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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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Funerary Zen

Funerary Zen

Sōtō Zen Death Management in Tokugawa Japan

(p.207) 6 Funerary Zen
Death and the Afterlife in Japanese Buddhism

Duncan Ryūken Williams

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter discusses how the spread of standardized Buddhist funerals in the Tokugawa gained momentum from the temple certification system (terauke seido). This was how the Japanese came near universally to acquire a hereditary Buddhist sectarian affiliation and, as the contemporary expression has it, to “die Buddhist.” The chapter also shows how the Soto school of Zen was able to spread in the provinces and entrench itself in village life by incorporating local customs into its death rites, thus creating a Zen funerary culture that was soon embraced by other sects as well. Outside academic circles, Westerners tend to think of Soto Zen in connection with its emphasis on seated meditation, but its most pervasive influence on Japanese culture lies in the development of what are now called traditional lay Buddhist funerals.

Keywords:   Buddhist funerals, Tokugawa, terauke seido, Soto school of Zen, Zen funerary culture, seated meditation, Japanese culture

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