Religions of Japan in Practice

George J. Tanabe, Jr., Editor Princeton University Press $46 (584p) ISBN 978-0-691-05789-7
The latest offering in the Princeton Readings in Religions series rises to the same high standards as previous volumes on India and China. Editor Tanabe (Practically Religious) has gathered 45 documents--ranging from legends and prayer rituals to sermons and theological treatises--to illustrate the dynamic, living character of Japanese religion. Rather than classifying the documents according to religious traditions (Shintoism, Buddhism, Confucianism), Tanabe has divided them into sections that reflect the ways that people use certain texts in religious practices. In the first section, ""Ethical Practices,"" Mary Evelyn Tucker provides a translation of Confucian scholar Kaibara Ekken's (1630-1714) ""Precepts on Family,"" in which the teacher offers advice on raising children, serving parents and things to do in the morning (""Every day we should get up early, wash our hands and face, and first inquire about the health of our parents.""). Other writings in the section deal with such matters as syncretism, monastic discipline, celibacy and nationalism. A second section, ""Ritual Practices,"" contains documents related to the gods and spirits and to faith. For instance, William E. Deal offers a translation of ""Tales of Birth in the Pure Land,"" legends that accompany birth rituals in Amida, or Pure Land, Buddhism. A final section collects documents concerned with ""Institutional Practices,"" including excerpts from imperial histories and tales of great heroes. Perhaps the most fascinating offering in this section is H. Byron Earhart and Etsuko Mita's translation from Our Master Teshima Ikuro, a record of Ikuro's (1910-1973) call to the Christian ministry and the subsequent development of his preaching style combining the elements of his Japanese heritage with his Christian religion. Tanabe's collection is one of the finest anthologies available of primary documents illustrating the diversity and liveliness of Japanese religions. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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Hardcover - 550 pages - 978-0-691-05788-0
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