Jamie Hubbard: "The Shinnyo-en: One Scholar's Encounter With Contemporary Japanese Buddhism"
A lecture series highlighting important centers of Buddhist Studies.
Nearly twenty years ago I was approached by the BBC to make a documentary film about Buddhism in contemporary Japan. Wanting to avoid the romantic Zen rock garden and Karate Kid approach and show something that more closely resembled what a visitor might actually encounter in traveling to Japan, I chose to work with a family that had recently converted to a new Buddhist movement, the Shinnyo-en. The film depicts their personal struggles and the conflicts they faced during this process as well as the difficulties faced by traditional Buddhist organizations in Japan that contribute to the rise of organizations like the Shinnyo-en. This film was one of the first films about the Shinnyo-en made by an outside group, and discusses their doctrines and portrays their individual, group, and social practices. Since the original film was finished, the Shinnyo-en has grown and expanded in North America and Europe, and I recently re-worked the film into a new, interactive DVD format, making use of live internet links that can be pursued while watching the film.
Given that I was trained in the more traditional, textual, and historical approach to Buddhist Studies, it was quite a challenge for me to work with a living, vibrant, and innovative Buddhist group and their followers. After we view the film, I will reflect on some of the intellectual issues and prejudices that I had to confront while making the film as well as my observations of the growth of the Shinnyo-en outside of Japan.
Jamie Hubbard is Yehan Numata Professor of Buddhist Studies at Smith College where he has taught since 1985. He has a long interest in the relationship between text, rhetoric, and institution, particularly in the social-political realm involving questions of heresy and orthodoxy. He is currently finishing a translation of the commentary on the Vimalakīrti-nirdeśa-sūtra attributed to Shōtoku Taishi.