Section 8 | Religion and History of Ideas | Session 8
Kayoko Nohara, Tokyo Institute of Technology
This paper describes the way religious thoughts and items are treated in the modern Japanese standard discourse of translated texts, from a norm-oriented point of view. The aim is to clarify how (traditionally) foreign religions, such as Christianity, are transferred to something more domestic, such as Buddhism or Shintoism, in Japanese literary translation, and ultimately to demonstrate that translation of foreign (mainly Western) religious thoughts and items functions as a serviceable device to create some unique religious culture in the world of translated fiction, which paradoxically reflects reality. Religious objects modified and transferred according to the established patterns of assimilating them to the Japanese linguistic and cultural system of translation, together with other regular properties, tinge otherness in a certain regimental manner, which could in principle be conveyed otherwise. Although such religious culture is, strictly speaking, observed only in translated literature, it has plenty of cultural implications since literature (and translation) always reflect reality in a subtle manner. The pervasive presence of such religious culture, for example distorted Buddhism and distorted Shintoism, is indeed an important facet of the modern Japanese society. In the recent development of Translation Studies, extensive descriptive work is being done on what happens to a literary text when it is translated, particularly in the context of target language convention, culture and text-types, but surprisingly few attempts have been made to focus on what happens particularly to religious scenes. This paper attempts to shed light upon religious culture observed in texts and to discuss how it interacts with reality utilizing appropriate analytical tools from the field of Translation Studies.
Here in the West, medieval historian Kuroda Toshio is known as a revisionist who disclaimed the overall significance of Kamakura new sects such as Jôdo Shinshû, or as a materialist who stressed political and economic aspects of Buddhism rather than its philosophy. However, if we consider Kuroda’s works in the context of post-war Japanese historiography, we come to realize that his perspective was far more complex and had a deeper implication. He certainly had no intention of slighting Shinran’s teachings—in fact, having grown up in a pious Shinshû family, Kuroda was both familiar with and sympathetic to the sect. Jôdo Shinshû, and especially its founder Shinran, occupy a unique place in the modern studies of medieval Japanese history. In the decades following World War II, many Japanese intellectuals became critical of their country’s past and debated how Japan failed to be completely modernized or why its people could not resist an authoritarian government. In this “history of failure,” Shinshû was celebrated as one of the rare exceptions: its teachings were viewed as “modern”—rational, individualistic, egalitarian, and its social stance anti-authoritarian. (This discourse was adopted and amplified in the West by scholars like Robert Bellah.) Kuroda, however, noted that the valorization of Shinshû was much too exaggerated and did not reflect the medieval reality.
What Kuroda attempted was more than a revision of empirical facts. He was searching for ways to release pre-modern Japanese history from modern master narratives such as modernization theory and the reactionary nationalist history. He rejected, for instance, the easy comparison of Shinshû to Protestantism. Ultimately, he wanted to let the diverse voices of the past speak in their own terms to the contemporary global audience. This paper will examine how Kuroda’s idealism is reflected in his writing of Shinshû history and suggest how we might incorporate his vision in the future study of the subject.
Galen Amstutz , Ryukoku UniversityUnlike Buddhist traditions which have been primarily committed to ideas that monastic or quasimonastic practices, or at least disciplined intentive practices, have a direct causal relationship with enlightenment, Japanese True Pure Land Buddhism (Jodoshinshu) has maintained that enlightenment has to come about somehow ultimately on its own, by the “working of Amida (emptiness itself)” or tariki. Viewing tariki from the perspective of some recent empirical psychology is another way to appreciate these claims. This psychology has revived the importance of the subconscious mind in behavioral analysis, but (rather than pursuing Freudian or Jungian themes) the more basic emphasis is on the extent to which the operations of the brain occur out of the direct control of conscious awareness. From this standpoint it follows that if enlightenment is interpreted as a relaxation of complex habitualizations in the mind (especially habits in connection with the ego) the majority aspect of that relaxation must occur in the majority aspect of the mind --the unconscious domain -- where the power of conscious causation is at best ambiguous. Much study of Buddhism has been been naive about the extent to which "orthodox" Buddhist institutional claims about achieving enlightenment, claims stressing monastic and/or meditative authority, rest on a conventionalized mythos. In modern empirical terms, however, the stronger fundamental argument may be on the side of tariki. A corollary issue, of course, is how tariki’s critique of authority had a variety of secondary social and institutional implications with some significant resemblances to the effects of some parts of Protestant Christianity in Europe. The psychological angle helps make clear, however, that tariki ideas (like in fact the resemblant Protestantisms also) essentially have not been directly connected to any post-Enlightenment modernist political narratives of rationality, individualism or anti-authoritarianism.