This introductory chapter offers an understanding of death and the afterlife in Japanese Buddhist thought and practice, and cites three themes: first, the continuity and change over time in Japanese Buddhist death-related practices and views of the afterlife; second, the dual role of Buddhist death rites in both addressing individual concerns about the afterlife, and at the same time working to construct, maintain, and legitimize social relations and the authority of religious institutions; and finally, Buddhist death rites as a locus of “contradictory logics,” bringing together unrelated, even opposing ideas about the dead, their postmortem fate, what the living should do for them, and what constitutes normative Buddhist practice.
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