USC’s Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture will present a book talk on “Seeking Sakyamuni: South Asia in the Formation of Modern Japanese Buddhism” (University of Chicago, 2019) on Friday, Feb. 14, at 4 p.m. at the East Asian Seminar Room (110C), Doheny Memorial Library, University Park Campus.

Professor Richard Jaffe will speak about his new book, which reveals the experiences of the first Japanese Buddhists who traveled to South Asia in search of Buddhist knowledge beginning in 1873. Analyzing the impact of these voyages on Japanese conceptions of Buddhism, he argues that South Asia developed into a pivotal nexus for the development of 20th-century Japanese Buddhism.

Jaffe shows that Japan’s growing economic ties to the subcontinent following World War I fostered even more Japanese pilgrimage and study at Buddhism’s foundational sites. Tracking the Japanese travelers who returned home, as well as South Asians who visited Japan, Jaffe describes how the resulting flows of knowledge, personal connections, linguistic expertise, and material artifacts of South and Southeast Asian Buddhism instantiated the growing popular consciousness of Buddhism as a pan-Asian tradition — in the heart of Japan.

Richard M. Jaffe

Jaffe is a specialist in modern Japanese Buddhism in the Department of Religious Studies at Duke University, where he also serves as director of the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute. He is also the author of “Neither Monk nor Layman: Clerical Marriage in Modern Japanese Buddhism” and the general editor for the four-volume “Selected Works of D.T. Suzuki.” He currently is preparing an edition of D.T. Suzuki’s 1952-1953 Columbia University seminar lectures on Zen Buddhism to be published by Columbia University Press.

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