From Sectarian to Holistic- The Practice of Meditation in Modern Japan

By Greg Wilkinson and Mauro Properzi.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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Published online: July 24, 2015 Free Download

Utilizing participant observation into Japanese meditation practices along with an investigation into primary sources and previous studies, this paper investigates the incorporation of meditation practices in Christian churches in Japan. Asian meditation practices are often associated with monastic commitment, social renunciation, and physical austerity. These perceived characteristics often do not relate well to lay Christian principles of social engagement and physical prudence and hence formal meditation practices are rare and/or marginal in many denominations. In the nineteenth century, when Christian evangelism returned to Japan, a new form of meditative practice was evolving among lay organizations and new religious movements. Containing a syncretic blend of Confucian principles and Zen meditation, these groups utilized meditation as a path to self-cultivation and moral development. Subsequently, these new meditation practices became more palatable to Christian movements as they assimilated to Japanese culture and society. Today, the influences of these groups remain and many Zen Buddhist organizations adjust meditation practices to meet the social and familial needs of their lay memberships. Many indigenous Christian movements as well as some Catholic and Protestant congregations have added meditation to their religious observances. The therapeutic and spiritual benefits may justify the expansion of meditation practices in Christian organizations beyond Japan.

Keywords: Buddhism, Christianity, Meditation

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.29-38. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: July 24, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 394.666KB)).

Dr. Greg Wilkinson

Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion, Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, USA

Dr. Mauro Properzi

Assistant Professor of Religion, Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA