Faith and Politics in Asia, Past and Present
Edited By John M. Thompson
Sacred Matters, Stately Concerns: Faith and Politics in Asia, Past and Present examines the complex and intertwined nature of «politics» and «religion» in diverse cultures within Asia, ranging from China and Japan to Indonesia, Pakistan, and India. By their very nature, the essays included here defy easy generalizations about the nature of religion in various societies, forcing us to rethink, and, one hopes, pushing us beyond staid assumptions. Certainly, these essays challenge prevailing views of national/political boundaries in Asia (and by extension elsewhere), and highlight the fact that the «separation of Church and State», a hallmark of the American political system, has rarely been observed in other places and times.
Sacred Matters, Stately Concerns is suitable for use in a variety of courses on Asian history and politics as well as surveys of Asian culture and international relations and comparative/world religion and philosophy courses.
Chapter Two: The Creation of Ritual Meat Avoidance by Japanese State Systems
Should a Buddhist eat meat? Should meat be used in ritual offerings? Should government officials eat meat? The inclusion of government officials in this list of questions is perhaps at first incongruous; but when we remember that government officials are often ritual participants, the concern over their behavior becomes more apparent. In fact, recognizing the close connection between government and religion in Asian cultures is perhaps the first step to gaining a better understanding of how vegetarianism and meat avoidance practices have developed in Asian religions. That is, since Asian political systems are entwined with religious systems—indeed the two cannot be separated, as is pointed out repeatedly in this volume—the issue of whether religious practitioners and participants should or should not eat meat has often been a primary concern of the state. This paper presents several episodes in Japanese history that demonstrate the concern the state has had with the issue of meat-eating, and how the state has itself created vegetarian and meat avoidance practices.
To understand the role of the state here, it is first necessary to dispel the general notion that vegetarianism in Asian religions such as Buddhism is primarily a practice determined by individuals for individual religious motivations. Based on modern Western ideas that religious practice is something chosen by an individual in accord with his or her understanding of religious principles, scholars have often assumed that the same must be true for Asian religions. This view of religion has greatly influenced investigations...
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