AAR2020 NA Panel: “Other Power” in Indian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese Buddhism

This event was recorded. Video of this panel is available on the University of British Columbia’s website here:

Due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, the American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting, originally scheduled to be held in Boston, has been moved to an entirely online or virtual format. Please see the the AAR website for additional information.

Accordingly, the North American District of the IASBS has elected to continue with its plans to hold the following event as an online webinar generously sponsored by the Univeristy of British Columbia. The panel organizers wish to thank Dr. Jessica Main and her staff for all their support.

More information on how to access the webinar is forthcoming.

December 16, 2020, 17:00 (5 p.m.) Pacific Time

“Other Power” in Indian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese Buddhism: Its Nature and Role in Buddhist Awakening

The doctrine of “Other Power” continues to perplex many Buddhists and even Buddhist scholars, who consider it antithetical to the foundational Buddhist spirit of self-cultivation. For many, it even reminds them of “grace” in Christianity. Further, it is often seen to be a teaching exclusive to Pure Land Buddhism. It is true that the controversy between “Other Power” and “Self Power” reached its highest intensity in Japanese Buddhism among the disciples of the 12th century Pure Land master Honen. Then Shinran, Honen’s disciple, took it to its extreme in the doctrine of exclusive or absolute Other Power while negating Self Power. However, if we define Other Power as the “spiritual working or power for the seeking self,” it is found widely throughout the development of Mahayana thought from India to Central Asia and to East Asia. The five panelists will explore the nature and role of Other Power in this first of a two-part panel sessions, conducted over a two-year period. This will culminate in an exploration at the 2021 panel focused on Shinran’s Other Power doctrine.


David Eckel, Boston University

The Logic of Other-Power in the Philosophy of the Indian Mahāyāna

Normally Indian Buddhist philosophers like Bhāviveka, Candrakīrti, and Śāntideva would seem unlikely places to look for the ideas that animated the traditions of Other-Power in the rest of the Mahāyāna. After all, they seem to rely almost exclusively on their own powers of rational investigation. But the works of these philosophers are deeply infused by patterns of thought that under-girded the practice of devotion to Buddhas and bodhisattvas in East Asia. This paper will focus particularly on the concept of the “previous vow” (pūrva-praṇidhāna) in Indian accounts of the bodhisattva path and explore its relationship to the underlying concept of Emptiness.”

Kenneth K. Tanaka, Musashino University

The Other Power in Indian Tathagatagarbha Thought: Reassessing the Dichotomy Drawn between Other Power and ‘Buddha Nature’

Tathāgatagarbha thought is known for its teaching of “Sentient beings possessing Tathāgata nature within,” which later in East Asian Buddhism came to be articulated as “Buddha nature.” This teaching that emphasizes the potentiality within each sentient beings is often portrayed as being in opposition to Other Power, which is regarded to lie external to sentient beings. However, it turns out the teaching of “Tathāgata nature within” (or Buddha nature) has a much more nuanced relationship with the teaching of Dharmakāya, Buddhatā, or Tathatā, which is none other than what we are calling, the “Other Power dimension.” This paper examines this relationship as discussed in Ratnagotravibhāga Mahāyanottaraśāstram (An Analysis of the Nature of the Three Jewels being a Treatise on the Ultimate Doctrine of the Great Vehicle,『究竟一乗寶性論』), a representative Tathāgatagarbha treatise from the 5th century authored by Sāramati.

David Matsumoto, Institute of Buddhist Studies, Graduate Theological Union

Other Power Element in Chinese Buddhist Thought: With a Focus on Tanluan

A. Charles Muller, Musashino University

Cases of Other-Power Soteriology in Korean Buddhism

While Korean Buddhism never developed a distinct Pure Land tradition analogous to the Japanese Jōdo-shū or Jōdoshin-shū, Korean Buddhists were well aware of, and frequently discussed issues of other-power and the Pure Land. The case of Wonhyo is often the first cited, as he is reputed to have given up his scholarly work late in life in order to travel around the countryside, teaching people how to recite the yeombul (nenbutsu), and he also wrote influential commentaries on the Pure Land sutras. But the issue of other-power is also discussed in the works of various Cheontae and Seon scholars over the centuries. Most engaging, however, is the modern treatment by Sung Bae Park of the relation of other-power to the Zen notion of sudden enlightenment in his book Buddhist Faith and Sudden Enlightenment. There Park argues that the standard notions of Zen enlightenment as self-power and (True) Pure Land as other-power being entirely distinct–even opposed to each other, may not actually stand in opposition if they are looked at from the perspective of the kind of faith involved in their development. For Park, the key correlation between the shinjin espoused by Shinran, and the Patriarchal Faith articulated by Jinul is that they both indicate a level of “non-retrogressing” 不退轉 faith. In my paper, after reviewing the situation in Korea, I will examine Park’s argument against the background of the other presentations in this panel.

Mark Blum, University of California, Berkeley

Conceptions of Other-Power in Japan

Although it has roots in Chinese translations of Indic Buddhist materials with a variety of meanings, the usage of the term “other-power” (tariki) in Japan becomes a technical term in reference to the supernormal powers of buddhas and bodhisattvas used to mark notions of faith, merit, and access to apotropaic power prior to the thirteenth century and from the thirteenth century on notions of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. This change begins in the generation that follows Hōnen (1133-1212) when the term appears as both noun and adjective in critical writings among Hōnen’s disciples in their varying analyses of his thought. This paper will trace the use of various forms of the “language of exalted power” prior to Hōnen, always expressed as nouns, and then offer a summary of the adjectival usage of “other power” used to apply notions of power in what I call “a hermeneutic of praxis” that begins with Hōnen and markedly heats up throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, mostly focusing on the mental state of the practitioner dedicated to nenbutsu practice, wherein other-power changes is contrasted with “self-power”, that becomes a pejorative label marking heterodox views or a simple lack of faith.

AAR2019 Panel: Pure Lands in Asian Texts and Contexts: An Anthology

Please join the North American District of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion for a panel on Pure Lands in Asian Texts and Contexts: An Anthology.

This anthology, edited by Georgios T. Halkias and Richard K. Payne, collects primary sources on the Pure Land tradition across the entirety of the Mahāyāna Buddhist world. Still commonly identified with Japanese Buddhism, the tradition of practices and beliefs relating to pure lands is widely shared and this anthology explores the range of expressions of those practices and beliefs. The panel includes four contributors, one of whom is also an editor of the collection.

The panel will be held on Monday, November 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 at the San Diego Convention Center, room 17A (Mezzanine Level). See the AAR online program book for more details.

Scott Mitchell, Institute of Buddhist Studies, Presiding

Jacqueline I. Stone, Princeton University
On the Modern History of Pure Land in Japan

Daniel A. Getz, Bradley University
On the Relation between Pure Land and Confucianism

Natasha Heller, University of Virginia
On Modern Pure Land Rebirth Stories

Aaron Proffitt, State University of New York, Albany
On Esoteric Pure Land Buddhism

Richard K. Payne, Graduate Theological Union
On the Organizing Principle of the Anthology

AAR2018 Panel: Buddhism and National Security in 20th Century America

The North American District of the IASBS will be hosting the following panel at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Denver, CO, November 18, 2018, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. The panel will be held at the Embassy Suites, Crestone A (Third Level).

The event is free and open to the public. Registration for the AAR meeting is not required, though it is encouraged.

Please visit the AAR Online Program Book for detailed information on the AAR annual meeting.

Buddhism and National Security in 20th Century America

This panel explores the intersection of Buddhism, national security, and government intelligence organizations in the United States. Spanning the interwar and early Cold War periods, the papers collectively explore the ways in which America’s changing national security concerns shaped the lives of American Buddhists and the emerging discipline of Buddhist Studies. We take a special interest in issues of identity: how was racial and religious identity defined and policed by American government institutions? What was “Pan Asian Buddhism” in U.S. government research, and how did it differ from “ethnic” Buddhism? Our case studies are diverse: early twentieth century African American Buddhist activists, Japanese Buddhists incarcerated during World War II, and a CIA-front organization that supported Buddhist cultural programs in Asia.

Presider and Respondent: Richard Jaffe, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Duke University

Adeana McNicholl, Ph.D. Candidate, Religious Studies, Stanford University

“Sufi Abdul Hamid and the ‘Black Buddhism Plan’: Buddhism, Race, and Empire, 1900-1945”

This paper examines the entangled histories of the transmission of Buddhism to the West, the African American fight for racial equality, and the juxtaposition of Pacific Empires in the inter-war period through the life of a single figure, Sufi Abdul Hamid (1903-1938). Hamid, known to contemporaries as “Black Hitler,” mixed Buddhism with metaphysicalism and Islam. While living Hamid adopted an Oriental persona and used his Buddhist temple to promote racial equality. Once dead, his unique religio-racial situation as a black Buddhist implicated him in a World War II conspiracy theory that was part of the wider surveillance of African Americans.

Duncan Williams, Associate Professor of Religion and East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Southern California

“Military Intelligence Agencies, Buddhism, and the Wartime Incarceration of the Japanese American Community ”

Based on previously classified documents, this paper describes the surveillance of Buddhist temples and the placement of Buddhist priests onto lists created by the Office of Naval Intelligence, Army G-2, and the FBI in the years prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The paper argues that the World War Two incarceration of over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry was based not only on racial animus, but religious animus. The so-called “internment”, which is often framed as a result of racial prejudice and wartime hysteria, is better understood as the culmination of decades of exclusionary practices predicated on a White and Christian supremacist view of the intersection of race, religion, and American belonging.

Laura Harrington, Visiting Scholar/Lecturer, Department of Religion, Boston University

“Making the Dharma Safe for Democracy: Buddhist Studies and the CIA in Cold War America”

The Asia Foundation (1951-1967) was a CIA front organization to fund cultural initiatives that would discourage ‘neutral’ SE Asian nations from entering Communism’s orbit. TAF employed American scholars of Buddhism to pursue programming which would 1) to “insulate” Asian Buddhists from Communism, and 2) foster a “Pan Asian Buddhism” compatible with free world values. “Making” explores two TAF surveys of American Buddhist scholars and their resulting programming. It illuminates links between the government’s national security objectives, Buddhism scholarship, and the public-private networks through which they worked.

AAR 2017 Panels: Pure Land Buddhism in China and Shinran, Heidegger, and Levinas

The North American District of the IASBS is hosting two events at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Boston, MA, November 2017. Both panels will be held on Friday, November 17, at the Hynes Convention Center, Room 103 on the Plaza Level, located at 900 Boylston St in Boston.

These events are free and open to the public. Registration for the AAR meeting is not required, though it is encouraged.

Please visit the AAR Online Program Book for detailed information on the AAR annual meeting.

Mochizuki’s Doctrinal History of Pure Land Buddhism in China
Friday – 10:00 AM-12:00 PM
Hynes Convention Center-103 (Plaza Level)

Kenneth Tanaka, Musashino University, Presiding

All too little known outside circles of specialists working on Japanese Buddhism, Shinko Mochizuki (1896–1948) is one of the pioneering giants of modern Buddhist studies. Mochizuki is perhaps best-known for the encyclopedia of Buddhism (Bukkyō daijiten, 1933, 10 vols.) that he edited, and which is still in print today. The work being featured in this panel discussion, Pure Land Buddhism in China: A Doctrinal History (tr. Leo Pruden, ed. Richard K. Payne and Natalie Quli; Chūgoku Jōdo kyōrishi, published in 1942), was based on a lengthy series of lectures he gave on the history, thought and practice of Pure Land Buddhism in China. The work remains a resource for Japanese Pure Land Buddhist scholarship, and has now been made available in English translation. In order to bring this publication up to date, the translation has been complemented by a second volume of four supplemental essays—a biographical study of Mochizuki (Daniel Getz), and bibliographical essays on scholarship since Mochizuki’s publication in Chinese (Charles B. Jones), Japanese (Mark L. Blum), and English (Scott A. Mitchell). These four contributors will discuss the importance and value of Mochizuki’s work, and its continuing relevance for Pure Land Buddhist studies.

Daniel A. Getz, Bradley University
Charles B. Jones, Catholic University of America
Mark L. Blum, University of California, Berkeley
Scott Mitchell, Institute of Buddhist Studies

Shinran in the Light of Heidegger and Levinas
Friday – 2:00 PM-5:00 PM
Hynes Convention Center-103 (Plaza Level)

Janet Gyatso, Harvard University, Presiding

This panel presents work in an ongoing project jointly sponsored by the Institute of Buddhist Studies and the Ryukoku University Research Center for World Buddhist Cultures. The project seeks to explore resources in recent continental philosophy for illuminating Shinran’s Pure Land Buddhist path, focusing on the thought of Heidegger and Levinas. The panelists will present papers treating a variety of philosophical themes and issues that suggest resonances with aspects of Shinran’s thought—such as non-willful comportment, attunement, and dwelling in the philosophy of Heidegger and conscience, incapacity, and the Other in Levinas. The expectation is that probing such resonances will both cast fresh light on the implications of current philosophical topics and further suggest paths toward developing cogent and compelling contemporary understandings of Shinran’s thought.

Bret W. Davis, Loyola University, Maryland
Gelassenheit and the Entrusting Heart: Toward a Dialogue between Heidegger and Shinran

Ryan Coyne, University of Chicago
“This Burning House”: Heidegger, Shinran, and the Meaning of Licensed Evil

Charles Hallisey, Harvard University
On the Sources of Morality: Reading Shinran with Jankelevitch and Levinas

Leah Kalmanson, Drake University
The (Non-)Practice of Not-Directing-Merit: Levinas, Shinran, and the Impossibility of Doing Good

Dennis Hirota, Ryukoku University
Shinran and Heidegger on Dwelling

Janet Gyatso, Harvard University

An Ancient Doctrine for New Times: 2016 AAR Panel

On behalf of the International Association for Shin Buddhist Studies, North American District, we invite you to the following panel held in conjunction with the 2016 American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting.

Please feel free to contact Scott Mitchell with any questions:

Saturday, November 19, 2016, 9:00 AM-12:00 PM
Grand Hyatt
Lone Star D (2nd Level)
600 E Market St, San Antonio, TX

An Ancient Doctrine for New Times:
The Shinzoku Nitai in Modern Japanese Buddhism

The idea of “two truths” (Jp. shinzoku nitai) is considered to have been first expounded by Nagarjuna, denoting a distinction between absolute and relative truths. However, in Japanese Buddhism – and more specifically in the context of Jōdo Shinshū – this doctrine came to be interpreted in more social terms, representing the relationship between worldly and religious spheres. After the 1868 Meiji restoration, in particular, the “two truths” became an increasingly important doctrinal aspect in the justification of pro-state endeavors by True Pure Land sects. This association between the shinzoku nitai and wartime doctrine ultimately led it to becoming a very delicate subject in the framework of post-1945 Japanese academia, which is not unrelated to the fact that detailed studies of the topic still remain scarce. This panel reconsiders the issue from a broad perspective, paying attention to historical developments not only in the two main branches of True Pure Land Buddhism, but also in the context of modern academic philosophy and Buddhist studies.

Introductory Talk
Mark BLUM (UC Berkeley) Shinzoku Nitai in Buddhism

Mami IWATA (Ryukoku University)
The Shinzoku Nitai Doctrine and Jōdo Shinshū in Meiji Japan

Orion KLAUTAU (Tohoku University)
The Two Truths in Modern Academia: Murakami Senshō and the Shinzoku Nitai

Jeff SCHROEDER (University of Oregon)
Rethinking the Two Truths: The Interwar Views of Sasaki Gesshō and Kaneko Daiei

Gereon KOPF (Luther College)
Shinzoku Nitai and the Development of ‘Buddhist Philosophy:’ The Kyoto School and Beyond

Daniel G. FRIEDRICH (McMaster University)

Micah AUERBACK (University of Michigan)

D.T. Suzuki and the Making of a Modern Pure Land Buddhism

We are pleased to announce the following lecture, D. T. Suzuki and the Making of a Modern Pure Land Buddhism, delivered by James Dobbins, Sunday November 23, 2014 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

The IASBS hosts events in connection with the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, North America’s largest religious studies professional organization. This year, the annual meeting is being held at the San Diego convention center, and we are honored to have Prof. Dobbins speak on this important topic.

James Dobbins is the James H Fairchild Professor of Religion at Oberlin College, Ohio, and has written numerous books on Jodo Shinshu, including Letters of the Nun Eshinni: Images of Pure Land Buddhism in Medieval Japan. His talk focuses on D.T. Suzuki, a figure popularly associated with Zen Buddhism who was also deeply interested in Pure Land Buddhism. In his talk, Prof. Dobbins will examine Suzuki’s attempt to articulate Pure Land Buddhism in a language compatible with modern intellectual concerns, especially the fields of religious studies and philosophy of religion.

A response by Prof. Melissa Anne-Marie Curley, University of Iowa, and discussion will follow.

The talk will be held on
Sunday, November 23 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Omni Hotel
Grand Ballroom B
675 L St, San Diego

and is free and open to the public.

Please contact Scott Mitchell (scott at with questions.