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‘Bonded by reverence toward the Buddha’: Asian decolonization, Japanese Americans, and the making of the Buddhist world, 1947–1965*

  • Michael K. Masatsugu (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

This article examines Asian and Japanese American participation in a post-Second World War global movement for Buddhist revival. It looks at the role that Buddhism and the World Fellowship of Buddhists organization played in shaping transnational networks and the development of a global Buddhist perspective. It contextualizes the growth of a ‘Buddhist world’ within the history of decolonization and Japanese American struggles to reconstruct individual and community identities thoroughly disrupted by the war. The article considers Asian Buddhist approaches toward recognition as national and world citizens rather than colonial subjects and their influence on Japanese American Buddhists’ strategies for combating racial and religious discrimination in the United States. Finally, the article examines how Japanese Americans joined Asian efforts to formulate a distinctly Buddhist response to the Cold War. Buddhists hoped that Buddhism might serve as a ‘third power’ that would provide a critical check on a world increasingly polarized by Cold War politics and threatened by the prospects of nuclear war.

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The author thanks Rebecca M. Brown, Andrew Diemer, Nicole Dombrowski-Risser, Benjamin Fischer, Cindy Gissendanner, Elizabeth Gray, Christian Koot, Meghan Mettler, Karen Oslund, Steven Phillips, Ronn Pineo, Akim Reinhardt, Allaire Stallsmith, Jon Wiener, Duncan Williams, Ben Zajicek, and the Journal of Global History's editors and anonymous referees for their insightful comments and suggestions.

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1 World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB), Report of the inaugural conference, Ceylon: World Fellowship of Buddhists, June 1950, pp. 1–2

2 Ibid., pp. 22–8.

3 Sivasundaram Sujit, ‘Ethnicity, indigeneity, and migration in the advent of British rule in Sri Lanka’, American Historical Review, 115, 2, 2010, p. 434

4 WFB, Inaugural conference, pp. 32–33

5 Ibid., p. 32.

6 Ibid., p. 34.

7 Miyabara Sunao, A history of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, Bangkok: WFB Headquarters, 2000, pp. 34

8 Ibid.

9 Ama Michihiro, Immigrants to the pure land: the modernization, acculturation, and globalization of Shin Buddhism, 1898–1941, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press, 2011

10 Azuma Eiichiro, Between two empires: race, history, and transnationalism in Japanese America, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 5

11 Williams Duncan Ryûken and Moriya Tomoe, eds., Issei Buddhism in the Americas, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2010

12 Hosokawa Bill, Nisei: the quiet Americans, New York: W. Morrow, 1969

Spickard Paul, Japanese Americans: the formation and transformations of an ethnic group, New York: Twayne, 1996

Takahashi Jere, Nisei/Sansei: shifting Japanese American identities and politics, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997

Kurashige Lon, Japanese American celebration and conflict: a history of ethnic identity and festival, 1934–1990, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002

13 Daniels Roger, Taylor Sandra C., and Kitano Harry H. L., eds., Japanese Americans: from relocation to redress, Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 1986

Takezawa Yasukio I., Breaking the silence: redress and Japanese American ethnicity, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995

14 Kashima Tetsuden, Buddhism in America: the social organization of an ethnic religious institution, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975

Yoo David, Growing up Nisei: race, generation and culture among Japanese Americans of California, 1924–1949, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000, pp. 3842

15 Dirlik Arif, ‘Performing the world: reality and representation in the making of world histor(ies)’, Journal of World History, 16, 4, 2005, p. 407

16 Bond George D., The Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka: religious tradition, reinterpretation and response, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1988, p. 76

Schober Juliane, Modern Buddhist conjunctures in Myanmar: cultural narratives, colonial legacies, and civil society, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press, 2011, p. 79

Pryor C. Robert, ‘Bodh Gaya in the 1950s: Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahant Giri, and Angarika Munidra’, in David Geary, Matthew R. Sayers, and Abhishek Singh Amar, eds., Cross-disciplinary perspectives on a contested Buddhist site: Bodh Gaya Jataka, New York: Routledge, 2012, pp. 111114

17 Ishii Yoneo, Sangha and state: Thai Buddhism in history, trans. Peter Hawkes, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press, 1986, p. 122

18 WFB, The constitution of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, Rangoon: The Fellowship Burma Centre, n.d., p. 1

19 Ibid., p. 1.

20 Miyabara, History, p. 14

21 WFB, Constitution, p. 2

22 Ibid., pp. 9–10.

23 Ibid., pp. 10, 15.

24 Ibid., p. 5.

25 Ibid., pp. 14–15.

26 Ama, Immigrants, p. 182–185

27 Seekins Donald, Burma and Japan since 1940, Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2007, p. 3

Yu Xue, Buddhism, war, and nationalism: Chinese monks in the struggle against Japanese aggressions, 1931–1945, New York, Routledge, 2005

28 WFB, Inaugural conference, p. 83

Miyabara, History, p. 4

29 Miyabara, History, pp. 5

30 Ibid., p. 7.

31 Malalasekera G. P., The Buddhist flag of South Asia, Colombo: Buddhist Publishers, 1951, p. 1

32 Ibid., pp. 1–2.

33 Ibid., p. 4.

34 Ibid., pp. 11–12.

35 Ibid., p. 30.

36 Ibid., p. 52.

37 See the ‘Publishers note’ in ibid.

38 Malalasekera, Buddhist flag, p. 29

39 Ibid., pp. 6, 16, 38.

40 Ibid., p. 50.

41 Kashima, Buddhism, pp. 41

42 WFB, Report of the third conference, Rangoon: WFB, 1954, p. 79

43 Bond, Buddhist revival, pp. 75–76

44 Ishii, Sangha, p. 12

45 Schober, Modern Buddhist conjunctures, p. 60

46 Nagai Makoto, ‘Congratulatory address’, Young East, 6, 19, Autumn 1956, pp. 12–13

47 WFB, Inaugural conference, p. 1

48 BSC, ‘Editorial: Otani's visit to Ceylon’, Young East, 6, 19, 1956, p. 1

Nagai, ‘Congratulatory address’, pp. 12–13

49 Malalasekera G. P. and Jayatilleke K. N., Buddhism and the race question, Paris: UNESCO, 1958, p. 19

50 Ibid., p 47.

51 Ibid., p. 59.

52 Ibid., pp. 52–3.

53 Ibid., p. 70–1.

54 Schober, Modern Buddhist conjunctures, p. 60

Bond, Buddhist revival, pp. 106–107

55 WFB, Inaugural conference, p. 31

56 Ibid.

57 Ibid., pp. 30–1.

58 Ibid., p. 29.

59 BSC, Japan Buddhist Council, ‘The second world Buddhist conference: prospectus’, Young East, April 1952, p. 31

60 Miyabara, History, p. 5

61 WFB, Inaugural conference, p. 86

62 WFB, Third conference, p. 2

63 Ibid.

64 Ibid., p. 37.

65 Morfit Michael, order’ ‘Pancasila: the Indonesian state ideology according to the new government, Asian Survey, XXI, 8, 1981, pp. 843844

66 WFB, Report of the fifth conference, Bangkok: WFB, 1958, p. 69

67 G. P. Malalasekera, quoted in Berkeley Bussei, 1953

68 BSC, ‘Delegates’, Young East, December 1952, p. 27

69 WFB, Third conference, p. 24

70 Miyabara, History, p. 4

71 Ibid.

72 WFB, Report of the 7th Annual Conference, Sarnath, India: WFB, 1964, p. 53

73 BSC, G. P. Malalasekera, ‘Transcript of memorial service sermon’, Tri-Ratna, 7, 3, May–June 1953, p. 7

WFB, Third conference, p. 79

74 JANM, BCA, ‘Asian studies’, Berkeley Bussei, 1953, p. 32

75 Buddhist church of San Francisco, 1898–1978, San Francisco, CA: Buddhist Church of San Francisco, 1979, p. 20.

76 JANM, BCA, Buddhist Churches of America, 1965 annual report, San Francisco, CA, 1965, pp. 3233

77 JANM, BCA, ‘News from …’, Berkeley Bussei, 1950, p. 15

78 Malalasekera, ‘Transcript’, pp. 5–6

79 Ibid., p. 6.

80 Ibid., pp. 2–3.

81 JANM, BCA, G. P. Malalasekera, ‘Message’, Berkeley Bussei, 1953, p. 2

82 Ama, Immigrants, ch. 7

83 Kashima, Buddhism, p. 60

84 Masatsugu Michael K., ‘“Beyond this world of transiency and impermanence”: Japanese Americans, Dharma Bums, and the making of American Buddhism during the early Cold War years’, Pacific Historical Review, 77, 3, 2008, pp. 432435

85 Miyabara, History, p. 3

86 Miyabara, History, p. 3

87 JANM, BCA, Kikuo Taira, ‘2nd World Buddhist Conference’, Berkeley Bussei , 1953, pp. 25–26

88 Ibid., p. 26.

89 Sasaki LaVerne Senyo, ‘A recommended one-year Buddhist curriculum for high school seniors in the Buddhist Churches of America’, MA thesis, University of the Pacific, 1965, p. iii

90 Ibid., p. v.

91 BSC, Sasaki, ‘In reminiscing our travel to India, Nepal and Ceylon (3)’, Young East, 6, 18, Summer 1956, p. 29

92 BSC, Sasaki, ‘In reminiscing our travel to India, Nepal and Ceylon (2)’, Young East, 5, 17, Spring 1956, p. 28

93 Ibid., pp. 30–1.

94 Sasaki, ‘In reminiscing (3)’, pp. 30–32

95 Sasaki, ‘In reminiscing (2)’, p. 30

96 Ibid., p. 30.

97 Sasaki, ‘In reminiscing (3)’, p. 30

98 Ibid., p. 30.

99 Ibid., p. 33.

100 Asato Noriko, ‘The Japanese language school controversy’, in Williams and Moriya, Issei Buddhism, p. 48

101 Interview with Reverend LaVerne Senyo Sasaki, 22 April 1996, San Francisco.

102 BSC, Sasaki, ‘In reminiscing (3)’, p. v

103 Sasaki, ‘A recommended’, p. 2

104 Ibid., p. ix.

105 Ibid., p. 125.

106 Ibid.

107 Ibid., p. 126.

108 Buddhist Churches of America: 75 year history, 1899–1974, vol. 1, Chicago, IL: Norbart, Inc., p. 41.

109 BSC, Dr Kikuo H. Taira, ‘Thoughts on Buddha's birthday’, transcript of radio address (date of broadcast unknown), in The call to adventure: twentieth anniversary, Central California Buddhist radio broadcast, Fresno, CA, 1970, pp. 29–31.

110 JANM, BCA, Manabu Fukuda, ‘The coming religion’, Berkeley Bussei, 1953, p. 13

111 See, for example, American Buddhist, June 1959, p. 4 (India); American Buddhist, April 1959 (Tibet), p. 6; American Buddhist, May 1959, p. 1 (Tibet).

112 Jackson Robert, ‘The project for Buddhism overseas’, American Buddhist, January 1959, pp. 1

113 Klein Christian, Cold War orientalism: Asia in the middlebrow imagination, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003, pp. 4956

114 WFB, Report of the 8th General Conference, Chengmai, Thailand: WFB, November 1965, p. 27

* The author thanks Rebecca M. Brown, Andrew Diemer, Nicole Dombrowski-Risser, Benjamin Fischer, Cindy Gissendanner, Elizabeth Gray, Christian Koot, Meghan Mettler, Karen Oslund, Steven Phillips, Ronn Pineo, Akim Reinhardt, Allaire Stallsmith, Jon Wiener, Duncan Williams, Ben Zajicek, and the Journal of Global History's editors and anonymous referees for their insightful comments and suggestions.

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Journal of Global History
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