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Japanese Pilgrimage: Shinto Variations on a Buddhist Theme

01.04.2004 | 18:30

Michael Pye (Professor, University of Marburg)

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The Buddhist pilgrimages associated with Shikoku (88 stations) and Saikoku (33 stations) are very well known and indeed continue to be very fashionable. Their success has led to the setting up of many other linked visits to Buddhist temples, connected with Fudō-son or with Yakushi-nyorai, or even to a historical patriarch like Hōnen Shōnin. The popular Seven Gods of Fortune also attract visitors all over the country to their own local o-meguri (circulatory pilgrimage), which is expected to bring good luck. These often include Buddhist temples and Shintō shrines in one single circuit. In this lecture, however, particular attention will be paid to some little known Shintō pilgrimages which are also based on the principle of circulation (meguri), that is, of repeated acts of o-mairi at shrines which are somehow related. But how are these to be interpreted? To answer this question, a brief introduction will be given into the wider patterns of contemporary Japanese religion, giving particular emphasis to the analytical concepts of "primal religion" and "transaction". On this basis it is possible to appraise the different ways in which Buddhist meaning and Shintō meaning can emerge from the general pattern of primal religion.

Michael Pye is Professor of the Study of Religions at Marburg University, Germany.  He studied at Cambridge University (England) and later received a Ph.D. from Leeds University (England) in the field of Buddhist Studies. His further research covers various aspects of East and South-East Asian religions, with special reference to contemporary Japan, where he has lived for several years. His publications include The Study of Kanji (Tokyo (Hokuseido) 1971,1984), Skilful Means, A Concept in Mahayana Buddhism (London (Duckworth) 1978, 2nd ed. London (Routledge) 2003), Emerging from Meditation (Tominaga Nakamoto) (London and Honolulu 1990) and O-meguri, Pilgerfahrt in Japan (Marburg 1987).

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