion: Rissho Koseikai and the ‘Yomiuri Affair.’” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 21.2–3 (1994): 281–310.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »

    The analysis of the conflict between Risshō Kōseikai and the Yomiuri shinbun in mid-1950s.

    Find this resource:

back to top

Article

Up

Down