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Death and the Afterlife in Japanese Buddhism$
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Jacqueline I. Stone and Mariko Namba Walter

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780824832049

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824832049.001.0001

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The Orthodox Heresy of Buddhist Funerals

The Orthodox Heresy of Buddhist Funerals

(p.325) 9 The Orthodox Heresy of Buddhist Funerals
Death and the Afterlife in Japanese Buddhism

George J. Tanabe

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter addresses another aspect of the “funeral problem,” namely, the conceptual gap between assumptions of perduring spirits in need of pacification and the Buddhist doctrine of anatman or not-self. Unlike widespread criticisms of the cost of funerals and posthumous names, anxieties over the “heretical” nature of funerals do not trouble most danka parishioners or even local priests but are confined chiefly to sectarian intellectuals. Nonetheless, the efforts of this small Buddhist elite to reconcile traditional funerals with doctrinal orthodoxy provides an illuminating glimpse of how some influential insiders perceive the problems confronting institutional Buddhism in defining its contemporary social identity. Ultimately, the chapter finds that orthodoxy and heresy are movable signifiers whose content shifts according to the standards one adopts.

Keywords:   funeral problem, pacification, Buddhist doctrine, anatman, danka parishioners, orthodoxy, heresy

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