Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor of Japanese Religion, Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan

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The Many Lives of the Buddha in Modern Japan

This project will trace changes in the understanding of the historical Buddha Śākyamuni, who founded Buddhism some 2,500 years ago, in modernizing Japan (1868-1945). It examines Śākyamuni’s roles in this period through two lenses—both as an object of academic inquiry by modern Japanese scholars of Buddhism, and as a focus for the creative energies of Japanese artists and thinkers. By exploring both modes of re-envisioning the figure of the Buddha, it will show how the Buddha was both “de-mythologized” and “re-mythologized” in the same period. This project will shed light on the formation and global ascendancy of Buddhist Studies as an intellectual field in Japan, the inspiration that modern cultural creators have sought in the Buddha, and the continuing relevance of the Buddhist religion for Japan in an era of transformation.