Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Japanese Encounter with Buddhism in India and Tibet and the Buddhist Conceptualization of Asia

Saturday, July 7
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Willow, First Floor

This paper will analyze the significant turns in the idea of Buddhism since the last century as part of a new imagination facilitated by cross cultural exchanges among Buddhists of different parts of Asia and the collapsing of various strands of Buddhism through these transcultural interactions. Debates on the idea of Asia that started in the last century as part of an Asian assertion against Eurocentrism have acquired a renewed vigor in the recent years with the publication of works influenced by the postcolonial turn. Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin have figured prominently in these representations where the idea of Buddhism as an integral component of Asia identity figures. Most of these exchanges were informed and facilitated by travel and the pilgrimage to the sacred sites of Buddhism in India and other Buddhist lands like Tibet and Laos also came into the grand narrative of Buddhism. This paper proposes to study Japanese engagement with Buddhism in Tibet and India and its influence on the conceptualization of Asia by Japanese Buddhists. The paper will focus on Ekai Kawaguchi, the Japanese Buddhist monk and traveler, his encounter with Tibetan Buddhism and the representation of Tibetan Buddhism in his writings. The travelogues and documentation of Buddhist practices and local traditions of Tibet by Kawaguchi reveal his attempt to grasp the cultural diversity within Buddhism in Asia. This paper will look at the tensions that surfaced when the interactions between the Japanese and other travelers who interacted in India to create a modern hybrid Buddhism.

Send Email for M. N. Rajesh


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