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In Session: The Care and Management of Religious Organizations in Early Modern Japan
2: Revenue Flows and Sectarian Structures in Early Modern Buddhism
Friday, March 26, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Toyo University, Japan
Under the enduring image of Japan’s early modern Buddhist tradition as "funerary Buddhism," the following impressions seem to have been commonly, or even vaguely, held. It has been argued that temple priests "abused" the "temple certification system" to extract money from their parishioners (danna). In addition, under the pyramidal structure of the head-branch temple (honmatsu) system, the money thus extracted from the parishioners on the peripheries was absorbed by monks at the center of each sect. This presentation will introduce specific examples and discuss them in a comparative manner to elucidate the revenue flows that circulated within early modern Buddhism. Specifically, it will show that this conception of early modern Buddhism is mistaken on at least three counts. First, the individual temples that comprised each sect were responsible for their own maintenance and management, and there was not necessarily a "sectarian center" that could accumulate the funds. Second, depending on the sect, individual monks might also be located at various places within the organization over the course of their careers. Finally, the management of branch temples did not simply depend on the extraction of wealth from parishioners. Each temple had various revenue sources, including income from temple lands, profits from the management of funds and real estate, and revenues from pilgrimages. Some of the income also went to the center of a sect, but much of it was actually spent closer to the source by maintaining the individual temples and the lives of their monks.