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Sanbōkyōdan: Zen and the Way of the New Religions

Robert H. Sharf
Japanese Journal of Religious Studies
Vol. 22, No. 3/4, The New Age in Japan (Fall, 1995), pp. 417-458
Published by: Nanzan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30234461
Page Count: 42
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Sanbōkyōdan: Zen and the Way of the New Religions
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Abstract

The Sanbōkyōdan (Three Treasures Association) is a contemporary Zen movement that was founded by Yasutani Hakuun (1885-1973) in 1954. The style of Zen propagated by Sanbōkyōdan teachers, noteworthy for its single-minded emphasis on the experience of kenshō, diverges markedly from more traditional models found in Sōtō, Rinzai, or Ōbaku training halls. In fact, the Sanbōkyōdan displays many characteristic traits of the so-called New Religions. (This is particularly noteworthy as the influence of the Sanbōkyōdan on Western conceptions of Zen has been far out of proportion to its relatively marginal status in Japan.) The article concludes with some reflections on category formation in the study of Japanese religion, arguing that there is an overtly ideological dimension to the rubric of "old" versus "new." The manner in which scholars of Japanese religion represent the disjunction between the New Religions and traditional Japanese Buddhism may owe as much to the division of labor in the field as to the nature of the phenomenon itself.

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