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Dynamism and the Aging of a Japanese New Religion: From Human Founder to All-powerful Buddha

Baffelli, Erica (University of Manchester, UK)
Reader, Ian (The University of Manchester, UK)

978 1 350 08651 7
List price(s):
114.00 USD
85.00 GBP

Publication date:
10 January 2019

Full description: 

This book examines the trajectory and development of the Japanese religious movement, Agonshu, commonly portrayed in Japan as a 'new religion', and its charismatic founder Kiriyama Seiyu. Based on field research spanning 30 years it examines Agonshu from when it first captured attention in the 1980s with its spectacular rituals and use of media technologies, through a period of stagnation, until its response to the 2016 death of its founder. Via an in-depth profile of Agonshu and the pivotal role of Kiriyama Seiyu as founder, the authors examine and critique the concept of 'new religions', and discuss the nature and significance of charisma, charismatic leadership and religious entrepreneurship. The book discusses the 'democratisation' of practice and the demands made by movements such as Agonshu on members, while examining how a movement that developed in Japan has expressed seemingly universal concepts while becoming increasingly focused on revisionist nationalism and issues of Japanese identity. In examining the dilemma religions commonly face on the deaths of charismatic founders, Baffelli and Reader look at Agonshu's response to Kiriyama's death, how and why it has transformed a human founder into a figure of worship, and how, through such founder veneration, it has become increasingly normative in Japanese contexts. By examining Agonshu in the wider context, the authors draw attention to the importance of understanding the trajectories of 'new' religions and how they can become `old' even within their first generation.

Table of contents: 

1. Introduction 2. Situation Agonshu: The Concept of New Religions in Modern Japan 3. Charisma, Turmoil and the Life of a Religious Founder 4. Teachings and Practices 5. From the World to Japan: The Nationalism of an Ageing Movement 6. Transcending Death: The Birth and Guiding Presence of the Second Buddha 7. Conclusion: Founder Veneration and the Problem of the New Bibliography Index


Erica Baffelli is Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies at the University of Manchester, UK. She is co-editor of the forthcoming Bloomsbury Handbook of Japanese Religions (2019) and her most recent book is Media and New Religions in Japan (2016). Ian Reader is Professor Emeritus at the University of Manchester, UK. He is the author or co-author of ten books and co-editor of several volumes.



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