Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution
by James Edward Ketelaar, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990. Pp. xiv+285.
reviewed by Jacqueline Stone, Princeton University
Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 53, No. 2. (Dec., 1993), pp. 582-598.
With the fall of the Tokugawa bakufu in 1868 and the rise of the new Meiji regime, Buddhism, which had been integral to much of Japanese culture for more than a thousand years, became the target of harsh persecution. Anti-Buddhist sentiment had already been building throughout the latter part of the Tokugawa period (1603-1868) among Confucians, Nativist scholars, Shinto-inspired Restorationists, and would-be modernizers. Critics attacked Buddhism as a drain on public resources, a pernicious foreign superstition that had oppressed the indigenous Japanese spirit, and a false teaching whose "unscientific" cosmology and other mythic elements obstructed social progress. No sooner had the new Meiji government been established than it issued, in 1868 and 1869, a series of "separation edicts'' mandating the dissociation of Buddhism and Shinto. This action triggered an outburst of violent anti-Buddhist activity known as haibutsu kishaku ("abolishing Buddhism and destroying Shākyamuni"). Within the next few years, tens of thousands of Buddhist temples were closed or destroyed, their lands confiscated, priests and nuns forcibly returned to lay life, texts and art treasures burned or sold at auction, and bells and statues melted down to make cannon. In less than two decades, however, the Buddhist institutions had not only begun a substantial recovery but also had succeeded in revitalizing and refashioning their tradition into a "modern Buddhism," eminently relevant to the tasks of nation-building and modernization. The story of this remarkable transition is told in James Edward Ketelaar's Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution, the most erudite, comprehensive, and detailed account of these events in English to date.
To frame his discussion, Professor Ketelaar employs the categories of "heretics" and "martyrs," which he defines in cross-cultural terms: "It seems that no society, church, or state, now or in the past, can provide a history for itself devoid of those we call heretics and martyrs" (p. ix). Heretics and martyrs stand outside certain dominant social norms; their exterior position represents, for their persecutors, the need to enforce those norms, and for their comrades, the possibility of defying them. Heretics and martyrs are, in fact, the same people. In the author's words:
Martyrs are, after all, heretics whose brethren have not (yet) been annihilated and apotheosized. As long as there are those who will erect the shrines or memorial plaques, sing the hymns, and perform the ceremonies of remembrance, each and every heretic will be refigured as a martyr. Persecution, though pervasive in human history, is seldom in and of itself capable of totally extinguishing the other. It is precisely the privileged exteriority available to this persecuted other that provides a strategy crucial to the survival of the persecuted. The heretic here is not merely a "law breaker" but, in becoming a martyr, is transformed into a paradigm of the possibility of transcending the operation of certain definitions of "law." . . . The heretic-as-martyr figuration suggests a contestable relativization of certain claims to hegemonic authority in so far as it provides alternative possibilities of action derived from alternative codes of acceptability. (p. ix)
Of Heretics and Martyrs examines the "definitional strategies" by which Buddhism was first branded "heretical" by the architects of the new Meiji political system, and how Buddhists in turn appropriated these strategies to launch a counter-critique and formulate a new vision of their tradition and its role in Japanese history. By examining Meiji Buddhism as both "heretic" and "martyr," Ketelaar seeks to shed light on the prevailing ideological concerns of the Meiji period. Though in style the book occasionally lapses into academese (as seen, for example, in the last sentence of the passage quoted above), its ideas are stimulating throughout. Ketelaar's focus on competing ideological uses of Buddhist "exteriority" provides an elegantly structured and useful framework.
Corresponding to Ketelaar's categories, "heretics and martyrs," the discussion falls essentially into two parts: the persecution of Buddhism (including early Buddhist responses) and the Buddhists' refiguration of their tradition. The main contours of the assault on Buddhism — anti-Buddhist intellectual trends in the Tokugawa period, the origin of anti-Buddhist policy in local domains, and the Meiji administrative apparatus of Shinto-Buddhist separation — have already been introduced to English-speaking readers by Martin Collcutt's "Buddhism: The Threat of Eradication."  Ketelaar fleshes out these contours with further detail and makes additional, significant contributions, first, by closely analyzing the ideological strategies of the anti-Buddhist campaign, and second, by bringing a new perspective to bear on the separation issue by locating it within the larger context of Meiji social policy. He also breaks with several stereotypes seen in summary accounts of religion during the Meiji period. One such stereotype is the tendency to characterize haibutsu kishaku as a response to Buddhism's "corruption" (daraku). According to this model, the persecution of Buddhism was both an inevitable consequence of its institutional decadence and necessary to its purification.  Collcutt has pointed out the need to qualify this assessment on several ground  and Ketelaar provides further compelling reasons for challenging the "corruption" model. The issue, as he rightly points out, is not whether Buddhism was in fact "corrupt" (while one can point to widespread laxity of monastic standards, there are significant counterexamples), but rather the way in which this harping on Buddhism's decadence has worked to obscure the complex agendas of its critics. It has also, one might add, done much to discourage serious study of Tokugawa Buddhism. Ketelaar deserves credit for making clear that Meiji ideologues cast Buddhism in the light of an "ancient evil" largely to distance themselves from the policies of the preceding, Tokugawa regime, in which Buddhism had been integrated into the state apparatus. The policy of "separation of Shinto and Buddhism" (shinbutsu bunri) was, moreover, as he demonstrates throughout, part of a larger effort to separate religious and political spheres in an attempt to control religious institutions, as one facet, in turn, of a sweeping new project of social and political restructuring.
Of Heretics and Martyrs begins by exploring in detail the major, frequently interwoven, strands of Tokugawa anti-Buddhist criticism — economic, Nativist, and historicist — that would fuel the Meiji period attacks on Buddhism. This account is given a unique twist by its focus on Tominaga Nakamoto (1715-46), a man who rarely figures in the roster of Tokugawa anti-Buddhist ideologues but whose work, in Ketelaar's estimation, "taught Buddhists to fear their own history" (pp. 20, 134). In Ketelaar's close analysis of Tominaga's Shutsjuō kōgō, a critique of Mahayana claims to legitimacy as the Buddha's teaching, Tominaga emerges as a pioneer historical relativist who saw traditions as constructed of "layers," each one historically and linguistically contingent upon the moment of its articulation. For Tominaga, truth could never be formulated once and for all in a manner transcending the historical circumstances of its expression; recovery of a "pure," original tradition was not possible. While Tominaga was critical of all received traditions- Confucianism and Shinto as well as the Mahayana-Nativists, especially of the Hirata school, drew selectively on his work for their anti-Buddhist polemics. Ketelaar, moreover, sees Tominaga as a key to the ideological strategies elaborated by both anti- and pro- Buddhist factions. Tominaga's historicist criticism, he argues, at first fuelled attacks on Buddhism as an empty fabrication, and later, inspired Buddhist apologetics that presented Buddhism as capable of responding creatively to the needs of each historical moment by generating appropriate new forms.
In discussing the anti-Buddhist policies in the Meiji period, Ketelaar focuses on anti-Buddhist strategies developed and implemented in the domains of Mito and Satsuma, thus highlighting the local origins of what later became national policy. This information has been well documented by Japanese historians but is here introduced in much greater detail than has hitherto been available in English. Mito, long a bastion of anti-Buddhist sentiment, had carried out two extensive attempts to regulate and curtail Buddhist activity, in the 1660s and again in the 1840s. Ketelaar describes how Mito policies were applied in Satsuma so effectively that between 1866 and 1877 Buddhism was virtually eradicated. Some 4,500 Buddhist temples and halls were eliminated; even the posthumous Buddhist names of members of the ruling Shimazu clan were effaced from their gravestones with chisels and replaced with Shinto ones. Ketelaar then traces how, via the national Ministry of Rites (Jingikan), which Satsuma officials helped to organize, separation policies formulated in Mito and refined in Satsuma were eventually implemented on a national level. Examples of such policies include compulsory registration at Shinto shrines (replacing the Tokugawa teraukejō system of registration at Buddhist temples), the performance of Shinto (rather than Buddhist) funerals, and the promulgation of an official festival calendar (nenchū gyōji), linking shrine organization and kami worship to government authority.
Summary accounts of haibutsu kishaku often characterize the initial Buddhist response to the separation policies and haibutsu kishaku as one of general resignation, even apathetic acceptance, punctuated by occasional outbursts of active resistance in the form of peasant rebellions and reform movements launched by priests within the Buddhist institutions. Of Heretics and Martyrs adds a further dimension by calling attention to the widespread but little acknowledged phenomenon of "passive resistance" that worked to thwart separation policy without directly challenging it. Ketelaar documents instances of Buddhist priests compelled to become Shinto priests who offered wooden fish, rather than real ones, to the kami, so as to preserve the Buddhist precept against killing; of Pure Land priests who taught the nembutsu as the highest form of norito; and of the famous Narita Fudō-son, preserved from destruction by a clever re-reading of its name in Japanese style as "Ugokazu no mikoto" that nominally transformed the esoteric Buddhist deity Fudō into a Shinto kami. His account of these "diversions of time and labor . . . channeled in precisely the direction forbidden by the authorities" (p. 75) identifies a significant form of opposition that has seldom been recognized as such.
Of Heretics and Martyrs should dispel once and for all any notion that the "separation of Shinto and Buddhism" represented a simple confrontation of the two. One of Ketelaar's most notable achievements lies in showing the persecution of Buddhism to have been part of a larger attempt by Meiji officials and ideologues to redefine and regulate religion and religious institutions, which in turn was part of a sweeping program of social reconfiguration aimed at mobilizing Japan to modernize and compete with the West. Buddhists were not the only target of suppression. Other traditions and practices subjected to official "regulation" included wandering Shugendō ascetics, kakure Kirishitan, exorcists, diviners, and mediums. Ketelaar further notes that these explicitly religious groups were often included on government lists banning prostitution, gambling, balladeers, amateur sumo wrestling, stand-up comics, erotic literature, and the like. In this context he suggests that Meiji religious policies can be fruitfully understood as attempts to contain and manage the disruptive potential of what Mikhail Bakhtin has called the “carnivalesque": those creative, chaotic, and volatile forces that work to undermine hierarchy and threaten official attempts to "absolutize the given conditions of existence and the social order." 
Shinto no less than Buddhism was being systematically brought under official control. Ketelaar makes a crucial point in noting that "Buddhism" and "Shinto" were in many respects redefined by their separation. Ceremonial and architectural distinctions now taken for granted — for example, that Shinto shrines are set off by torii gates and braided shimenawa ropes, or that Shinto priests wear white and Buddhist priests, black — originated in Meiji-period separation policy. The extent of their earlier non-separation is suggested, rather ironically, by a quotation from one Ichiki Shōuemon (1828-1903), a leader in the suppression of Buddhism in Satsuma, who observed that, of 4,500 shrines in the domain, only one was free from Buddhist "taints" (p. 58). Allan Grapard has already pointed out in a study of the separation issue that haibutsu kishaku in effect destroyed much of the Buddhist-Shinto syncretism that had constituted one of the major forms of Japanese cultural and religious expression.  He has also noted how the Meiji creations of an independent "Buddhism" and "Shinto" were then projected backward onto the history of Japanese religion — first by Japanese, and later, by Western scholarship — obscuring centuries of interdependence. Ketelaar, too, chronicles this massive reworking of Japanese religious and cultural history, but with a different emphasis. Grapard calls attention to what was destroyed: the erasure of Buddhist-Shinto syncretic expressions, he suggests, irreparably damaged what had earlier constituted a central cultural discourse, if not Japanese religiosity itself. Ketelaar focuses instead on the new forms in which religious history, ceremony, and institutions were then reconstituted:
The enduring legacy of the persecution years is not to be found in the tens of thousands of destroyed and confiscated temples. . . . Rather, it is in the newly created systems of religious education, the construction of Buddhist and Shinto histories, and the post-persecution legislation of precise legal and political contours of all sectarian institutions that the anti-Buddhist movement left its deepest traces. (p. 76)
These two perspectives on haibutsu kishaku suggest different ways of thinking about the Meiji separation policy and Japanese religiosity.
Another area where Ketelaar deepens our understanding of Meiji religious policy is his richly documented account of factional tensions played out in the formation and dissolution of the successive government bodies holding jurisdiction over religious affairs. The Nativists and Imperialists who dominated the Ministry of Rites (Jingikan, which existed from 1868 through 1872) promoted an anti- Buddhist policy of Shinto nationalism and emperor-oriented public ceremony. The bunmei kaika ("culture and enlightenment") ideologues who displaced them by establishing the Ministry of Doctrine (Kyōbushō, 1872-1875) favored moral indoctrination over rites and ceremony as a means of mobilizing citizens in the task of nation building. Through the Ministry of Doctrine's administrative center, the Great Teaching Academy or Daikyōin, officials recruited both Buddhist and Shinto priests as instructors — creating, in effect, a state priesthood — who would promulgate the "Great Teaching,'' a national dogma constructed to subsume both Buddhism and Shinto (although Shinto symbol and ritual predominated). In contrast to the separation policies of their predecessors, bureaucrats in the Ministry of Doctrine sought to co-opt Buddhist institutions in order to propagate the new government creed and preserve the national heritage against the perceived threat of Christianity and other "foreign evils. "
In her recently published Shinto and the State: 1868-1988, Helen Hardacre notes of Japanese historiography on religion-state issues in the modern period: "Too often scholars — of any ideological persuasion — have written only of the activities of 'the state' or certain agencies ('the Department of Divinity then set about . . .'), leaving the impression that nearly a century of religious history passed without any particular person taking any identifiable action. " Of Heretics and Martyrs is free of this shortcoming. Ketelaar identifies and presents the voices of a surprising number of individual Nativist and Shinto ideologues, bunmei kaika politicians, and other Meiji bureaucrats, as well as Great Teaching instructors of various affiliations.
What we hear much less of in his treatment are the voices of ordinary people. Since his purpose is to examine the operation of discursive strategies, Ketelaar necessarily focuses on those individuals who defined discourse and therefore represent an elite. This approach, however, leaves certain questions unanswered. How far did anti-Buddhist sentiment penetrate the general public? (Since the attempt to eradicate Buddhism ultimately failed, one assumes it could not have been pervasive.) And how did the public receive the new state ideology? In response to the latter question, we gain greater insight from Hardacre's book, which delineates a complex response consisting of widespread contempt for the Great Teaching campaign mixed with efforts on the part of religious entrepreneurs, local organizations, and politically ambitious individuals to access the prestige and power of the state for their own advantage through association with national religion. These two books, Haradcre's and Ketelaar's, published within a year of each other, provide mutually illuminating perspectives on both the separation and "Great Teaching" phases of Meiji religious policy. The two works are complementary, not merely because one focuses on Shinto and the other on Buddhism, but because they have different strengths. Ketelaar examines separation policy and state creed as discursive strategies; his analysis of the Great Teaching curriculum, for example, is the most thorough to appear thus far in English. Hardacre vividly depicts the impact of national religious policy on individuals and local institutions.
In the second part of his discussion, Ketelaar shifts focus, turning to definitional strategies by which Meiji Buddhists appropriated the criticisms being levelled against them and reformulated their tradition as "modern Buddhism." Unlike the anti-Buddhist campaign, this subject is unexplored scholarly territory, in Japan as well as abroad, and Ketelaar's examination brings to light a number of thought-provoking issues and suggests avenues for further study. The first such definitional strategy he identifies is the refiguration of the "heretic" as "martyr." He illustrates it with an account of the Mikawa uprising of 1871, in which a core of dedicated young Jōdo Shinshū priests with a large peasant following actively resisted local separation policies. Twenty priests were imprisoned and their leader was beheaded. Even the heads of their main temple, the Higashi Honganji, anxious to avoid direct conflict with the authorities, condemned their action. Eighteen years later, however, an imperial pardon was issued, and the Honganji conferred upon the priests the status of martyr (junkyōsha) Ketelaar also mentions a group of Buddha images in Kagoshima, decapitated and buried during the campaign to rid Satsuma of Buddhism, that were later unearthed and installed for worship in a roadside shrine (p. 57) — another, symbolic instance of "heretics" transformed into "martyrs. " (A photograph of these images adorns the book's dust jacket.) I am not certain, however, that the "martyr" characterization was as central to Buddhist redefinition as its use in the book's title would seem to suggest. We are not told to what extent, or even if, the Mikawa case was in this regard representative of larger trends. Instead, the refiguration of Buddhism that Ketelaar outlines is predominantly one of Buddhism as a paradigmatic expression of Japanese culture and force for national advancement. Self-definition as martyr depends on keeping alive the memory of persecution, but Ketelaar tells his readers that the anti-Buddhist policies of early Meiji were often glossed over in the histories of Buddhism produced by later Meiji Buddhists. This is a minor objection, as the book's overall structure as a study of opposing definitions of Buddhism's "exterior position" works well indeed. It would seem, however, that use of the image of "martyr" may not have been a major way in which Buddhists "refigured their exteriority. "
Another, highly significant Meiji Buddhist definitional strategy identified by Ketelaar is what he calls "strategic Occidentalism", or the use of "the West" as an exterior reference point for talking about domestic issues from a supposedly international and thus more "sophisticated," "objective," or "true" standpoint.  He notes this first in connection with Shimaji Mokurai (1838-1911), a prominent Nishi Honganji official who in 1875 led the withdrawal from the Great Teaching Academy of the nearly 25,000 Shin priests who had become doctrinal instructors, a move that helped precipitate the closing of the Ministry of Doctrine.  Shimaji had been one of the first Japanese Buddhist priests to travel abroad (to Europe, in 1872), and his criticism of the national creed and repeated appeals to the government to close the Ministry of Doctrine drew heavily on Euro-American discourse concerning church-state relations. Ketelaar also points out how, in this context, the earlier discourse of the "separation" of Buddhism and Shinto was appropriated by Shimaji to argue for a "separation" of religion and politics, touching off much public debate on the freedom of religion.
Further Meiji Buddhist rhetorical uses of "the West” are insightfully analyzed in Ketelaar's discussion of Japanese Buddhist participation in the World's Parliament of Religions, held in conjunction with the Columbian World's Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The Parliament, self-styled as a "Festival of Peace," emerges here as an exercise in white, evangelical Christian imperialism, thinly coated over with a rhetoric of universal brotherhood. Ketelaar shows how the Parliament was informed by the assumptions of nineteenth century comparative religious studies about the existence of a single universal religious truth (identified by the Parliament's organizers with Christianity) and of social Darwinism assimilated to the realm of religion (Christianity representing the pinnacle of religious evolution, paralleling, motivating, and guiding Western technological superiority). Ketelaar argues that the presence of the non-Christian "other," including the Japanese Buddhists, was necessary to make the event a World Parliament, but that the proceedings were structured so as, in effect, to rob these "others" of their otherness and make their traditions appear only as less evolved forms of universal (Christian) truth.
Other accounts of the Parliament focusing on Buddhist participation have treated it as a landmark in the spread of Buddhism — especially Japanese Zen — to the West.  Ketelaar examines the opposite but equally intriguing issue of the ideological uses to which the Parliament, and Japanese Buddhist representation, were put back in Japan. He documents how their participation at this international conference gave Meiji Buddhists a privileged, cosmopolitan position from which to pursue the redefinition of Buddhism at home. For example, the Parliament was presented as a cry to Japanese Mahayanists from beleaguered Western Christians to rescue them in their stalemate with modernity. The five Japanese "champions of Buddhism" (Bukkyō no championra) were unable to undermine substantially the Christian universalist agenda of the Parliament itself, but Ketelaar points out that they successfully appropriated its underlying assumptions to support a creative refiguring of the Buddhist tradition. Assimilating the Parliament's claims for Christianity to their own tradition, Meiji Buddhists began to present Buddhism as the most highly evolved expression of universal truth, able to guide technology and science and provide spiritual leadership for human progress in the modern era.
Of Heretics and Martyrs makes a real contribution here in pointing to the international as well as the domestic pressures confronting Meiji Buddhists. Too often, modern Japanese presentations of Buddhist thought, such as those of D. T. Suzuki or the Kyoto school, have been regarded in the West as transhistorical statements of Buddhist truth. Ketelaar's discussion impresses upon us that modern Japanese Buddhism (like any tradition) was formed in the crucible of specific historical and political demands. In this case Buddhists urgently needed to prove their tradition relevant to an emerging modern Japan, and Japan needed to resist Western hegemony.
"Post-persecution Buddhist ideologues," Ketelaar writes, ". . . sought throughout the Meiji period to construct a definition of 'Buddhism' that would be both resistant to further dissipating regulations and would allow for continued sectarian expansion and operation" (p. 174). He characterizes this reconfigured image of "modern Buddhism" as transsectarian, transnational, and cosmopolitan: relevant but not reducible to national concerns; universal, yet finding expression in the social and political particulars of the moment and able to evolve appropriately to meet the demands of the times. Ketelaar analyzes how, in formulating this vision of their tradition, Meiji Buddhists drew on classic Buddhist texts, such as the Ta-sheng ch 'i-hsin lun (Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana), whose discussion of Suchness (Jpn. shinnyo, Skt. tathatā), was interpreted as setting forth an "essence" common to all Buddhism, and the Hasshūi kōyō (Essentials of the Eight Sects) of Shaku Gyōnen (1240-1322), who had characterized the various traditions within the Buddha-Dharma as "distinct rivers flowing forth from the same source" (p. 178). Numerous editions and commentaries of the Hasshūi kōyō produced during the Meiji period helped give rise to the concept of a "united Buddhism" (tsūbukkyō).  This Buddhist universalist discourse, Ketelaar says, enabled Meiji Buddhists to represent their sectarian differences, not as the product of conflict or competition, but as Buddhism's capacity to express itself appropriately according to the times and the people. Such a vision of the Buddhist tradition was then encoded in Meiji Buddhist histories, whose production paralleled that of national histories legitimizing imperial rule. In these Buddhist histories, as Ketelaar describes them, Buddhism is depicted as having evolved as it spread eastward, culminating in its Japanese expression. The centuries of imperial support for Buddhism are emphasized; its presence is closely linked to Japanese cultural development. Nevertheless, Buddhism is shown as transcending any purely national narrative. Ketelaar points out, for example, that Meiji Buddhist historiography unfailingly adopts a chronology for the Buddha's life that places him "before Emperor Jimmu." Lastly, this universal and transsectarian Buddhism was given a textual presence through the compilation of "Buddhist Bibles'' (Bukkyō seiten) — nonsectarian, single-volume distillations of the canon.  Through such strategies, Ketelaar argues, Buddhists were able to refigure themselves into the "dynamic opposite" of their characterization as heretics. The charge of foreignness — exteriority- leveled against Buddhism by its opponents was here creatively appropriated as a transcendent universality that, while encompassing national concerns, also had global relevance. At the same time, he says, the historicist critique (represented by Tominaga) of Buddhism as a tradition that was fabricated — and therefore ‘unscientific' and untrue’ — was answered by the vision of Buddhism as a formless, universal truth transcending all temporal particularies, yet expressing itself appropriately according to the needs of the historical moment. [I2]
Ketelaar's analysis here of the definitional strategies at work in the production of "modern Buddhism" breaks new ground. His discussion of the rhetorical uses of the Hasshūi kōyō in developing a discourse of transsectarian Buddhism offers insight into the vital but unexplored area of how Meiji Buddhists were able to draw creatively on the resources of their past for present needs. I wish he had similarly explored how traditional Buddhist sources were tapped to formulate and legitimize the vision of "modern Buddhism" as relevant to national and political affairs, yet simultaneously exterior to them—at the very least, his work points to the need for such a study. Meiji Buddhist discourse on these issues draws extensively upon centuries-old rhetoric about the relationship of "kingly law" (obō) and the "Buddhist Law" (buppō) and —especially in the Japanese Buddhist tradition — the power and responsibility of Buddhism with respect to the "protection of the nation" (chingo kokka). The position of "privileged exteriority" that Meiji Buddhists drew upon in defining modern Buddhism was, I suspect, not simply a creative co-opting of the status as "heretical other" assigned to them by anti-Buddhist ideologues of their own time, but was also present in the obō / buppō discourse of their own tradition.
Of Heretics and Martyrs passes over several of the noted figures routinely enumerated in summary accounts of Meiji Buddhism, such as the Buddhist apologist Inoue Enryō (1858-1919) or the Buddhist historian Murakami Senshō, and instead introduces less well known but nonetheless significant individuals and their accomplishments not often discussed in standard overviews. These include the Buddhist newspaper editor Takada Dōken, active in the Buddhist transsectarian movement; Ashitsu Jitsunen, representative to the World's Parliament and author of an extensive proposal for revitalizing Buddhism; and the monumental project of compiling and publishing the influential Bukkyō kakushū kōyō (Essentials of the Buddhist Sects) edited by Shimaji Mokurai with Ashitsu and two other parliamentary representatives under the auspices of the Buddhist Transsectarian Cooperative. While it would have been impossible to cover all relevant aspects of Meiji Buddhism, and it is all too easy for a reviewer to suggest what the author might have included and did not, Of Heretics and Martyrs does exhibit one or two gaps. It would have been helpful, for example, to have had some discussion of the voluminous anti-Christian polemics produced by Buddhist ideologues during this period, a major avenue by which Buddhism's usefulness to the nation was emphasized. Christianity served as an important "other" over and against which Meiji Buddhists defined their own tradition, and Ketelaar's study would have been enhanced by further attention to the role its presence played (apart from the World's Parliament of Religions) in Buddhist definitional operations. Also, as with the earlier treatment of the attacks on Buddhism, because the book's focus is on definitional strategies, Ketelaar confines his discussion chiefly to those individuals who shaped discourse — in this case, ranking administrators, intellectuals, and other leaders within the Buddhist world. This limiting of focus raises the question of how the newly constructed "modern Buddhism" met, or failed to meet, the emotional, social, or even existential needs of lay Buddhist parishioners. For whom were the new Meiji Buddhist histories written? How were the "Buddhist Bibles" used? Occasional references to such matters would have avoided the impression, which the reader occasionally receives, that the scholarship, charitable activities and relief work, attempts to build a transsectarian Buddhism, and other Meiji Buddhist enterprises on which Ketelaar touches were only ideological strategies, unrelated to other concerns.
Be that as it may, there is no question that Of Heretics and Martyrs succeeds admirably in its analysis of how Meiji Buddhists successfully appropriated the ideological strategies mobilized against them, countered the charges against their tradition as fabricated, foreign, and socially unproductive, and reconfigured it as "modern Buddhism." With considerable insight, Ketelaar concludes by pointing out the "tragic irony” of their success: in their very attempt to dispel the vision of Buddhism as foreign and heretical, they wound up supporting the state ideological apparatus whose control they had earlier sought to escape. By late Meiji, the figuration of "modern Buddhism" as socially relevant and a paradigmatic expression of Japanese culture increasingly meant support for national policies of imperialist expansion, even war, while Buddhism's transcendent, “universal” status was invoked only seldom as a ground for critique of such policies.
Of Heretics and Martyrs marks a significant advance in the study of Meiji religion. It will be an invaluable asset to scholars of Meiji intellectual history or of church-state relations in Japan. It also has much to offer Buddhist studies. Many of us working in this field, even outside the modern period or in geographical areas other than Japan, make frequent use of modern Japanese secondary sources. Outstanding as it often is, much of this secondary literature has been shaped to some extent by the assumptions and agendas of the Meiji period, and by calling these to our attention, Ketelaar adds an important dimension to our understanding.
1 In Japan in Transition: From Tokutawa to Meiji, eds. Marius B. Jansen and Gilbert Rozman (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), pp. 143-67.
2 For an example of this argument in English, see Masutani Fumio and Undo Yoshimichi, "Buddhism," in Japanese Religion in the Meiji Era, ed. Kishimoto Hideo and trans. John F. Howes (Tokyo: Obunsha, 1956), pp. 99-169.
3 "Buddhism: The Threat of Eradication," p. 146 n. 3. Collcutt notes that assessments of Tokugawa Buddhism as corrupt echo the hostility of both Tokugawa-period Japanese anti-Buddhist ideologues and nineteenth-century Western Christian missionaries, who saw Buddhism as an obstacle to their success. Ketelaar further suggests (p. 12) that the "Buddhist corruption" model reflects a concern on the part of both pro- and anti-Buddhist historians to absolve the emperor, in whose name the separation policies were carried out.
4 Mikhail Bakhtin, Problem of Dostoevsky's Poetics, trans. R. Rostel (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1973), p. 133, cited in Ketelaar, p. 51.
5 Allan G. Grapard, "Japan's Ignored Cultural Revolution: The Separation of Buddhist and Shinto Deities in Meiji (shimbutsu bunn') and a Case Study: Tōnomine," History of Religions, 23.2 (Feb. 1984): 240-65. Grapard makes crucial points in stressing both the importance of the syncretism of Buddhist and Shinto deities in Japanese cultural history and the extent to which this importance has been obscured, not only by Meiji separation policy but also by the subsequent bifurcation of Buddhism and Shinto as academic disciplines. However, while Buddhist-Shinto syncretic forms did indeed predominate before the Meiji period, it is also important to note and account for the exceptions—such as Ise Shinto and certain lineages within Shin and Nichiren Buddhism—that in various ways deliberately attempted to resist syncretism.
6 Helen Hardacre, Shinto and the State: 1868-1988 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 6.
7 Since writing Of Heretics and Martyrs, Ketelaar has further developed this concept of strategic Occidentalism, exploring how it appropriates structures of Orientalist discourse but differs from it in significant ways. See his "Strategic Occidentalism: Meiji Buddhists at the World's Parliament of Religions," Buddhist-Christian Studies 11 (1991): 37-56. More recently, Robert Sharf has drawn on Ketelaar's idea of Occidentalism in analyzing the work of D. T. Suzuki, Nishida Kitaro, and Hisamatsu Sen'ichi. See Robert H. Sharf, "The Zen of Japanese Nationalism," forthcoming in a volume on "Buddhism and Orientalism" being edited by Donald S. Lopez.
8 One intriguing element emerging from Ketelaar's discussion of Meiji Buddhist religious policy and early Buddhist responses is the prominence of Shin Buddhist leadership, both in resisting official control and in leading the reconstitution of modern Buddhism. Martin Collcutt has already pointed out that the Shin sect drew its major economic support, not from donated land holdings, but from lay support networks, a fact that enabled it to weather Meiji anti-Buddhist policy with less damage than other sects ("Buddhism: The Threat of Eradication," p. 163). Recent research on Shin history has also called attention to the unique system of Honganji institutional organization developed prior to the Tokugawa period. See Galen Amstutz, Honganji 1500-1570: The Politics of Pure Land Buddhism in Medieval Japan (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1991). One line of inquiry suggested by Of Heretics and Martyrs would be to investigate further what organizational, intellectual, and other resources in its own tradition the Honganji was able to draw on to provide effective leadership during the crises of the Meiji period.
9 See, for example, Rick Fields, How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America (Boulder, Colo.: Shambhala, 1981), pp. 119-45, and Larry A. Fader, "Zen in the West: Historical and Philosophical Implications of the 1893 Chicago World's Parliament of Religions," Eastern Buddhist 15.1 (Spring 1982): 122-45.
10 Students of Buddhist studies will recognize a later, English-language incarnation of Hasshūi kōyō-inspired commentary in Takakusu Junjirō, Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy (1956; reprint, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1973).
11 The Teaching of Buddha (Tokyo: Bukkyō dendō kyōkai, 1966), published with facing Japanese and English text and often placed in the guest rooms of Western-style Japanese hotels, would seem to represent a later, bilingual incarnation of these Bukkyō seiten.
l2 Ketelaar illustrates Meiji Buddhist responses to historicist criticism with the appropriation by the Buddhist historian Anesaki Masaharu (1873-1949) of Tominaga in his Bukkyō seiten shiron (The history of Buddhist sacred texts). Anesaki's use of Tominaga for a pro-Buddhist agenda stands in diametric contrast to the earlier appropriation of Tominaga's thought in the anti-Buddhist critique of Hirata Atsutane, discussed by Ketelaar in Chapter 1, and so convincingly illustrates Ketelaar's thesis that Meiji Buddhists successfully refigured their tradition into the "dynamic opposite" of the earlier criticisms brought to bear against it. To quibble a bit, however, one wonders how far Anesaki's reading, or even knowledge, of Tominaga was shared by other Buddhist intellectuals of his time. Michael Pye, translator of Tominaga's Shutsujō kōgo, suggests that there may have been an indirect influence from Tominaga on Meiji Buddhists, and notes that some Japanese scholars today regard Tominaga's work as the start of modern critical studies on Buddhism in Japan. See Michael Pye, "Introduction," in Tominaga Nakamoto, Emerging from Meditation, (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990, pp. 41-43). Nevertheless, given that his writings were not widely available in Japan until the 1960s and 1970s, it seems questionable whether it was indeed Tominaga who represented the paradigmatic embodiment of historicism criticism for Meiji Buddhists, as Ketelaar seems to suggest. One suspects that Buddhist intellectuals may have felt more sorely pressed by positivist historicist criticism originating from another source—namely, Western scholars of Buddhism who were hoping (misguidedly, as it turned out) to uncover the Buddha's original words in the Pali canon and who dismissed the Mahayana as a later distortion. Ketelaar documents attempts on the part of the Buddhist representatives to the World's Parliament of Religions and of D. T. Suzuki to defend the Mahayana vis-a-vis Western audiences, but he makes no mention of the divisiveness such criticisms caused when brought back to Japan by young priests who had been sent to Europe for study. Those Meiji Buddhist scholars who were briefly but enthusiastically caught up, along with their European colleagues, in seeking "original Buddhism" (genshi Bukkyō) in the Pali canon, came into sharp conflict with more conservative elements. A well-known example is the prominent Meiji Buddhist historian Murakami Senshō (1851-1929), who was divested of his Shin priesthood for some years over a 1901 essay in which he stated that the Mahayana did not represent the Buddha's direct words.
l3 Inoue Enryo's doctrine of "protect the nation and love the truth" (gokoku airi) would seem to be quite relevant to the image of a reconfigured modem Buddhism as transcendent yet relevant to national concerns. The omission of him probably reflects an intent on Ketelaar's part to avoid what he laments in a note as a common tendency to read Inoue's work as the definitive paradigm of "modern" Buddhism, rather than as one voice in a larger process of redefinition (p. 164 n. 102).
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