Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor and Chair of Graduate Affairs, Religious Studies, McMaster University

Award Information

Biographies of Non-Eminent Monks: The training and daily lives of contemporary Japanese Buddhists

Despite the fact there are currently over 300,000 officially certified Buddhist priests in Japan, there has hardly been any significant scholarly research into their lives and training. What are their backgrounds? How are they trained? How do they mediate between the doctrinal ideals of their particular traditions and the real-world needs of parishioners? This project lays the groundwork for the first comprehensive study, in any language, of the contemporary training, education, and daily realities of Buddhist priests in Japan. My research will consist of in-depth interviews with approximately 25 priests (male and female) of the seven major sects of Japanese Buddhism. By focusing on “non-eminent monks,” I hope to evoke (as well as offer a corrective to) the tendency in Buddhist studies to focus on famous examplars of the tradition at the cost of “regular” priests. By exploring the lives of priests who epitomize how Buddhist teachings actually play out on the ground, I intend to offer a nuanced vision of the conflicts, contradictions, and negotiations inherent in the tradition.