Western's Global Humanities and Religions Department, with support from the WWU Alumni Association, will host Eric Haruki Swanson, assistant professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University, for "Conquering Evil and Peace of Mind: Negotiating Salvation in Esoteric Buddhism in Meiji Japan" at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 4 via Zoom.
The Meiji period (1868-1912) in Japan was an era of major political and social transformation that marked the departure from feudalism and enacted swift reforms to modernize the nation based on Western models. In light of the calls for modernization and reform, Buddhist intellectuals in newly established modern universities emphasized a return to a romanticized form of Buddhism that resembled Protestant values while rejecting the “evil customs” of magic and superstition.
A Buddhist school that came under renewed scrutiny during these years was the Shingon school, a branch of esoteric Buddhism that had long established itself as a protector of the state and its patrons through the performance of rituals aimed at worldly goals. In response to these developments, the Shingon school published works that re-framed its own teachings as addressing the goal of achieving “peace of mind” (anjin). These works asserted its continued relevance as it proclaimed to reveal the most profound secrets of the mind as a method of salvation for the individual. Swanson argues that this emphasis on the “peace of mind” seen in these publications illustrates a negotiation of salvation within the esoteric Buddhist tradition as Shingon Buddhist priests reimagined the significance of their teachings within the rapidly changing social landscape of Meiji Japan.
This lecture is part of an annual distinguished speaker series in the Department of Global Humanities and Religions (past speakers can be found here). The department emphasizes interdisciplinary humanities, cultural history, and the study of religion, ancient to modern, and around the globe, with attention to cross-cultural interaction.