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Zen in Brazil

The Quest for Cosmopolitan Modernity

Cristina Rocha

Publication Year: 2006

Widely perceived as an overwhelmingly Catholic nation, Brazil has experienced in recent years a growth in the popularity of Buddhism among the urban, cosmopolitan upper classes. In the 1990s Buddhism in general and Zen in particular were adopted by national elites, the media, and popular culture as a set of humanistic values to counter the rampant violence and crime in Brazilian society. Despite national media attention, the rapidly expanding Brazilian market for Buddhist books and events, and general interest in the globalization of Buddhism, the Brazilian case has received little scholarly attention. Cristina Rocha addresses that shortcoming in Zen in Brazil. Drawing on fieldwork in Japan and Brazil, she examines Brazilian history, culture, and literature to uncover the mainly Catholic, Spiritist, and Afro-Brazilian religious matrices responsible for this particular indigenization of Buddhism. In her analysis of Japanese immigration and the adoption and creolization of the Sôtôshû school of Zen Buddhism in Brazil, she offers the fascinating insight that the latter is part of a process of "cannibalizing" the modern other to become modern oneself. She shows, moreover, that in practicing Zen, the Brazilian intellectual elites from the 1950s onward have been driven by a desire to acquire and accumulate cultural capital both locally and overseas. Their consumption of Zen, Rocha contends, has been an expression of their desire to distinguish themselves from popular taste at home while at the same time associating themselves with overseas cultural elites.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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p. vii

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Series Editor’s Preface

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p. ix

The transformation of Buddhism into aWestern religion has drawn the attention of many scholars, and the number of books on the subject has increased dramatically in recent years. The cultural focus of these studies has primarily centered on America, and American Buddhism is now a recognized feature of our religious...

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pp. xi-xii

Over the years that it took me to complete this manuscript, many people and institutions assisted me and I am profoundly grateful to all of them. I would like to thank Judith Snodgrass and Mandy Thomas for their encouragement and inspiration and for continually challenging me to reflect on the entanglements of theory and the phenomena I was investigating. Without their support and intellectual...

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pp. 1-22

In February 2003, there was heated discussion on the Brazilian e-mail list Buddhismo-L over a widely watched, popular Sunday variety program on the TV Globo network.1 The controversy arose when the program featured a woman who claimed to be a Buddhist but resorted to Afro-Brazilian and French-Brazilian Spiritist...

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1. The Japanese-Brazilian Junction: Establishing Zen Missions

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pp. 23-62

The room is buzzing with excitement. Folding chairs are arranged in rows. Japanese men wearing suits and ties are sitting in the front and Japanese women are at the back, as is appropriate in Japanese culture, where men take precedence. In the middle are many T-shirted non-Japanese Brazilians, men and women mixed...

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2. Non-Japanese Brazilians and the Orientalist Shaping of Zen

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pp. 63-90

In this chapter I will examine how European Orientalist imaginings mediated the Brazilian cultural elite’s perceptions of Japan, Buddhism in general, and Zen. Rather than viewing Japanese immigrant communities in Brazil as a source of the ‘‘exotic East,’’ Brazilian artists and intellectuals—and eventually the general public—have been inspired either indirectly by ideas of Orientalism originating...

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3. The Brazilian Religious Field: Where does Zen Fit In?

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pp. 91-126

In January 2002 I was participating in a one-year memorial ceremony for a Japanese-Brazilian family at Tenzui Zen Dōjō, the temple Coen sensei had established the month before. During the ceremony, I overheard two girls who were sitting behind me whispering—one was telling the other that she was not feeling well. Immediately after that, the sick girl left her seat and went to...

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4. The Brazilian Imaginary of Zen: Global Influences, Rhizomatic Forms

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pp. 127-152

In 1997 the glossy, upmarket Brazilian magazine Casa Vogue, a local version of Vogue Living, featured a cover story on ‘‘Zen Style.’’ The magazine invited twelve prominent Brazilian architects and interior decorators to produce designs that evoked ambiences of ‘‘Zen.’’ Each professional was asked to define the qualities of...

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5. Doing Zen, Being Zen: Creolizing ‘‘Ethnic’’ and ‘‘Convert’’ Buddhism

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pp. 153-192

In 2000, I was at Busshinji Temple for the higan festivities. Higan, literally ‘‘the other shore’’ (a reference to full enlightenment), occurs at the spring and autumn equinoxes. It is the time when Japanese people visit family graves and ask a priest to read Buddhist prayers for ancestors to reach ‘‘the other shore.’’ At Busshinji Temple...

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Conclusion. Translocal Flows: The ‘‘Meditodrome’’ as a Zen Style of Governing

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pp. 193-198

With 1.5 million inhabitants, Recife is not a small town. However, located in the less developed and more traditional northeastern Brazil, it has not anywhere near the cosmopolitanism of the southeastern region (S


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pp. 199-232


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pp. 233-248


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pp. 249-256

E-ISBN-13: 9780824865665
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824829766

Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 663553729
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Zen in Brazil

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Subject Headings

  • Zen Buddhism -- Japan -- History.
  • Japanese -- Brazil -- Religion.
  • Zen Buddhism -- Brazil -- History.
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