Bryan Lowe deposited States of “State Buddhism”: History, Religion, and Politics in Late Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Scholarship in the group History on Humanities Commons 6 years, 10 months ago
The most commonly employed framework for assessing the religion of the Nara period (710-784) remains the state Buddhism model (kokka Bukkyo ron 国家仏教論) advanced by Inoue Mitsusada 井上光貞 (1917-1983). While Inoue provided the most systematic and influential version of this thesis, this article traces its origins at least as far back as the Meiji period (1868-1912). It argues that there has been not one state Buddhism model but severaL Different versions emerged at particular historical moments in specific institutional settings in response to contemporary challenges. This article does not assess these frameworks in terms of their historical accuracy, but instead treats scholarship on Nara Buddhism as a lens that magnifies problems facing diverse modern actors ranging from Buddhist reformers to National Historians. In revealing the historical conditions that gave birth to the state Buddhism model, I hope to encourage twenty-first-century scholars to reflect on some of the assumptions behind narratives frequently employed for understanding premodern Japanese religions, as well as better understand the connection between politics and scholarship in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Japan.