Dissertationsarbeit von Dr. Tim Graf
Dr. Tim Graf
Brands of Zen: Kitô jiin in Contemporary Japanese Sôtô Zen Buddhism
This dissertation examines contemporary Japanese prayer monasteries (kitô jiin) as sites of religious branding and priestly training. It also explores ways Sôtô Zen prayer monasteries shed light on the broader topic of interplay between training and branding in the making of this-worldly benefits (genze riyaku). From the fifteenth century to the present day, prayer monasteries have reflected a vital yet neglected side of Japanese Sôtô Zen Buddhism and its socio-historic, pragmatic, and performative aspects as a lived religion. Attracting several hundred thousand pilgrims and tourists each year, many of whom take part in elaborate kitô (prayer) rituals for this-worldly benefits conducted by the monks on behalf of temple visitors, kitô monasteries stand out from the majority of Zen Buddhist parish temples - not only in terms of size and popularity, but also in matters of practice and economic clout. The Sôtô Zen sect relies on prayer monasteries financially and it depends on them as sectarian training centers, where the practice of "ritual sitting" (zazen) takes place. This study of Sôtô Zen Buddhism covers new ground in showing how prayer monasteries, as sites of religious branding, tourism, and monastic training, work together in the making of this-worldly benefits. My project explores how Zen prayer temples provide a template for modes of religious professionalization and suggest ways of understanding how religious authority is constructed in contemporary Japan more broadly.