Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West,by Judith Snodgrass

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West,by Judith Snodgrass

Postby admin » Sun Dec 29, 2019 7:02 am

Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition
by Judith Snodgrass
© 2003 The University of North Carolina Press




The Parliament Assembly

Table of Contents:

• Introduction: Japan in Chicago
• Chapter l. Japan Faces the West
• Chapter 2. Manifest Destiny: Christianity and American Imperialism
• Chapter 3. The Rules of the Parliament: Securing the Truth
• Chapter 4. Alterity: Buddhism as the "Other" of Christianity
• Chapter 5. Buddhism and Modernity in Meiji Japan
• Chapter 6. Buddhist Revival and Japanese Nationalism
• Chapter 7. Deploying Western Authority I: Henry Steel Olcott in Japan
• Chapter 8. Buddhism and Treaty Revision: The Chicago Project
• Chapter 9. Defining Eastern Buddhism
• Chapter 10. Paul Carus: Buddhism and Monist Mission
• Chapter 11. Deploying Western Authority II: Carus in Translation
• Chapter 12. From Eastern Buddhism to Zen: A Postscript
• Notes
• Bibliography
• Index


• The Parliament Assembly
• 1. The Dome of Columbus
• 2. The Ferris wheel
• 3. The Court of Honor
• 4. The Japanese Pavilion
• 5. The Hooden: interior of the north wing
• 6. The Hooden: a room in the south wing
• 7• The Hooden: interior of the central hall
• 8. Bird's-eye view of the exposition
• 9• A Buddhist temple
• 10. Olcott in Japan
• 11. The Japanese delegation
• 12. Hirai Kinzo
• 13. Christ is a Buddha
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Re: Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West,by Judith Snodg

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Japan in Chicago

The narrative of Zen in the West begins with the introduction of Japanese Buddhism by a delegation of Buddhist priests -- representatives of the Meiji Buddhist revival movement -- to the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago, 1893. The Buddhism they presented was not Zen, but Eastern Buddhism, the product of this movement, shaped by the imperatives of institutional, social, and political crises of the early Meiji period, and by the desire to produce an interpretation of Buddhism appropriate for the modern state. It was further determined by the links between Buddhist revival and the emerging nationalism of the early 1890s. The representation of Buddhism at Chicago, as the delegates planned it, was a strategic statement in the discourse of Buddhist nationalism and was given shape by the tactics and strategies implicit in this project.

The representation was further determined by the event itself. The Parliament was an aggressively Christian event, born of American Protestant Christian confidence in its superiority and organized around unquestioned Christian assumptions of the nature and function of religion. It was governed by a set of rules for controlling discourse so permeated with Christian presuppositions that they effectively reduced all other religions to inadequate attempts to express the Christian revelation. The Parliament was, for all its undoubtedly sincere rhetoric of fostering universal brotherhood and international goodwill, an arena for the contest between Christians and the "heathen," with all that that implied in terms of late nineteenth-century presuppositions of evolution, civilization, and the natural right of the West to dominance over the East.

As I see it, the representation of Buddhism was simultaneously a strategy in a number of different but interdependent discourses brought together by this unique occasion. Locating the Parliament within the Columbian Exposition paces the representation within a number of overt relations of power. The most immediate of these were the New World challenge to Europe as the United States emerged as an international power, and the tension between the dominant West and the Orient. This was even more evident in Chicago than at other expositions because the Columbian Exposition was consciously organized to present an "object lesson" in Social Darwinism displaying the rightful place of the people of the world in the hierarchy of race and civilization.1 For Japan the reality of Western dominance was focused in the "unequal treaties" imposed upon it by Western nations, and by the perception that favorable modification of the treaties depended on demonstrating that Japanese civilization was "equal" to that of the West. (The problems of just what these terms mean is discussed shortly.) Japan's primary project at the fair was to challenge this Western presupposition of cultural superiority and protest the lowly position assigned to the Japanese in the hierarchy of evolutionary development.

These overt relations of power traversed the exposition and shaped the Japanese exhibit. Japan's bid for equality with Europe was most clearly articulated in the Hooden, a stunning display of decorative art and architecture, but the religious delegation and its representation of Buddhism was also an important part of the project. The delegates believed that Buddhism, the Buddhism of Meiji revival, was the one area of knowledge in which Japan was not just equal to the West but superior to it. Buddhism was to be Japan's gift to the modern world and, as such, a source of national prestige. The Hooden was evidence of Japan's "highly evolved" material civilization; Japanese Buddhism demonstrated concomitant intellectual achievement.

The exposition exercise overlapped that of Buddhist revival. In the simplest possible terms, revival leaders, attempting to attract the support of the Western-educated elite of Meiji Japan, argued that Japanese Buddhism embodied the truth and wisdom of both Western philosophy and Western religion. Aware of the perceived conflict between orthodox Christianity and nineteenth-century developments in scientific thought, they hoped to convince this domestic audience that Buddhism was the most appropriate religion for the modern world. Because their task was to bring this revelation to the attention of the Western-educated lay community and convince it of Buddhism's truth, the international platform of the Parliament in Chicago with its large and select audience of religious specialists was, in the words of the delegates and their supporters, a chance that came but once in a thousand years.2 Although the papers were presented to display the superiority of Japanese Buddhism over all other religions to the Parliament audience, the desired result was to impress Japanese with the West's positive reception. The delegation to Chicago was also, therefore, a strategic intervention in the Meiji discourse on religion.

The importance of this aspect of the delegation to Chicago is signaled by its membership. There were six speakers in the Buddhist contingent: four scholarly priests and two politically active Buddhist laymen who also acted as translators.3 The four priests were all highly educated Buddhist scholars and active participants in Buddhist revival. The two Buddhist laymen also had a long history of political activity and commitment to Buddhist revival, most notably in the instigation and organization of Henry Steel Olcott's tour of Japan in 1889.

The conjunction of national and international imperatives was also evident in the representation of Japanese Christianity. The Japanese Christian delegates, led by Doshisha College president Kozaki Hiromichi, were similarly ardent Japanese patriots, experienced campaigners seeking to shape the religious future of Japan. Like the Buddhists, they were opposed to Western interference in Japan and the impositions of the treaties, but saw the religion of the future in a Japanese interpretation of Christianity, which -- in parallel with the Buddhist aims -- would be proof of Japanese superiority and Japan's gift to the world. What they offered was a rationalized Christianity, Christianity brought to its fulfillment by the Japanese spirit. Following the claims of the Buddhist delegates, they offered an Eastern spirituality to compensate for Western materialism. As the Doshisha group had been among the most vocal opponents of Buddhist revival in Japan, the two contingents represented the major contenders in the debate over the religious future of Japan. Their participation at Chicago extended the local contest into the international arena.4

Although rivalry between Christianity and Buddhism was a significant factor in the restructuring of Meiji Buddhism and in the discourse at the Parliament, it was not simply a matter of confrontation between two clearly defined, monolithic opponents. For a start, it is vital to make the distinction between Japanese Christian converts and Western missionaries. The Japanese delegates -- Christian and Buddhist alike -- were united in defense of the nation against the Western imperialism of the Christian missions. They both saw Western Protestant Christianity as a model for the role of religion in modern society. Doctrine only entered the debate marginally, as each accused the other of being nonscientific, irrational, and therefore incompatible with the modern world view. The Christianity of Meiji Japanese nationalism, like Meiji Buddhism, was shaped by the need to conform to the latest intellectual developments in Europe; the latest ideas were eagerly imported and adopted by the Western-educated elite of the nation in its desire for modernization. Shifting alliances were apparent in Chicago as Buddhist and Christian delegates, opponents in the local arena, were allied as patriots, challenging the West and extolling yamato damashii, the spirit of Japan.

The international context of the exposition and shared opposition to missionary endeavors also aligned the Japanese Buddhist delegates with the religious representatives of Ceylon, Thailand, and India, thereby overriding Japan's attempts to dissociate itself from colonial countries, from other Asian races and cultures. Association with South and Southeast Asians also compromised Japan's attempts to distance Eastern Buddhism, Japanese Mahayana Buddhism, from other non-Christian religions, particularly from the Theravada Buddhism of the South. Consequently, the network of contests in which Buddhism was involved at the World's Parliament of Religions was complicated by the overlap of national, international, and doctrinal issues.

Buddhism and Orientalism

Not the least of the interconnected and diverse discourses in which Japanese Buddhism participated at Chicago was the alterity of Buddhism -- the reified abstraction of Western discourse -- to Christianity. The formation of "Buddhism" as an object of Western knowledge in the late nineteenth century typifies the processes of what Edward Said has called "Orientalism."5 Buddhism was informed by Christian presuppositions from the time of the pioneering work of missionaries who described Asian religious practice by seeking answers to questions formed within their own belief systems.6 The inappropriate parameters and vocabulary of translation established in this way were reinforced when Asian Buddhist apologists responded to missionary questions and criticisms in these terms. On this basis of compromised understanding, the study of Buddhism began in Ceylon in the early decades of the nineteenth century, initiated by a combination of the missionary imperative to "know the enemy" and the colonial administration's documentation of its subjects. In Ceylon, site of the first academic study of Buddhism, the interpretation of Buddhism, its definition, became a matter of direct political and economic importance by the mid-nineteenth century because of the particular relationship between the British government and the Buddhist sangha that arose out of their treaty agreement. The publications that emerged from this contest were subsumed into Orientalist knowledge when Buddhism moved from being a matter of restricted local interest to a subject of academic discourse. From the third quarter of the nineteenth century when it was deemed there were sufficient "correct opinions of Buddhism, as to its doctrines and practices,"7 that is, to extract its "essence" by comparative study of local manifestations, Buddhism became a resource not only for the comparative study of religion and the racial, imperial, and evolutionary themes encompassed by this new field of academic endeavor, but for the crucial debates of the period over the conflict between religion and science, the search for a nontheistic system of morality, a humanistic religion. Once introduced to the academic arena, Buddhism was defined, the object of discourse formed, through the concatenation of its deployment in these contests of essentially Western concern. As a result it was thoroughly imbued with Western preoccupations and presuppositions.

The very term "Buddhism" is a consequence of Christian scholars following the biblical analogy of Christianity's relation to Christ and implies a distorting dependence on the historical existence of the Buddha as founder of the religion. Christianity depended on the life and teachings of Christ; Buddhism was assumed to depend on the life and teachings of Sakyamuni. That the title "Buddha" (literally, "Awakened One") is commonly used as Sakyamuni's personal name, is a consequence of this. Although the emphasis Christo-centric scholarship places on the particular historical teacher is at odds with the Asian focus on the arya dharma -- the eternal teaching -- it is nevertheless indicative of the role Buddhism played in late nineteenth-century Western thought.

More than any other non-Christian religion, Buddhism was the "other" of Christianity, not only because of its academic history but also because of the dilemma it posed. It was both superficially similar -- its moral teachings almost identical -- and fundamentally different. The significant "other," the external against which one defines oneself, is not simply radically different but also similar enough to make effective comparison: within a general frame of similarity, the self and other differ on the essential points of definition. At a time when scientific knowledge brought into question ideas of an immortal soul, of an interventionist God, Buddhism was discussed and thereby defined in terms of absence of soul, absence of a creator God, absence of divine wrath, absence of a Savior. For missionaries, these "absences" provided legitimation for their imperative to convert the natives. But for others the principal features of Buddhism reflected those aspects of orthodox Christian doctrine inconsistent with scientific knowledge.

Christian critics of Buddhism typically described it in terms of these negations, but so did Buddhism's Western supporters. They saw the doctrine of anatman, understood as a denial of the existence of soul, as evidence of Buddhism's concurrence with the new psychology. Buddhism's denial of a creator God accommodated evolutionary theory and materialist philosophy. The point is that, although the interpretations were contested, the characteristics themselves were not, and through their repetition in the ongoing debates, they were reinforced as truth. "Buddhism," as it was known in the West at the time of the Parliament, was constituted by the combination of statements emerging from points of contest in widely different fields, its truth determined not by its observed fit with any Asian reality but by the repetition and reinforcement of statements as they circulated and became "invested, colonized, utilized, involuted, transformed, displaced, selected by ever more general mechanisms" of the technologies of truth.8 Because Buddhism was defined through this process of Christian soul searching and redefinition, it occupied a unique place in the Parliament, the exhibition of nineteenth-century religious development.

The process of circulation and reinterpretation of enunciations from which Buddhism emerged implies an ongoing contest, which keeps the object, like the discourse itself, in a state of flux, its shape momentarily dependent on the cumulative state of the innumerable and diverse contests. Its "permanence," the recognized general features amid the points of difference and dispute that always exist, depends upon the overall effect of the "mobilities," the points of contest. But this is neither a random nor chance accumulation. It is, as already indicated, dependent on the existing intellectual climate, the fields of discourse within which the statements circulate, and it is controlled, or at least directed, by processes that might broadly be called the role of social convention in the constitution of knowledge. These include the cult of expertise and the professions that determine the authority to speak on a subject, the protocols of scholarship and presentation that must be conformed to for a work to be taken seriously, the rules of the various academic disciplines that determine what subjects may be spoken about and what questions are suitable to ask. Rules such as these shaped Western academic Buddhism by directing the selection of the Pali texts as the source of Buddhist knowledge, directing the decision to translate sutras in preference to commentaries, and directing the choice of which sutras from the vast canon would be given priority. Rules of scholarship then determined which parts of the texts were to be taken as the Buddha's actual speech and, conversely, which parts were to be excluded as later interpolations and denied recognition as part of Buddhist belief.

Rules of Western scholarship had also determined that Japanese Buddhism remained virtually unknown as late as 1893, excluded from serious consideration by Orientalist emphasis on "essences" and "origins." Although Buddhism had been introduced into scholarly circles through Rhys Davids's Hibbert Lectures in 1881 (also published) and popularized through Edwin Arnold's immensely successful Light of Asia (1879), Japanese Buddhism was regarded as nothing more than a local expression of the universal essence captured by Western scholarship and its scientific study of the Pali texts. As a form of Mahayana Buddhism, it was necessarily a later and therefore aberrant form of the teachings of the historical Buddha. Challenging this assumption was one of the specific aims of the Japanese Buddhist delegation. It was also one of the difficulties the delegation faced as similar technologies of truth governed the conduct of the World's Parliament of Religions, determining, among other things, who might speak on Buddhism, what questions might be addressed by the speakers, and which parts of a speech represent its "essence" to be preserved in the official record. In the published record of the proceedings Japanese Buddhism was again marginalized by academic protocol governing how these representations were to be documented, presented, and assessed.

Of Orientalists and Orientalism

The Buddhist scholars T. W. Rhys Davids and F. Max Muller, and the various scholars of the Pali Text Society, were unquestionably great Orientalists in the pre-Saidian sense of dedicated scholars who devoted their lives to the serious and meticulous study of Asian-language texts. They provided the foundations of Buddhist studies to the present. They are, to use Hallisey's term, "inaugural heroes" to whom all of us in Buddhist studies owe a great deal. Their work was also, however, archetypically Orientalist. My examination of the genesis and circulation of the knowledge they produced in this period of unquestioned dominance and emerging Asian modernities is not intended to detract from their achievement, but to illustrate the effects of the technologies of truth and the dynamics of discourse.

Following the pattern identified by Said, the representation of Buddhism resulting from nineteenth-century Orientalist scholarship, including that of Rhys Davids and Max Muller, became part of the apparatus for dominating, restructuring, and maintaining authority over various Asian Buddhist states by defining the norm against which Buddhist practice was judged, and by which the relative value of Buddhist thought against European philosophy was measured. Western scholarship both created the object and assessed its value. Although the construct did not correspond with any Asian reality, it nevertheless functioned as the truth of Buddhism. It was an intrinsic part of Western knowledge actively participating in the ongoing religious debates. This was its reality. Paradoxically, however, this also gave it value to Asian Buddhist reformers.

Orientalist Scholarship and Asian Buddhist Modernities

Although the late nineteenth century was a period of unquestioned Western dominance, it was also a time of emerging Asian modernity. In Ceylon, Thailand, and Japan, the three Buddhist nations represented at the Parliament, Buddhist reform leaders, well aware of the limitations of the Western academic construct of Buddhism as a representation of their beliefs, used it to their own local advantage. Its most important function was in providing a model and basis for a rationalized interpretation of indigenous religion, an interpretation that reconciled traditional religion with the changes that had accompanied modernization. It was an interpretation validated by the standards of Western scholarship and therefore acceptable to the Western-educated elites of Asia, useful in attracting their support to Buddhist revival. Western Buddhist scholarship was also an aid in defense against Christian imperialism, a ready resource in countering Christian criticism, and in claiming the superiority of Buddhism as a religion compatible with a scientific world view. "Buddhism" as it existed in Western texts in the late nineteenth century was reinterpreted by Asian Buddhists to demonstrate the superiority of their religion over that of the West. Western scholarship gave them "proof" that Sakyamuni was a greater philosopher than any individual European, his system of thought more complete. It was evidence that Asia -- here the term functioned to allow the delegates of Ceylon and Japan to share in the Indian achievement -- had achieved this level of philosophical development two thousand years before Europe. Pali scholarship provided Theravada states with a rationalized, scientific interpretation of their religion.

Although this appropriation was not so readily achieved in Mahayana Japan, the techniques of this Orientalist scholarship and the model of its product were used in the formation of a new rationalized interpretation of Buddhism, shin bukkyo (new Buddhism). Shin bukkyo was yoked to nationalism by Inoue Enryo, a founding member of the nationalist organization, Seikyosha, and of the more specifically Buddhist nationalist organization, Sonno hobutsu daidodan. Both societies emerged in the late 1880s amid reaction against the previous period of indiscriminate Westernization and concern over Western encroachment. Both societies urged that defense against Western imperialism depended on developing a strong national spirit. The previous tendency to imitate the West would never win international respect. Only by maintaining an independent national identity could Japan hope to deal with world powers as equals. Modern Japan had to be defined in distinction from the West. The Seikyosha therefore looked within Japanese tradition for something unique that would be internationally esteemed.

Inoue offered Buddhism. It was a logical candidate, he argued, because it had been the basis of Japanese culture for centuries but, more important, it was the one product of Japan that exceeded anything available in the West. It not only contained all the truth of Western philosophy but brought it to its full development. More than this, it resolved the conflict between religion, science, and philosophy. Inoue's study of contemporary Western thought convinced him that the truth contained in Japanese Buddhism was the culmination of Western intellectual evolution. His observation of Western interest in Pali Buddhism convinced him that Western intellectuals were seeking an alternative to Christianity and would welcome the greater profundity of Japanese Mahayana Buddhism. By taking Buddhism to the West, Japan would win international prestige and recognition of its spiritual and intellectual achievements. Reviving Buddhism would strengthen the Japanese spirit and defend the nation. To achieve this Inoue needed to enlist the support of "young men of talent and education" (his expression), the Western-educated elite of Japan, and this required that the Japanese Buddhism he offered was acceptable in terms of the dominant rational criteria of the time. Inoue wrote that he had gone to the West to find the truth, but that having found it there he then recognized that it had existed in the East for three thousand years. His stated mission was to share this revelation, to convince intellectuals that Japanese Buddhism was the equal of Western philosophy, superior to Western religion and completely in accord with Western science. This was also the mission of the delegation to Chicago.

The task that both Inoue and the delegates faced in conveying this message was to relate Japanese Buddhism to the Western construct that privileged the Theravada of the Pali texts. They needed to show that Japanese Buddhism encompassed all of the truth of the Theravada -- that is, all those aspects of Buddhism which had attracted contemporary Western approval -- but that Theravada, Southern Buddhism, was no more than a provisional and introductory expression of the Buddha's teachings, which were more completely expressed in the Mahayana texts, and specifically in Buddhism as it had been developed in Japan. For the delegates to Chicago addressing a Western audience, this also involved dissociating Japanese Buddhism from the then much maligned Northern Buddhism, the Mahayana of the Himalayan regions. Eastern Buddhism, a term coined for the occasion, was the culmination of Sakyamuni's teaching, and the most suitable candidate for the universal religion of the future.

Defining Eastern Buddhism

The Japanese delegation defined Eastern Buddhism as a new category of Buddhism but one that nevertheless depended on existing Western knowledge, which provided the discursive elements that were appropriated, reinterpreted, denied, extended. One problem, however, was that the Japanese delegates were not the only voices contributing to the representation of Buddhism at the Parliament. First there were other Buddhists: the Sinhalese lay preacher, Anagarika Dharmapala, and His Royal Highness Prince Chandradat Chudhadharn of Siam, both presented papers on Theravada Buddhism with deliberate reference to the dominant Western interpretation as incorporated into their local Buddhist revival. As well as this, and in spite of the Parliamentary regulation that permitted only qualified representatives of each religion to speak, Buddhism -- in its function as the "other" of Christianity -- was discussed or referred to by Christian theologians, scholars of comparative religion, and Christian missionaries. Here again, the task of the Japanese delegates was to lift Japanese Buddhism above the criticisms of Christians and Western Pali-centered scholarship, not disputing, for example, Western descriptions of Theravada as nihilistic, pessimistic, and world-renouncing, but disclaiming these as characteristics of Eastern Buddhism. Nevertheless, because Eastern Buddhism was presented through its relation to existing knowledge of Buddhism, the accumulated result was that the Christian-related parameters of the existing construct were reinforced and validated by the Parliament. Mahayana Buddhism remained marginal, at least in the short term.

Oriental Participation in Orientalism

The Japanese Buddhist delegation did not succeed in arousing an interest in Eastern Buddhism among academics whose studies remained tied to the Pali and Sanskrit sources. Nor did the delegation alter the views of Christian proselytizers who remained content with the existing atheistic, nihilistic interpretation, which better served their purpose of demonstrating Christian excellence. One person whose attention it did manage to attract, however, was Paul Carus. Carus was inspired by the world-affirming, scientific presentation of Eastern Buddhism to return to existing Western Buddhist scholarship and compile his Gospel of Buddha, an archetypical Orientalist exercise using Buddhism to promote his post-Kantian Christian monism.

Carus's book, though a popular success, was treated with disdain by Buddhist scholars. Why, therefore, was this idiosyncratic interpretation of Buddhism translated into Japanese and published in Japan? The answer confirms the strategic value of Western Buddhist scholarship in the discourse of Buddhist nationalism. Japanese Buddhists, well aware of the limitations of the book as a source of knowledge of Buddhism, used it to their own indigenous advantage. The publication, however, had unforeseen repercussions in the West, where it was promoted as an endorsement of Carus's book by practicing Buddhists, giving the work an authority it could not otherwise have claimed. Consequently, the Japanese publication, intended in large part to convince a Japanese audience that Western intellectuals were interested in the Mahayana, reinforced the entrenched Pali construct. The Orient participated in Orientalism.

This incident, one of several dealt with on the theme, exemplifies one of the problems with much of the work on Western images of Japan, which typically reproduces the Eurocentrism it purportedly reveals by looking at Japan as an object of exclusively Western discourse, and consequently by neglecting Asian agency. The exclusion that was central to Said's concept -- the idea that the dominant West spoke for the passive East, the West denied the East a voice, represented it in ways determined by the West -- was only a partial description of the dynamics of discourse, one that was well suited to Said's own project of emphasizing the wrong done to the Middle East, but it has serious limitations. It misses the much more important function of Orientalism as a particular example of the consequences of a number of functions of alterity: the various ways in which one society uses, speaks about, and consequently forms images of others. Orientalism is not, after all, a particularly Western sin but a case study of the more general process of the way one culture forms images of another. This happens not so much as the result of consciously directed efforts to represent reality but as a consequence of multiple processes of discourse. Occidentalism, a term that might be used to describe Asian recourse to the West as a resource for various domestic strategies, was not simply an inversion of Orientalism. The crucial difference in Meiji Japan, as elsewhere in Asia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was the importance of the West even in countries such as Japan that were not under colonial rule, as model and judge of the modern, and its prestige among the Western-educated Asian elites. Asian nationalist imperatives fostered Asian participation in Western discourse. Considering the formation of Orientalist knowledge as an engagement restores agency to Asia, and some of the complexity of the Foucauldian origins of Said's insights to the process. It makes the colonial domination a factor in the process rather than its determining mode.

Zen for Americans and Other Histories

Carus's interest in Eastern Buddhism had consequences far beyond the publication of The Gospel of Buddha. He is remembered most particularly for his part in fostering American interest in Buddhism through his own writings, through his continuing contacts with the Buddhist delegates, and in opening the way for D. T. Suzuki's long career as interpreter of Mahayana Buddhism and the transmission of Zen to the West. Suzuki's presence in La Salle and the work that he produced there, which led to the Zen boom of the 1960s and to the present strength and variety of Zen in America and overseas, were a direct consequence of the delegation to Chicago. This, too, is a story of politically determined discursive interventions, of East-West interaction, of an Orientalist gaze that sees only what is relevant to its present preoccupations, of appropriation, deployment, and interpretation. Until recently, it was usually told in hagiographic mode, the story of but one of the delegates, Zen Patriarch Shaku Soen, and focusing on but one of the two papers he presented, "The Law of Cause and Effect as Taught by the Buddha."9 The concern to elevate a spiritual leader above the "contamination" of politics reduced this important historical figure to little more than a link in the chain of transmission leading to American Zen. The narrative so focused overlooked the other members of the delegation, and the North American Protestant context of the Parliament. It was unconcerned with the significance of the delegation in Meiji Japan. It minimized the exposition context to enhance the seriousness of the Parliament as an international conference on religion.10

Japanese accounts of the delegation at the Parliament, like South Asian accounts of the Indian Vivekananda and the Sinhalese Dharmapala, also neglected the exposition context, preferring to present the event as an academic conference, a serious gathering of religious specialists. The point of their accounts of the event was that the West took Eastern religion seriously; not that the thousands of people who packed into halls to hear the Asian representatives may have had no more interest in the Parliament than in any of the other novel and colorfully dressed exotic sideshows. The atmosphere of the Parliament was less than academic. Vivekananda's opening words, "Brothers and Sisters of America," brought on four minutes of applause and cheering, suggesting that expressions of brotherhood, not information on Hindu doctrine, was what America wanted to hear. This impression is confirmed by the total neglect of the much more informative paper by the official Hindu representative, Professor Manilal N. D'Vivedi. The most popular of the Japanese speakers was similarly not one of the high-ranking abbots explaining Mahayana thought, but the layman Hirai Kinzo. His attack on Christian missionary aggression and impassioned quotation of the American Declaration of Independence drew wild applause from the public visitors to the fair.

Although South Asian historians frequently refer to the role of the Parliament in South Asian nationalism, the idea that the Parliament may have played a similar function in Japanese history had not been considered until James Ketelaar's study.11 This omission was partly a consequence of the preoccupation of earlier studies with Shaku Soen and the transmission of Zen, but it was also part of the neglect of the political role of Japanese Buddhism in general, and the modern Western assumption that religion belonged to the private sphere, divorced from the realms of politics and economics. Buddhist clergy engaging in these activities were considered "secularized" or "corrupt."12 The history of Buddhism, isolated by this inappropriate dichotomy from the society in which it functioned, became largely the history of Buddhist doctrine, a history of ideas, focusing on the development of schools and the teachings of the masters. This tendency is a feature of histories of religions in general but was exacerbated here by Western emphasis on Buddhism as an otherworldly tradition dedicated to personal salvation. As McMullin describes it, Buddhism, "possibly more than any other tradition ... has been religionized, doctrinalized, spiritualized, 'otherworldly'ized, and individualized in ways and to degrees that simply do not fit the classical Buddhist case but that do fit the case of some modern Western views of religion."13 The history of Buddhism, he continues, borrowing from Pierre Bourdieu's comments on art history, "finds in the sacred character of its object every pretext for a hagiographic hermeneutics superbly indifferent to the question of the social conditions in which works are produced and circulate."14 The writings of McMullin, Herman Ooms, and Collcutt addressed this problem for Buddhism in the medieval and early modern periods;15 Grappard, Collcutt, Thelle, Ketelaar, and Jaffe for the Meiji.16

The study of Meiji Buddhism was also marginalized by the emphasis on doctrine and its development, which direct focus to the points of "origin" recognized in the entry of schools from China (the Nara schools, Tendai and Shingon, Zen) or the development of new sects (the Pure Land Schools, Nichiren). Meiji Buddhism was dismissed as a deterioration or Westernization, of no relevance in the search for the "real" Japanese belief or its evolution. The first study of Meiji Buddhism was Kathleen Staggs's unpublished thesis on the writings of two leaders of the Meiji Buddhist revival, Inoue Enryo and Murakami Sensho, which dealt with their work as responses to the intellectual and doctrinal challenges to Buddhism at this time.17 This was followed by Notto Thelle's Buddhism and Christianity in Japan, which situated Buddhism in Meiji history, showing its role in connection with the state and society, as he traced the transition in the relationship between Buddhism and Christianity in Japan from the bitter conflict of early Meiji to the development of tolerant dialogue in the late 1890s. Thelle includes a chapter on the delegation to the World's Parliament of Religions but sees little significance in the event for the dialogue in Japan apart from the confidence it gave Japanese Buddhists in the sincerity of the Christian belief in the brotherhood of religions, which contributed to an atmosphere of greater tolerance.18 It was, for Thelle, yet another example of Buddhist action inspired by Christians.

Without doubt, the most significant work on the Japanese delegation to Chicago to date is Ketelaar's Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution. This work provides an account of the formation of Meiji Buddhism from the intellectual attacks of the late Tokugawa and early Meiji periods, when Buddhism was deemed a non-Japanese heresy, to the 1890s, when it became a resource for Japanese national identity, the spirit of Japanese civilization. Ketelaar deals with the Chicago delegation as an episode in the projection of Japanese Buddhism as a universal religion, a strategy in the reconstruction of Buddhism. His argument is that the delegation served as a performance, an opportunity for the delegates to "re-present" the event to the Japanese audience, to demonstrate that Japanese Buddhism, by its inclusion in the World's Parliament of Religions and its acceptance in the West, was a universal religion. It was, to use his term, a gesture of "strategic occidentalism" in the battle over the future of religion in Meiji Japan. This is very much my own position, but as my concern is with the formation of Western knowledge, I would like to push beyond this aspect of the delegation and consider it also as a serious and organized attempt to intervene in the Western discourse on Buddhism -- an attempt to modify Western perceptions. I consider the delegation as a simultaneous intervention in both discourses; my focus is precisely the discursive interaction inherent in the project.19

The field has shifted since I first envisaged the project.20 Ketelaar has situated the delegation to Chicago within the revival of Meiji Buddhism; Thelle has documented the political importance of tension between Christianity and Buddhism in Meiji history; and Seager has situated the Parliament in the context of the Chicago exposition and North American history. More recently, Prothero's book on Henry Steel Olcott's career in Asia and Martin Verhoeven's study of Paul Carus have taken their contribution to Western understanding of Buddhism seriously. My aim is to show how these various arenas of activity interacted to create Japanese Buddhism as an object of Western knowledge. How did the representation of Japanese Buddhism in Chicago 1893 relate to Meiji Japan, to Japan's changing position in the international arena, and to the particular event, the World's Parliament of Religions at the Columbian Exposition? What were the implications of this for Buddhism in the West?
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Re: Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West,by Judith Snodg

Postby admin » Sun Dec 29, 2019 7:16 am

Part 1 of 2


For the United States of America, the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus's journey to the New World marked the emergence of the modern nation as an international power. At the Columbian Exposition America projected the extent of its material achievement in the vast scale of the exposition with its monumental buildings, displays of art, manufacture, and technology. The exposition was consciously organized as an "object lesson" in Social Darwinism, popularizing and propagating evolutionary ideas of race and progress. The United States was placed in this display as the representation of modern achievement and the culmination of white, European racial superiority.1

Japan's project at the exposition was essentially to challenge its assigned place in this arrangement, distancing itself from the Western stereotype of Asian nations as colonial and undeveloped, and realigning itself among the sovereign nations of the international community. For Japan the reality of Western dominance was embodied in the "unequal treaties" that had been imposed upon it decades earlier by Western nations; in the continuing refusal of the treaty powers to grant concessions; and in the perception that favorable revision depended on demonstrating the "equality" of Japanese civilization with that of the West. Treaty powers not only controlled Japanese tariff rates but set the rules by which Japanese civilization was to be judged. Without overemphasizing the importance of the Japanese exhibition at Chicago in the campaign for treaty revision, I argue that it was a supplement to the long-term, intense diplomatic negotiations, an exercise in public relations.

Japan's challenge to nineteenth-century Western assumptions of cultural superiority was most clearly articulated in the Hooden, the official Japanese Pavilion, a stunning display of architecture and art. The project, however, also informed Japan's extensive participation in other aspects of the exposition, including the representation of Buddhism at the World's Parliament of Religions. Although participation in this project only partially accounts for the aims of the Japanese Buddhist delegation, it was an important determinant in the representation of religion.

This chapter considers the representation of Japan projected in the Hooden, considering the building as a statement, visual rather than verbal, but nonetheless an attempt at communication, planned as a tactical intervention in a number of simultaneous discourses involving Japan and its relationship with the West and with other Asian nations, and in establishing its position within the international arena. It indicates the parameters of Japan's project, identifies some of its principal aims, and indicates problems in communication. These parameters, aims, and problems, which are readily apparent in the planning, representation, and reading of the supposedly transparent communication of Japanese material culture, point to less easily identified parallels in the representation of Japanese Buddhism in the West.

Treaty Revision and the Chicago Exposition

Japanese speeches and publications connected with the exposition, from the first introduction by the Japanese commissioner at Washington to the dedication ceremony of the Hooden, stressed the issue of the treaties and related the Japanese exhibit to Japan's desire for their revision. Revision of the treaty agreements between Japan and a number of Western nations, agreements inherited from the Tokugawa bakufu, had been the overriding concern of the Meiji government since it came to power in 1868, affecting both domestic and foreign policy.2 The initial treaties had been drawn up at a time when the West considered Asian countries to be "beyond the pale of international law," that is, the law of the international Christian community.3 The treaties with Japan followed the models of Western treaties with undeveloped and colonial states. Hence they not only imposed inappropriate restraints on Japan's judicial and economic sovereignty but also burdened Japan with a status inferior to that of the "civilized" nations of the world. Equal treaties were as much the mark of a modern state as political, social, and economic reorganization. They were the mark of international recognition. By the 1890s the powers concerned generally recognized that the treaties should be revised. This was partly because Meiji reforms had brought Japanese institutions such as government, education, law, and the military into line with Western requirements, but, at least in Great Britain's view, also because of Japan's strategic location as an ally against Russian expansion in the Far East.4 By this time the discussion between Japan and the treaty powers was essentially a matter of negotiating concessions.

One of the main obstacles to treaty revision was the problem of extraterritoriality under which foreign nationals in Japan were not subject to Japanese law. Treaty powers were reluctant to withdraw this right of consular jurisdiction until Japan adopted and enforced a system of jurisprudence and judicial administration "in harmony with that of Christian powers." That is, they were reluctant to place their nationals under non-Christian law.5 Extraterritoriality had originated from the West's desire to protect its nationals from punishments considered cruel and barbarous.6 The clause therefore not only impinged on Japan's sovereignty but gave it little control and no legal rights over foreigners who were increasingly circumventing the restriction on travel outside treaty ports. It also carried the stigma of "barbarism." Unfortunately, law had proved to be a most difficult area of reform. The new code of civil law had been rejected in 1892 amid a public outcry against the inappropriate application of law based on the French theory of individual rights to a society where the idea of duty was paramount.7 The exposition project, already under way at this time, became even more important as an exercise in public relations.

While fully aware of the economic advantages of participating in world expositions, such as the opportunity to increase trade and develop new markets, the Japanese government also saw participation in the Chicago fair as a chance to influence Western public opinion in its favor. As Tateno Gozo, Japanese minister to Washington, wrote in an introductory article preceding the fair, here was a chance to come into contact with "intelligent thinking people" and prove that Japan "no longer deserves to labour under the incubus which circumstances forced upon her."8 The exercise was not without precedent. When Tateno explained that participation in previous expositions had demonstrated to the Japanese the power of public opinion in America, he may well have been referring to the American response to the exhibition of Japanese antiques at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. As one visitor wrote, "We have been accustomed to regard that country as uncivilized, or half-civilized at the best but here we found abundant evidences that it outshines the most cultivated nations of Europe in arts which are their pride and glory."9

Neil Harris observes that Japan became a beneficiary of the cultural rivalry between America and Europe. ''Americans seemed to take pleasure in the fact that Europe's boasted antiquity was dwarfed by this visitor from the East. The Orient could be used to strike back at the pretensions of the Old World, which for so long had reminded Americans of their youth and lack of cultivation." In the opinion of the visitors to the fair, the elegance and workmanship of eight-hundred-year-old Japanese crafts rivaled the highest achievements of Italian art, and moreover, Japanese crafts showed no evidence of the decline or degeneracy apparent in the later periods of European art. The display at Philadelphia stimulated some Americans to demand the return of the $750,000 indemnity paid to the United States when Japanese fired on an American ship at Shimonoseki.10

The invitation to participate in the Chicago fair arrived during the first session of the newly formed Diet and, as Tateno related, it was welcomed as an opportunity to make the statement that now, twenty-five years into the modernization of the Meiji period, Japan was "worthy of full recognition in the family of nations," and though at that time "determined to cut public expenditure ... the Diet was prepared to immediately appropriate whatever sum might be necessary for the purpose."11

Without challenging the rightfulness of the restrictions which were imposed upon them when the treaties were made, the Japanese people feel that the necessity for those restrictions has entirely passed away. The burden which still remains may seem light to others; to them it is an ever present reminder of the fact that all they accomplished is incomplete so long as this unnecessary, incumbering vestige of the past remains. Therefore, it is just that they welcome the Columbian Exposition as one means of proving that they have attained a position worthy of the respect and confidence of other nations.12

The Japanese presentation at Chicago was, from the beginning, strictly controlled by an imperial commission headed by Mutsu Munemitsu, initially as minister of agriculture and commerce, and then from August 1892 as foreign minister. According to Perez, Mutsu was said to have spent "virtually every waking hour" pondering the problem of treaty renewal and its possible solution.13 Unfortunately, Perez does not mention Mutsu's role in organizing the Chicago presentation, but he does confirm that Mutsu held a strong belief in the power of public opinion to influence government action and skillfully used the press to develop it, characteristics that are evident in Mutsu's autobiography, Kenkenroku.14 Although treaty revision depended on demonstrating that Japan was the equal of Western nations, the early 1890s of Meiji Japan was a time of intense reaction against the indiscriminate over-Westernization of the previous decade. The presentation of modern, technological Japan at the exposition was therefore accompanied by a very strong statement of the continuing vitality and high achievement of indigenous Japanese civilization. The Hooden was the centerpiece of this statement. The Japanese were "above all, determined to maintain their national prestige."15 Mutsu's role in this project was indicated by his announcement in the Japan Weekly Mail, October 1891, that no Japanese exhibit would be permitted unless authorized by the Japanese government to ensure that only articles "truly Japanese" would be displayed.

Japanese culture was to be seen as unique and equally "civilized," but what does being "civilized" mean? To the late nineteenth-century West, the targeted audience -- its imperial power and confidence supported by belief in the theories of evolution that saw the races of the world in an ordered line of ascent from the primitive to the modern Western type -- to be "cultured" or "civilized" meant to measure up to a European norm in standards of intellectual, artistic, and material achievement. This assumption of Western superiority was evident in all nineteenth-century expositions, but never more than at Chicago. The lesson of the fair, we are told by its chroniclers, was that each nation could see its position in the hierarchy thus displayed.16 The clearest example of this hierarchy was the Midway Plaisance of the fair, which appears in the bird's-eye view as a long corridor to the side of the main concourse (see fig. 8). This was the popular carnival sector of the exposition. It was here, along with the sideshows and amusements, that most of the Asian and Third World countries were represented. Some of the more popular attractions were the street in Cairo, the Dahomey village, the Javanese village, and the Eskimos, living exhibits in an anthropological display that illustrated the "progress of man" through a racial hierarchy that culminated in the modern Western type.17 The Midway Plaisance was "a world gallery," a "voyage round the world and down time," where "one could drop back through every stage of humanity, European, Asiatic, African until he reaches the animal in Hegenbeck's menagerie."18 Or alternately, as the same writer observed, the Midway could be "viewed in ascending manner culminating in the Exposition proper."19 The "Exposition proper" was, of course, the White City, evidence of America's supreme position in the hierarchy. The fair was a vast anthropological object lesson in the ascent of man and the Darwinian justification of Western dominance.

Japan's participation in earlier international expositions had already raised the problem of its rightful position in the hypothetical line of ascent. However, although the American public was willing to consider the idea that Japanese culture may be a "high" culture, approval was ultimately reserved. It was, after all, an Oriental culture, and in the words of one critic, "We must have standards, and Europe is that standard."20 Japan's problem, therefore, was that in order to communicate to a Western audience the "equality" of Japanese civilization, that is, Japan's right to a position within the hierarchy of development as elevated as that of Europe, its statement had to conform to European categories of value. Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate the problem is to compare the American presentation at the fair with that of Japan. Both these nations used the event to challenge the assumption of European superiority. In Japan's case the term "European" was meant in the wider sense of "European" as opposed to "Oriental," a term that included America.21

America and the Westward Progress of Civilization

The Columbian Exposition was held to mark the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus's discovery of the New World.22 For the United States of America, this anniversary marked a "coming of age." It was an opportunity to demonstrate that America was no longer a "country cousin," but a mature, independent, modern nation. In the vast edifices of the exposition and the displays of art, manufacture, and technology they contained, America showed that its material achievement was unequaled; by the inclusion of the Auxiliary Congresses, a series of conferences on matters of spiritual, intellectual, and social concern, the United States established its intellectual credentials. In a total commitment to prevailing views on progress, the exposition at large proclaimed America's material and technological supremacy, while the congresses, under the banner "Not Things but Men; Not Matter but Mind," claimed the necessarily accompanying spiritual and intellectual development.

Figure 1. The Dome of Columbus (Cutler, The World's Fair, 531)

The Columbian anniversary was also an appropriate occasion to celebrate America's divinely ordained place in world history, a vision encapsulated in a proposal for a commemorative Dome of Columbus (fig. 1). The scale of the dome is vast, designed with more consideration for numerical symbolism than economy or function. The pedestal, 1,492 feet by 1,892 feet, linked the year of Columbus's epic journey to that of the exposition. That the occasion was the four hundredth anniversary of the journey was recorded in the four-hundred-foot radius of the hemisphere that rose out of the pedestal. A colossal figure of Columbus, more than six hundred feet above the ground, pointed down to his achievement, his journey represented by a line drawn across the map on the surface of the dome. The map itself was curiously oriented, inverting European primacy by placing the Americas at the apex of the world, or as close to it as possible while remaining in the view of a prehelicopter audience. Columbus's journey from Spain read as an ascent: European man reached his culmination in the United States of America. The juxtaposition of the Italian Renaissance-style pedestal and the Temple of Liberty surmounting the dome showed American civilization rising out of the pinnacle of European cultural achievement to attain even greater heights. America stood at the summit of the world, representing the accumulated accomplishments of European civilization, and declared its continuity with the classical tradition of Europe, the essential premise for the claim to represent its culmination, through the appropriation of architectural styles. "The new world was the heir of all ages."23

America had been charged by God with the task of assisting in the natural and preordained unfolding of providential history by carrying the benefits of its civilization -- post-Reformation Christianity and its democratic institutions -- westward, extending the path of Columbus's journey. America had been "kept intact" until "a new light for the social and political life of mankind began to ray out from the open Bible in the hands of Luther." In this pristine environment God taught the chosen people "through the life developed here." The result was the American republican ideal in which men were "free to govern themselves in the light of reason and Revelation."24
In the earlier years of the colony the idea of divine mission had inspired and justified the pioneers in their conquest of the continent. In 1893 -- just two years after the Wounded Knee massacre -- this "self-abnegating world responsibility"25 directed American vision across the Pacific.

The Dome of Columbus depicted this expansionist interpretation of America's vision of Manifest Destiny, a literal depiction of John L. O'Sullivan's image of "establish[ing] on earth the noblest temple ever dedicated to the worship of the Most High .... Its floor shall be a hemisphere -- its roof the firmament of the star-studded heavens."26 Here the temple, the republican ideal, stands at the end of the Atlantic journey, claiming the Western Hemisphere as its domain. Within a decade Theodore Roosevelt was to declare that "the Mediterranean era died with the discovery of America; the Atlantic era is now at the height of its development and must soon exhaust the resources at its command; the Pacific era, destined to be the greatest of all, is just at its dawn."27

Pacific expansion was not a new idea. The Christian Gospel had been carried to Hawaii in 1820, accompanied by American secular institutions, schools, and the press. An American-inspired constitution was bestowed upon the islands in 1887. In January 1893, amid rhetoric of bringing "stability, honesty and vigor to government" accompanied by economic incentives such as privileged access to a subsidized sugar market, America was involved in the deposition of Queen Liliuokalani. Hawaii's annexation to the United States followed in 1898.

An editorial in the Japan Weekly Mail (July 15, 1893) strongly protesting the racial and legal injustice of the constitution shows how contentious American domination of Hawaii was in Japan at the time of the exposition. As the article explained, the constitution of 1887 abrogated conditions of the Japan-Hawaii treaty of 1871, which had unconditionally guaranteed Japanese residents in Hawaii all privileges enjoyed by the citizens or subjects of any other power. The new constitution restricted franchise to adult male residents of Hawaiian, American, or European descent. There was no justification other than racial discrimination for this exclusion of Japanese, a considerable proportion of the population of Hawaii. The American action in Hawaii was a forceful reminder to the Japanese of their second-class status in the eyes of the West, and also of American disregard for the conditions of treaty. One of the arguments for American intervention in Hawaii was the need to defend Hawaii against Japanese aggression: "Unless America annexes Hawaii Japan will do so, and that means that Hawaii would be brought under the domination of Asiatic rather than American civilization."28 The concern to see Hawaii become "Americanized" reflected the American sense of mission, but to the Japanese it was a savage racial slur.

In the mid-nineteenth century Commodore Mathew Perry wrote of "the Japans" and "the many other islands of the Pacific" en route to the markets of China, as yet untouched by the "constant and rapid increase of the fortified ports," and the "possessions in the East of our great maritime rival, England," as America's last hope of gaining colonies.29 Britain was perceived to be the greater threat to Hawaiian independence, but the idea of installing British civilization was less effective in stirring public reaction. Commodore Mathew Perry wrote in preparation for his expedition to Japan that expansion was imperative for "the honor of the nation and the interest of commerce." The Reverend Edward P. Baker, a missionary to Hawaii, pleaded for America to "assume control of the nation" because "if the United States does not act the part of the Good Samaritan, John Bull will," adding that "the possessor of the Hawaiian Islands will hereafter dominate the Pacific Ocean."30 Commercial incentive, rivalry with European powers, and imperial ambition, so clearly apparent here and in the "unequal treaties" subsequently imposed upon Japan, were mingled with an ideological ambivalence toward imperialism. As a former colony itself, America was opposed in principle to imperialism, "a wicked European game."31 In spite of the aggressive appearance of Perry's fleet, westward expansion was ideally not to be achieved through military conquest but by purchase, annexation, accession. Expansion should occur through the incorporation of states that recognized the advantages of the American republican system and desired union with it. Perry took with him a printing press as a means of counteracting "the discreditable machinations of the Dutch" and publicizing "the extraordinary prosperity of the United States under their genial laws."32 The expedition was to "[l]et them see from the first that [America's] coming among them is a benefit and not an evil to them."33 Manifest Destiny, however, also carried "the responsibility of imposing upon other nations the benefits of our own,"34 and because it was a divine mission, "savages and other enemies who resisted conversion could be righteously exterminated as creatures of Satan."35
Territorial expansion was idealized by America's mission to share the benefits of its civilization, symbolized by the Temple of Liberty.

What does the statement of the Dome of Columbus mean when placed in the domestic context of labor wars, bankrupt farmers, the problems of postemancipation blacks and displaced Indians, urban slums teeming with Jewish and Roman Catholic immigrants who could no longer be considered outside mainstream American life? The coherence and dominance of the white American Protestant tradition were being challenged. From this perspective the dome is a point of resistance, a reaffirmation of the triumph of America, the republican ideal, and also an exclusion of minorities from identification as American.36 American blacks were denied participation in the fair. Their petitions for an exhibition, a building, or a separate department were all rejected. Their contribution was restricted to state displays and was subject to the approval of a white committee. American Indians were included in the ethnological department, part of the display of the customs of native peoples of the world. The dome reinforced the object lessons in racial hierarchy of the Midway. At the Chicago exposition, civilization was defined not only by the West, but by a white, Protestant Christian West.

The Dome of Columbus was not built, possibly because as Cutler, a contemporary commentator, rather sarcastically remarked, the estimated cost of $3 million "was hardly sufficiently expensive to meet the ideas of the World's Fair directors."37 The statements it embodied were nevertheless conveyed by the actual structures of the fair, and in only marginally more subtle forms. America's Great Exposition challenged Europe's assumption of cultural superiority using the European idiom and merely attempting to outdo Europe on its own terms. The fair, held in the vibrant, new city in the heart of the American continent, rather than in the old, European-founded city of New York, was bigger and more spectacular than any previous exposition. The organizers quite specifically set out to surpass the standards set by the very successful Paris Exposition of 1889. "The country of P. T. Barnum was not about to be outdone by France."38 The fairground was several times the area of the Paris exposition. It cost many times more. In the handbook distributed at the fair by the Department of Publicity, Europe was dwarfed by American statistics. The Manufactures Hall, the largest roofed structure ever erected, was three times larger than St. Peters, four times the size of the Colosseum in Rome, and the entire army of Russia could be mobilized on its floor.39 Early plans to build higher than the Eiffel Tower were abandoned, and instead the first and largest Ferris wheel ever built was installed as the symbol of American ingenuity in engineering and, to an even greater extent than the dome, as the symbol of America's predestination to world supremacy.

The Ferris Wheel

For contemporary American philosopher Denton J. Snider, the Ferris wheel epitomized the spirit of America in a way that the tower could never have done (fig. 2). Towers, wrote Snider, relate to past ages, and to association with military surveillance. They are hierarchical rather than democratic, "connected with overlooking a subject people."40 The wheel, by contrast, is the cause and symbol of democratic, political unity. The intricate construction of the Ferris wheel "hints [at] a complex social system, each little part of which fulfils its special duty and thereby works for the great common end ... each giving and receiving aid from the whole."41 The virtue of the American system of government, he believed, was confirmed in the existence of the wheel itself: "Only a society like the Ferris Wheel, complex, colossal, could produce the Ferris Wheel, making the same, as God made man, in its own image."42 The Ferris wheel was also a symbol of "the grand cosmical order," its rhythmical ascent and descent in harmony with the Sun itself, "but made by human hands," and when illuminated by electric light it competed with the heavens. In all it affirmed the modern ideal, "the subjugation of physical forces to human control" through the development of science and technology.43

Figure 2. The Ferris wheel (Witteman, The World's Fair)

The Ferris wheel, like the Eiffel Tower, dominated the exposition site and was visible from afar, a vast symbol of the fair, the image of industrial progress, and a celebration of the ideal of independence, "the self-active spirit."44 Snider devoted a full thirty-two pages to the symbolism of the Ferris wheel. It was for him "the culmination of the Fair," both a statement of America's ideals and its mission to world conquest in the unfolding of providential history. The great educational value of the wheel, he wrote, was that it reflected the progress of civilization. From its position on the central concourse of the Midway Plaisance -- set to "roll" along its East-West axis -- it looked down upon the exhibitions of other nations, its revolutions "taking a short journey around the world," a microcosmic representation of the great history of the westward progress of civilization. "In the midst of the Orientals of the Plaisance, the Ferris Wheel mounts skyward, suggesting the triumph of the Occident and throwing out deep intimations of meaning of the New World and of the march of the Ages.... Do they receive from it any forewarnings of destiny, any significant foreshadowings of the World's movement?"45

Though accepting God's will in the inevitability of American domination across the Pacific, Snider was less insistent on the accompanying Protestant Christian mission: "The East may never take our religion, but it must take our wheel. The Orientals of the Plaisance, daily gazing and wondering at the Ferris mechanism, cannot help having some presentiment. The monster will crush them if they resist it; but it will carry them if they jump on and ride."46

Figure 3. The Court of Honor (Rossiter Johnson, A History of the World's Columbian Exposition, 1:496)

The fair covered seven hundred acres of Jackson Park, a massive achievement in landscaping and architecture, with neoclassical buildings on a scale that could only be achieved through the use of the latest materials and engineering techniques, arranged around a system of man-made lakes and canals. Although the decision to build in the classical style did have its critics, most visitors to the fair agreed with Snider, for whom the architecture of the fair was "the last utterance of man's reason and sense of beauty."47 The White City no less than the Dome of Columbus claimed that America, born out of the European Renaissance, was "the last word" in the development of the values of the European Enlightenment. As Snider saw it, "Little Greece had, on the whole, buildings in proportion to her size," and America's ability to master the colossal, to project the same sense of order, harmony, and moderation admired in classical Greece on this much greater scale, was clear evidence of the superiority of America, a "truly limit transcending country."48

On the canals of the White City Venetian gondolas, claiming the elegance and sophistication of Europe, paddled alongside the newly invented electric-powered motor launch. Ornate fountains and statuary decorated the public spaces, and sculptured figures were clustered over the facades of the vast steel-framed buildings. At night, when illuminated by electric lighting, the straw and plaster reality of the Court of Honor was transformed into a vision of marble. Technological progress compensated for America's lack of antiquity, and Chicago's White City seemed to have everything that could be found in the cities of Europe, as well as all that new technology could offer (fig. 3).
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Re: Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West,by Judith Snodg

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Part 2 of 2

Japan and the West

The centerpiece of Japan's presentation, the object of greatest single expenditure and concern, was the Hooden or Phoenix Pavilion (fig. 4), an exhibition of Japanese art and architecture on the Wooded Isle at the center of the fair site. The pavilion itself was planned as a historical representation of three different epochs of Japanese architecture spanning more than eight hundred years, but to borrow Ernest Fenollosa's image, the Hooden was an "architectural casket" of Japanese art treasures.49 The art and architecture together presented an image of the sophistication and elegance of Japanese civilization from a period four hundred years before the discovery of America to the present.

The pavilion was inspired by the Hoodo, or Phoenix Hall, of the eleventh-century temple, the Byodoin, at Uji, near Kyoto. The original temple is said to represent the mythical Hoo bird (phoenix) descending to earth, wings outstretched, the illusion of flight suggested by the combined reflection of the building and clouds in the pond immediately beside it. The pavilion in Chicago took advantage of the unusual plan, using each of the three distinct areas that constituted the building to exhibit the material culture of a different period of Japanese history, the Fujiwara, the Ashikaga, and the Tokugawa.

Figure 4. The Japanese Pavilion (Witteman, The World's Fair)

The pavilion, designed by the government architect Kuru Masamichi, was built in Japan and shipped to Chicago in numbered pieces for construction on site by Japanese craftsmen. The rooms did contain some representative items of antique furnishings and works of art, but the interior decoration as a whole -- the painted screens, walls, ceilings, as well as many of the objects on display -- was designed and executed by the Tokyo Fine Arts Academy under the direction of nationalist art historian Okakura Kakuzo. It was, therefore, not simply a historical exhibition of Japan's past achievement but also a display of the present skill and vitality of the Meiji period. The Tokyo Fine Arts Academy was an outgrowth of the revival and conservation of Japanese art that had begun a decade earlier with Ernest Fenollosa. Okakura, now more commonly known in Japan as Tenshin, had initially worked as Fenollosa's assistant and had traveled with him in 1886 on an imperial commission to study art history and museums in Europe and America. The Tokyo academy was founded to revive old techniques and develop new ones with which to express the Japanese spirit in its modern development. The Hooden was an exhibition of "original contemporary work created for this occasion by Japan's great living artists," proving that Japanese art continued to thrive.50 Okakura was to continue the project of the Hooden in his writings, The Ideals of the East (1903), The Book of Tea (1906), and The Awakening of Japan (1903-4).

Figure 5. The Hooden: interior of the north wing (Okakura, The Hooden; courtesy of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections)

Okakura spelled out the message of the Hooden in the pamphlet distributed at the fair.51 The north wing of the Hooden (fig. 5) was constructed in the style of the Fujiwara period (897-1185) at the end of the Heian, a time when Japan was isolated from continental influence and when "the liberal patronage of the Fujiwara family brought about a renaissance of pure Japanese taste."52 This period represented "a new development in Japanese art and culture which may be termed the national, in contrast to the predominating continental ideas of the preceding epochs."53 The interior was copied from the personal apartment of a high-ranking courtier in the Kyoto Imperial Palace and was furnished with writing desk, incense burner, musical instruments, mirror stand and cosmetic cabinet, all articles of high culture, learning, and sophistication, suggesting a refined era when, as Okakura wrote, "the aristocracy ... was occupied with the exchange of visits; musical and poetic gatherings, and other amusements."54 The walls were entirely covered with paintings, and the rich brocades of the period were generously displayed. This wing established the antiquity of Japanese sophistication by representing the state of Japanese culture centuries before the discovery of America.

The south wing (fig. 6) was in the Ashikaga style (1233-1568), the interior a reproduction "with but slight changes"55 of rooms in the Ginkakuji in Kyoto, built in 1479. The two rooms, a library, a "place where the master of the household read, studied, or occupied himself with Buddhistic meditation,"56 and a room furnished for the tea ceremony, show "the part played by Buddhism in restoring the tranquil state of mind to the people."57 The Ashikaga period, Japan at the time Columbus discovered the New World, was characterized by its refined taste and exquisite detail. Paintings by the great Japanese landscape artist Sesshu, a contemporary of Christopher Columbus, were displayed in the tokonoma.

Figure 6. The Hooden: a room in the south wing (Okakura, The Hooden; courtesy of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections)

The central section of the pavilion was divided into rooms used for official receptions during the fair. The main space, the central hall, was a replica of a sumptuous room in Edo castle at the height of Tokugawa power (fig. 7). The other rooms were similarly ornate. The phoenix, "a decorative motive for objects of dignity and importance,"58 was, Okakura explained, "emblematic of the peaceful reign of the Tokugawa Shoguns."59 Paintings of flowers and fruit signified, the handbook tells us, progress in the arts and general prosperity.60 These rooms projected Tokugawa Japan, Japan at the time of Commodore Perry's intrusion into Japan's isolation and the imposition of the unequal treaties, as a wealthy and peaceful nation with a flourishing, highly developed culture. The Japanese may have been willing to concede that Perry hastened Japan's entry into the modern industrial world, but these rooms challenged any American assumption that he had brought "civilization" to barbarians.

Figure 7. The Hooden: interior of the central hall (Okakura, The Hooden; courtesy of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections)

The intended historical message of the Hooden predated the design of the building itself. An early notice of Japan's plans for the Chicago pavilion mentioned that "the building would be copied from the finest specimens of Japanese architecture extant at the time Columbus discovered America."61 That is, the intention was always to show the high state of Japanese culture at the time of the birth of America, but in the final building the message was expanded to include the additional ideas of the great antiquity of Japanese civilization -- the eight-hundred-year span is twice the period of America's celebration -- and its continuing vitality. The Fujiwara wing showed the elegance and sophistication of Japanese culture centuries before the discovery of America, the Ashikaga wing showed the state of Japanese development at the time of Columbus's discovery, and the Tokugawa wing showed the continuation of the high level of Japanese cultural tradition up to the arrival of Western influences. The ability of Meiji Japanese to recreate these achievements in Chicago was evidence that the same tradition survived in contemporary Japan.

The furnishings in each of the rooms emphasized Japan's high regard for cultural activities such as reading, writing, painting, and music, echoing the theme of the Auxiliary Congresses, "Not Things but Men; Not Matter but Mind." Japan, no less than America, wished to be known for its intellectual and spiritual achievements, the fundamental indications of "progress" and "civilization." Japan participated in a large number of congresses and also impressed the public with its displays of printing and educational textbooks. Because cultural achievements were indications of evolutionary development, Japan's message was that it had reached great heights long before Europeans arrived in the Americas.

Using art and architecture to establish its cultural credentials was only one aspect of the presentation. For Japan to align itself with the Western nations implied that it must disassociate itself from the general Western perception of "Asia," stereotyped as either undeveloped and backward or, as in the case of China, degenerate. One reason for choosing the Hoodo, the Phoenix Hall in Uji, as a model for the pavilion may therefore be that its unique plan gave it claim to be the oldest building of indigenous Japanese inspiration.62 If the antiquity of high culture in Japan were the only point to be made, then Horyuji, built in A.D. 607 -- more than four hundred years before Byodoin -- would appear a more logical choice.63 These earlier buildings were, however, like the Nara period in general, too easily associated with Chinese prototypes, the "continental" Okakura spoke of, rather than the "national" of the Fujiwara period.

That is, for the designers of the pavilion in Chicago, antiquity appears to have been secondary to the need to stress indigenous Japanese achievement and to separate Japanese culture from continental origins. This was not entirely possible, of course, as Okakura's guidebook acknowledges, but the presentation placed emphasis on the Japanese development of imported ideas. The complementary statement, Japan's alignment with Western nations, found physical expression in the siting of the pavilion on the Wooded Island, a coveted position at the center of the main exposition site, across the lake from the United States government building.

Positioning the Statement: The Statement of the Site

The Wooded Isle was a principal focus of the original exposition plan, to be left free of buildings, "an island in the middle of the lagoon covered with native wood, affording a charming natural landscape to relieve the formal treatment of other portions of the grounds."64 A preserve of nature to accentuate the achievements of culture. True to this concept, the organizers resisted a number of requests for this particularly desirable space. They were, however, after a considerable amount of trouble and expense on the part of the Japanese government, persuaded to allocate an island site for the Japanese Pavilion.65 The agreement involved undertaking to build a permanent structure worth at least $100,000 as a gift to the people of Chicago and included a Japanese commitment to maintain the buildings and their gardens permanently.66

Why was the site so important to Japan? The reason given in the Japan Weekly Mail was that the site allocated to foreign nations was not large enough, and it was felt that the impact of the Japanese architecture would be lost if the building were to be included with European structures. Certainly the wooded setting beside the natural shoreline of the lake was a more appropriate site, but the island location did more than show the building off to advantage. Set apart as it was, but within the bounds of the central concourse of the fair, it reflected Japan's image of itself in the world as an independent and unique nation, not attempting to compete with the West in Western terms, but demanding recognition for its own achievements. Japan was different but equally civilized and, most important, was distanced from both Third World nations and the Midway Plaisance.

The central importance of the Wooded Island in the organization of the exposition is apparent in the "bird's-eye view" (fig. 8). The island is surrounded by the principal United States buildings adjoining the Court of Honor. The area designated for foreign nations lies beyond the canal on the far right of the sketch. The Midway, with the twin towers of the Chinese Pavilion in the far distance, can be seen extending from the horizon, the site of the dawn of civilization in the scheme of progress mapped by the exposition plan.

The Midway Plaisance, described earlier for its role in propagating and popularizing evolutionary ideas of race and progress, was under the direction of the exposition's Department of Ethnology, its anthropological displays scientifically validated by the participation of the Smithsonian Institute and the Peabody Museum. The displays provided ethnological sanction for the American view of the nonwhite world as barbaric and childlike.67 It was, therefore, also an area of light relief. As an official publication put it: "The Midway Plaisance ... offered an admirable location for the picturesque displays, characteristic of the customs of foreign nations ... and has the advantage of isolating these special features from the grand ensemble of the Exposition ground, thus preventing the jarring contrasts between the beautiful buildings and grounds on the one hand and the amusing distracting, ludicrous attractions on the other."68

Figure 8. Bird's-eye view of the exposition (Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.)

The only Japanese presence on the Midway was a tea shop and a bazaar selling souvenirs, a private enterprise set up by Japanese merchants.69 It was not given official government approval. By building on the island Japan not only avoided the racial stereotyping of the Midway but placed itself within the main concourse, the representation of modern achievement. China, by contrast, had no official pavilion and was instead represented solely by an exhibition on the Midway assembled by expatriate Chinese merchants. The Chinese display, sandwiched between entertainment facilities, itself became a source of amusement.70 The success of Japan's project is indicated by Snider's account of the fair, which passed over Japan in the description of the progress of civilization, concentrating solely on the deficiencies of the Chinese as displayed on the Midway for an account of the East Asiatic type.71 He discussed the Japanese exhibition along with those of England, Germany, and France. As Snider saw it, Japan had "joined the march of Western civilization."72

The symbolic significance of the exhibit and its association with treaty revision were made explicit at the dedication ceremony of the Hooden held on Friday, March 31, 1893. The architect presenting the key to Commissioner Tejima spoke of the historical intention of the design, the plan to present the vast age and continuity of Japanese civilization in relation to American history. In his response, Tejima spoke of the significance of the timing, which explicitly linked the dedication of the ceremony to the signing of the first treaty with the United States on that same date forty years before. Using a coincidence of auspicious Fridays -- the day Columbus sailed from Spain, the day the Japanese Diet signed the bill to fund the exposition participation -- he further stressed the link between the Hooden, the exposition, and the wish for treaty revision.73 Meeting this very early deadline to make the point had been no easy task. The building began on October 29, 1892, but was interrupted by a winter unusually severe even by Chicago standards. A number of the large American buildings were crushed under the weight of snow; others could not withstand the gale-force winds. In spite of these setbacks the Japanese building was finished on time, even though the exposition itself was not due to open until May, and a great many of the other exhibits were not in place until much later than this.

In a cross-cultural play on the significance of the Hooden, the "Phoenix Pavilion" in Chicago, "the Phoenix city" (a reference to its remarkable recovery after the devastating fire of 1871), he complimented the host city and invoked again the good wishes for the treaty project. As Okakura explained in the pavilion's guidebook, the Hoo bird only appears when a just ruler is on the throne and the nation is peaceful and prosperous, and its appearance is accompanied by tokens of success. Tejima also thanked the exposition authorities for assigning "the most favourable space for the historic buildings we are assembled here to dedicate," a reminder of the importance of the position of the building to the statement it made.

American Responses

The Hooden was a popular exhibit and an excellent public relations project right from the time that the numbered pieces of precut timber arrived from Japan. Crowds turned out to watch the craftsmen work. One newspaper commented that it was a pity that they could not continue through the fair. The negative side of this was the patronizing tone of the appreciation. The workmen were like acrobats; their tools quaint; everything they did was "back to front." In general, public reaction was friendly and goodwilled but tended to reinforce the stereotype of the Japanese as small, dainty, polite, docile, and childlike. For the American public the Japanese represented the positive aspects of the "Oriental." The consecration ceremony of the Hooden, unlike the Turkish ceremony, for example, did not involve a "barbaric blood sacrifice," though it was no less interesting to watch.74 Japan was exotic, interesting, picturesque, but not barbaric. It was "inoffensively" foreign.

Certain messages such as the antiquity and continuing vitality of Japanese culture were communicated without difficulty. At the dedication of the pavilion, President Palmer of the National Commission for the Columbian Exposition, for example, with more enthusiasm than historical accuracy, admired Japan as "a nation which had a history when Abraham went wool gathering on the prairies of Mesopotamia ... full of life, activity and enterprise, anxious to adopt all improvements and avail themselves of every influence that can keep them in the vanguard of progress." His concluding remarks, however, reflected the basically imperialistic attitude of the exposition, condescending and uncompromising. After some trite remarks on the efficient Japanese use of small resources, he warned that "[w]e have much of barbaric force which will astonish them if they do not accept its display as an attractive object lesson."75

Snider, whose account of the fair was essentially a reading of its architectural symbolism, was the most receptive commentator. As already mentioned, he accepted Japan's realignment, noticing also the "care with which the Japanese man explains that he is not a Chinaman," and that Japan was claiming a place among the progressive, modern nations. Snider was impressed by Japan's conspicuous effort to present itself at its best and realized that commercial reasons alone could not explain "the desperate struggle of the Japanese here at Chicago; there must be a national, perchance world-historical principle at work."76 Nevertheless, he interpreted the message entirely in terms of Japan's success at modernization and concluded that Japan had "joined the march of Western civilization"; for Snider, the burden of its presentation was not its indigenous cultural integrity, but the reverse: "See how I have occidentalized myself in the last thirty years; I am one of you."77

Snider read Japan's effort at the fair in terms of his vision of America's divinely appointed responsibility to bring about world civilization. The movement of civilization, following the movement of the sun, was westward. "It has passed out of Western Asia to Europe, it is still passing from Europe to America, and now it seems to be tending toward Japan." Japan's adoption of the signs of Western progress -- specifically "the railroad, the telegraph, the school, the printing press of the West" -- was proof of the working out of the great movement of history, the unfolding of God's design. Japan had "made itself the bearer of Western civilization." The Japanese were "plainly the vanguard in the Occidental movement toward the Orient." Their success in Westernizing validated America's "mission" of expansion into the Pacific.

By Snider's account, Japan also solved America's ethical ambivalence toward imperialism. Westward expansion was not to be achieved through military conquest, but by purchase, annexation, accession, acts justified in self-abnegating terms of "messianic intervention," bestowing benefit, exerting a favorable influence. He read Japan's eagerness to impress as proof of its desire to adopt the American way and consequently as a request for alliance with America: "It allies itself with the nations of the West, especially does it appeal to the United States, the country that is behind it and next to it, in spite of, or rather by means of the ocean between."78 Japan was inviting America to expand across the Pacific.

Snider reduced Japan's cultural exhibition to a claim for individuality. What was significant for him in Japan's presentation was evidence that the progress of Western civilization, which had passed from Europe to America, was now crossing the Pacific.79 It was the Occidental in Japan that he admired. His extravagant appreciation of the Hooden was condescending, relegating it to the stereotype of the quaint, the colorful, the garden ornament, a modern version of the fake pagodas in the landscape of Chinoiserie. It was the "the gem of the Wooded Isle."80 As he saw it, "The little Japanese temple, delicate, light, with its wings almost ready to fly belongs to the garden ... a humming bird among the flowers."81 The Hooden was a mere ornament on the island, and the island in the heart of the White City was part of the greater American imperial statement.

Of course, others saw the Hooden differently. The human scale, harmonious composition, and honest use of exposed natural materials appealed to people reacting against the dominant pomposity of the period typified by the buildings of the White City. "The excellent proportions, superb craftsmanship, sensitive roof curves and structural honesty of the Hooden set it apart from the surrounding hulks that concealed prosaic exhibition halls behind sham marble fronts."82 Once again, however, the Hooden was appreciated because it was recognized as conforming to an already emerging American aesthetic trend toward naturalism.

Neil Harris's survey of American reaction to the Japanese exhibition showed that, although some people undoubtedly admired the harmony, elegance, and restraint of Japanese art, the general public appreciated it for its profusion: its costliness and elaborateness, the intricacy of ornament, lavish use of materials, and for the immense amount of labor involved in the work.83 All of these were abundantly evident in the interior of the Hooden. Again, although the criteria are different, Americans judged Japanese art according to their own preoccupations and current fashion.

Accommodating Western Categories

Japanese organizers had, of course, expected this. Japan had been exporting decorative trade goods for many years -- objects that suited the nineteenth-century vogue for eclectic bric-a-brac -- and were therefore fully aware of the popular Western taste in Japanese decorative art. The pieces chosen for the exhibition at Chicago, however, had all been made specifically for the occasion, and unlike earlier mass exports -- "curiosities ... which are absolutely without prototypes in Japanese art" crudely and defectively made -- each was of the highest quality. Nevertheless, many showed accommodation to Western needs. Lacquer was made to withstand the dry heat of American houses. Chikudo's acclaimed painting of a tiger was mounted not as a scroll but as a screen, which "will fit perfectly into the corner of a parlour and will be as striking a piece of furniture as any dilettante can expect to find."84 Masterpieces of Japanese ceramic technique were produced in Western forms, such as a milk jug and sugar bowl. No doubt one purpose of these modifications was to make the articles more saleable, but there was more to it than that, as we can see in the example of the textile exhibits. Japanese tapestry, traditionally woven on a narrow loom, was for the first time produced in huge pieces (the largest twenty feet by thirteen) for the Chicago exhibition. The designs and techniques of the textiles remained the finest examples of the Japanese craft, the excellence of which had long been recognized in the West. But the size and presentation of the Chicago pieces lifted them out of the category of woven curiosities and placed them alongside the great tapestries of France and Italy. Not only was the product saleable, but the Japanese textiles were placed in deliberate comparison with those of Europe and, moreover, by increasing their size, gained recognition as fine art. Gobelin-type wall hangings were acceptable as art; an obi, the usual application of Japanese tapestry, no matter how exquisite, could not rise above the category of craft.

There may not seem to be any difficulty in communicating the worth and sophistication of Japanese civilization at the level of material culture. Gold and silk signify wealth and beauty in the West as they do in Japan. The beauty of a well-made lacquer box may be appreciated even if the culturally specific meaning of its design motif is not. American appreciation of Japanese aesthetic certainly had its limits, however. One of these was indicated by Mrs. Potter Palmer's decision to add chairs to the Japanese Ladies Association exhibit in the Women's Pavilion. The display, which reproduced three rooms such as would have been used by Japanese noblewomen of the Tokugawa period, was authentically furnished and fitted with heirlooms lent by members of the committee, which included their Majesties the Empress and the Empress Dowager. For Mrs. Potter Palmer, the president of the Board of Lady Managers, it seems, the room was incomplete.85 According to nineteenth-century Western categories, a "furnished room" for example, could be rather narrowly defined. Rather, the definition was culturally specific. A room, no matter how exquisitely decorated, refined in its furnishings, or richly gilded, could not be "civilized" without chairs.

Rigid categories were a definite problem for the presentation of Japanese art at the fair. In spite of the fact that Japanese artists modified their work to conform to Western requirements, they were still underrepresented in the "high-art" painting and sculpture exhibitions. Most items were classified under the less prestigious label of "decorative art."86 Japan contributed 270 of the total 291 items of decorative art in the Palace of Fine Arts, but only 24 of the 1,013 sculpture works, and 55 of the 7,357 paintings. One spectacular enamel triptych, a prize exhibit from the Japanese point of view, "being specially viewed and approved by the Emperor of Japan," was excluded from the art section entirely, relegated to the Hall of Manufactures, apparently because of the political content of its design.87 The art exhibition was, of course, a competition; prizes were awarded, and Japan naturally wished to compete. What better way to establish superiority than to win in open, international contest? It was essential, however, that Japanese art be included in the highest categories. How could any nation ever be considered really "civilized" if it did not produce fine art?

For Japan to compete, and thereby establish the worth of its material culture, it had to select and modify its exhibits to conform to Western criteria. The statement of the Hooden, intended to convey the less tangible concept of Japan's right to an elevated position on a perceived "ladder of social evolution," required a similar process of accommodation to Western categories. Okakura, the director, was well placed to organize the exhibit as his experience of Western museums and contacts with the Western art world, as well as his experience in collecting and cataloging Japanese art with Fenollosa, had given him a very clear idea of Western taste. It is not surprising therefore that the Hooden exhibit provided for the main streams of Western vogue. The display of gold, strong colors, and rich ornamentation in the Fujiwara and Tokugawa suites would satisfy appetites for the rich and sumptuous. The elegant simplicity of the Ashikaga appealed to new tastes for elegant simplicity and appreciation of natural materials.

The representation could have been different. Although we are accustomed to consider the tea ceremony aesthetic of the Ashikaga period as typical of the period and classically "Japanese," as important as it was, it was only one of the possibilities.88 The Japanese exhibition at the Seville Universal Exposition in 1992 showed reproductions of the screens and wall paintings by Kano Eitoku of the sixteenth-century Azuchi Castle. Previously known only through descriptions in texts, the paintings were carefully planned to express the power and dominance of the great military leader Oda Nobunaga.89 The exposition reproductions were prepared using authentic pigments and typically lavish amounts of gold. As the organizer of the exhibition commented, "[T]his exhibit will shatter the impression that Japanese culture is small in scale and subdued."90 Even Japanese, accustomed as they are to seeing Eitoku's painting aged and darkened, he continued, will be startled. This will be a chance "to come into close contact with the energy and enthusiasm of Eitoku and his age.... The Azuchi screens and wall paintings do not have much to do with the quiet impressions of wabi (taste for the simple and sombre) and sabi (tranquility and elegant simplicity) peculiar to Japan."91 Japan at Seville projected a new image of its aesthetic, an image to match its new prominence in the international world, showing that the energy of sixteenth-century Spain was matched by that of Japan.92


In Chicago, however, the overriding concern was to express Japan's cultural civilization. The importance of this in the issue of treaty renewal is illustrated by the way public reaction to the incidents at the start of the Sino-Japanese War just one year after the exposition jeopardized the ratification of the newly negotiated agreement. The negotiations for the revision of the treaty had been finalized on November 22, 1894, the day after Japanese troops occupied Port Arthur, but in accordance with the American Constitution, the agreement had to be approved by the Senate. The Senate was alarmed by reports of Japanese atrocities that appeared in the American press by November 28 and was hesitant about signing. Foreign Minister Mutsu Munemitsu personally intervened, assuring the United States that the reports were exaggerated, pointing to the past exemplary behavior of Japanese troops and suggesting that the victims were not civilians but Chinese soldiers out of uniform. He directed negotiators to "[t]ake action promptly to obtain swift senate approval of the new treaty before rumours arising from this affair spread further."93 The treaty with America was passed by the Senate in February 1895, but as Mutsu noted in his autobiography, "the American press severely condemned the violent outrages of the Japanese forces and declared that Japan was in fact a barbaric savage with only a thin veneer of civilization ... certain papers insinuated that the complete abolition of extraterritoriality proposed under the new treaty might be extremely dangerous."94

The degree to which Japan could be considered "civilized" was clearly of central importance to the abolition of the extraterritoriality clause and therefore to the whole issue of treaty revision. The one constant in the various American readings of the message of the Hooden was that the American public appreciated things Japanese, accepted that the Japanese were "civilized," to the extent that they conformed to current American values. It was necessarily a partial and selective approval. Snider, for example, praised Japan's achievements in adopting Western customs and institutions rather than concede the worth of Japanese culture itself, which remained quaint and curious. The "real" Japan remained an Asiatic mystery concealed by the appearance of Westernization -- hence the ease with which the civilization of the Japanese was deemed to be "nothing but a thin veneer" at the outbreak of war in the year following the great exposition and the warm reception there of Japanese culture by Americans.
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Re: Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West,by Judith Snodg

Postby admin » Sun Dec 29, 2019 7:33 am

Part 1 of 2


Christianity and American Imperialism

From the time of the Crystal Palace Exposition in London in 1851 the great expositions of the nineteenth century were preeminently displays of material and technical progress. The Chicago fair, symbolized as it was by the steel-supported structures of the White City and the engineering genius of the great Ferris wheel, was no exception. What made the Columbian Exposition unique was the inclusion of the "Auxiliary Congresses," an exhibition of the spiritual, intellectual, and social progress of mankind. The largest and most acclaimed of the Auxiliary Congresses was the World's Parliament of Religions, which not only epitomized the antimaterialist theme of the congresses but enshrined the motivating force of them all, American Protestant Christianity.

The World’s Congress Auxiliary (WCX) of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 consisted of a series of meetings on almost every scholarly and cultural topic affecting the rapidly changing society of the 1890s. The congresses were held in the newly built Art Institute of Chicago, and ran concurrently with the Exposition from May 15 – October 28, 1893. The Auxiliary consisted of 19 departments: Woman’s Progress, Public Press, Medicine & Surgery, Temperance, Moral & Social Reform, Commerce & Finance, Music, Literature, Education, Engineering, Art, Government, Science & Philosophy, Labor, Religion, Sunday Rest, Religious Societies, Public Health, and Agriculture. Within these 19 departments, scores of the most prominent national and international leaders in the arts, sciences, business, and theology convened over 200 individual Congresses consisting of thousands of addresses, meetings and symposia.

-- World’s Congress Auxiliary Pre-Publications, Programs and Circulars Collection, by Chicago Public Library

American rivalry with Europe might have been satisfied by an exhibition of material progress, but this material progress was itself subsidiary to and dependent on America's distinctive society and its resulting institutions. "The freest land must in the end create the most perfect machinery .... The American railroad is a product of the Constitution of the United States,"1 and the Constitution, in turn, derived from the ideals of freedom, equality, and self-determination of Protestant Christianity brought to the New World by the early colonists.

In the late 16th century, England, France, Spain, and the Netherlands launched major colonization programs in America....European settlers came from a variety of social and religious groups, including adventurers, farmers, indentured servants, tradesmen, and a few from the aristocracy. Settlers included the Dutch of New Netherland, the Swedes and Finns of New Sweden, the English Quakers of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English Puritans of New England, the English settlers of Jamestown, Virginia, the English Catholics and Protestant non-conformists of the Province of Maryland, the "worthy poor" of the Province of Georgia, the Germans who settled the mid-Atlantic colonies, and the Ulster Scots people of the Appalachian Mountains. These groups all became part of the United States when it gained its independence in 1776. Russian America and parts of New France and New Spain were also incorporated into the United States at various points. The diverse groups from these various regions built colonies of distinctive social, religious, political, and economic style....

The idea of independence steadily became more widespread, after being first proposed and advocated by a number of public figures and commentators throughout the Colonies. One of the most prominent voices on behalf of independence was Thomas Paine in his pamphlet Common Sense published in 1776.

-- Colonial history of the United States, by Wikipedia

As to the Christian system of faith, it appears to me as a species of Atheism -- a sort of religious denial of God. It professes to believe in a man rather than in God. It is a compound made up chiefly of Manism with but little Deism, and is as near to Atheism as twilight is to darkness. It introduces between man and his Maker an opaque body, which it calls a Redeemer, as the moon introduces her opaque self between the earth and the sun, and it produces by this means a religious, or an irreligious, eclipse of light. It has put the whole orbit of reason into shade.

The effect of this obscurity has been that of turning everything upside down, and representing it in reverse, and among the revolutions it has thus magically produced, it has made a revolution in theology.

That which is now called natural philosophy, embracing the whole circle of science, of which astronomy occupies the chief place, is the study of the works of God, and of the power and wisdom of God in his works, and is the true theology.

As to the theology that is now studied in its place, it is the study of human opinions and of human fancies concerning God. It is not the study of God himself in the works that he has made, but in the works or writings that man has made; and it is not among the least of the mischiefs that the Christian system has done to the world, that it has abandoned the original and beautiful system of theology, like a beautiful innocent, to distress and reproach, to make room for the hag of superstition.

The Book of Job and the 19th Psalm, which even the Church admits to be more ancient than the chronological order in which they stand in the book called the Bible, are theological orations conformable to the original system of theology. The internal evidence of those orations proves to a demonstration that the study and contemplation of the works of creation, and of the power and wisdom of God, revealed and manifested in those works, made a great part in the religious devotion of the times in which they were written; and it was this devotional study and contemplation that led to the discovery of the principles upon which what are now called sciences are established; and it is to the discovery of these principles that almost all the arts that contribute to the convenience of human life owe their existence. Every principal art has some science for its parent, though the person who mechanically performs the work does not always, and but very seldom, perceive the connection....

It seems as if parents of the Christian profession were ashamed to tell their children anything about the principles of their religion. They sometimes instruct them in morals, and talk to them of the goodness of what they call Providence, for the Christian mythology has five deities -- there is God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, the God Providence, and the Goddess Nature. But the Christian story of God the Father putting his son to death, or employing people to do it (for that is the plain language of the story) cannot be told by a parent to a child; and to tell him that it was done to make mankind happier and better is making the story still worse -- as if mankind could be improved by the example of murder; and to tell him that all this is a mystery is only making an excuse for the incredibility of it.

How different is this to the pure and simple profession of Deism!
The true Deist has but one Deity, and his religion consists in contemplating the power, wisdom, and benignity of the Deity in his works, and in endeavoring to imitate him in everything moral, scientifical, and mechanical.

-- The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine

Deism & the Founding Fathers...

Deism is a theological view that affirms the existence of God, but denies miraculous or supernatural occurrences in the natural world. Deists often compare God to a clockmaker: just as a clockmaker creates a clock, winds it up, and lets it operate, so too God created the world, and then let it 'operate' according to natural law. Deism places high importance on scientific theory, and regards supernatural occurrences as impossible. In the deist view, God exists, but does not interact personally with the universe. Deism also places high value on human reason.

Typically, a deist would regard Bible stories containing miracles as little more than myths....

Deism, as we know it, was a direct product of the Enlightenment.... The Enlightenment was a 17th- and 18th-century intellectual movement that championed human reason and scientific thinking. The Enlightenment is closely tied to the Scientific Revolution of the 16th-18th century. As Europeans gained an understanding of modern science, they increasingly became skeptical of traditional religious teachings. Many intellectuals of the Enlightenment considered much of traditional Christianity as superstition.

'How could Moses have parted a sea?' 'How could Jesus have raised a man from the dead? That is contrary to science. These must be myths…' That is how many Enlightenment intellectuals thought. Yet, they were not intellectually prepared to affirm atheism (the belief that God does not exist). Therefore, deism developed as a theological approach that affirmed God's existence, but denied supernatural occurrences.

Lord Edward Herbert of Cherbury has been called the 'Father of English Deism.' His writings, along with others like John Locke, proved tremendously influential. Deism spread from England to other European countries, like France and Germany, and also to the United States.

As 'children of the Enlightenment,' many of America's 'Founding Fathers' were deists.... [M]any of our Founders were influenced by deist thinking to varying degrees.

Thomas Jefferson is generally considered a deist. In fact, he was so skeptical of supernatural occurrences that he took a knife and cut out passages in his Bible that referred to miracles. 'Jefferson's Bible,' as it has been called, is still around today and belongs to the Smithsonian Institute. Benjamin Franklin is also widely believed to have been a deist. James Madison is thought to have been a deist, though there is much debate over this. A leading American deist was Thomas Paine, writer of The Age of Reason, Common Sense, and many other works. How about George Washington? Debate over his religious views is particularly heated. The truth is that no one is really sure.

-- Deism & the Founding Fathers: Definition & Beliefs, by

The Columbian Exposition, celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus's voyage, was permeated with a revived sense of America's predestined mission and an awareness of America's special place in the unfolding of Providential history. As Merril Edwardes Gates, delegate to the Auxiliary Congresses, explained in his paper "The Significance to Christianity of the Discovery and the History of America," God had kept the American continent undefiled until "the Reformation had taught the Christian world afresh the value of the individual man, standing erect, the Bible in his hand, fearless before priest and king, reverent before God .... When a new light for the social and political life of mankind began to ray out from the open Bible in the hands of Luther, God opened the way to the new continent."2

The first European settlers were loyal subjects of the English King George II. They established a colony in Virginia for the purpose of creating trade goods and sending them back to England.

-- Politics in Colonial Virginia, by

God had planted the seed of the new religion in the pristine soil of the new continent, had chosen the people and the government to bring it to fruition,3 and had bestowed upon the people of America the duty to share the light of the Gospel and the benefits of the civilization "springing into life on the continent ... here to grow until it should overshadow the kingdoms of the world."4 Providence had ordained the Americanization of the world. The Auxiliary Congresses within the Chicago exposition demonstrated this interdependence of material progress, American civilization, and religion. The two hundred distinct congresses organized under twenty general departments "considering the greatest themes in which mankind is interested"5 named the intellectual categories through which material progress was manifested.6

The World's Parliament of Religions, in spite of its name and the international recognition it subsequently acquired, was essentially an American event, both in its vision of evangelical mission and in its predominant concern with domestic issues. The Parliament grew out of a liberal Christian vision of U.S. Christian ecumenism (i.e., an ecumenical union of the Judeo-Christian religious communities of the United States), a bid to assimilate the rapidly increasing number of immigrants from diverse religious backgrounds into the Protestant ideal. It was a statement of Christian confidence, a bid for liberal Christian reform within the United States, and an exercise in reinforcing the dominance of Protestant Christianity in response to the rapidly changing social environment of the late nineteenth century.7 The original proposal dealt exclusively with these essentially domestic issues but, once accepted, it was developed as the World's Parliament of Religions, an international event to match the international scope of the exposition of which it was an intrinsic part. The original domestic emphasis remained, but the Parliament also became a platform for the expansionist aspects of the American Protestant ideal, the "messianic heritage." In the early years of the colony, the sense of evangelical purpose justified continental expansion westward. In 1893, with American consciousness of its Pacific future revived by the takeover of Hawaii, the obligation was to share the light of the Gospel and American ideals with "those who are nearest to them but are without God and without hope in the world."8 In the less generous terms of historical reality, the messianic heritage appeared to demand the Christian conquest of Asia.9

Asian delegates to the Parliament had long been familiar with aggressive evangelism. They anticipated its presence at the Parliament and came prepared to deal with it. It nevertheless contributed to the shaping of the representation of Buddhism by demanding reiteration of Buddhist apologetics, forcing the discussion of Buddhism toward topics raised by Christian attack. Far more difficult for the Buddhist delegates to accommodate was the essentially American preoccupation of the Parliament that set the parameters of the discussion. The themes suggested and officially endorsed by the organizing committee were directed toward encouraging Judeo-Christian tolerance in the United States, combating growing interest in materialist philosophy, and uniting the various religious communities to solve the social problems of the United States. The aim of the Parliament was to demonstrate the essential unity of human aspiration. In this project, the various religions were assumed to be related by a shared dependence on a patriarchal God and their hierarchically apportioned share in his revelation. These were Christo-centric assumptions of the essentially theistic nature and function of religion into which Buddhism could not easily be accommodated. The aspects of Buddhism that could be discussed at the Parliament were restricted by this American and Christian agenda of the program.
The representation of Japanese Buddhism was constrained by the role assigned to it in a discourse generated by the religious debates and intellectual assumptions of nineteenth-century America.

The relations of power mapped in the previous chapter -- New World challenge to Europe; the tension between the dominant West and the Orient; dominant white America's attempt to preserve the status quo against the challenge from social changes in the late nineteenth century; Japan's bid to disassociate itself from other Asian nations and establish itself in the international arena -- also traversed the congress on religions. In spite of the organizers' professions of tolerance, of respect for other beliefs, and the stated aim of bringing about international understanding of religious ideas, the World's Parliament of Religions also provided evidence to support the themes of Social Darwinism so evident in the main exhibition. The Parliament, the first great attempt to bring together religious specialists of the world, was also a sideshow, an ethnological display of the various religions of the world. The non-Christian religions played a role parallel to the exotic displays of the Midway Plaisance and were similarly arranged as "object lessons" pointing to Protestant Christianity as the culmination of religious evolution.

The World's Fair Auxiliary Congresses

The Auxiliary Congresses were the inspiration of Chicago lawyer and civic leader Charles C. Bonney. His vision was of a series of conferences on matters of spiritual, intellectual, and social concern of the time, "a series of congresses for the consideration of the greatest themes in which mankind is interested."10 His initial proposal, launched in the Statesman Magazine, September 20, 1889, argued that "the crowning glory of the World's Fair" should not be the material and industrial achievements of man, however magnificent that display may be. "Something still higher and nobler is demanded by the enlightened and progressive spirit of the new age." His proposal was for a series of international conventions in the areas of "government, jurisprudence, finance, science, literature, education and religion," discussed not by academics but by practitioners, "statesmen, jurists, financiers, scientists, literati, teachers, theologians." It was to be more widely representative of "peoples, nations, tongues" than "any assemblage which has ever yet been convened." The benefits as he initially perceived them would be nothing less than to "unite the enlightened people of the earth in a general cooperation for the great ends for which human society is organized." Although in Bonney's opinion "it would not be easy to exaggerate the powerful impetus given by [the material exposition] to commerce and all the arts by which toil is lightened, the fruits of labour increased, and the comforts of life augmented," the benefits of the congresses would be "higher and more conducive to the welfare of mankind."11

Bonney spoke for the United States, but his sentiments also reflected the particular concern of Chicago, the brash new commercial center that had very recently established its first university, to counter its aggressively commercial image. The congress theme, "Not Things but Men; Not Matter but Mind," stressed this reordering of priorities. Barrows, opening the Evangelical Alliance, observed that Chicago, "celebrated for its big warehouses, big railroads, big newspapers, big expectations and big achievements," would henceforth be known for its equally impressive spiritual achievement.12 Addressing the Asian delegates, he said, "I want you to think of Chicago not as the home of the rudest materialism but as a temple where men cherish the loftiest idealism."13 The Congress on Religions was not funded by the churches but by the U.S. government and the commercial community. It was, therefore, a platform for America rather than for Christianity, and the prominence of the World's Parliament of Religions reflected the centrality of religion in the American national vision.

The Chicago organizers planned to display the full progress of man. Here "the most comprehensive and brilliant display of man's material progress," the usual object of an international exhibition, was complemented by an equally extensive display of intellectual, social, and moral progress. There were congresses covering "all areas of intellectual and moral concern," the official history by Rossiter Johnson records, listing in order by way of example, "women, medicine, temperance, commerce, literature, education, religion, art, philosophy and evolution." (Other lists include such diverse subjects as the public press, engineering, government and law reform, religion and Sunday rest, public health, and agriculture.) The message of the Auxiliary Congresses was that America had reached maturity not only in industry and commerce but in social, intellectual, and spiritual development as well and stood poised to lead the world into the twentieth century.

Bonney expressed the millennial splendor of his vision, the United States as the culmination of post-Renaissance progress, at the opening of the first of the congresses on May 15, 1893: "A single week of years stands between us and the twentieth century. If the causes now in operation shall go on unchecked, the world will witness in these seven years the crowning glories of more than seven centuries of human progress."14 He declared the event formally open with the hope: "To make the whole world one in sympathy; to make the whole world one in mental aim; to make the whole world one in moral power; learning and virtue passports to all lands."15

The sincerity of Bonney's desire for universal peace and brotherhood cannot be questioned. He was himself a Swedenborgian and spoke as representative of the goodwill of liberal Christianity. However, as any number of supposedly liberal papers showed, the assumption of a single, uniform human nature upon which this attitude of Eurocentric humanism is based leads too easily to interpreting the undeniable observable differences in the thought and action of other peoples as irrational or false versions of one's own -- at the very least, as imperfect, preliminary attempts at achieving the same ends.16

The World's Parliament of Religions and Messianic Mission

The Parliament, though only one of the many Auxiliary Congresses, was generally perceived to be "the splendid crown," the epitome of the concept. Its prominence depended on more than religion's obvious position as the ultimate expression of "spirit," the natural opposition to mundane "matter" and the material world, the spiritual balance to the gross materiality of the general exposition that was so much commented on. The Parliament was as fundamental to the expression of American aspirations as the White City itself. Domestically, the Columbian Exposition was viewed by Americans as both Rome, the culmination of republican democracy, and the new Jerusalem, the site of religious renewal. Both images were intrinsic to the "enduring Protestant American dream" which was the dominant statement of the quadricentennial celebration.17 America was not simply the site of post-Reformation progress and achievement, but also the divinely appointed agent of its universal dissemination. Bonney, opening the Congress on Women, introduced this recurring theme: "The nineteenth century, richer in manifold wonders than any which has preceded it in the august procession of the ages, crowns its greatest achievements by establishing in the world the sublime idea of a universal fraternity of learning and virtue. This idea, long cherished by the illuminati of every clime, descends at last from the luminous mountains of thought to the fertile fields of action, and enters upon the conquest of the world."18

Bonney here articulated the ideal of American mission and the fundamental problem of American imperialism, the tension between the ideal of converting the world through a self-denying "messianic example," providing a living demonstration of the advantages of its civilization that would inspire emulation and desire for membership in the union, and the more aggressive alternative, "messianic intervention," which was associated with the European model of imperialism that America, as a former colony, rejected. Evangelism -- offering the gift of Light -- provided a justification for territorial expansion and very frequently aided in the process. The quadricentennial celebration of Columbus's voyage revitalized the American Christian sense of predestined mission. America, the theater for achieving millennial perfection, was the model for the rest of the world, the "chief motor" for the conversion of the world to Protestantism.19 Ideally, then, the mission depended on realizing the objective within the United States.

The first problem with this vision was that, as Seager remarks, "the World's Parliament of Religions marked the passing of an era in which the United States could be called, however inaccurately, a Protestant or even a Christian nation."20 The optimism of these ideals was in contrast with the reality of increasing labor opposition to the growing power of industrial capitalists, disruption due to the breakdown of the traditional rural economy, the racial problems of recently emancipated blacks (whose form of worship was not orthodox although they were Christian and even Protestant), and the urban slums teeming with Jewish and Roman Catholic immigrants. While liberal and fundamentalist Christians attempted to consolidate their position, Roman Catholics, Jews, and black Americans were staking a claim as legitimate heirs to the prerogatives of the Republic. 21

The visions that emerged from the rhetoric of the Parliament -- "a blueprint for the kingdom of God on earth," a "latter day Pentecost," the "New Jerusalem," "the Babel tongues of the world ... coming back to speak the one dialect of Heaven"22 -- are those of subsuming and assimilating all religions within the dominant Anglo-Saxon Protestantism. American delegates spoke of "manufacturing a republic -- taking the black material of humanity and building it up into noble men and women; taking the red material, wild with every savage instinct, and making it into respectable men."23 With the increased immigration of the late nineteenth century, American society similarly, at least in theory, transformed immigrants from diverse cultures into a citizenry supporting and enhancing the essentially Protestant ethos of a Christian American republic. The guiding principle of the Parliament, in which the majority of organizers and delegates was of the dominant Protestant groups, was that all the religions of the world would find their completion and fulfillment in the spiritual values of Protestant Christianity.

One of the problems at this time, however, was the failure of the ideal within the United States itself.
The difficulty, from the point of view of at least one Protestant leader, was not just the increase in the volume of immigration but the different type of people involved by this time. In a paper on "The Problems of Our Multifarious Population and Their Probable Solution," the Reverend Wm. C. Roberts, D.D. LL.D., wrote:

If it were made up, as in former years, of people from the British Isles, Holland, Germany, France and Northern Europe, the increase in numbers would probably excite no special alarm, for multitudes of them spoke our language, professed the Christian religion, admired our civil and social institutions, revered our Bible and respected our Sabbath. They came in order to be of us. But those who flock hither in these days are largely different in character and purpose. They are Jews from Russia, Italians from the Siciles, Bohemians, many of whom are of the baser sort, Poles, long taught to dislike every kind of regularly constituted government, Hungarians looked upon as revolutionaries, Armenians, Greeks and Bulgarians who have had the best elements of their nature stamped out by the iron heel of Turkey, British trade-unionists, French socialists, Austrian nihilists, German anarchists, and idol worshippers from China, India and the Islands of the Sea.24

The speaker clearly associated religious diversity with the social problems of the time, and the "material of humanity" he described was less malleable than he desired. The presence of these large numbers of Jews and Roman Catholics in the society, if not the nihilists, socialists, and "idol worshippers," forced debate on the interpretation of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. Did it allow a denial of God? Expressed from a Protestant point of view in the previous century, the controversy had been whether the Constitution guaranteed freedom from all old religions and the establishment of a new universal (Christian) faith, or the freedom to persist in a false or partial religion until the establishment of the universal reign of Christ on earth.25 Both of these interpretations assumed that all religions would be assimilated into Protestantism. This was, after all, part of the perceived reason for the existence of America. It was the site of the growth of the new revelation and the place of refuge for all those who sought its consolations. Under the still dominant Protestant ideal, as the Reverend Roberts put it, they came in order to be of us.
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Re: Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West,by Judith Snodg

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Part 2 of 2

Bonney's Vision: The Origin of the Plan

The Parliament, as it was originally conceived by Bonney, was essentially a Christian conference, a gathering of the various religious communities of the United States, which, as a generous gesture of brotherhood and a recognition of the growing importance of Judaism in America, included believers in Jehovah as "Old Testament Christians."26 The Christian parameters of the discussion are clear from the first four of the twenty-two themes proposed for discussion, which were: "a. The idea of God, its influences and consolations. b. The evidences of the existences of God, especially those which are calculated to meet the agnosticism of the present time. c. That evils of life should be shunned as sins against God. d. That the moral law should be obeyed as necessary to human happiness, and because it is the will of the Creator."

The capital "G" and references to God as "Creator" guaranteed the Christian connotations of the term. Another of the proposed themes demanded acceptance of the Christian revelation, the "influx from God into the mind of every man teaching that there is a God and that he should be worshipped and obeyed."
The final and culminating theme indicated the Judeo-Christian limits of Bonney's liberal vision of the Parliament: "That those who believe in these things may work together for the welfare of mankind, notwithstanding they may differ in the opinions they hold respecting God, His revelation and manifestation; and that such fraternity does not require the surrender of the points of difference. The Christian believing in the supreme divinity of Christ, may so unite with the Jew who devoutly believes in the Jehovah of Israel; the Quaker with the High Church Episcopalian; the Catholic with the Methodist; the Baptist with the Unitarian, etc."27

There can be no question of Buddhists being included among "those who believe" in Bonney's vision. His concern was for the religious tolerance among the major religious groups represented in the United States in the late nineteenth century and for contemporary, local problems, which included, as point b noted, increasing agnosticism. The proposals for topics for discussion were all concerned with the value of religion as a social force in North America. They specifically excluded discussion of doctrine except where "common aims and common grounds for union may be set forth." Among his proposals he stressed the importance of religion for "virtuous and pure" family life and in answering "the alleged prevalence of infidelity." For Bonney, the substantial fruits of sincere religion included "improved personal character, better business methods; nearly all works of charity; improved domestic order; greater public peace" (point j). The "indispensability of the weekly rest day," another of the proposed topics, was a matter of such contention among Americans at the time that the financial viability of the exposition was threatened by protests against opening the exposition on Sundays and an entire congress was eventually given over to the issue. Temperance was also considered of sufficient importance to deserve a separate congress.

Regardless of this domestic focus, several of the proposals were of direct and particular concern to the Buddhists. The first was the basic assumption that religion must necessarily be theistic. Japanese Buddhists targeted this as the point to which they must pay particular attention.28 It was a familiar point of Buddhist vulnerability. Because Buddhism was not based on theistic principles, it risked being excluded from the category of religion altogether and linked instead with Western philosophic atheism, an association they vehemently protested. Because the proposal actually listed this as an important point "calculated to meet the agnosticism of the present time," there was a real risk that Buddhism would be called upon, as it frequently was in missionary literature of the time, to stand as the example of the fundamental error of such a view.29 On the other hand, it was precisely the promotion of Buddhism as an example of the viability of a nontheistic system of ethics that had brought it prestige and respect. Consequently, point p, "the actual harmony of science and religion; and the origin and nature of the conflict between them," was also of particular relevance to the Japanese Buddhist delegates. This was a critical issue in Christian debate during the second half of the nineteenth century. A religion that depends on revelation was incompatible with science's denial of the supernatural. The form of Bonney's proposal here suggests that by the time of the Parliament, liberal Christians at least had resolved the issue. Nevertheless, it was on this point that the Japanese Buddhists perceived Christianity to be most vulnerable. Their confidence was increased by the knowledge that Western scholars had already established the harmony of Buddhism with science and modern philosophy.

People who believe they have lived past lives as, say, Indian princesses or battlefield commanders are more likely to make certain types of memory errors, according to a new study.

The propensity to make these mistakes could, in part, explain why people cling to implausible reincarnation claims in the first place...

[P]ast-life believers were almost twice as likely to misidentify names. In particular, their tendency was to wrongly identify as famous the non-famous names they had seen in the first task. This kind of error, called a source-monitoring error, indicates that a person has difficulty recognizing where a memory came from.

People who are likely to make these kinds of errors might end up convincing themselves of things that aren’t true, said lead researcher Maarten Peters of Maastricht University in The Netherlands. When people who are prone to making these mistakes undergo hypnosis and are repeatedly asked to talk about a potential idea—like a past life—they might, as they grow more familiar with it, eventually convert the idea into a full-blown false memory.

This is because they can’t distinguish between things that have really happened and things that have been suggested to them, Peters told LiveScience.

Past life memories are not the only type of implausible memories that have been studied in this manner. Richard McNally, a clinical psychologist at Harvard University, has found that self-proclaimed alien abductees are also twice as likely to commit source monitoring errors.

As for what might make people more prone to committing such errors to begin with, McNally says that it could be the byproduct of especially vivid imagery skills. He has found that people who commonly make source-monitoring errors respond to and imagine experiences more strongly than the average person, and they also tend to be more creative...

[P]eople with implausible memories are also more likely to be depressed and to experience sleep problems, and this could also make them more prone to memory mistakes.

And once people make this kind of mistake, they might be inclined to stick to their guns for spiritual reasons, McNally said. “It may be a variant expression of certain religious impulses,” he said. “We suspect that this might be kind of a psychological buffering mechanism against the fear of death.”

-- Belief in Reincarnation Tied to Memory Errors, by Melinda Wenner

North American Ecumenism to Christian Universalism

Once the initial proposal was accepted, the Parliament was organized by a committee of sixteen representatives of the various religious communities of the United States-including one Catholic archbishop and one rabbi -- under the direction of the Reverend John Henry Barrows, D.D., a liberal Christian pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Chicago.30 As chairman, Barrows exerted a strong influence over the organization of the Parliament, particularly in the management of the non-Christian religions. He personally hosted the Asian delegates, edited and in several cases delivered their papers, and after the Parliament compiled and published the official version of its history, an act that has consequences in knowledge of the event to the present time.31 Although Bonney's American and Christian vision of the World's Parliament of Religions still formed the core of the proceedings, under Barrows and his committee the event was expanded, given a universal scope in keeping with the world's exposition context. In this process, the Protestant Christian ideal of Westward progress was extended beyond the bounds of continental America to the vision of universal Christianity.

The Parliament, as described in its published objectives,32 sought answers not simply to domestic issues but to "the great problems of the present age," although even here the centrality of America is apparent in the repetition of Bonney's listing of, as examples, "temperance, labour, education, wealth and poverty." It aimed not just for domestic harmony but for "securing permanent international peace." The World's Parliament of Religions had grown from Bonney's vision of a fellowship of liberal, humanist theists to a great international event bringing "together in conference, for the first time in history, the leading representatives of the great historic religions of the world." He specifically desired representatives not simply of Judaism but of "the Brahman, Buddhist, Confucian, Parsee, Mohammedan" faiths as well. In this expanded vision the heathen were now welcome, but for what purpose? The text adopted for the World's Parliament of Religions had been suggested by the Reverend H. Adler, chief rabbi of the British Empire: "Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?"33 It confirmed Bonney's ecumenical vision for the United States of America but did nothing to accommodate Buddhists.

Although representatives of most religions, Christian and non-Christian, came from all over the world, the Parliament was essentially an American Christian event.
Foreign Christians played their part by contributing to ecumenical discussion, by clarifying points of difference between denominations, and, most important, by simply coming from all corners of the world and thereby giving witness to Christianity's claim for universality.34 Non-Christian delegates were invited for a number of reasons, none of which, in spite of high-minded protests to the contrary, involved a serious desire to learn what they might offer. The stated aim, "To inquire what light each religion has afforded, or may afford to other religions of the world,"35 must be weighed against the chairman's reassurance that "[t]he non-Christian world ... has nothing to add to the Christian creed."36 The aim of the organizers might more accurately have been rendered to the general public as it was to the Christian congregation: "To inquire into what light Christianity has afforded, or may afford, to other religions in the world." After his experience of the Parliament, Barrows, now claiming to know Oriental religions, "both ideal and practical," concluded that "the very best which is in them, the very best which these well meaning men have shown to us, is often a reflection of Christianity, and that which they lack, and the lack is very serious, is what the Christian Gospel alone can impart."37

Quite clearly, when Christianity was used as a measure of worth, not only did other religions necessarily fail to measure up but, to the extent that they did, they were unoriginal and derivative. Anything Barrows admired in Buddhism he assumed to be the result of its contact with Christianity. The idea that a new universal faith, a new religion for the twentieth century, might emerge out of the debate, an idea that Asian delegates spoke of frequently, convinced that they did indeed have "light" that they could contribute, was not envisaged by the chief promoters of the Parliament. They believed that "the elements of such a religion are already contained in the Christian ideal and the Christian scriptures." Their attitude allowed for reinterpretation and reform within Christianity but afforded no opening for intellectual input from Asian religions.

Exhibiting Spiritual Progress

The nineteenth-century study of comparative religion, whatever it may be now, was unashamedly Christo-centric and closely allied with the imperative of Christian missions to know the enemy. The presence of non-Christian religions was, of course, essential to give the event its international status. As Barrows himself recognized, "A World's Parliament of Religions in which only a few were interested would be a misnomer."38 Asian religions were also essential as a contrast: "[S]uperiority cannot be shown without comparison."39 Their presence was deemed necessary to display the relative excellence of Christianity. The difference in the quality of the exhibits would demonstrate the progress of Christianity.

The evolutionary lesson of the fair, the place of each nation in an international hierarchy, was most definitely also to be drawn from the Parliament. Ninety-seven nations participated in the Columbian Exposition, including "aborigines from the arctic circle and the Pacific" and other such materially undeveloped countries as Venezuela and the French Congo. The organizers had decided to arrange the exhibits throughout the fair in categories rather than by nation so that the relative merit of entries from different nations placed side by side would be apparent. It was considered one of the valuable lessons of the fair, Johnson records, that each nation could see its position in the hierarchy thus displayed.40 At the World's Parliament of Religions "each country was, in the same spirit, invited to exhibit their [sic] religions."41 Or as Barrows himself expressed it, employing the frequently used metaphor of reflections of the light of truth, the Parliament aimed "to study all the exhibits in the spectrum."42 The result was that the "products displayed by the United States, Great Britain and Germany were immensely superior."43 Spiritual superiority was established through the dubious authority of democratic competition and scientific comparison. Note that the claim to immense superiority is restricted to the three Protestant nations of the West, explicitly connecting material advancement with the Protestant Christian vision of spiritual progress.

Exhibiting the Exotic

The Parliament was a microcosm of the fair. Its exotic delegates provided the Midway Plaisance component, the object lesson in evolution, the color, entertainment, light relief, the picturesque, and like the Midway, the Parliament drew large crowds. Attendance apparently exceeded expectations as a second hall had to be opened to accommodate repeat sessions. The Hall of Columbus alone held four thousand people and was regularly packed. Newspapers reported, however, that there was little discrimination in the audience's response to Asian speakers, and much waving of handkerchiefs and throwing hats into the air -- more the behavior of a music hall than of an academic conference. Indian delegate Vivekananda's opening words, "Brothers and sisters of America," brought on four minutes of applause and cheering. Vivekananda and the other photogenic and articulate South Asian delegate, Anagarika Dharmapala, the Buddhist delegate from Ceylon, were lionized in the press, but the coverage gave much more space to their appearance and theatrics than to the content of their papers. The Parliament was part of the fair and the Asian delegates were a spectacular attraction. Neglect of more informative if less outgoing speakers on Hinduism such as Manilal D'Vivedi44 suggests that these expressions of brotherhood were what the audience wanted to hear rather than information on Oriental thought. The other question that arises is just how much of any unamplified speech would be heard in an auditorium of that size. Front-row seats were reserved for registered participants. For many of the general public in attendance the visual spectacle must have been the principal satisfaction, and in spite of actually having been present at the Parliament and witnessing the pageantry and the sincerity of the delivery, their knowledge of the content of the speeches would have depended on the press reports and the published record: the voices of the Asian delegates, edited and interpreted by their Christian hosts.

Just how important was the carnival aspect of the Asian presence and how calculated was it? W. F. [William Fairfield] Warren, president of Boston University, wrote in response to the idea of the Parliament, apparently confirming a suggestion made to him in Barrows's letter, that "even a museum of idols and objects used in ceremonial worship would attract beyond any other museum. Models and illustrations of the great temples of the world and of the world's history would be in a high degree instructive. Add to these things the living word of living teachers, and the whole world may well pause to listen."45

William Fairfield Warren ...became a member of the Mystical Seven. He later studied at Andover Theological Seminary and at Berlin and Halle. He entered the New England Conference in 1855 and was professor of systematic theology in the Methodist Episcopal Missionary Institute at Bremen, Germany (1860–1866). He was acting president of the Boston University School of Theology (1866–1873), president of Boston University (1873–1903), and dean of the Boston University School of Theology (1903–1911). After 1873 he was also professor of comparative theology and philosophy of religion. He published:

• The True Key of Ancient Cosmology (1882)
• Paradise Found—the Cradle of the Human Race at the North Pole (1885)
• The Quest of the Perfect Religion (1886)
• In the Footsteps of Arminius (1888)
• The Story of Gottlieb (1890)
• Religions of the World and the World Religion (1900)
• The Earliest Cosmologies (1909)
• The Universe as Pictured in Milton's Paradise Lost (1915)...

Warren wrote a book promoting his belief that the original centre of mankind once sat at the North Pole entitled Paradise Found: The Cradle of the Human Race at the North Pole (1885). In this work Warren placed Atlantis at the North Pole, as well as the Garden of Eden, Mount Meru, Avalon and Hyperborea. Warren believed all these mythical lands were folk memories of a former inhabited far northern seat where man was originally created.

-- William Fairfield Warren, by Wikipedia

Is it mere coincidence that Barrows subsequently invited these "living teachers" of exotic religions? Or that the official record was profusely illustrated with photographs of ritual objects, great temples, and Oriental practitioners? Of the nonportrait illustrations only twelve are Christian, and these are the great monuments: St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, St. Peter's in Rome, and the cathedrals of St. Petersburg, Worcester, Milan. Non-Christian religions are also represented by major buildings, among which is the Pearl Mosque in Delhi, Mandalay Pagoda, and the Temple of Heaven in Peking. There are rather more photographs of "heathen" curiosities such as those labeled "The Burning Ghat at Calcutta," "A Group of Fakirs," "A Chinese Idol," "Hindus at Devotion," and of assorted poorly dressed Oriental devotees. The abiding impression from thumbing through the volume is one of contrast between the cathedrals soaring toward heaven and the earthbound and materially backward heathen. The illustrated history echoed the message of the Midway, the object lesson in the transition from the primitive to the sublime.

The Congress as Parliament

The imbalance of the relationship between the American Protestant hosts and the non-Christian guests was simultaneously concealed and strengthened by the conception of the event as a "parliament." This is a powerful metaphor, carrying as it does the fundamental political relationships of majority government and the minority right to be represented and heard and to contribute to the legislative process, which is ultimately under the control of the majority. The hierarchical relationship of religions, which was the lesson of the sideshow aspect of the event, was reinforced by the lesson of this reference to democratic structures. Christianity, which had an overwhelming majority of delegates, was clearly cast in the role of universal religion, a message also projected by the presence of Christian delegates from such far-flung outreaches as Africa, Japan, and India. Buddhism, alone or as part of the larger Oriental, non-Christian contingent, and in spite of its actual vast Asian following, was here cast as a minority party. The function of its delegates was principally to be present, validating the democratic principle of representation -- this was the World's Parliament after all -- and to illustrate the democratic respect for the right of minority groups to be heard.46

The equality implied by calling the event a "parliament" upset orthodox sections of the Christian community and forced Barrows to clarify the intentions behind his expansive rhetoric of brotherhood. The Anglican archbishop of Canterbury [Edward White Benson] led the objection. He wrote refusing to participate on the grounds that he did not understand how the Christian religion, "which is the one religion," could be regarded as a member of a parliament of religions "without assuming the equality of the other intended members and the parity of their position and claims."47 In response Barrows explained that the term was certainly not intended to imply that the various religions were equal in doctrine or truth. Calling the event a "parliament" in no way compromised the Christian claim to superiority and unique revelation. It was only intended to guarantee the parliamentary privilege of equal right to speak and to present opinions. "There was no suggestion on the part of the Christian speakers that Christianity was to be thought of on the same level with other religions."48

The Cambridge Association for Spiritual Inquiry, known informally as the Cambridge Ghost Society or the Ghostlie Guild, was founded by Benson and Brooke Foss Westcott in 1851 at Trinity College. Westcott worked as its secretary until 1860. The society collected and investigated reports of ghosts. Other notable members included Alfred Barry and Henry Sidgwick. It has been described as a predecessor of the Society for Psychical Research.

-- Edward White Benson, by Wikipedia

In the most commonly reproduced photographs of the Parliament the Asian delegates appear as a handful of colorfully attired representatives contrasting with the sober, dark-suited Christians.49 Their prominent position at the center front of the stage makes the most of their presence, bestowing an impression of religious diversity. Barrows describes the "most picturesque and pleasing spectacle" of the gathering on stage and delights in the "colour and movement" of the Oriental delegates with their "many coloured raiment" and especially the "most gorgeous group," the Chinese and Japanese, "arrayed in costly silk vestments of all the colours of the rainbow."50 Consciously or not, the contrast among the Parliamentary delegates paralleled the planned contrast between the serious side of the fair, the White City, and the entertainment and amusement appeal of the Midway Plaisance.

The Invitation and the Limits of Tolerance

The Parliament, in the expansive terms of the call for papers, was to be a gathering of "the leading representatives of the great historic religions of the world, to show to man in the most impressive way, what and how many important truths the various religions hold and teach in common." It aimed to "promote and deepen the spirit of human brotherhood among religious men of diverse faiths, through friendly converse and mutual good understanding, while not seeking to foster the temper of indifferentism, and not striving to achieve any formal and outward unity."51 Letters of response to the idea suggest that this vision was considered disturbingly liberal by considerable segments of the society, those whom even Barrows disparagingly described as "good bigots who imagine that God will not cease working until he has made all men Presbyterians."52 But even the liberal view uncompromisingly placed Christianity at the pinnacle of evolutionary development that all other religions were destined to reach. In Barrows's words, "[I]t is not true that all religions are equally good; but neither is it true that all religions except one are no good at aIL" The invitation, for all its professions of mutual respect, was to come and be measured: "Christianity ... will assign to each its place in that work of evangelical preparation which the elder doctors discern in heathenism itself and which is not yet completed."53

Hierarchies of Race and the Light

Embedded here are the interrelated assumptions that there is but one God whose plan unfolds in the progress of the world, and his revelation is universal, but unequally bequeathed. "God hath not left himself without witness" was a constant refrain, elaborated on by metaphors of Light -- "the white light of Heaven," "the Light of Truth" -- all implying that other religions are but a dim reflection of the Christian Light of the World. Christianity was "the sun among candles." Christians who "have the full light of the Cross should bear brotherly hearts towards all those who grope in a dimmer illumination."54 The "twilight" state of others was variously explained. In Bonney's opening address we find that "God necessarily reveals himself differently to a child than to a man, to a philosopher than to one who cannot read." God gave two revelations, one in nature, which historically has been the preoccupation of the "Oriental" religions, and the higher revelation, the Christian revelation of the word.55 A scientifically expressed variation on the theme was overtly racist: the revelation was given equally to all but was "broken into many coloured fragments by the prisms of men." Non-Christian races were unable to perceive the truth or to hold on to its brilliance. The white light shone upon them was defracted into the many hues of partial truths, "gropings after God."56 One of the most frequently stated objects of the Parliament of Religions was to "change this many-coloured radiance back to the white light of heavenly truth."57

Acts 10:35 -- "God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to Him" -- was also quoted with great enthusiasm as an example of Christian magnanimity and tolerance. It seems to have been forgotten that it was a reply to Peter's question of whether the Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit and offers only that men of all races may be converted. It has nothing to say about Christian tolerance for other religions to exist. The liberal inspiration of the Parliament notwithstanding, it was a Christian event both in the proselytizing aspirations of people such as Barrows and in the unquestioned assumptions upon which it was based.

While Barrows quite understandably presented the Parliament as welcoming and attractive to non-Christian delegates in the official invitation intended for international distribution, in publications intended to circulate among Christians -- and in sermons before his congregation -- he was less guarded and spoke more specifically of the function of the Parliament in converting the world to Christianity. News of one such sermon reached Japan with serious consequences for the Japanese delegation. 58 Conservative Japanese already opposed to the idea of Buddhist participation at the Parliament were confirmed in their suspicions that the event was a Christian trap and that non-Christian religions, far from getting a fair hearing, would be used.59 Supporters of the delegation countered that such suspicions showed lack of confidence in Buddhism. They did concede that the circumstances of the Parliament, a Christian event held in a Christian country and controlled by a Christian chairman, were less than ideal, but that, properly managed, the benefits for Buddhism in Japan could be profound and that the risks were well worth taking.60

Barrows's sermon focused Buddhist rhetoric on the need to combat Christian imperialism. From the Japanese delegates' point of view, because Barrows had declared war, it was now possible to plead for support in terms of attack. The Parliament was an opportunity to "make the truth known and assail the evil teaching." Employing the rhetoric of Social Darwinism, they argued that Japan must send a delegation for the sake of Buddhism and for the sake of Japan. "The survival of the fittest is the general trend of society," they argued, and Japanese Buddhists had an obligation to the civilization of the future. Evolution of religion depended on competition between species, and among the world religions -- which they identified as Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam -- Buddhism alone is a sufficiently different "species," the one world religion "entirely different from Christianity in nature, organization, doctrine and means of propagation." Therefore, they argued, "the racial contest is between yellow and white; the contest of religions is between Buddhism and Christianity,"61 After years of conflict and rivalry with Christians in Japan, Japanese Buddhists were not predisposed to take Barrows's protestations of brotherhood at face value.

Tolerance: Assimilation or Plurality?

The Theravada Buddhist delegate, Dharmapala, also expressed his suspicions of the Christian motive in inviting non-Christian delegates, admitting that he meditated for a year before deciding to attend. His opening address challenged the Parliament to match the tolerance of religious plurality, the tolerance demonstrated by the great Buddhist king Asoka "twenty-four centuries ago," recognizing and supporting the right of different religions to coexist. Experience of missionary attitudes in Asia warned delegates that this ideal of tolerance was unlikely to be what the organizers had in mind. Even liberal missionaries who showed respect for certain non-Christian religions held instead an ideal of assimilation in "fulfilment." Dharmapala offered only conditional approval: "[I]f you are serious, if you are unselfish, if you are altruistic," the Parliament would be a success, and Barrows would shine forth as the American Asoka.62

The problem was a fundamental one: acceptance of the possibility of different religions coexisting in mutual respect, rather than mere rhetorical generosity. The difference in Christian and Asian views, of assimilation versus plurality, became clear at the closing ceremony in the audience reaction to two speakers, both of whom spoke on the theme of tolerance and religious unity. The first was the Reverend George T. Candlin, an English missionary to China, who showed his own admiration and sympathy for China by dressing in Chinese clothes and, according to the Japanese delegate Shaku Soen, "speaking with such enthusiasm that foam flew from the corners of his mouth."63 Candlin was given an enthusiastic ovation. He encapsulated the liberal Christian project of considering non-Christian religions as partial revelations of the Christian truth, their followers children of a lesser light. Chicago's achievement, as he saw it, was that it had opened the way for a new period of missionary enterprise in Asia. Christianity, which was not achieving expected results in Asia, would henceforth succeed more rapidly by adopting a less confrontational approach, by overcoming the "conventional idea" that

Christianity is true and all other religions false; that Christianity is light, and other religions dark; that Christianity is of God, while other religions are of the devil, or else with a little more moderation that Christianity is by revelation from heaven while other religions are manufactures of men. You know better, and with clear light and strong assurance you can testify that there may be friendship instead of antagonism between religion and religion; that so surely as God is our common Father our hearts alike have yearned for him, and our souls in devoutest moods have caught whispers of grace dropped from his throne.64

Candlin was followed by the Indian Hindu speaker, Vivekananda, who also called for tolerance and brotherhood, but in terms of acceptance and coexistence rather than conversion. The lesson of the Parliament was, he claimed, that holiness and purity were not the exclusive possession of anyone faith. "Much has been said of the common ground of religious unity .... But if anyone here hopes that this unity would come by the triumph of anyone of these religions and the destruction of the others, to him I say, 'Brother, yours is an impossible hope: Do I wish that the Christian would become Hindu? God forbid. Do I wish that the Hindu or Buddhist would become Christian? God forbid .... The Christian is not to become a Hindu or Buddhist, nor a Hindu or Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the others yet preserve its individuality."65

As Barrows observed, Vivekananda was one of the most popular speakers at the Parliament, "but very little approval was shown to some of his sentiments expressed in his closing address."66 It was apparently acceptable that we all have one Father, that all religions are reflections of the one light (shining on different surfaces, fractured by the prisms of different minds), provided that the implications of this were not taken so seriously as to appear to validate the differences. All were ultimately to be subsumed in the One, and the Lord was ultimately to be called Jesus. The Christians in the audience showed by their disapproval that they understood only too clearly the implication of Vivekananda's quotation of Visnu's claim that whosoever makes offerings or prayers to any God makes them to him. For Candlin the tolerance of differences was a temporary stage on the road to ultimate conversion to Christianity as the universal religion. For him the Parliament heralded "a new era of missionary enterprise and missionary hope."67 For Vivekananda, plurality was a permanent and desirable condition.


Although the Christian intention of the Parliament is evident enough in the official records, when Barrows wrote about the event in 1897, outside the protocol of the official publication intended for international distribution, he summed up his vision of the Parliament's purpose even more directly: "Christianity should be choked down no man's throat, but ... all men should be invited to receive it for their own good, intelligently invited to an intelligent reception."68

The organizers of the Parliament were motivated by a dream of universal Christian supremacy that was to be achieved by bringing lesser beliefs to their fulfillment. In their view Christianity was already the perfect religion, and the point of the conference was to provide an opportunity for Eastern leaders to realize this. That their Asian colleagues might just as sincerely view the Parliament as an opportunity for the West to recognize the superiority of their religion was not conceivable.

Barrows entertained his Oriental visitors in the week before the Parliament by taking them to one of his Sunday services at the First Presbyterian Church of Chicago. Barrows reported that the Buddhist delegation, after witnessing two ceremonies of entry into Christianity, a baptism and the reception of three Chinese converts, "reverently listened to a sermon on 'Christ the Wonderful.'" "It appeared," to Barrows at least, "as if the Parliament had already opened beneath the splendor of the Cross."69 The opening ceremony of the Parliament began with the singing of Psalm 100, a hymn rejoicing in having dragged the heathen into court.

Before Jehovah's awful throne,
Ye nations bow with sacred joy,
Know that the Lord is God Alone,
He can create, and He destroy.70

Although this scarcely seems an appropriate choice of anthem for an event meant to encourage religious tolerance and reassure non-Christian delegates of open-minded reception, the reception and hospitality the Asian delegates received were more tolerant than they had expected.71 They had considerable experience with Christian attitudes, were forewarned of the possibility of Christian aggression, and came prepared to deal with it. Nevertheless, the attempt to make Japanese Buddhism acceptable and relevant in this North American Protestant Christian arena imposed certain determinants on its representation and consequently on Western knowledge of Japanese Buddhism.
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Re: Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West,by Judith Snodg

Postby admin » Sun Dec 29, 2019 7:42 am


Securing the Truth

The invitation to participate in the World's Parliament of Religions was accompanied by a ten-point list of the objects of the event and a set of "specific rules and regulations ... promulgated for the conduct of the proposed conference."1 The rules specified that delegates would "state their own beliefs and reasons for them with the greatest frankness" and would refrain from criticism of others. The Parliament was to be "a grand international assembly for mutual conference, fellowship, and information, and not for controversy, for worship, for the counting of votes or for the passing of resolutions."2 These specific rules for the conduct of the Congress of Religions were supplemented by the rules governing the Auxiliary Congresses in general, which Charles C. Bonney proudly described as the "the actual working machinery," the controls under which, the author boasted, "even congresses on labour and religion were conducted with such order, decorum, peace, and success, as were never surpassed and probably never equalled."3 Under the general headings of "Themes, Speakers and Limitations" and "Discussion of the Subjects Presented," these rules controlled what might be spoken of, who might speak, the conditions under which speech might be heard. "By far, the most important of all these rules and regulations," Bonney declared, "was that which excluded controversy and prohibited strife."4

The documents exude the rhetoric of tolerance and universal brotherhood and were frequently quoted by contemporary commentators, the Japanese delegates included, to exemplify the spirit of the event.5 The World's Parliament of Religions was "to bring together in frank and friendly conference, the most eminent men of different faiths, strong in their personal convictions, who should strive to see and show what are the supreme truths, and what light religion has to throw upon the important problems of the age -- the labour problem, education, social problems."6 The Parliament was "a royal feast to which the representatives of every faith were asked to bring the richest fruits and the fairest flowers of their religion."7 "Each representative was asked to present the very best things he could offer for those in whose behalf he spoke, and was admonished that nothing was desired of him in the way of attack on any other person, system or creed."8 The integrity of the proceedings as a serious search for the light of the world was further protected by being "rigidly purged of cranks," and there was "neither time nor fitness for minor sects."9

Although they appear to guarantee a generous and all encompassing tolerance, the objects of the Parliament, which emerged from and reinforced American and Christian dominance, and the rules of conduct of the Parliament that safeguarded them, conditioned the way non-Christian religions were represented. They controlled the discourse, effectively reducing all other religions to inadequate attempts to express the Christian revelation. They determined what was said of Buddhism and what authority was accorded the speech of its representatives.

This is, however, but one side of the Parliament's organization. No less important was the function of these rules in validating the knowledge that emerged. If only genuine authorities were allowed to speak, and they were allowed to speak freely, the event would produce the truth of all religions. This was then to be preserved in the official record, a "permanent record to be published to the world, an accurate and authoritative account of the present condition and outlook of religion among the leading nations of the earth."10 Writing after the event, Bonney was explicit in confirming the authority of Barrows's version: "[T]he Parliament must be judged by its official record, edited by its Chairman, the Rev. Dr. John Henry Barrows, and not by any nor all of the very numerous fragmentary and distorted reports of it, which have misled portions of the public at home and abroad."11

The book, extensively edited and embellished with photographs -- not artists' impressions but captured instances of "reality" -- was the true record of the Parliament. In a certain sense, the point of the Parliament was to produce the text:

"[T] he chief object is to procure the maturest thought of the world on all the great questions of the age, in a form best adapted to universal publication."12 It was the organizers' stated plan that it would become a source of reference and debate, a record for the next century to judge -- and, indeed, though other records are available, it remains the authoritative source.13 This chapter first considers the way in which the rules of the Parliament conditioned the presentation of Buddhism and the Japanese delegates' participation. It then looks at the way our memory of the event was further shaped by Barrows's record of it.

Absence of Debate

The rule of conduct most praised by the Parliament's chroniclers was that "no provision was made for any free debating society in the whole range of the Congresses."14 Johnson confidently identified this as the fundamental condition of the success of the event.

Strict regulations were made and enforced for the exclusion of the volunteer address, and of every form of random talk. The entire time at disposal was allotted to those who were supposed to be the most competent to instruct and advise. Controversy was prohibited and the passing of resolutions of approval and censure was forbidden. The writers and speakers were asked not to attack the views of others but to set forth with as much cogency as possible the merits of their own. The theory of the Congresses was that those who spoke in them were addressing the intellectual and moral world through the medium of the Congresses, and that the views expressed would be afterward widely discussed in pulpit, forum, public press, and private conversation ... participating countries were earnestly requested ... to recommend for the Congress speakers and writers of the highest qualifications and abilities.15

The overriding concerns of the organizers in calling the Congress of Religions a parliament appears to have been first, to convey the principle of the equal right to be heard and, second, that each of the speakers was a legitimate representative of his constituency. The event diverged from the parliamentary ideal most significantly on precisely the point regularly identified as its greatest achievement, the absence of debate. It was this, said one critic, that reduced it from a true parliament to a mere "World's Fair of Theological exhibits with a sort of Midway Plaisance attachment for the bric a brac of creeds."16

For most commentators, the lack of controversy at the Parliament was considered one of its greatest achievements. "Random talk" -- unexpected and uncontrolled outbursts and address on unwanted issues -- arose only on one or two occasions, such as when a speaker on Islam inspired "a sudden and unpremeditated outburst of feeling" by "what was taken for an attack on the fundamental principle of social morality."17 Control of what could be spoken of began from the time that Barrows, as chairman and organizer of the program, read and approved papers. He disapproved of Hirai's first paper, but Hirai persisted, demanding the right to speak. Debate was prohibited under the banner of tolerance and fair hearing, allowing no room for the "malignant enemy of human progress ... that vindictive spirit which finds delight in assailing others instead of presenting something meritorious of its own."18 There was, however, another side to the prohibition. In the control of "volunteer address and random talk" the only questions or comments allowed during the sessions were under the control of the presiding officer, who could call upon the "most eminent persons present,"19 invariably leading Christian theologians. The right of rebuttal of parliamentary debate was denied. Votes of approval or censure were also specifically forbidden, but significantly only during the proceedings, and because, as Bonney explained, the subjects treated were too important to be "submitted to the vote of those who happen to be present." This is what made the published record of the proceedings so important. It was to offer the papers "for subsequent deliberate examination by the enlightened minds of all countries; for unrestricted discussion in the forum, the pulpit, and the public press; and finally for that exalted public opinion which expresses the consensus of such minds."20 The organizers intended that the discussion would take place in forums effectively closed to the foreign delegates. The non-Christian delegates would have no right of reply, no possibility of engaging in the discourse, or of intervening in the formation of its objects.21 This may have been less a deliberate ploy to control discourse on non-Christian religions than a consequence of the extrapolation of Bonney's original vision of an essentially North American ecumenical harmony. It was nevertheless effective in excluding Buddhists from the discussion of Buddhism, from the public forum where they might answer criticisms or questions and clarify meanings.

As a consequence, the Parliament provided Christian sermon writers with a whole set of "straw men" authenticated and validated by the status of the delegates as chosen representatives of their faith and the assurance that they presented the "finest fruits" of their belief. Barrows's writings and sermons after the Parliament show that he at least used the Parliament in this way. Having hosted the delegates and attended the Parliament, he prefaced his still uninformed attacks on Buddhism by claiming he knew Oriental religions "both ideal and practical."22 Under the banner of tolerance, free speech, and fair play, discourse was controlled and held tightly within the confines of Christian domination. There were no criticisms or questions in the one public forum where they might have been answered, where meanings might have been clarified. Buddhists had no control at all over how the information created under these restrictive conditions was then diffused.

Authorizing Speech

One of the most consistently repeated of the regulations was the assurance that all representatives were to be "persons of strong and vigorous convictions who would be acknowledged by their organizations as worthy to speak on their behalf."23 The truth was guaranteed by controlling the speaker, and the constant reiteration of this rule and its enforcement were fundamental to the authority of the record. Nevertheless, we find that the Buddhist delegates were not the only "authorities" to speak on Buddhism. The number of Christians speaking on Buddhism at least equaled the number of authorized Buddhists. Apart from the Christian missionaries who directly attacked Buddhism in apparent disregard for the rules of the Parliament, a number of Christian theologians spoke of Buddhism within papers on the main themes. The imbalance is even greater if we consider that Buddhism was implicated in the discussion of nihilism, atheism, and materialist philosophy (see Chapter 4).

If we leave aside for the moment the problem of considering Buddhism as a single entity, Buddhism first entered into the proceedings in a paper by Professor Milton Valentine, D.D., president of a theological college and scholar of comparative religion. Valentine argued the universality of the notion of God, an argument that required he explain the apparent anomaly of Buddhist "atheism." Other non-Buddhists who contributed to the discussion included Professor M. S. Terry. The argument of his paper, "Sacred Books of the World as Literature," was that for those brought up under Christianity, there was little that was attractive in the writings of Buddhism, which, as he described it, was negative, life-denying, and pessimistic.24 Mrs. Eliza Sunderland, Ph.D., speaking on hierology, confirmed for the audience that Buddhism was a "stiflingly ascetic ethical system." Buddhism, she declared, "neglects the divine, preaches the final salvation of man from the miseries of existence through the power of his own self-renunciation, and as it was atheistic in origin, it soon became infected by the fantastic of mythology and the most childish of superstitions."25 Isaac T. Headland presented an illustrated firsthand account of idolatry and superstition in Chinese Buddhism and the degradation of its priesthood under the title "Religion in Peking." Each of these speakers was apparently "qualified" to speak, in spite of their obvious antagonism to Buddhism and lack of endorsement by any Buddhist community, by their training in Christian theology or the Western science of comparative religion.

Among the Christian missionaries speaking on Buddhism was the Reverend Dr. S. G. McFarland, veteran missionary from Bangkok. While not overly critical -- Buddhism's moral code compared favorably with the Christian Decalogue -- he nevertheless confirmed the atheistic, pessimistic, and selfish image of the Theravada.26 The Reverend M. L. Gordon, missionary at Doshisha in Japan, with less sympathy, spoke on "Why Buddhism Is Not a Universal Religion."27 The authority of these missionaries apparently depended on their firsthand contact with Asian religions, but on no account could they be considered accepted representatives of the Asian communities, and surely the condition of strong and vigorous commitment demanded of speakers by the rules of the Parliament implied commitment to the religion they spoke on.
The prevailing attitude of the missionary contingent was indicated by the refusal of pioneer Chinese scholar Dr. Legge, himself a missionary, to attend a mission conference "where he would be compelled to listen to a continual violation of the Ninth Commandment [Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor] against those who would have no opportunity of defending themselves."28 Legge, at least, recognized the importance of the right to rebuttal, denied at the Parliament in service of harmony.

The Parliament papers were given in three main divisions. Apart from the central forum, supposedly devoted to the great questions of religion, there was the parallel Scientific Section, which was given over to papers described as of "a more scientific and less popular character," and the Denominational Congresses, which encompassed such diverse discussions as the Congress on Missions and Sunday rest. In the Scientific Section of the Parliament, in contrast to the control of the main sessions, "papers were often followed by free conversation"29 and the rules of qualification and commitment were so frequently flouted that they may not have applied at all. It was here that Christians spoke on Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, and every other religion controlled only by the "scientific" rules of comparative religion, a field of study itself imbued with Christian preoccupations. Whatever the distinctions made between papers presented in this category in the application of the "rigidly enforced" controls on authority, they were published along with those of the main presentations with nothing more than a subheading to indicate any change of perspective or authority.

The end result of these exceptions to the rigid enforcement of the rule of authority is that Gordon, missionary to Japan, was given equal status with Buddhist abbots. Barrows himself, summing up the Buddhist conception of God, referred with equal deference to the papers of Professor Valentine and of Shaku Soen, the Buddhist "bishop," and of Dharmapala, the Theravada representative. He ignored the contributions of the other qualified Buddhist authorities -- all of whom addressed the issue of theism. Most significant, this essentializing stance overlooked any distinctions Japanese made between the teachings of their religion and the Buddhisms of other parts of Asia they were at pains to distance themselves from.

Extending Authority: The Solicited Prize Essay

Barrows had solicited papers attacking the religions of East Asia. He wrote to a missionary in Japan requesting a paper on Taoism, the "Demon in the Triad of Chinese Religion: Dragon, Image and Demon" (Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism), offering "an opportunity to present the dark features of a heathen system."30 The paper on Confucianism presented to the Parliament by the eminently qualified Chinese diplomat and Confucian scholar Pung Kwang31 was put against an essay by a Chinese Christian convert solicited in competition for which Barrows offered a prize of "a premium of gold."32

Introducing the paper, Barrows highlighted the fact that it was a "prize essay" -- a paper proved by competition to be the best information on the subject -- and an up-to-date opinion, because it was written especially for the Parliament and had been translated just a few months earlier (May 1893).
As English is presumably the native language of the translator, the Reverend Timothy Richard of the English Baptist Mission, China, one can only assume that the decidedly quaint English in which the essay was written -- "this doctrine is all important, like as the hinge of a door" -- was meant to signal its authentic Chinese origin; that the translator made himself as transparent as possible, taking care not to impose the rules of English grammar on the work. Barrows, as editor, apparently followed his example. The essay did not criticize Confucianism as such, only its contemporary manifestation. It reinforced the message projected by Christians since the time of Matteo Ricci, that Confucianism is a system of civil organization with a monotheistic world view that is not antagonistic to Christianity. It was, however, critical of Taoism and Buddhism, to which were attributed the apparent flaws in observable practice. A third paper on Confucianism by Dr. Ernst Faber, "Genesis and Development of Confucianism,"33 confirmed this general attitude. Faber presented Confucius as a fundamentalist reformer urging modern Chinese to throw out such evil accretions as foot binding, to return to his original teaching, and to learn from the West. Putting aside the sympathy shown here with Barrows's own mission, the point I want to make is not how Confucianism was represented but the discrepancy between the professed rules governing who may speak and the actual freedom of platform and overt encouragement given to critics of non-Christian religions. We should also note how the implication of Japanese Buddhism in essentialized notions of "Asia" and "Asian religions" contributed to what was said of it at the Parliament.

The Rule of Time

The possibility of presenting a coherent account of non-Christian religions was also restricted by the organization of the event. Like all well-run conferences, the World's Parliament of Religions placed firm restrictions on the length of time available to each speaker, assuring equal opportunity and encouraging its speakers to be concise and to the point: "[L]engthy papers are neither necessary or desirable."34 This may indeed be the case for the Parliament as Bonney originally envisaged it, a forum for establishing Judeo-Christian ecumenism in which mainly Christian speakers would argue points of contention within a generally agreed body of doctrine, rehearse familiar controversies, and at most publicize ongoing institutional issues. Twenty minutes, the allocation, is ample time to express platitudes of fraternity and shared visions of the future. It may even be an appropriate period in which to present an explanation of a point of doctrinal difference between denominations within the shared ground of belief in the Holy Trinity. However, it totally removed the possibility of Buddhists establishing the parameters of their discussion.

The Buddhist explanation of their alternate view of the world could not be dealt with in a twenty-minute paper, especially because it was delivered in a foreign language, one that restricted the vocabulary for translation of Buddhist technical terms to either Christian terms or the terms of materialist philosophy, to an unprepared and largely uninterested audience.
Curiosity is not the same as actually wanting to work at understanding what other people believe. A short paper, regardless of its desirability in other circumstances, could not allow the presentation of a total and totally unfamiliar belief system in any meaningful way. Presented under these circumstances, non-Christian religions must necessarily have seemed shallow, incomplete, and no doubt incoherent. The rule of time served to preserve and perpetuate the mystery and apparent irrelevance that surrounded them. Because there was an existing body of Western scholarship on Buddhism, the short papers prevented a real assault on the aspects of Western knowledge the Buddhists delegates perceived as error. Here, again, the organizing rules of the Parliament acted to reinforce the existing construct.

The Finest Fruits

What could be said, and was understood, about non-Christian religions was also conditioned by the apparently benevolent attitude that "the so-called heathen religions must not be judged solely by their idolatries and cruel rites any more than apple trees should be judged by their worst fruits."35 The rule branded non-Christian religions as cruel and idolatrous in its very enunciation, reminding the audience that however reasonable the representation at the Parliament may seem, it is only one side of the picture. The other, darker side remained unspoken but was not to be forgotten.

Preserving the coexistence of good and evil in Buddhism was fundamental to the mission campaign of its eradication. The Reverend Spence Hardy, for example, one of the first missionaries to write on Buddhism, explained that to overcome Buddhism, Christians had to admit that there was undoubtedly much that was good in it. This was because it could not be denied, if the teachings alone were considered, that it had much in common with Christianity. The point of difference to be stressed, he argued, was that Buddhism is atheistic and nihilistic, and these faults outweigh all else.36

Discrepancy between the ideal teachings of a religion and its actual practice was also exploited. This again was a familiar argument against Buddhism. Because Western scholars had created the Buddha Sakyamuni as a historical, humanist philosopher, the lack of fit between the "Pure Buddhism" of their construct and Asian practices was explained by the inadequacy of such an austere philosophy to meet the needs of the people or, alternately, in racist terms, the inadequacy of the people to live up to the precepts.
Barrows, qualifying the representation of Buddhism by the Japanese delegates, concluded that "the oriental speakers were, on the whole, fairly representative of the higher ideas of their own faith, if not of the popular religions."37 His message was a clear reminder to his readers that what they had heard on Japanese Buddhism was partial. While it is certainly true that the Japanese presentation of Buddhism did not deal with popular Japanese practice, the same could certainly be said of the papers on Christianity.

The rule demanding that only the "finest fruits" of each religion be displayed opened the opportunity for the play of comparison between ideal and actuality. This was a familiar missionary practice in which biblical ideals were taken as the measure of existing Asian practice, usually as it could be observed among the poor and socially deprived.38 The paper on Buddhism in Japan by Gordon exemplified the practice.39 His "irrefragable" evidence of the immorality of Japanese priests came from rumors circulating in Christian missionary circles, from statistics of admissions to the mission clinics for treatment of "immoral diseases," and from the rhetoric of Meiji Buddhist reform, which followed the usual practice of enlisting public support for change by emphasizing present decay. One must ask not only why Gordon, as a Christian, was allowed to speak on Buddhism but what place his information had under the rules of the Parliament? Why, also, did it deserve inclusion in the Parliament proper rather than the smaller, less public Scientific Section? And, because Barrows tells us that he found it necessary to be quite severe in his selection and editing of the material to preserve in the two-volume record, why was this paper preserved against all the rules for securing the truth?

Like so many of the rules of the Parliament, this much repeated insistence on presenting only the best of each religion was at best selectively applied. Gordon's paper was devoted to what he believed was wrong with Buddhism, arguing in essence that its principal defect was that it was not Christianity. It has no concept of soul, an inadequate concept of deity, no sense of a personal sin against God, and an unsatisfactory doctrine of salvation. As well as this, he claimed, it is pessimistic, holds women in contempt, lacks homogeneity and unity, and is not exclusive or, as he put it, fails "to command the exclusive reverence of the human heart."40 One would not expect this last observation to be ground for criticism amid the professions of brotherhood of the Parliament. With similar disregard for the much-lauded rules of the Parliament, missionaries discussing Hinduism did not hesitate to refer to sati, infanticide, child marriage, and devadasi.41 These were familiar targets of criticism and, as such, were consequently also discussed by the Indian representatives of the Brahmo Samaj, because reform of these practices was essential to the foundation of their society,42 and Jain delegate Virchand Gandhi, who felt they reflected on Indian society as a whole. The point is that the reiteration of the existence of these practices, even in the statement of their reform, consolidated their association with Hinduism.

We have already discussed the implications of the rule insisting on the presentation of all that was good in each religion. Johnson's record, rephrasing it in the familiar terms of fundamentalist reform, of separating the essence of the religion from "any pernicious practices that had grown up through the centuries and claimed protection under its name,"43 opens the possibility of a further interpretation. Asian religions were to be rationalized in the post-Enlightenment sense of the word by order of the organizing committee. Johnson avoided Barrows's hint of skeletons in the closet but nevertheless inappropriately imposed Christian and post-Enlightenment criteria of acceptability on what may be said about non-Christian religions. He enshrined the constructs of Western Orientalist scholarship, which were formed by this rationalization of severing "pernicious practices," "accretions of time," from Oriental religions to reveal the "true" doctrine. In Buddhist scholarship this meant stripping away all practice, ritual, mythology -- and the whole of the Mahayana -- to reveal the supposed essence of Sakyamuni's teaching, preserved in the oldest texts. Most important for the Japanese delegates, under this rule Japanese Buddhism, which did not exist in any form until more than a thousand years after the birth of the Buddha, could be dismissed as not really being Buddhism at all. This was, however, a familiar challenge to the Japanese delegates, and one that they set out prepared to meet.

Language and Authenticity

The rules of the Parliament specified that the proceedings were to be conducted in the English language. Apart from the difficulty the delegates faced in translating Buddhist concepts into English, there was also the problem of actual spoken delivery, of being audible, intelligible, and convincing while speaking to an audience of several thousand people in an unamplified hall. Dharmapala and Vivekanada, both of whom lived under British domination in South Asia and therefore were familiar with both the English language and Western modes of public address, managed most effectively. This no doubt had a great deal to do with their popularity and their prominence in the press. Malalgoda comments on the importance of effective public speaking in Buddhist revival in Ceylon in the second half of the nineteenth century.44 Buddhists, compelled to engage in debate with Christian missionaries, gave up the time-honored Buddhist mode of quiet, spoken, seated address in favor of the Protestant standing harangue with great success. The Japanese priests had not made this transition. Among the Japanese Buddhists Hirai and Noguchi alone had sufficient command of the language to speak before the audience.45

These problems aside, the more important aspect of the rule was that although the organizers deliberately sought out delegates with a knowledge of English,46 the ability of the delegates to speak English was used to undermine their credibility as authentic representatives of non-Christian religions. The very fact of being learned and understanding English, Barrows argued, proved that they had come into contact with Western philosophy and Christian thought; consequently, whatever appeared to be positive aspects of their religion he dismissed as reflections of the power of these influences. His travels in India, China, and Japan subsequent to the Parliament apparently confirmed him in this belief because in 1899 he again declared that "Christianity has become so pervasive that it is difficult to find scholarly men who have not been touched by its brightness."47

The Published Record

The Parliament generated a profusion of literature,48 but as the quotation from Charles Bonney at the head of this chapter states, only Barrows's edition was to be considered authoritative. It alone preserved the "truth" as generated by the event. Of the other publications available, the nearest challenger was Neely's History of the Parliament of Religions, the only other work that offered a "complete" record of the papers presented. Neely's edition was compiled from original manuscripts supplemented by notes of the proceedings taken by "an expert stenographer who attended every session,"49 whose certification of accuracy, completeness, and authenticity appears immediately behind the title page. Comparison of the two works reveals considerable discrepancies between them.

In general, the papers in Barrows's official edition tend to be shorter and more heavily edited, especially in the second volume where many of the papers on Buddhism appear. Hirai's paper, "Synthetic Religion," for example, is about four hundred words long in Barrows but closer to two thousand in Neely's History. Shaku Soen's controversial "Arbitration Instead of War" in Barrows has been reduced to about half the length of the paper published by Neely. A minor casualty of the desire to preserve the seriousness and harmony of the event was Shaku Soen's opening quip on the sixteenth day, a Congress on Buddhism, expressing the joy in having no one but "we heathen" on the platform.50 Some papers, such as "Man from a Catholic Point of View,"51 were omitted entirely, but then Barrows openly admitted that some interesting papers had to be "retrenched" for lack of space.52 Barrows's editorial policy was not to record the total proceedings as Neely's History claimed to do. He had a higher purpose. He explained in a notice to readers in the front of the first volume that although it is rich with valuable materials, "it would be even more valuable if parts of it had been rigorously condensed."53 The second volume therefore was to be carefully pruned "to furnish a book of 800 pages, in which the gold will be even more abundant than in the first volume." The selection and reduction of papers rested on what Barrows considered to be "gold," and this was clearly his vision of the triumph of future Christian universality to which he devoted his remaining years,54 and he seems to have had few qualms about editing contributions accordingly.

As in the Parliament itself, the truth of the papers rested on the authority of the delegates speaking under Parliamentary protection, but here the image of harmony was even more controlled. Barrows modified the language of the papers, softening views that may have been considered critical. He eliminated contentious language and ideas such as Hirai's provocative call for religious unity: "Stop your debate about the difference of religion. Kill Gautama .... Do not mind Christ. ... Tear up the Bible."55 Although the sentiment may have conformed to the Parliamentary ideal of the nonsectarian pursuit of the truth, Hirai's expression jarred the harmony of the record and, no doubt, would have assailed Christian sensitivities. Violent rhetoric conformed to the image of neither men of religion nor gentlemen of the Orient. The publication of such a statement would also have made it rather difficult for Barrows to present Hirai, as he did, as a candidate for conversion. The purging of discord was again used as a device of control.

Ashitsu Jitsuzen's paper was edited to less than half its length in Barrows's edition.56 The first three pages of the six that appear in Neely's History were heavily condensed. The paper was cut short, avoiding Ashitsu's criticism of Western scholarship and his suggestion that there might be more to Buddhism than the West had yet realized. The paper, as it appeared in Neely's History, continued, observing that although many Europeans and Americans had studied Buddhism, they had never heard of Mahayana and, consequently, "they too hastily concluded that the true doctrine of Buddhism is Hinayana, and that so-called Mahayana is nothing but a portion of Indian pure philosophy. They are wrong. They have entirely misunderstood. They have only poorly gained with their scanty knowledge a smattering of Buddhism. They are entirely ignorant of the boundless sea of Buddha's doctrine rolling just beyond their feet."57

Other cuts in this paper include Buddhist technical terms in Japanese, Sanskrit, and Chinese, and their explanation. These may not have meant much to the general reader Barrows had in mind, but their absence in the record may go some way toward explaining why scholars using this source dismiss the paper as a vague gesture toward the aims expressed in the Japanese.58 With the aid of a dictionary of Buddhist terms to decipher it, the paper appears as a desperate attempt to convey a great deal of doctrine. It was, if nothing more, an indication that there was a great deal of Japanese Mahayana Buddhism that the West knew nothing of -- the "boundless sea" he had referred to -- a verbal gesture equivalent to the gift of the four hundred volumes of sutras in Chinese the delegation placed before the Parliament on the opening day. Compare, for example, the two discussions of the Three Bodies of the Buddha (Japanese: sanshin; Sanskrit: trayah kayah). In Barrows we get merely: "Buddha has three personalities. The first is entirely colorless and formless, but at the same time, it has the nature of eternality, omnipresence, and unchangeableness." In Neely's History the equivalent passage reads: "The Buddha has three personalities, namely Hosshin, Hoshin and Wojin. Now in Hosshin, Ho means law, and Shin means personality, so it is a name given to the personality of the constitution after the Buddha got the highest Buddhahood. This personality is entirely colorless and formless, but at the same time, it has the nature of eternality, omnipresence and unchangeableness. Hosshin is called Birushana in Sanskrit, and Honissai-sho in Chinese, both meaning omnipresence."

Granted the version in Neely's History was probably no more comprehensible to the audience at the Parliament, but by giving the Buddhist terms it indicated that there was indeed a Japanese doctrine dealing with the nature of the Buddha -- that the concept of "Buddha" was far more subtle and complicated than the Western assumption of a human historical figure. Because the target audience for the Japanese delegation was Western scholars, a group that included people with knowledge of these languages, correlating the Japanese with the Sanskrit and Chinese opened the way for comparative study, and perhaps even a share of the admiration granted Sanskrit philosophical works. The effort to communicate is apparent even if the gesture was ineffective.

The significance of radical editing of the papers is also apparent in the debate over Shaku Soen's paper "Arbitration Instead of War."59 It is clear from the introductory passages available in Neely's History that the title is a reference to the opening address and proposes that the various religions of the world follow the example of international law, recognizing existing differences, protecting the weak against aggression. This was a core theme of the Japanese project in support of treaty revision at Chicago. In his closing remarks to the Parliament Hirai returned to the issue, congratulating the hosts as "the pioneers of human history. You have achieved an assembly of the world's religions, and we believe your next step will be toward the ideal goal of this Parliament, the realization of international justice."60 As it appears in Barrows's edition, Shaku Soen's paper is reduced to a rather woolly statement of brotherhood and peace. The longer version proposed that just as nations of the world settle their differences through international law -- a law they all agree to, although it is not the national law of any of them -- there should be an agreed common belief that all could uphold though none need claim as their own. The theme for the day on which he presented the paper, the sixteenth day of the Parliament, was the attitude of Christianity toward other religions. With typical Japanese concern for the appropriateness of the occasion, Shaku Soen put in a gentle plea that the attitude displayed at the World's Parliament of Religions be generally applied; that differences be put aside under the general law of truth.61 It was a call for coexistence in religious plurality rather than conversion.

The Parliament Illustrated

The visual spectacle of the World's Parliament of Religions was reproduced in the official publication. Portraits throughout conveyed the essential message of the global representation of religious opinion, and Protestant Christian universality was asserted by the prominent display of portraits in exotic costume of Christians from all corners of the world,62 including portraits of Christian converts from India and Japan. A distinctively turbaned Honorable Maya Das, who, although not a delegate, was "a leading native Christian," appears on page 30, and on page 37 we find "that earnest Christian, Hon. Harman Singh, uncle of His Royal Highness Jatjat Jit Singh, the Maharajah of Karputhala." The rank of these men countered the accusation that Christianity was only successful among the lower classes of Indian society, a matter discussed at length in the Congress on Missions.

Christian converts were depicted well dressed, clean, alert, straight-backed, in two-thirds profile, as were the Christian delegates. These formal portraits were in distinct contrast to photographs of subjects such as the Brahman Pundits, depicted sitting on the floor in round-shouldered slouch.63 The clearest example of what appears to be a mirror of the lessons in Social Darwinism of the Midway Plaisance was the photograph of "A Mendicant Dervish" (p. 712), slouched, slackjawed, shifty-eyed, and barefoot, a stereotypical "Oriental" in what appears to be a staged studio portrait taken against a painted backdrop and foregrounded with exotic flowering plants. Christianity, the photographs of the converts claimed, was a force for civilization.

Portraits of the Asian delegates in the publication, as in the Parliament itself, provided the exotic, the picturesque, "arrayed in costly silk vestments of all colors of the rainbow."64 The dignity of the delegates reflected on the event itself; of course, these were men who, as Barrows pointed out, had been touched by the civilizing influences of Western education and Christianity. However, the contrast between the portraits of these men and the photographs of native priests, native pilgrims, and scenes of native practice paralleled the contrast already stressed by Barrows and the rules of the Parliament between the "finest fruits" and the reality of Asian practice. The two illustrations accompanying Toki Horyu's article make this point. The first is a portrait of Toki himself, captioned with a quotation "time to remodel Japanese Buddhism" (p. 545); the second is a curious photograph of an itinerant priest accompanied by a young child assistant ("A Buddhist Priest Carrying a Portable Idol Shrine," p. 553). The juxtaposition of the illustrations proclaimed Barrows's caution of the darker side of non-Christian religions, the discrepancy between ideal and reality and, in this case, a reminder of the persistence of idolatry in Japan.

Japan nevertheless fared comparatively well in Barrows's selection of images. Japanese Buddhism was also represented by several ornate buildings and a studio portrait of a "pilgrim" standing before a portrait of Mount Fuji (p. 629). By far the greater number of photographs depicted Shinto subjects, reflecting the assumption that Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan, was more typically representative of Japanese religion than the "foreign" imported Buddhism. The Shinto priest, a venerable bearded figure ornately clothed in voluminous white robes, conveyed the very image of Oriental respectability. This general message of "nonbarbaric heathenism" was expanded by the Shinto couple, the Shinto gateway, and the Shinto shrines, all of them exotic but inoffensive.

The privileging of Shinto evident in the illustrations reflected the marginalization of Japanese Buddhism by Western academics. For Barrows the Buddhism of Japan remained firmly within the general category of later aberrations of the original teachings of the Buddha, even after he had actually visited the country.65 The Buddhism of Japan was but one of the present manifestations in various Asian countries, which were but aberrant forms of "real" Buddhism, lumped together into some sort of monolithic entity as a consequence of this common origin. Whatever was said of Buddhism in whatever form, therefore, contributed to the image of Japanese Buddhism, and illustrations such as those of "idols" in temples in Rangoon and Bangkok reinforced the notion of Buddhist idolatry in which the Buddhism of Japan shared.

Japan's place in the general Western category of "Asian" or "Oriental" also meant that depictions of other Asian religions, especially Hinduism, reflected on Japanese Buddhism. It was, after all, only a few decades before this that Emerson had referred to the Upanishads as Buddhist. The distinction was not widely recognized. Barrows reported that during the Parliament "even the omniscient newspapers were all the while confusing the faiths of the world,"66 Hinduism was represented by its architecture, its icons, and its people. One cannot accuse Barrows of misrepresentation, because all of the photographs are authentic, but the accumulated effect of scenes such as "Hindus at Their Devotions before Partaking of Food," which shows men, typically dressed with bare chest, seated on the ground about to eat (p. 315); of "Burning Ghat at Calcutta," showing a corpse exposed on the ground (p. 173); of sunnyasis with matted hair covered in ashes (p. 329); of "Shiva's Bull Carved out of Solid Stone" (p. 111) -- which incidentally included two men, again "half-naked" in Indian fashion in postures of worship -- was nevertheless to reinforce the "uncivilized," "heathen," and "idolatrous" images of India. Barrows's readers were no doubt as unimpressed by the display of skin in Asian dress as were their contemporary Western visitors to the East. The nineteenth-century West was affronted by uncovered bodies.67 Uncovered bodies were primitive. Other aspects of the scenes -- eating on the ground, public bathing, mass ritual, death unconcealed -- would also fail to conform to audience proprieties. Other illustrations included multilimbed deities such as the sculpture of Siva slaying the Elephant Demon (simply captioned as "Interior of Hindu Temple," p. 321). Such images were still unacceptable to the Western aesthetic well into the twentieth century. Even for V. A. Smith, whose pioneering work Fine Art in India and Ceylon (1911) was the first to grant that India actually produced "Fine Art," they were "grotesque and absurd," "Additional limbs are put on as prescribed, whether or not they destroy the balance of the composition or excite a feeling of disgust at monstrous growths that call out loudly for amputation,"68

The overall effect of the illustrations of India was to reinforce the missionary image of the idolatrous, heathen Oriental, and the contrast between this and the depiction of Japan in this publication accurately reflected Barrows's later statement of his feelings toward the two countries. India was for him "a great banyan tree, spreading out dark, wide, and gloomy, with many of its trunks decayed, a resting place of unclean birds, and sombre with clouds that cover both the zenith and the horizon." Japan, by contrast, was "a wild-cherry blossom, gleaming in the morning light of Western civilization." While his India represented the decaying past, "Japan represents the present and the future, and her brave, intelligent people abound with national hope and self-confidence."69 The problem for the Japanese Buddhist delegation, however, was that for Barrows the Japanese religion that accompanied this positive image was not Buddhism but Confucianism, Shinto, or even Christianity. The relationship of Western attitudes to the two Indian religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, is dealt with in the following chapter, but the attitudes evident in the illustrations to the official record of the Parliament justify the Japanese project of distancing Japanese Buddhism from the Buddhism of the South.

The publication of the official record also gave Barrows the right of commentary. Although the work was ostensibly a record of the proceedings, that is, the papers of the delegates, large sections of both volumes were given over to Barrows's interpretation of the proceedings, his summaries of the most important issues, and comments from a variety of sources selected by him. In these sections he distilled the knowledge produced on such themes as "what the various faiths had to say concerning God" and "what the various religions reported in regard to the nature of man." In his summary of what Buddhism has to say concerning God Barrows referred only to Valentine, Shaku Soen, and Dharmapala, and as mentioned earlier, against all the rules of the Parliament he gave non-Christian authority equal weight with the authority of these selected Buddhists, ignoring other genuine Buddhist authorities such as Toki Horyii, Ashitsu Jitsuzen, and Yatsubuchi Bunryii. In his desire to capture the essence of Buddhism he ignored differences and merged the Theravada and Mahayana. Barrows had the final say in defining what was said of Buddhism at the Parliament.

The Priority of the Text

The Japanese were very aware of the importance of the published record of the conference to Western understanding of their religion. Supporters of the delegation argued the need for the All Sects Buddhist Union to send an official Buddhist delegation to Chicago for this reason. They argued that the official body needed to take control of what was said at the Parliament because this would be recorded and would be regarded as the truth of Japanese Buddhism. Representation should not be left to an independent, because "what he says and what he does will be recorded as the principles of Buddhism, will be published in magazines and spread all over the world."70 It is therefore most important, they argued, that what is said by the delegates agrees with what the union wished published. Once in print it would be impossible to change. The delegates and their supporters not only prepared their papers with this in mind but prepared a number of books on Japanese Buddhism for distribution.71 These were especially written for the occasion and were then circulated among the Buddhist community, published in journals for discussion before being translated and printed for distribution. The decision to publish books was presumably to overcome the limitations of the short papers given on topics directed by the Christian organizers of the Parliament. Delegates also avoided the constraints of the official edition by publishing versions of their papers in Paul Carus's journals.72 Each paper in Barrows carried his 1893 claim to copyright.

Max Muller wrote congratulating the organizers on the success of the World's Parliament of Religions, admitting that it had succeeded beyond his expectations.73 Muller had not attended but had contributed a paper, though not, as one might expect, on Asian religions. Muller was generous in his praise of the American achievement, but in his view the real parliament of religions had occurred some time before with the publication of the "forty silent volumes" of his Sacred Books of the East series. As Muller saw it, the Parliament was a success because the world had been prepared for it through this work.74 These volumes, he declared, were more authoritative than the Chicago Parliament because they contained the truth of the ancient texts rather than the well-intentioned but frequently erroneous accounts of Asian religions in their modern distortions. Muller criticized certain speakers -- singling out Buddhists for his example -- for putting forward statements that could not be substantiated by "chapter and verse from their own canonical books."75 "It was the absence of this authority, the impossibility of checking the enthusiastic descriptions of the supreme excellence of every single religion, that seems to me to have somewhat interfered with the usefulness of that great ecumenical meeting at Chicago."76 The rules of truth of the time gave ultimate authority to the written text. Muller's project -- capturing the real and original essence of Eastern religions -- was not that of the Parliament, which claimed to describe instead their present state, to encapsulate the living truths of the world's religions by having them delivered firsthand by the highest authorities. The authority of the World's Parliament of Religions nevertheless resided in its textual record.


There was a significant discrepancy between the statement of the rules governing the conduct of the World's Parliament of Religions and their implementation. The Parliament was to encapsulate the truth of each religion, truth that was guaranteed by the eminence and strength of conviction of the delegates, their presence and authority, given the fair and equal opportunity to speak, unconstrained by hostility, criticism, or debate. The rules successfully controlled "dangerous" speech, random and voluntary speech. They acted nevertheless to limit what could be said about Buddhism and to undermine the authority of what was said when it contradicted Christian expectations. The rules, however, remained flexible enough to allow the dominant Christian opinion to be expressed throughout. Most important was the effect of their frequent declaration that assured the truth of the proceedings. The publication was presented with the guarantee that it contained the truth of the present state of religion in the world. In particular, it contained the truth of Buddhism as presented by properly qualified "true believers" speaking in an atmosphere of professed tolerance without fear of contradiction, argument, or censure.
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Re: Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West,by Judith Snodg

Postby admin » Sun Dec 29, 2019 7:42 am

Part 1 of 2


Buddhism as the "Other" of Christianity

Buddhism held a unique place at the World's Parliament of Religions. More than any other non-Christian religion it was the "other" of Christianity. Its function was not xenos, the radically different and totally "not-us" of the "heathen," "idolatrous" Hinduism of missionary rhetoric, or of Islam, which at this event remained beyond the pale,1 but that of alterity. Buddhism was recognizably similar, a religion comparable with Christianity, but differing from it precisely on those points at issue in the debates of the time. The crucial issues were the nature and existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, the immortality of the soul, and the contingent questions of morality and ethics. The centrality of these issues to the World's Parliament of Religions is apparent in Barrows's summary of the proceedings. The first three topics listed for discussion were "What the Various Faiths Had to Say concerning God," "The Nature of Man," and "On the Importance of Religion," a forum that provided an opportunity for most speakers to expound upon the impossibility of morality and ethical society without a Christian sense of Deity and belief in the immortal soul of man.2

This Buddhism was not the religion of any Asian practice but the reified product of Western discourse. The very term "Buddhism" is a Western invention. High Priest Hikkaduve Sumangala drew the Parliament's attention to the fact that the Sinhalese were followers of the arya dharma, "miscalled Buddhism by Western scholars."3 The term itself signals the way that Christian presuppositions informed Buddhist studies, focusing on the life of the Founder and his actual teachings as recorded in the sacred texts. The Buddha was the human counterpart of Jesus.

By the time of the Parliament, the preceding decades of debate and scholarship had established and agreed upon certain facts: Buddhism was founded by a historical man, Sakyamuni, who had taught a system of ethical philosophy that had later (for variously contended reasons) developed features of a religion. This Buddhism was atheistic or at least agnostic, denied the existence of an immortal soul, and taught self-reliance rather than reliance on a savior. Both supporters and detractors also agreed that the teachings of the Buddha had much in common with contemporary Western philosophy. The division of Southern and Northern Buddhism was generally accepted. Southern Buddhism was the Buddhism of the Pali texts, associated with the Buddhist practices of Ceylon, Siam, and Burma. These preserved the "essence" of Buddhism, variously referred to as "Pure Buddhism," "Original Buddhism," or "Real Buddhism." Northern Buddhism was the Buddhism of Sanskrit texts and their derivatives in the languages of northern Asia. This was the Mahayana, considered to be a later corruption of the Founder's teachings. Southern Buddhism was "Protestant"; Northern Buddhism was "Romish."

So well established were these "truths" of Buddhism that Western scholars quite confidently corrected Asian Buddhist authorities who attempted to modify them. The Reverend Dr. F. F. Ellinwood, for example, wrote at length explaining the real meaning of nirvana to Japanese Buddhist abbot Shaku Soen.4 Eminent Pali scholar T. W. Rhys Davids also criticized Japanese delegate Ashitsu Jitsuzen's understanding of this key term. According to Rhys Davids, Ashitsu's paper at the World's Parliament of Religions demonstrated "how astounding is the gulf on all sides between popular beliefs and the conclusions of scholarship."5 Western scholars alone possessed the truth of Buddhism. Asian practitioners became "merely nominal Buddhists who know little if anything about genuine Buddhism as elucidated in the texts."6

Little was known of Japanese Buddhism at this time except for the dismissive assumption that it was nothing more than a local bastardization of this "real" Buddhism. These existing Western assumptions of the nature of Buddhism were consequently central to the representation of Japanese Buddhism. The Japanese delegates, aware of Western Orientalist scholarship, aimed to attach to their religion all that was admired of this Buddhism, such as its rationality, its compatibility with science, and its prefiguring by two thousand years the ideas of contemporary Western philosophy. They aimed to correct it where they felt they were unjustly slandered, such as in the assumption that Japanese Mahayana could not be the actual teachings of Sakyamuni; to modify it where they felt that Mahayana Buddhism improved upon the Theravada, as in the assumption that Buddhism was pessimistic; to expand it, because they recognized how little of the great teachings was known in the West. The Japanese representation of Buddhism pivoted on this construct, and because of the close relationship of Western understanding of Buddhism with the debates of Christianity, so too did its reception.

This chapter traces the emergence of interest in Buddhism from the exoticisms of travelers, through the early attempts of colonial administrators and missionaries to catalog their charges, to the installation of the academic construct, showing how the information produced in the early, isolated exercises, elaborated upon and given credence through Orientalist scholarship, became a resource for discussions beyond these limited specialist fields, as intellectual journals and intellectuals plundered them for evidence of the strength and weaknesses of alternatives to orthodox Christianity. Buddhism was defined in terms of alterity to the crucial issues of the nineteenth-century Christian West: absence of a creator God, absence of divine wrath, absence of a Savior, absence of soul.

The point I want to make is that Buddhism, the Western object of knowledge, had very little to do with Asian reality. In spite of the insistence of scholars on rigorous methodology and strict adherence to the most reliable texts, early assumptions about the nature of Buddhism -- assumptions that predate any academic study of the religion, and features of interpretations with explicit political intent -- persisted into the academic period. The resulting knowledge had more to do with nineteenth-century Western intellectual history than with its purported Asian object.

Buddhism of Travelers' Tales

Buddhist scholarship, which in the late nineteenth century was considered to be authoritative interpretation based on a study of texts,7 dates from as recently as the second quarter of the nineteenth century when missionaries and colonial administrators moved into Buddhist Asia.8 Knowledge of Buddhism prior to this depended on reports of travelers and Jesuit missionaries. Consequently, in contrast to the later privileging of the Theravada, the most extensive accounts were of the Mahayana Buddhism of China and Japan. What is surprising is the extent to which preacademic assumptions of the nature of Buddhism derived from these sources persisted and informed the later academic interpretations. Valignano, the Jesuit "Visitor" or inspector of missions in sixteenth-century Japan, was the first of many to compare Pure Land Buddhists with Lutherans and to speak of Zen priests as the philosophers of Buddhism.9 Matteo Ricci, first Jesuit scholar in China, spoke of the degradation of Chinese priests but also recognized similarities between Buddhism and Christianity. Ricci proposed the idea that Chinese Buddhism was a corruption of Christianity.10 The Dutch doctor Englebert Kaempfer, who lived on the island of Deshima in Japan in 1690-91, was the most frequently quoted source on Buddhism in Japan before the 1880s.11

Although the knowledge of Buddhism derived from these sources was not authoritative in the nineteenth-century sense of being based on philological analysis of original, edited texts, these early descriptions were extremely influential in the formation of presuppositions of Buddhism that persist to the present. Dumoulin, for example, traces the idea that Buddhism is pessimistic and nihilistic in German thought from Hegel's reading of early travelers' reports in terms of his own interests, through the work of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.12 Although Nietzsche wrote after a considerable body of work on Buddhism was available to him, he apparently paid little attention to it, depending instead on Schopenhauer.13 Nietzsche, like his predecessors, was impressed with the self-reliance of the Buddha but propagated a nihilistic, pessimistic, and passive image of Buddhism. The persistence of these features through the period of academic scholarship in the face of evidence to the contrary implies that an impression formed of Buddhism by German sources was absorbed into a general vocabulary of images and propagated along with German philosophy. The formation of knowledge did not depend solely on academic criteria of truth acting on a body of authenticated texts but on the circulation of collectively held images. Herman Oldenberg's influential work on the life and teachings of the Buddha derived from Pali texts confirmed these early images in opposition to Rhys Davids's more optimistic reading of the same texts.14

The Buddha as Anti-Hindu Hero

The early British writings on Buddhism in Burma and Ceylon also show presuppositions that persist and inform later academic study. The most significant is a predisposition to favor Buddhism over Hinduism. Eighteenth-century Orientalists had found much to admire in the literature of Indian religion, but when missionaries gained access to India after 1813, public perceptions of Indian religion depended less on their work that circulated through learned societies than on the image projected through mission journals and other less elite publications. Here Hinduism was described as vile heathenism, "the most puerile, impure and bloody of any system of idolatry that was ever established on earth;15 an impression consolidated by works such as James Mill's criticism of Indian religion in The History of British India (1817). Although Orientalists still praised certain aspects of the Brahmanic texts, Hinduism was generally seen to be the pattern of heathen idolatry, living proof of the evils of ritual and a dominant priesthood, idolatrous, polytheistic, and pagan. Hinduism was the "other" of Christianity in the sense of representing the totally "not-Christian."

In this context the Buddha emerged as a hero. Although the chronological priority of Brahmanism had not at this time been decided, Buddhism was recognized as part of the continuity of the development of Indian religion. Scholars argued whether Buddhism was the pure teaching of which Hinduism was a later corruption, or a protest against the ritualism, caste hierarchies, and other perceived excesses of Brahmanism. Both schemes affirmed Buddhist superiority and attributed to it all that was considered good in Indian thought. The link between Buddhism and Lutheranism reemerged, but this time without reference to the Japanese Pure Land doctrine of salvation through faith in Amida Buddha. In Southern Buddhism, the Buddha Sakyamuni was likened to Luther himself for his reform of the excesses of the Brahmanic clergy.

Colonialists were also impressed by the contrast between the circumscriptions of Hinduism and the openness and accessibility of Buddhist priests and temples in Ceylon. Captain Anderson of the Nineteenth Infantry (1843) extolled the virtues of Buddhism in verse:

Where free to range the temple through,
No hallowed shrine withheld from view ...
Oh, how unlike in each degree,
The Hindoo's foul idolatry,
Whose pond'rous pyramidal pile,
What strange disgusting rites defile!
Where crafty Brahmins guard those shrines
On which no lively sunbeam shines,
Where never strangers' searching eyes
Can pierce their horrid mysteries ...
May never such a horrid creed,
To Buddha's simple faith succeed.16

Since Ceylonese Buddhist temples, like their Hindu counterparts, also contain images to which similar offerings of flowers, food, and incense are made, Anderson's preference for Buddhism over Hinduism would appear to depend on predisposition and the absence of opportunity for letting his imagination run free on the possibilities of pagan rites behind locked doors.

British predisposition toward Buddhism was further enhanced when James Prinsep deciphered the Brahmi script in 1837 and translated the Edicts of "Devanampriya," recognized by George Turnour from his work on the Mahiivamsa as Asoka Maurya.17 This anchored Buddhist chronicles and legends in Indian history, making it possible to estimate the date of the Buddha's death.18 The process of historicizing Sakyamuni had begun, and the content of the Asokan inscriptions was used to confirm the Protestant, humanist image of Buddhism. This was, for Rhys Davids and others, Buddhism before it was corrupted into a religion.

The identification of Devanampriya was also important in determining the evolution of Indian religion. Once it was established -- to the satisfaction of some scholars at least -- that the Buddha had lived in the fifth or sixth century B.C., the Brahmanic texts were given chronological priority. It was then possible to arrange the Sanskrit texts of Brahmanism in order, on the assumption that religion evolved from nature worship through to monotheism. This arrangement is no longer as obvious as it appeared to be over the past century. Indeed, the Hindu delegate to the World's Parliament of Religions, Professor Manilal N. D'Vivedi, disputed the scheme, particularly the reduction of the "highly rational thought of the Vedas" to the "outpourings of the minds of pastoral tribes ignorantly wondering at the grand phenomena of nature" and the idea that monotheism is "the acme of intellectual development."19 It was nevertheless fundamental to the important position Buddhism was to hold in the later academic scholarship of Max Muller and T. W. Rhys Davids. For these scholars, Indian texts provided a record of the evolution of religion, and in this scheme Buddhism represented a point of protest. The Buddha was declared the opponent of Hinduism.

By the middle of the nineteenth century -- that is, before any academic translation of the Buddhist texts -- the Buddha had already become a hero of religious reform, a great human teacher, a man of virtue, and a moralist. He was both Luther and the human counterpart of Christ. Identifying him with Luther implied a relationship between Buddhism and Hinduism parallel to that of Protestantism and the Roman Catholic Church. Comparing him to Christ implied that Buddhism held a position in relation to Brahmanism as Christianity to Judaism. In the predominantly Protestant Christian context of English-language scholarship, both schemes favored Buddhism.

The Scholarship of Imperialism

Prinsep and Turnour, both colonial civil servants, typified the new scholarly interest in Buddhism that accompanied nineteenth-century expansion of colonial domination into the Buddhist countries, continuing the Orientalist work of seeking knowledge for the more efficient control of their subjects.20 Turnour translated the Buddhist chronicle Mahavamsa (1830) in his search for the history of Ceylon. Alexander Csoma worked on Tibetan Buddhist texts to produce a Tibetan-English dictionary. Brian Houghton Hodgson, a civil servant posted to Nepal in 1821, produced the earliest informed accounts of Northern Buddhism. From 1813, when missionaries were first allowed into India, these Orientalists of civil administration joined forces with Christian missions in the cause of spreading civilization and moral improvement. As an early evangelist and director of the East India Company put it, British power in India was God's will: "[T]hose distant territories ... providentially put into our hands ... were given to us, not merely that we might draw an annual profit from them, but that we might diffuse among their inhabitants, long sunk in darkness, vice and misery, the light and benign influence of the truth, the blessings of a well regulated society, the improvements and comforts of active industry."21

Although there were politicians, administrators, and Orientalists committed to a policy of noninterference in matters of religion, the prevailing view was that "Christianity is the best known means of producing good and useful citizens." It was therefore "the duty of a Christian government ... to promote the conversion of its heathen subjects."22

The two streams of scholarship, one devoted to understanding the native to rule more efficiently, the other understanding his religion the better to replace it, together contributed to the mosaic of information available. Each remained, however, a local project with specific local objectives. The Pali translations of the Wesleyan missionary D. J. Gogerly circulated no further than the mission journal, Friend of Ceylon. The results of Hodgson's research reached the readership of Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society, but the vast quantities of Buddhist manuscripts that he collected and deposited with various learned societies for translation remained untouched for decades.23 There was little general interest in Buddhism at this time.

Defining Northern Buddhism

Hodgson's work demonstrates a number of the characteristic features of the early scholarship: a desire to know the colonial subject; a predisposition toward Buddhism; and, most important, an unquestioned assumption of post- Enlightenment Christian expectations of the nature and function of religion. To obtain his "scientific" "Sketch of Buddhism," Hodgson presented a written set of questions to a local Buddhist authority who had already shown his willingness to share his knowledge by presenting Hodgson with a "large collection of important Bauddha scriptures."24 The informant answered all questions with frequent reference to Buddhist texts. How and when was the world created? "[W]hat was the origin of mankind?" "[W]hat is matter, what is spirit?" "[W]hat are the attributes of God?" "Is Buddha God, or the creator, or a prophet or saint? born of heaven or woman?" "[D]id God ever make a descent to earth?" "[W]hat is the name of your sacred writings and who is their author?"25 Clearly, for Hodgson and his colleagues, religion was by definition theistic and dealt with questions of creation, immortality, and revelation. It was assumed that Buddhism, because it was manifestly a "religion," could be understood by its responses to these issues.

The article that consisted of the questions and answers, edited and annotated by Hodgson, equated God and Adi-Buddha, affirmed that Buddha is one of the names of God, and consequently that if Buddhism is not actually theistic "they have reduced the difference between theism and atheism almost to a nominal one." Buddhism, Hodgson surmised from the results of his inquiry, has a conception of matter and spirit virtually indistinguishable from the Christian. "Body, as created out of the elements, perisheth; soul as a particle of the divine spirit, perisheth not; body is subject to change ... soul is unchangeable."26 For Hodgson, Buddhists -- at least the Buddhists of the North -- almost had a God and definitely had an immortal soul. To what extent did reports such as this reinforce the separation of Northern Buddhism from that of the South, which was understood to be so emphatically atheistic?

The problem of Christian presuppositions was compounded by the Christian connotations of the European languages of these scholars and the lack of appropriate words to express the unfamiliar concepts of a radically different world view. Even those aware of fundamental conceptual differences were forced by the exigencies of translation to match foreign concepts to familiar expressions. The problem arose, for example, when missionaries attempted to teach Christianity. Although unquestionably committed to preserving the uniqueness of the Christian God, they had a choice of using biblical terms that would convey very little to their audience or of using terms from the local language, which necessarily compromised Christian exclusivity because it implied a correlation between the Christian Deus and local deities. Calling Jesus "Son of Isvara" might have effectively conveyed the sense of his religious supremacy to Hindus, but it also inserted him into the existing Hindu pantheon. Was God married to Uma?27

The missionaries faced with these decisions of translation were frequently also the first to describe Asian religions and Asian concepts to Western audiences, and similarly resorted to ill-fitting Christo-centric terms. Trying to fit Buddhism into English, the Japanese delegates to Chicago complained, was like attempting to scratch one's foot with one's shoe on, clearly suggesting that they found it an ineffective approach to communication. Distinctions became blurred, and comparison inevitable. Later scholars such as Rhys Davids advised against translating terms such as "nirvana" on the grounds that any word borrowed from the vocabulary of Christianity would inevitably bedevil the discussion with Christian connotations.28 But this simply raised the question of identifying which Buddhist terms could not be successfully translated. Rhys Davids himself translated the equally difficult concept bodhi with the English word "Enlightenment," introducing connotations, which, though not Christian doctrine, were no less foreign to Buddhist teaching.29

Translating "nirvana" caused such difficulty that the term was readily recognized as outside Christian experience. The most egregious misreadings of Buddhism occurred precisely in those areas where authors felt confident that they "were in possession of applicable categories of interpretation."30 The Paticcasamuppada, normally translated as the Doctrine of Dependent Origination, for example, was "recognized" as an expression of the law of "cause and effect." It was subsequently found to be incoherent, inadequate, and self-contradictory because it failed to satisfy the expectations of this "law" and consequently became further evidence of the inferiority of the Oriental Mind.31

Failure to realize that not even the basic European categories of religion and philosophy applied to Buddhism led to debate. Was Buddhism a philosophy, an atheistic religion, or, as one Christian critic decided, "a case of philosophy gone mad; for it is a philosophy assuming the prerogatives which can only belong to a heavenly religion."32 The constant was Buddhism's failure to be adequate to Western categories formed upon Christian assumptions. The work of Conze, Clausen, Welbon, Brear, Coward, and others all point to the inadequacies of nineteenth-century interpretations of Buddhism as representations of Asian belief and practice. Their criticisms show how European language, cultural presuppositions, existing paradigms, and contemporary intellectual concerns worked to shape the authors' interpretations.

What Is a Buddha?

Underlying the whole structure of Western interpretations of Buddhism is the question of the nature of the Buddha himself. From a Christian viewpoint, the alternatives were that he was a God, and therefore a heathen deity, or a man, a human philosopher later deified by his followers.33 The work of Prinsep and Turnour favored the latter position, but from the evidence of Buddhist scholarship available in 1854, H. H. Wilson, the director of the Royal Asiatic Society, concluded that the historical existence of the Buddha Sakyamuni was far from established. "It seems possible, after all, that Sakya Muni is an unreal being, and that all that is related of him is as much fiction as is that of his preceding migrations, and the miracles that attended his birth, his life and his departure."34

Wilson's statement directly contradicted the two principal authorities on Southern Buddhism of the time, the Reverend Robert Spence Hardy and Sir James Emerson Tennent. For these authors, though for different reasons, the Buddha was unquestionably both historical and human. Both interpretations can be directly related to their respective positions on the politically charged questions of the relationship between the British colonial government and the religion of Ceylon. Hardy's work is particularly important because it became a basic reference. In spite of their overt political intent and consequent bias, his publications remained the authoritative source of information on Southern Buddhism until Rhys Davids's translations of the Pali texts three decades later. By that time the public discourse was well under way.

The Politics of Buddhism in Ceylon

Hardy was a Wesleyan missionary working in Ceylon in the nineteenth century. His interest in Buddhism was professional and explicit, as he explains in the introduction to Eastern Monachism: "I began the study of the native books that I might ascertain, from authentic sources, the character of the religion I was attempting to displace ... [and] to afford assistance to missionaries living in countries where Buddhism is professed .... I ask for no higher reward than to be a humble instrument in assisting the ministers of the cross in their combats with this master error of the world, and in preventing the spread of the same delusion, under another guise, in regions nearer home."35

This book, the first academic account of Theravada Buddhism, was written with the dual purpose of undermining Buddhism by presenting it as an example of the error of materialist philosophy and using Buddhism to warn against the inadequacy of agnosticism. The missionary situation in Ceylon at the time, however, was complicated by political and economic issues, both of which centered on the treaty arrangement between Britain and Ceylon, the Kandyan convention of 1815, and it was this political controversy that actually brought the results of Hardy's study to print and popular distribution.

Briefly, Ceylon had not been conquered by Britain but ceded to it by the combined authority of the Buddhist sangha and the Kandyan chiefs on the clear understanding that the British government would, in return, maintain and protect their religion. The agreement was, in effect, that the British government would fulfill the traditional role of the state in Buddhist polity. The sign of the relationship was the British possession of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, the palladium of the state. The actual demands on the government were not onerous. It was required to validate appointments of priests to positions within the sangha, to supply small amounts of money for temple upkeep and ceremonial purposes, and to preside at certain ceremonies such as those associated with the Tooth Relic. The costs for the Kandy Perahera in 1840 was £15.19.9-1/2.36 It was a connection so undemanding that the British government and the missionaries could not understand why it was so important to the Kandyans.

But even this minimal honoring of the treaty offended the missionaries and was the subject of Hardy's first publication on Buddhism, a pamphlet, The British Government and Idolatry in Ceylon (1839), which called for the end of this "unnatural, sinful, and pernicious connexion between the British Government of Ceylon and idolatry."37 Arguing from the premise that the world moved according to the design of God, Hardy saw a comparison between the great extent of the Roman Empire at the time of the birth of Christ with the extent of British power in the nineteenth century. Because the wide influence of the Roman Empire had been instrumental in the initial propagation of Christianity, it was clear to Hardy that God had placed nations under British authority to facilitate the conversion of the world. In an explicit statement of the connection missionaries perceived between Christianity and colonial expansion, he declared that it was time to inquire "whether our authorities in the east were carrying into effect the intention for which they have been raised by God to their present anomalous position."38 For Hardy, as for Charles Grant, already quoted, conversion was the reason and purpose of empire.

Christian conversion was not making much headway in Ceylon, and Hardy believed one reason for this was that honoring the treaty gave the people the impression that the government approved of Buddhism. Consequently, he argued that if this government support were removed, Buddhism would collapse. To this end, he attacked the principle of a Christian government's connection with an idolatrous religion. Hardy's move was no doubt encouraged, if not inspired, by the British government's decision in 1838 to disassociate the East India Company from similar obligations to temples in India.39

Hardy's attitude to the treaty was also complicated by the relationship between Anglicans and other Christian groups in Ceylon. With few exceptions, most conversions were for reasons not connected with religious belief, but with the legal registration of births and marriages needed for property title, or for access to jobs in the colonial administration. The state-supported Anglican Church had advantages over the nonconformist missions in the job market and in establishing schools, the main arena of successful conversion. Consequently, the treaty issue became a focus for the disestablishment movement in Ceylon.

This debate on whether Britain could maintain its treaty obligations continued over the next decade, further complicated by a lobby of colonial plantation owners who wanted access to the large tracts of valuable Hill Country that belonged to the Buddhist sangha. The definition of the treaty term "the religion of the country," which the government had undertaken to maintain, was no longer simply the concern of religious specialists but became a central political and economic issue. It hardly seems coincidental, therefore, that in 1850, at the height of the controversy, both Hardy and Sir James Emerson Tennent, the spokesmen and advisers to the Colonial Office for the two main factions involved, should each publish a book on religion in Ceylon.40

Hardy and Tennent had much in common. They were equally ardent in their desire to see Ceylon converted to Christianity, and differed only in their view of how this should be achieved. The source material for both works was the same, and at first reading their interpretations appear very similar. The points of difference are significant because they relate to their respective positions on the treaty question, and of interest because, for different reasons, they are perpetuated throughout the discourse on Buddhism of the second half of the nineteenth century. Both agreed on the original secular and philosophical nature of Sakyamuni's teachings. For Tennent this was Buddhism. Buddhism was a philosophy. For Hardy, however, Buddhism- "the religion of Ceylon," the definition of which determined the interpretation of Britain's treaty obligations-was an atheistic religion that had developed out of Sakyamuni's teachings, proof of the inadequacy of a system without divine inspiration to satisfy human need. Their respective positions foreshadowed those of later debate.

Buddhism: Atheistic Religion

Hardy began his Eastern Monachism with a statement that encapsulated his image of the Buddha: "About two thousand years before the thunders of Wycliffe were rolled against the mendicant orders of the west, Gotama Budha [sic] commenced his career as a mendicant in the east, and established a religious system that has exercised a mightier influence upon the world than the doctrines of any other uninspired teacher, in any age or country."41 By opening with an implied comparison between the Buddha and the fourteenth-century reformer Wycliffe, Hardy immediately introduced two features of what came to be the dominant Western interpretation: the origin of Buddhism as a reaction against the priestly and ritualistic excesses of Brahmanism, and the role of the Buddha as a social reformer. He also fixed him in human- Western-history. But most significant is his insistence that the Buddha was "uninspired." Gautama's teaching was, for Hardy, necessarily without divine inspiration. Gautama was nothing more than a mortal teacher.42

Although these features are now commonly accepted as the truth of Buddhism, it was not so for the Sinhalese whose beliefs Hardy was supposedly trying to present. Nor was it necessarily so, as Wilson demonstrated, on the evidence available to Hardy.43 Hardy's own work contains evidence to the contrary. There is a considerable discrepancy between the image of Buddhism contained in the meticulously reproduced text, which projects his scholarly objectivity, and that of the author's commentary in the accompanying introduction and extensive footnotes that direct the reader to what Hardy saw as the "elaborations," "inconsistencies," "corruptions," and "absurdities" of the Sinhalese. These notes effectively exclude all mythological and supernatural aspects of his sources.

The fundamental justification for missionary activity was the belief that the Christian revelation is unique and exclusive. This was particularly so in Ceylon, where missionaries found it hard to justify conversion on social grounds alone. As one newly arrived missionary observed, the Sinhalese were such "thriving and well-to-do looking people" it was necessary to remember that they were "atheists" who supply the need for the supernatural by "demon worship."44 Hardy and others readily conceded that Buddhism's moral and ethical system was comparable with Christianity's own. The failure of the teaching was rather that the system of ethics was so ideal it was beyond the possibility of most men, "left to [their] own unaided efforts in the great work of freeing [themselves] from the defilements of evil!"45 Without the threat of divine retribution, "the Lightening of the Divine Eye, the thunder of the Divine Voice ... the principle for good in man will soon be overwhelmed .... With these radical defects," Hardy confidently concluded, "it is unnecessary to dwell on the lesser."46

With Hardy's insistence that the Buddha was merely an uninspired mortal, Buddhism became in essence an atheistic system of ethics, and its practice-as observed by Hardy in Ceylon, where rituals were performed and offerings made before images -- idolatrous. The discrepancy between the purity of the ethics of the Founder and the idolatrous practice of the people was proof for him of the inadequacy of an atheistic system to meet the needs of man, and consequently of the Sinhalese need for Christianity. "From no part of heathenism do we see more clearly the necessity of a divine revelation than from the teachings of the Buddha. The moral code becomes comparatively powerless for good, as it is destitute of all real authority."47 The Buddha was a man; his teaching was "not divinely inspired" but "was formed by a man or men, who were liable to err, and have erred, in innumerable instances; consequently it cannot teach the way to purity or peace, or save from wrath and destruction."48

Such is Hardy's argument against Buddhism, and it clearly depends upon establishing the historical humanity of the Buddha. For Hardy Gautama was a man, but, as his opening paragraph suggests, he was an exceptional man. Having eliminated the possibility of revelation, Hardy assumed that the Buddhist religion developed from the progressive deification of its revered Founder. In echo of Protestant Christian belief, the example of the life of the teacher and the words he actually spoke constituted for Hardy the "true Buddhism." The fault with Buddhism, Hardy claimed, was not with the philosopher himself but with the inadequacy of an atheistic system to satisfy the religious needs of man. Whatever the merits of the Buddha's original teaching, for Hardy, the Ceylonese practice was idolatrous. Buddhism was atheistic in ideal and idolatrous in practice. The charge of atheism justified missionary activity; the charge of idolatry provided the ground of Hardy's political action. If Buddhism in Ceylon was idolatrous, Hardy believed, the government's obligation to the treaty of 1815 was "contrary to the Laws of God" and therefore not binding on a Christian government. By Hardy's definition of Buddhism the treaty simply need not be upheld because it was unconstitutional.
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Re: Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West,by Judith Snodg

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Part 2 of 2

Buddhism: Philosophical Humanism

The close association of Hardy's interpretation of Buddhism with his professional and political objectives was paralleled by Sir James Emerson Tennent, whose book Christianity in Ceylon also appeared in 1850. Tennent arrived in Ceylon in 1847 as colonial secretary to Governor Torrington. As an administrator, Tennent believed that the British government should honor its treaty obligation, but this did not imply his support for Buddhism, which he was as keen as Hardy to see supplanted. Not only was the government legally bound to honor the treaty, but doing so was a means of avoiding measures that would increase the power of Buddhist groups. If the treaty were severed, he argued, the administration of sangha affairs would most likely pass to a council of Kandyan officials, an unattractive idea for the government as it would create an organized center of power among the Sinhalese. Under the existing arrangement, as Tennent pointed out, the duty of ratifying sangha appointments gave the government some control over the choice of Buddhist leaders. In general, Tennent's views seem consistent with those of Governor Torrington, who advised the Colonial Office in 1849 that the treaty should be upheld if only as a means of avoiding having to legislate on the relationship between Buddhism and the state, which could only serve to strengthen Buddhism. Torrington believed that by returning to the loose obligations of the original treaty, Buddhism would "sink of itself whereas legislation would only perpetuate it."49 Tennent's interpretation of Buddhism consequently offered a response to the missionary agitation for disestablishment, justifying the continuation of government participation in Buddhist affairs and the political expediency of fulfilling the terms of the treaty.

Tennent shared Hardy's assumption of the historical reality of the mortal Gautama, and his opinion that the modern practice was a degeneration from the Founder's original teaching. Tennent's Buddhism was not, however, an idolatrous religion but a system of rational philosophic morality. For Tennent, the idolatry and excesses of Ceylonese practice had less to do with the failings of the teaching or the absence of divine wrath than with the racial inadequacies of the Sinhalese people. "The self reliance which Buddhism inculcates, the exaltation it proclaims, and the perfection of wisdom and virtue which it points to as in the reach of every created being" failed to overcome the "torpid and inanimate genius of the Sinhalese."50 "The Sinhalese are lethargic and slothful to an excess beyond even the extreme of most Southern Asiatics."51 Buddhism itself is a force for good, a rational philosophy: it was "less a form of religion than a school of philosophy," and its worship is "an appeal to reason" rather than a matter of "rites and parade."52 Tennent did not attempt to deny the existence of ritual and image worship in Ceylon but simply to distance them from what he presented Buddhism to be. They were non-Buddhist accretions, the result of the weakness of mind of the people; a perpetuation of Hindu practice introduced by the conquering Hindu kings; features not intrinsic to Buddhism but "associated" with it over time.53

Tennent's association of the corruption of Buddhism with Hinduism, his frequent favorable comparisons of Buddhism against Hinduism, removed the Ceylonese situation from the legal precedent established in India. Tennent began his discussion of Buddhism with the proposition that assumed Buddhist superiority. Buddhism was either the "original doctrine of which Brahmanism became a corruption, or Brahmanism the original and Buddhism an effort to restore it to its pristine purity."54 Buddhism denied the efficacy of ritual, and "salvation is made dependent upon moral qualifications, not upon the practice of ceremonies." Buddhism "utterly disclaimed" the "supremacy of 'caste'"55 and "exhult[s] in the idea of the infinite perfectibility of man, and the achievement of the highest attainable happiness by the practice of every conceivable virtue."56 Buddhism was far from being idolatrous. The Buddha was "in fact a deification of the human intellect."57

The essential features of Tennent's interpretation of Buddhism were that it is a system of ethics consistent with Christianity, that it does not share Hinduism's preoccupation with ritual, that the Buddha is not worshiped as a deity but merely revered as a teacher and guide. For Tennent Buddhism was not an idolatrous system. Consequently Tennent points out that Buddhist ceremonies are "less religious than secular, and that the Perahera in particular, the chief of their annual festivals was introduced not in honour of Buddhu [sic], but as a tribute to the Kandyan kings as patrons and defenders of the faith."58 This is a crucial passage in understanding Tennent's position. The Perahera is the ritual procession of the Tooth Relic, palladium of the state and symbol of the mutually dependent relationship between the ruler and the sangha in Buddhist polity. Participation in the Perahera was the British government's principal and most visible connection with Buddhism and therefore at the center of the intense debate over this relationship. If, as Tennent claimed, the Perahera was a secular ceremony, and one honoring the ruler, there would be no objection to the government's participation. If Buddhism was really a philosophical system rather than a religion, Hardy's argument of the impropriety of a Christian government's connection with a heathen religion was undermined. The state's obligation to verify sangha appointments was not a religious question but an "indisputable civil right" because, Tennent explained, the sangha was "a clergy of reason" and the bhikkhus not priests but "teachers of ethics."59 In 1852 Tennent was instrumental in framing the Colonial Office legislation that was to form the basis of settlement of the treaty problem, because it managed to reassure the Buddhist sangha and at the same time appease the missionaries.

Although Hardy and Tennent differed on points of interpretation vital to the immediate issue of treaty revision, they agreed on the essential features of the construct, the human historical existence of the Buddha, the absence of revelation, the essentially atheistic character of Buddhism, the absence of ritual or worship in "original" Buddhism. The Buddha had been a philosopher who taught an elevated system of ethics and self-reliance. The Buddha's teachings were a reaction against and reform of Brahmanism. Both Hardy and Tennent dismissed as later developments the mythological and soteriological aspects of the Buddhist texts that were the basis of alternative interpretations denying their essential argument of the human historical existence of the Buddha.60

In the four decades from the time of these first publications to the time of the Parliament, a distinctly Western conception of Buddhism was formed and propagated, and because much of the output at this stage depended on existing sources in European languages rather than on new translation, the impact of these early texts was considerable, and supplemented the influence they had through their direct readership. Hardy's Eastern Monachism was an important book for the American Transcendentalists Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott, and therefore in introducing sympathy for Buddhism to America.61 Hardy also made a significant, if less direct contribution to knowledge of Buddhism through Edwin Arnold's Light of Asia (1879), which went through more than thirty official editions in England by 1885. This extended romantic poem, based on the life of the Buddha given in Hardy's Manual of Budhism, did more than any other single book to popularize Buddhism in the West. There were numerous pirated editions in both countries and the book was translated into several other languages. It is estimated to have sold between five hundred thousand and one million copies in the United States alone.62 Many of the other books and articles written on Buddhism between 1850 and 1880, when Rhys Davids's books began to appear, also relied to a considerable extent on Hardy's earlier publications. His interpretation of Buddhism, born of explicit political intent, was basic to the institutionalization of Buddhism, the creation of the construct that constituted the knowledge of Buddhism available to the audience at the World's Parliament of Religions.

Buddhism: Materialist Error

The next major work on Buddhism to appear was J. Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire's The Buddha and His Religion in 1860, which not only relied on Hardy for its knowledge of Southern Buddhism, but shared his project of using Buddhism to combat the increasing European interest in materialist philosophy.63 For him, as for Hardy, Buddhism demonstrated the inadequacy of materialist philosophy to meet the needs of man.

Interest in materialist philosophy had increased as a consequence of the crisis in religion, the perceived incompatibility between Christianity and the implications of natural science. Christianity in its orthodox form no longer fitted the known facts of the nature of the world and human history. The tensions that had begun to be felt from about 1830 with the publication of works such as Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology (1830-33) and Robert Chambers's Vestiges of Creation (1844) reached a crisis in the third quarter of the century with Comte's Catechism of Popular Religion (1858); Charles Darwin's Origin of Species (1859); Bishop Colenso's The Pentateuch Examined (1862-63); Ernest Renan's scientific rewriting of the life of Christ, La vie de Jesus (1864); and Darwin's later book, The Descent of Man (1871).

The fundamental issues were, first, the incompatibility of concepts of revelation, divine intervention, and the miracles of Christ with the scientific world view that denied recourse to the supernatural. As Renan observed, "[T]he miracles and messianic prophecies which were formerly the basis of Christian apologetic were now an embarrassment to it."64 Second, theories of evolution and human origin challenged the idea that humans were of a different order of being from the animal world, distinguished from the rest of creation by God's gift of an immortal soul. The denial of the existence of the soul undermined orthodox ethics. Darwin suggested that the social behavior observed among animals might be interpreted as an earlier stage of the social and moral capabilities of man, that morality was also subject to evolutionary development,65 but Christians such as Hardy and Saint-Hilaire were outraged. Without the aid of divine wrath and the threat of eternal suffering to deter him from evil, the comfort of salvation and the inducements of rewards in heaven to encourage virtue, man is "thrown upon his own resources" and the moral code becomes "powerless for good."66

Saint-Hilaire is representative of those concerned about the threat to orthodox belief posed by growing interest in materialist philosophy among his contemporaries. For him, as for Hardy, Buddhism exemplified "the fate of man when he relies on himself alone." He states in the introduction that the sole purpose of the work is to bring out "in striking contrast the beneficial truths and the greatness of our spiritualistic beliefs" against "the strange and deplorable doctrines which it professes, the explanation for its powerlessness for good."6? Buddhism, as he projected it, was a demonstration of the indispensable necessity of divine interference. Its value to him was the crucial difference of Buddhism from Christianity on the question of God and the immortality of the soul in an otherwise comparable system of values. He spoke of the Buddha and his teaching with the highest praise-the Buddha was second only to Christ in his perfections, "irreproachable" in the personal example of his life68 -- but only to stress that no matter how perfect a moral code, it is inadequate without divine interference. The principal fault he found in the religion was that "in the whole of Buddhism there is not a trace of the idea of God. Man, completely isolated, is thrown upon his own resources."69 Saint-Hilaire echoed Hardy's position but extended the authority of his argument with reference to Sanskrit sources. In his defense of Christian orthodoxy against its European opponents, Saint-Hilaire reinforced the image of the Buddha as a human teacher, teaching an atheistic, pessimistic, nihilistic philosophy. Mahayana Buddhism was a falling away from the teachings of the Founder; the idolatry and ritual that it had developed, proof of man's need for religion.

Saint-Hilaire's message was endorsed by Bishop Bigandet's Life and Legend of Gaudama (1860) and by Samuel Beal's works from Chinese sources (1871, 1875), but the number of books available on Buddhism before 1880 was not large.70 Nevertheless, articles discussing Buddhism appeared increasingly frequently in journals, both specifically Christian journals such as the Christian Remembrancer and the Church Quarterly Review, and in more general intellectual journals such as London Quarterly Review, Intellectual Observer, Atlantic Monthly, Westminster Review, Saturday Review, Dublin University Magazine, and even the Times. The number increased dramatically after 1880. Thomas Huxley and Herbert Spencer wrote on Buddhism. Hardy, Tennent, and Saint-Hilaire were frequently cited. But before attempting to summarize the image of Buddhism created in the public domain, it would be useful to look at the Buddhism of T. W. Rhys Davids which articulated the other side of the positivist debate. The message Rhys Davids wished to convey was that an effective moral system-a liberal humanist religion-was possible without the orthodox Christian belief in an interventionist God and immortal soul. Rhys Davids used Buddhism to argue that the latest developments in European philosophy, far from being in conflict with Christianity, were the culmination of its evolution.

Buddhism: The Religion of Self-Reliance

By the time of the World's Parliament of Religions, the unassailable authority on Buddhism was T. W. Rhys Davids, Pali scholar and founder of the Pali Text Society (1881). Rhys Davids, like so many before him, first became interested in Pali while serving in the Ceylon Civil Service (1864-72). His interest in Buddhism at that time was incidental. To learn Pali he had to study with a bhikkhu. His first translation, typical of the historical bias of the time, was in numismatics and epigraphy, and led to his Ancient Coins and Measures of Ceylon (1877), which contained an attempt to date the death of the Buddha.7! Moreover, the book that established his reputation as a Buddhist scholar, Buddhism (1878), was not the result of his own translation but was compiled from "materials then available," including the work of Hardy.72 During the influential Hibbert Lectures in which he elaborated the results of this study, Rhys Davids announced the founding of the Pali Text Society, which was to become the vehicle for propagating his interpretation with the full apparatus of academic scholarship. Rhys Davids and his society colleagues dominated Buddhist scholarship until the early twentieth century.73 Their pioneering work in collating, editing, and translating almost the whole of the Pali canon and in producing a dictionary, as well as their scrupulous adherence to the principles of "the science of religions" gave their interpretation indisputable authority within the academic parameters of the time.

While in no way detracting from the immense value of this great scholar's work, it is instructive that the inspiration for undertaking the task, Rhys Davis tells us, was his belief that study of the Pali texts could shed light on the evolution of religious thought in general and consequently on the changes that Christianity was undergoing in the nineteenth century. His aim was to establish that contemporary trends in philosophy represented the culmination of Christian evolution.74 Buddhism, Rhys Davids declared, was "a religion whose development runs entirely parallel with that of Christianity, every episode, every line of whose history seems almost as if it might be created for the very purpose of throwing the clearest light on the most difficult and disputed questions of the origin of the European faith."75

A similarity between Buddhism and Christianity was fundamental to Rhys Davids's argument but so was the difference between them. Rhys Davids describes the shared moral doctrines; the shared concern for charity, sincerity, purity, meekness, gentleness, truth, and love-the humanistic aspects of religion so highly valued at the Parliament; and even the similarity in mode of teaching of the two "revered Teachers." The significance of these similarities, however, depended on the crucial difference, the question of God: "[ i]n the midst of all this likeness, there is a difference no less unmistakable arising from the contrast between the Theistic creed which underlies the Christian and the Agnostic creed which underlies the Buddhist doctrines."76

Buddhism's value was its alterity. It was not the radically "not us" of Hinduism, but a religion that was recognizably similar, differing on precisely those points at issue in the current debates: the nature and necessity of God, the existence of the immortal soul, the divinity of Jesus. Rhys Davids underlined the similarities and took care to eliminate any question that either religion might have influenced the other. The resemblances were not due to borrowing in either direction but to "the same laws acting under the same conditions"77 and were therefore evidence of a universally applicable, scientific law. As he saw it, both religions were born out of reaction against formalism and priestcraft, both owed their origin and insight to a "hero of humanity."

He also valued Buddhism because its texts preserved a complete record of the process of the elaboration of Gautama, the revered human teacher, into a divine personage, which provided the scientific evidence for a similar development in Christian orthodoxy. The similarities in the lives of the Buddha and the Christ are explained, he argued, by their shared humanitarian aims. The similarity in the elaboration of the texts-the miraculous birth, wonderful infancy, and supernatural powers-are alike caused by the similar stage of cultural development of their respective followers and their similar desire to give expression to a deeply felt reverence. Gautama was elevated by association with the Brahmanic concept of cakravartin, which conferred upon him all the legendary attributes of the World Ruler, his life embellished with "hallowed sun-stories" of the "half-converted Hindus."78 When we realize this, Rhys Davids argued, we can see how Jesus was similarly associated with the Judaic concept of Messiah and thus became known as the Christ. The example of Buddhism provided an argument by analogy for the fabrication of the divinity of Jesus and, by extension, an argument against the Trinity. Through the study of Buddhist texts, he argued, we can clearly see the process of elaboration that gave rise to "stories miraculous and incredible"; to the development of powerful orthodoxies with new dogma and new deities; and, finally, to "the powerful hierarchies of modern Christianity and Buddhism."79 For Rhys Davids, Christianity, like any other religion, should be able to stand scientific scrutiny.80 Buddhism was the mirror that allowed Christians to see themselves more clearly. The mythological and miraculous that was no longer acceptable to the scientific world view could be disregarded, restoring Christianity to a place of respect in the modern world.

Rhys Davids saw another lesson to be learned from the history of Buddhism and its lack of dependence on the divine: pantheistic or monotheistic unity will always give rise to "a school to whom theological discussions have lost their interest," to thinkers who will seek "a new solution to the questions to which theologies have given inconsistent answers, in a new system in which man was to work out here, on earth, his own salvation."81 His point was once again that Buddhism mapped the universal path of religious evolution that Christianity was to follow, so that the Pali texts help us to understand "how it is that there is so much in common between the Agnostic philosopher of India, the Stoics of Greece and Rome, and some of the newest schools in France, Germany, and among ourselves."82 Here again, Rhys Davids argued, the path of Buddhist development indicated that the new developments in European philosophy represented the highest evolution of Christian thought.

In this context, Rhys Davids associated the Buddha with such philosophers as Spinoza, Descartes, Berkeley, Hobbes, Locke, Comte, Mill, and Spencer and, consistent with his view that Buddhism is a totally rational religion, spoke of the attainment of Buddhahood as "the crisis under the Bo-tree,"83 interpreting it as a psychological experience rather than a religious one. In his Pali dictionary Rhys Davids wrote that "Nibbana is purely and solely an ethical state to be reached in this birth by ethical practices, contemplation and insight. It is therefore not transcendental."84 To supplement this, Rhys Davids translated bodhi as Enlightenment, now accepted as standard.85 The word comes from the root budh, to be awake, and the Buddhist commentaries explain that it denotes the acquisition of the Four Truths and is identical with the realization of nirvana,86 They distinguish deductive and learned knowledge-the knowledge of the European Enlightenment-with which Rhys Davids wished to associate the Buddha, from this direct knowledge.

The theme of parallel development was propagated in Rhys Davids's extremely influential book Buddhism (1878) and repeated explicitly in the Hibbert Lectures of 1881 (also published) that did so much to introduce academic knowledge of Buddhism to the public. This project did not pass unremarked. To Arthur Lillie, whose book on Buddhism was written to "assail" Rhys Davids's interpretation, "it is very patent from the Hibbert lectures that the perversions of Dr. Rhys Davids are due to his sympathies with Comtism."87 Rhys Davids, like Paul Carus, whose post-Parliament interpretation of Buddhism is the basis of a later chapter, looked to Buddhism for answers to the religious questions of the day in the new study of comparative religion. This, not Buddhism per se, but what Buddhism could contribute to his particular theory of the evolution of religious thought, was Rhys Davids's object. In spite of the vast quantities of meticulous translations of sacred texts, it was part of an academic discourse that had no interest at all in existing Asian practice or belief.88 One of the more perverse assumptions of the "scientific" analysis of the texts was -- as Max Muller, the most eminent of scholars in the field, explained -- that the actual teaching of the Buddha was most likely different from Buddhism as it was practiced. In cases where there is a discrepancy between texts, the text "which least harmonizes with the later system of orthodox thought" was to be taken as the original one, the one peculiar to the Buddha.89

For Rhys Davids, the guiding principle in this process of selection was the assumption of the rational humanist nature of the Buddha's teaching, which could be extracted from the Pali texts. The process of uncovering it was first to establish which of the versions available was the earliest, then to eliminate all that "could be explained by religious hero-worship, mere poetical imagery, misapprehension, the desire to edify, applications to Gautama of previously existing stories, or sun myths and so on."90 It is no surprise, therefore, that the Buddhism revealed by his scholarship contradicts the image of Buddhism derived by missionaries from observation of contemporary belief: "The Buddhism of the Pali Pitakas is not only a quite different thing from Buddhism as hitherto commonly received, but is quite antagonistic to it."91 This was a strong platform from which to contradict the negative missionary interpretations, but it also excluded existing Asian practices just as effectively and with greater authority.

The Defining Debate: Rhys Davids versus Saint-Hilaire

Rhys Davids was of course one voice among the many contributing to the discussion on Buddhism, a voice representing liberal humanism, advocating ration~l, scientific belief. Saint-Hilaire represented the other side of this debate-that concerned about the threat to orthodox belief posed by materialist developments in contemporary Western thought. Though radically opposed, what Rhys Davids and Saint-Hilaire argued was the meaning and significance of a shared perception of the general features of Theravada Buddhism. The features themselves were not disputed, and their repetition in the discussion confirmed them. Buddhism as an object of discourse existed as a core of agreed assumptions within the ongoing debate. Buddhism was atheistic or, at least from the more positive interpretations of Rhys Davids in the 1880s, agnostic. The absence of a concept of Deity was fundamental to Saint-Hilaire's demonstration of the inadequacy of Buddhism, but, on the other hand, it was also an example of the possibility of a religion without an interventionist God. It questioned the orthodox claim, frequently reiterated at the Parliament, that belief in the Creator or higher authority is fundamental to all men. Buddhism appeared to offer examples of many different nations operating on this basis. Accounts of the observed ritual and worship of local deities in Buddhist practice fell into line with either Hardy's view that it was the natural result of man's craving for religion, or Tennent's view that they were merely accretions, evidence of the racial weakness of its followers. Both confirmed the reified textual Buddhism of Western scholarship as "real" Buddhism.

Abbe Grossier wrote of Buddhism in 1795 that "the whole of holiness consists in ceasing to exist, in being confounded with nothing, the nearer man approaches to the nature of a stone or log, the nearer he is to perfection."92 Since that time, absence of a concept of God had been interpreted to mean that Buddhism was pessimistic, nihilistic, and world-denying. As we have seen, this image was propagated by German philosophers working from travelers' records such as Grossier's, and was repeated by the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1810.93 The interpretation depended on translating nirvana, the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice, as annihilation, or utter extinction. The Triple Refuge of Buddhism then became, as Hardy put it, trust in a being annihilated (the Buddha), in a law without sanction or revelation (the dharma), and in the "partakers of sin and sorrow" (the sangha), a bleak outlook confirmed by a simplistic reading of the Four Noble Truths.94 From this position, the pessimism of Buddhism was contrasted with the optimism of Christianity, which offered salvation through Jesus and eternal life in heaven. In opposition to this, Rhys Davids argued that Buddhism was more optimistic than Christianity because it offered salvation here in this world in the self-reliant pursuit of Enlightenment (his translation of the word bodhi, the prerequisite to attaining nirvana), whereas for Christians, this world was a place of probation. Rhys Davids explained that nirvana was not annihilation but the cessation of craving, lust, and desire, which hindered the pursuit of Enlightenment,95 and that nirvana was "purely and solely an ethical state to be realized in this birth by ethical practices, contemplation and insight."96 Edwin Arnold projected a similar view in his Light of Asia. Both presented the Buddha Sakyamuni as a prototypical humanist.

Karma and Rebirth

The other great issue of the period, the discussion of the nature of man, focused on the doctrine of karma and the related concept of rebirth. Karma was repugnant to many because, like Darwinism, it destroyed the theological uniqueness of the human species. All life belonged to the same interdependent continuum within samsara. Not only was there no immortal soul, but a human might be reborn as a beast. For others, however, it offered a view of the human position in the world that was compatible with evolutionary theory, "an anticipatory Asiatic Darwinism."97 The doctrine of codependent origination (paticcasamuppada), which explained the basis for moral action, also offered an explanation of the human condition that did not rely on an interventionist deity. This was the subject of Shaku Soen's paper at Chicago. While argument continued over the implications of the Buddhist notion of the nature of man, reflecting the community's ambiguous feelings about nineteenth-century developments, the debate confirmed the premise that Buddhism had a great deal in common with "the latest speculations among ourselves."

Buddhism: Northern Decadence

An agreed feature of Buddhism-one most significant for the Japanese delegation- was that Mahayana or Northern Buddhism was a decadent development of real Buddhism. For Rhys Davids the Buddhism of "Nepal, Tibet, China, Japan and Mongolia" is "exceedingly interesting, and very valuable from the similarity it bears to the development that has taken place in Christianity in Roman Catholic countries."98 That is, it confirmed his thesis of religious evolution. It was the result of "the overpowering influence of sickly imaginations." As theories grew and flourished, filling the sky with "forgeries of the brain ... the nobler lessons of the founder of the religion were smothered beneath the glittering mass of metaphysical subtleties," It was not just a falling away, but a fetid growth, the negation of the real teaching: "As the stronger side of Gautama's teachings were neglected, the debasing belief in rites and ceremonies, and charms and incantations, which had been the special object of his scorn, began to live again, and to grow vigorously, and spread like the Birana weed warmed by the tropical sun in marsh and muddy soil."99

Max Muller's apologetic introduction to the first Mahayana texts published in his Sacred Books of the East series, Takakusu Junjiro's translation of the Amitayur-Dhyana-Sutra,100 testifies to the strength and persistence of these attitudes at the time of the World's Parliament of Religions. Muller was "so much disappointed with the contents of the Sutra, that [he] hesitated for some time whether [he] ought to publish it," and only decided to do so at the persuasion of his "friends in Japan" and his own respect for the truth "that nothing should be suppressed that might lead us to form a judgement of Buddhism in its Mahayana dress, as professed by millions in China and Japan." The main value of the work in his view was not the teaching itself but that the Chinese translations could be dated "with considerable accuracy" and therefore act as "a new sheet-anchor in the chronology of Sanskrit literature."101

Muller's denigration of the Mahayana only confirms what one could deduce from his attitude to the highly trained and specially selected Japanese priests sent to study with him. Instead of seeing their presence at Oxford as a unique opportunity to expand the scope of his study of religion into a new area, he wanted only their skill in reading Chinese. Nanjo Bun'yu, the first Japanese priest sent by the Nishi Honganji to study Sanskrit with Muller in 1876, was put to work cataloging the Chinese Tripitaka in the India Office library, again principally for its value in dating Sanskrit literature.102 For Muller, Mahayana Buddhism was simply beyond the pale. Japanese Buddhism was "a corruption of the pure doctrine of the Royal Prince" depending on the "degraded and degrading Mahayana tracts ... the silly and mischievous stories of Amitabha and his Paradise."103 In his opinion, "[1]f the Japanese really mean to be Buddhists, they should return to the words of the Buddha as they are preserved to us in the old sutras." He saw himself helping them along this path.104

Figure 9. A Buddhist temple (MacFarlane, Japan, 203)

Max Muller was not alone in his disdain. Western publications on Japan which included descriptions of the religion of the country appeared from mid-nineteenth century, but all reproduced the assumptions of existing Western scholarship, relying most particularly on the early seventeenth-century observations of Kaempfer. Charles MacFarlane's Japan: An Account, Geographical and Historical, published in 1852, was typical, compiled, the author tells us, from "a critical assessment" of existing European-language sources.105 The accompanying illustration (fig. 9) encapsulated expectations of the as yet secluded country. Japan in this vision is composed of elements borrowed from depictions of China. Note, for example, the hairstyle of the native and the roofline of the buildings. The exotic vegetation is more typical of tropical Asia -- stereotypical Asia, the Asia of Rhys Davids's Birana weed -- than of temperate Japan. Japan was a land of heathens prostrated before a multilimbed idol.

What is more remarkable than the image presented by McFarlane prior to the opening of the country to Westerners is the absence of new material on Japanese religion afterward, particularly given the number of missionaries who flocked to Japan.106 Nothing of significance was published until William Elliot Griffis's The Mikado's Empire in 1876, and although it included valuable observations on the social and institutional state of Buddhism at that time, the strength of the temples and their reform activity, it did not add any information on doctrine or teaching, which was still assumed to be essentially "pure" Buddhism smothered under unnecessary elaboration and local custom.107

Griffis's account of Japanese Buddhism is typical. It combined Orientalist scholarship on Pali Buddhism -- its seventeen-page section on the subject began with an unattributed quotation from one of the standard works on the Theravada construct-with his own experience in Japan. On the one hand, he offered that the "three great distinguishing characteristics of Buddhism are atheism, metempsychosis, and absence of caste,"108 a definition that clearly placed Japanese Buddhism back in the Orientalist field of the evolution of Brahmanism, but, he added, with some perspicacity, "the popular Buddhism of Japan, at least is not the bare scheme of philosophy which foreign writers seem to think it is."109 He described two of the Japanese sects, the Nichiren, "the Ranters of Japan," and the Jodoshinshii, using both to demonstrate the futility of the Christian project of conversion in Japan. Followers of the Nichiren sect, "the most vigorous and persistent" opponents to conversion, could not be converted, he predicted, because of the characteristics they shared with Christians, the "intolerance and bigotry" due to "the precision, directness and exclusiveness of the teachings of their master."110 The Jodoshinshu, on the other hand, did not need to be converted. They were "the Protestants of Japanese Buddhism." Their highly educated priests marry and live among the people, teaching in the vernacular. They "tabooed" penance, fasting, amulets, and charms. They taught salvation through faith.111 Jodoshinshu was already, "in a word, Protestantism in its pure sense."112

Once published, Griffis's work quickly became the standard and was quoted by later writers such as Reed (1880).113 Reed also began with an introduction to Buddhism from Western Orientalists, equating Japanese Buddhism with the Buddhism of Western scholarship, but his book was distinguished by its inclusion of the first attempts by a Japanese Buddhist to intervene in the Western discourse: a history of Buddhism in Japan composed from Japanese texts, and a summary of the principles of the Jodoshinshu faith. These were both translated by the Nishi Honganji priest, Akamatsu Renjo, who had traveled to England in 1873, "preparing the way," Reed commented provocatively, "for the conversion of Europe to the Shinshu faith." The Japanese vision of Buddhist universality and of Buddhist fulfillment of Christianity predated the World's Parliament of Religions by at least two decades.114 There were Western scholars who studied Japanese Buddhism for personal interest, but who did not publish until much later. Most important among these are the Americans Ernest Fenollosa and William Sturgis Bigelow, who studied Tendai together under Abbot Sakurai Keitoku of Miidera. The work of Griffis, Reed, and Akamatsu did not impinge on academic knowledge. Although Reed and Griffis added local color and observed detail to images of Japanese Buddhism, they perpetuated the assumption that Buddhism in Japan, as elsewhere, was essentially that of the Western construct, which was by this time well established. They confirmed its alterity with Christianity.


Once introduced to the domain of public interest, Buddhism was defined through its participation in discursive contests of essentially Western concern. For all the positivist emphasis on the authority of original texts, what was widely accepted as Buddhism depended less on the results of the labors of translation than on a more general discussion. This is apparent in the persistence of images from travelers' tales "confirmed" by the selective use of sources in the face of equally plausible possibilities. It was most significant in the period leading up to the formation of the Pali Text Society when Buddhism was discussed in writings from Sherlock Holmes to Spencer. The role it played here persisted in the prefaces, introductory essays, and footnotes to the classical works of translation, Max Muller's Sacred Books of the East series and the volumes of the Pali Text Society, and helped determine which texts would be translated and given prominence. How many people read Buddhist texts in translation? How many more were content to read only the interpretations that accompanied them, or the more popular articles of scholars such as Max Muller and Rhys Davids, where they, too, related Buddhism to the concerns of the times? It was these interpretations that were further disseminated through repetition in the popular travel books of the late nineteenth century.

Buddhism, as it was known in the West, was thoroughly imbued with Western preoccupations and presuppositions. The term "Buddhism," following the analogy of Christianity's relation to Christ, implied an essential interdependence between the validity of the religion and the historical existence of its founder, a stress at odds with the Asian focus on the arya dharma, the teaching, rather than the teacher. From the earliest known records, the Buddha in India was not considered to be a Founder but one of a series of Buddhas who appear in the world to revive the dharma. This fundamental fact of Buddhism was recorded by Hardy in his translation of Sinhalese sources and by Rhys Davids's translations of Pali sutras and is evident in the stone sculptures of Sanchi (first century B.C.). The association of the Buddha and the Christ is nevertheless indicative of the role Buddhism played in late nineteenth-century Western thought. More than any other non-Christian religion, Buddhism was the "other" of Christianity. A crucial factor in this was, paradoxically, a perceived similarity with Christianity: even the most dedicated Christian missionaries found it difficult to criticize on moral grounds. Buddhism had an effective ethical system that, they admitted, compared well with their own, a shared sense of humanitarian ethics. The significant "other," the external against which one defines oneself, is not simply radically different but also similar enough to make effective comparison. Within a general frame of similarity, the self and other differ on the essential points of definition. Buddhism was discussed, and thereby defined, in terms of absence of soul, absence of a creator God, absence of divine wrath, absence of a Savior. Buddhism as the "other" of Christianity reflected the "diseased," discarded, disowned, or disputed parts of the nineteenth-century Christian self. It therefore occupied a unique place in the Christian exhibition, the World's Parliament of Religions.
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Re: Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West,by Judith Snodg

Postby admin » Sun Dec 29, 2019 7:46 am

Part 1 of 2


The Japanese Buddhist delegates did not enter the arena of the World's Parliament of Religions as naive innocents passively fulfilling the role assigned them by the conference organizers. The delegates were all active in Meiji Buddhist reform and went to Chicago as part of their ongoing campaign for the revitalization of Buddhism, welcoming the invitation to participate in spite of their realistic assessment of the Christian limitations of the event. These, they believed, would be outweighed by the opportunities it offered.1 The Buddhism they presented was "Eastern Buddhism," a repackaging for a Western audience of shin bukkyo,2 a philosophical, rationalized, and socially committed interpretation of Buddhism that emerged from the restructuring of Buddhism and its role in Japanese society necessitated by the religious policy of early Meiji government. Shin bukkyo was the New Buddhism of Japanese modernity, formed in an intellectual climate in which the West was recognized as both model and measure of modernity; shaped and promoted in reference to the West. Taking it to Chicago was an extension of earlier episodes in this process, as will be discussed in later chapters. First, it is necessary to sketch the development of Meiji Buddhism, showing how the conditions of the formation of shin bukkyo created an interpretation of Buddhism well prepared to meet the challenges of this celebration of Protestant Christian supremacy. The chapter concludes with a brief account of the events of the Meiji Twenties that provided the opportunity to bring shin bukkyo to popular notice through an emerging nationalist movement, contextualizing the following chapters and establishing my claim that the delegation to Chicago was simultaneously a strategic intervention in both the Western discourse on Buddhism and in the Japanese contest for the religious identity of the modern nation.

Domestic Crisis and Criticism

Neither reform nor revival adequately describes the processes of the formation of Meiji Buddhism. It was not a matter of restoring purity or breathing new life into a tired, neglected, or degraded tradition but of total redefinition of the institutions and their relationship to the state and to the lay community.3 The attempt of the early Meiji government to create a united Japanese state centered on the divinity of the emperor through the construction of State Shinto had cast Buddhism as a foreign religion, a pollution, inimical to the Japanese mind. The radical separation of Shinto and Buddhism after more than a thousand years of syncretic coexistence forced a redefinition of Buddhism.4

Buddhism's problems did not begin with the Meiji Restoration. It had been under intellectual attack from various quarters during the Tokugawa period. The strongest opposition came from nativist scholars whose pursuit of the original, undefiled Japanese spirit rejected all foreign influences and, with them, Buddhism. In strongly nativist areas this had led to persecution of Buddhism and attempts to eliminate temples. In the Mito domain, for example, Buddhism had been severely regulated in the mid-seventeenth century and again in the 1840s. Ketelaar argues that the pattern established by Mito served as a model for the post-1868 persecutions, such as the complete elimination of Buddhist institutions from Satsuma between 1868 and 1870.5

If Mito provided the ideological paradigm for Buddhist persecution, the Satsuma example demonstrated its economic logic and the extent of the threat. In Satsuma, temple landholdings represented an independent income of fifteen thousand koku. Their metal wealth was several hundred thousand ryo. Their support drained ten thousand koku from the domain. The destruction of Buddhism redirected all of this to domain coffers.6 Priests forcibly returned to the lay community increased both the labor force and the taxes collectable from it. Young priests under eighteen were returned to their families, those eighteen to forty-five years of age were drafted into the new conscription army, and those over forty-five became teachers in the domain schools. The temple buildings themselves were used to house soldiers. Temple bells and metal sculptures were converted to cannon. Satsuma had Japan's first large blast furnace and was a leading domain in the production of military hardware.

By the mid-nineteenth century, a time of economic hardship and external threat, Buddhism was resented for its privileged and protected position and for the burden its support placed on the domains and people. As support for the bakufu government waned, the administrative association between Buddhist temples and the Tokugawa regime provided an opening for anti-bakufu rhetoric to spill over into anti-Buddhist sentiment. The national program of defense against Western imperialism, fukoku kyohei -- building a wealthy nation with a strong army -- provided a utilitarian justification for a strong anti-Buddhist stance. The coincidence of difficult economic conditions, the introduction of scientific rationality, and the political insecurity of the times presented an opportunity for nativist leaders to act out their anti-Buddhist rhetoric, to eliminate what nativist ideology had designated the "foreign religion," the "evil heresy." Pragmatists argued that the nation would be better served by melting the temple bells and images to make cannon and by conscripting the priests into secular activities. Priests who learned a "useful trade" contributed to the prosperity of the nation. Others, it was apparently considered, did not.

The consequent persecution of Buddhism that had begun in domains such as Satsuma gained official sanction when the Meiji Restoration placed prominent anti-Buddhists in positions of power.? Following the models of Tokugawa nativist scholars such as Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801) and Hirata Atsutane (1776- 1843), separation edicts (bunri rei) were issued, ordering the radical separation of Shinto and Buddhism (shimbutsu bunri), and officially ended the syncretism of the two religions. Although the government disclaimed any intention of destroying Buddhism, the implementation of the separation, particularly in those domains where anti-Buddhist attitudes were strong, presented an opportunity to vent anti-Buddhist feelings and developed into haibutsu kishaku, an attempt to eradicate Buddhism.8 As a result, Buddhist institutions had entered the Meiji period devastated by persecution, confiscation of property, withdrawal of patronage, forced retrenchment of a large part of their clergy and stripped of the connection with the state that they had enjoyed for over a thousand years. The Meiji restructure of Buddhism took place in response to these extensive institutional, economic, political, and social upheavals.

Focal issues of the anti-Buddhist rhetoric were that it was a foreign religion, that it was not taught by the Buddha, that its cosmology and sacred texts were irrational and inconsistent with the findings of science, and that it was an anachronistic vestige of the past, of no benefit to modern society. The overlap between these criticisms and those leveled at Buddhism in the Western discourse is clear, as is the shared vulnerability of Buddhism and orthodox Christianity to the rational, scientific measure of truth. By responding to these issues of domestic attack, Japanese Buddhism was prepared to refute criticisms leveled at it in Chicago.

Buddhist reformers countered the nativist charge that Buddhism was un- Japanese by extolling Buddhist universality. It was not simply an Indian and therefore foreign religion, they argued, but one that applied to all people at all times and in all places. Although their need was to establish that Buddhism was, therefore, an appropriate religion for modern Japan, this was a message readily transported to the Christian arena of the World's Parliament of Religions. Reformers responded to the domestic charge that Buddhism was an irrelevant burden on modern society by promoting philanthropic works. By 1893, through this program and an accompanying reinterpretation of the bodhisattva ideal that established commitment to social welfare within the Buddha's teachings, shin bukkyo was equipped to refute the dismissive Western characterization of Buddhism as "otherworldly," concerned only with the future life and not with the living world.

Seeking Knowledge Abroad

The Meiji restructure of Buddhism might be dated from the formation of the transsectarian Association of Buddhist Sects (Shoshu kaimei) in 1869.9 The association's proposals for reform indicated the two main areas of concern: to establish a new relationship between Buddhism and the state, and to redefine Buddhism to meet the needs of the modern nation. Along with the conventional reform demands for "expurgation of evil habits" and exhortation of sects to return to their doctrines and texts, the association called for "the establishment of a new type of school to produce men of ability," the founding of Buddhist colleges, the "encouragement of popular education," and the "discovery of new ways to use exceptionally qualified priests."10

Buddhist institutions followed the Meiji Charter Oath in seeking knowledge from abroad to strengthen the nation. Both the Nishi Honganji, which had strong links with the government through its support of the Restoration effort, and the Higashi Honganji sent delegations abroad as early as 1873, the fifth year of the Meiji era. Among the first priests to travel abroad were Shimaji Mokurai and Akamatsu Renjo, prominent throughout this history of the delegation to Chicago. The Nishi Honganji had hoped to send Shimaji with the Iwakura mission in 1871 to observe the condition and techniques of religion in the West in the same way that other high-ranking experts in various fields of endeavor were to gather firsthand knowledge of their portfolios.11 The mission was characterized by a pragmatic recognition of Western superiority in many areas Japan wished to develop and an accompanying realistic evaluation of the folly of trying to impose inappropriate aspects of Western culture on Japan. When Shimaji did make his journey to the West, he gathered information for the modernization of Buddhism but also bought -- and later translated -- Henry Ball's Self Contradictions in Christianity and Renan's Life of Christ. He published a refutation of Christianity, "New Thoughts on the Resurrection," in 1875.12 The study of Christianity was not new. In 1867-68 the Honganji sent twenty priests to study with missionaries in Nagasaki and report on their activities, and Christianity was incorporated into the curriculum of the Honganji seminaries in 1868.13 By the 1870s, however, the object was less to gain doctrinal knowledge of Christianity than to see how it functioned within Western societies. The enemy was already familiar. The object was to discover the basis of its success in society, to learn from its example.

This was also part of the brief for the Buddhist priests, Kasawara Kenju (1852-83) and Nanjo Bun'yo. (1849-1927), who were sent to study with Max Muller in 1876. They arrived at Oxford in 1879 after three years in London studying English, and, as Muller recalled, their command of the language was still so rudimentary that "at first they could hardly explain to me what their real object was in coming all the way from Japan to Oxford, and their progress was so slow that I sometimes despaired of their success."14 Indeed, one might wonder if Muller ever did discover their purpose: he consoled himself with the thought that by training these priests he was assisting Japanese Buddhists to adopt the Western Theravada construct, to "return to the words of the Buddha as they are preserved to us in the old texts."15 He wrote to Takakusu Junjiro that he had gladly given of his time "in the hope that a truly scholarlike study of Buddhism may be revived in Japan, and that your countrymen may in time be enabled to form a more intelligent and historical conception of the great reformer of the ancient religion of India."16 Even when condescending to a pupil, Muller could not bring himself to concede any value to Mahayana Buddhism.

In spite of Professor Muller's assumption that the Japanese priests had come to him to learn what Buddhism was really about, their brief was to observe the Western religion in its modern social context, and to study the science of religion, the philological a,nd historical techniques of Orientalist scholarship. These were to be used to present Japanese Buddhism in a manner acceptable by the standards of Western scholarship, and therefore acceptable to the Western-educated elite of Japan. Mastering Sanskrit and Pali was part of this process, the essential return to original texts that characterized acceptable practice. Nanjo established a place for himself in Western Oriental scholarship with his Catalogue of the Chinese Translation of the Buddhist Tripitaka (1883).17 Philological training eventually produced the collected and edited publication of the canon and compendiums of Buddhist knowledge, which began to appear from the turn of the century. Nanjo Bun'yu's Bukkyo seiten appeared in 1905 and volumes in Takakusu Junjiro's definitive edition of the canon from 1924.18

Of more immediate importance in these early years of Buddhist restructuring and for the delegation to Chicago was that through such students (these were only the first) Japanese Buddhist scholars obtained entry to the Western discourse on modern religion, in both its Christian and Orientalist aspects. By participating at the highest levels of Western academia, the Japanese priests obtained academic credentials and access to appropriate Western academic societies. They contributed to these societies as full members with appropriate Western training, and were listened to and taken seriously within professional circles, their interpretations validated by the same processes as those of Western authorities. The full value of this postdated the Parliament. Takakusu ("M.A. Litt. D. Ph.D. and W.S.") presented a paper to the Japan Society, London, speaking as an authority among peers, and his paper, published with the legitimation of the society, circulated among experts in the field.19 Asian voices contributed to the Western academic discourse on Buddhism, and through their participation in the legitimating processes of Western academia Japanese scholars managed to maintain considerable control over Japanese Buddhist studies.20

Membership in academic societies was also part of the information-gathering exercise. Biblical criticism provided both a weapon against Christianity and a guide for Buddhist reform. Most significant, however, was the knowledge they gained of developments in both Western Buddhist studies and the current intellectual debates with which Buddhism was implicated. Nanjo and Kasawara subscribed to the Journal of the Pali Text Society from the first volume.21 The information the priests gathered was channeled back to Japan and disseminated through journals such as the Hansei zasshi, founded in 1887 by Nishi Honganji.22 In October 1891, for example, the Buddhist press carried articles on Comte's humanitarianism, Spencer's philosophy, Max Muller's "Science of Religion," a translation of Dr. Clark's "Ten Great Religions," and a review of Monier-Williams's Buddhism.23

The juxtaposition of interests apparent here indicates the importance for Buddhist revival of training priests in Western secular thought and the importance of Western philosophy in the validation of Buddhism. The new Buddhism was to be the religion of the new, modern society. Priests in contact with Western Orientalists were aware of the vogue that Buddhism enjoyed among certain Western intellectuals at this time because of the perceived similarities between the teachings of the Buddha and contemporary Western thought, and of Rhys Davids's work in promoting Buddhism as a religion compatible with science and philosophy. They were also aware that this was based on Western knowledge of the Pali texts of Theravada Buddhism, which they regarded as preliminary preparation to the greater truth of the Mahayana. They were therefore confident that they held the answers to the religious problems of the West.

The mission to seek knowledge abroad also sent Buddhist priests to study Southern Buddhism. In 1887 Chicago delegate Shaku Soen went to Ceylon to study Pali, Sanskrit, and Western writing on Buddhism. He observed and participated in the local practice, walking barefoot with his begging bowl, eating with his fingers, and enduring other severe cultural disruptions. This voyage also gave him firsthand experience of the arrogance of Westerners toward Asians and the injustices of colonialism in Ceylon. He began his work for Buddhist revival and strengthening Japan against Western encroachment soon after his return in October 1889, shortly before he became abbot of Engakuji.24 The point of all this is that there can be no doubt the delegates to Chicago were aware of the extent and nature of Western knowledge of Buddhism and its function in Western discourse; they went to Chicago armed against expected criticism, confident of building upon existing approval of Buddhism.

Modernization and the Western Religion

The distinctive pattern of Christian conversion in Japan also forced Buddhist reformers to engage with Western knowledge. In the early Meiji period many Japanese turned to Christianity on the assumption that adopting the Western religion was a necessary step on the path to modernization. The catchcries of the period, fukoku kyohei (wealthy nation, strong army) and bunmei kaika (civilization and enlightenment), associated the independent future of Japan with the attainment of Western knowledge. Modernization was initially identified with Westernization, and the young elite, the future leaders of the nation, looked to Western education and even to the Western religion as the necessary concomitant of this. Kozaki Hiromichi, the president of Doshisha and leader of the Japanese Christian delegation to Chicago, was quite explicit about this in his autobiography. He and many other patriotic young men became Christian "for the sake of the nation."25

Enthusiasm for Western education, and for Christianity, reached its peak in the mid-1880s when the government encouraged Westernization in the hope of convincing Western treaty powers that they had assimilated Western civilization. At this time Fukuzawa Yukichi, leading Enlightenment intellectual and promoter of Western learning, wrote that, "although I am personally entirely indifferent to religion, I believe that from the point of view of statesmanship we cannot avoid adopting the most influential creed of human society, in order to give our nation an independent position among civilized countries by boldly adopting their distinguishing characteristics."26 He pragmatically estimated that a conversion by 1 percent of the population would be sufficient, if they were of the middle and upper classes -- that is, if they were sufficiently prominent in Western notice. Fukuzawa's attitude here reflected the belief at this time that favorable treaty revision depended on becoming like the West, or at least appearing to do so. At the World's Parliament of Religions, Kozaki described how Christianity made "unprecedented strides" in the years 1882 to 1888 as "people poured into Christian churches."27 Moreover, Kozaki explained, Japanese Christians were "predominantly educated young males of the shizoku or military class." "They have been, and still are, the very brain of the Japanese people ... they are far superior, both intellectually and morally, to other classes."28 These were precisely the people the Buddhists needed to attract to their cause if they were to install Buddhism as a force in the society. The important confrontation between Buddhism and Christianity in Japan at this time was not between priests and missionaries. [t was the contest between reform Buddhists and Japanese Christians for the allegiance of this young elite.

Doshisha and the Kumamoto Band

The Japanese Christian delegates, the Kumamoto Band of Doshisha, typify the class. The Doshisha School (now one of Japan's leading universities) had been founded in 1875 by Niijima Jo (1845-90). Niijima had stowed away on a ship to the United States in 1864 when travel overseas was still forbidden. He was befriended by the ship's owner, who sponsored his study at Amherst. He returned to Japan in 1874 after acting as guide and interpreter for the Iwakura mission. He founded the school with the assistance of the American Board of Missions. Niijima himself became a Christian for the sake of the country, and following his vision, Doshisha was to teach Western learning and English language, to educate young men and women "who will devote themselves to the future of the country." Doshisha became a university in 1888. By the time of Kozaki's presidency the pedagogical balance of the university was strongly toward Western learning.

Kozaki and others of the Kumamoto Band had become Christians as the fulfillment of Confucian patriotism, adopting the ideology of the modern state they wished to bring to fruition.29 They were introduced to Christianity while students at the Kumamoto Yogakko (School of Western Learning), which had been established by the Daimyo in the belief that Western learning was the key to rebuilding the strength of the domain and a means of installing its retainers in positions of bureaucratic power under the new regime.30 The students were chosen by competitive examination, and all who entered the school, recalled Kozaki, aimed at a political career. An American teacher, Captain L. L. Janes, employed to teach at the school because of his Western military background, was specifically forbidden to teach Western ethics or religion. Janes nevertheless convinced his most promising students that because Western institutions and ideas were rooted in Christianity, adopting this ideology was a necessary concomitant to the modernization of Japan. Comparing Japan's position in the world with that of Switzerland, he convinced them that the country's independence and strength depended on its being both highly educated and Christian. Hence, he assured his students, "if anyone wished really to sacrifice his life for his country choosing one of these roads [education or religion] was the ideal way."31 Religion and education were "the two agencies for producing men" upon whom the future of the nation depended. Thirty-five of his students became Christians in an act of mass conversion on January 30, 1876.32 Though consequently cast out of the school and disowned by their families, they were able to combine careers in both religion and education when they moved to Kyoto and took control of Doshisha. One convert recalled, "I turned my back on my parents and chose this way for the sake of my country."33

The converts characteristically adopted Christianity as part of a thoroughgoing modernization. They wanted "not just the externals of civilization but the essence of it,"34 Kozaki expressed this very forcefully in his paper" Toyo no kifu o dassezaru bekarazu" (We must rid ourselves of Oriental traits): "We must not, in the progressive reform movement, simply adopt the extensive Western customs; we must go further and reform people's minds as well."35 As Tokutomi Soho put it, society was like an organism, all its parts mutually bound and inseparable. Therefore if Japan wanted to adopt the strong points of the West it must accept the whole civilization.36 As universalists, these converts believed that the evolution of all races of man must pass through the same stages. Hence for Japan to reach full modern development it must emulate the West, which had simply been the first to travel along the path of progress, the path for all mankind. Following Spencer's concepts of evolution, they saw the change from Tokugawa to Meiji Japan, the transition from the militant, aristocratic phase of society to the industrial, democratic phase, as evidence of the irresistible process impelled by universal historical forces.37 They believed that it was inevitable that Japan become like the West. The question was only how to facilitate the process.

The Kumamoto Christians had adopted Christianity with the specific purpose of hastening the modernization of Japan. Consequently, the Christianity they adopted was equally specifically the new theology of Western scientific scholarship, the latest Western development, not that of orthodox evangelists, under attack from science in its own country. They had become Christians, Kozaki recalled, at a time when the Bible was being questioned, "so the first difficulty that confronted us was the question of the relation between Christianity, especially theism, and science."38 Everyone interested in Western learning, he tells us, took as his daily companions John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, and Thomas Huxley.39 Concepts of the "divinity of Christ and the efficacy for us of the death of Christ on the cross" were, along with the miracles of the Bible, "stumbling blocks to acceptance." Japanese Christianity was to be totally free of superstition and myth. Kanamori Tsurin, another of the Kumamoto converts, spoke of the surprise of the educated Japanese when, on opening the Bible, they met with stories more incredible than anything they had yet heard from a Buddhist priest. Kanamori here reveals the anti-Buddhist prejudice typical of the elite who had been educated in Confucian schools. They knew nothing of Buddhism apart from what they had observed of local practice among the gumin (the stupid folk). As they saw it, it was a superstitious religion for people of lesser intellect, an anachronistic link with the past. Hence, even when the tide of opinion turned against Westernization, this prejudice had first to be broken down before they would even consider Buddhism, and the Buddhism they were introduced to had to be rational and scientific. Because this elite was the target audience for shin bukkyo, the task of its promoters, and a major factor in its formation, was for the New Buddhism to be "entirely consonant with reason and science" and to be distanced from the stigma associated with traditional Buddhist practice. Some sign of the success of shin bukkyo is that in 1891 Yokoi Tokio, also one of the original Kumamoto converts and by this time a leading Christian theologian, warned that in Japan "Christianity was confronted by a faith which is at least not inferior to it in profoundness of doctrine."40

Not all pro-Western Japanese turned to Christianity. Japanese Buddhism also had to be rational and scientific to attract others among the Japanese elite who saw Western materialist philosophy as the answer to the problem of how to become modern without adopting the foreign religion. Western philosophy appealed especially to those concerned about the apparent conflict between religion and science, and interest in it grew to such an extent that missionaries complained their strongest opponent was "not the religion and superstitions of old Japan but the skepticism of modern Europe."41 To reach these people, Buddhism also needed to be presented as a rational philosophy.
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