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The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Sōtō Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan (review)

From: Philosophy East and West
Volume 57, Number 4, October 2007
pp. 599-601 | 10.1353/pew.2007.0056

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2007 by University of Hawai‘i Press 599 isolation, separated from other Japanese Buddhist schools and non-Buddhist religions, as if they were not part of the social and religious life of Japan. However, more recently, some studies have begun to focus on another aspect of Zen—the everyday customs, beliefs, and rituals of ordinary Buddhists and temples. Following in the footsteps of William Bodiford and Bernard Faure, Duncan Williams, in The Other Side of Zen, has written a fascinating account of the extraordinary expansion of the So¯to¯ Zen sect in Tokugawa Japan by looking at So¯to¯ Zen involvement in all aspects of the religious economy of the period. Drawing on new historical sources that have become available in the past twenty-five years (such as temple histories and logbooks, prayer and funerary manuals, sales records of talismans and medicine, death registries, diaries of pilgrims, and letters of villagers, temple priests, and government officials) as well as analyzing legends, miracle tales and ghost stories, and material culture such as tombstones and stone markers, Williams has drawn a comprehensive portrait of ‘‘what So¯to¯ Zen actually was, as lived by ordinary priests and laypeople’’ (p...

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