Harding, John

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    Expanding notions of Buddhism: influences beyong Meiji Japan
    (Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2007) Harding, John
    Following centuries of relative stability, Buddhism in Japan faced significant challenges in the turbulent Meiji era. The persecution of Buddhism in the late 1860s and early 1870s was the most dramatic instance of disruption and provided a serious threat to the tradition as it was castigated as foreign by the nascent Shinto nationalism and as antiquated by the advocates of rapid modernization. Although the persecution threatened to diminish Buddhism in Japan, subsequent reactions, reforms, and reformulations of Buddhism sought to expand its scope in Japan and beyond. In addition to the domestic use of science for Buddhist apologetics, rhetoric emphasizing the consonance between Buddhism and science was employed internationally to promote Japanese Buddhism as a modern, universal religion. Buddhist adherents and sympathizers from Japan and abroad promoted Buddhism through this understanding and helped to shape discourse about modern Buddhism in this way. Ideas about Buddhism not only expanded within Japan to include a greater understanding of other Asian traditions and Western scholarship about Buddhism, but currents beyond Meiji Japan—both flowing in from the West and out from Japan—influenced scientific and evolutionary rhetoric that propelled the idea of Buddhism as the preeminent modern religion and of Mahayana as the culmination of Buddhism.