Document Type

Contribution to Book

Source Publication

Approaches to Chan, Sŏn and Zen Studies: Chinese Chan Buddhism and its Spread throughout East Asia

Publication Date

Fall 11-1-2022


Albert Welter, Steven Heine, and Jin Y. Park


State University of New York Press


Albany, New York


Suny Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture



First Page


Last Page



Comparative Humanities


In addition to the birth and development of “Imperial Way Zen,” late Meiji Japan witnessed the emergence of a number of young lay Buddhist scholars, priests and activists who attempted, with varying success, to reframe Buddhism along progressive and occasionally radical political lines. While it is true that groups such as the New Buddhist Fellowship (Shin Bukkyō Dōshikai, 1899–1915) were made up mainly of young men associated with the two branches of the Shin (True Pure Land) sect, several of its members did affiliate themselves with Zen, such as Suzuki Daisetsu (1870–1966) and Inoue Shūten (1880–1945). While the former’s work has been roundly appraised (and recently subject to criticism), the latter, an avowed pacifist and internationalist, has been relatively understudied in both Japanese and Western scholarship. A more radical contemporary figure, Sōtō sect priest Uchiyama Gudō (1874–1911), has received more attention, due in no small part to his being executed as one of the 24 conspirators of the High Treason Incident of 1910–11. This chapter will compare and contrast the “radical” ideas of Inoue and Uchiyama, focusing on their use of Chan and Zen precedents to justify and explain their progressive positions, while setting their arguments in the broader context of Meiji intellectual debates, both within and outside of Japanese Buddhism. It will also explore the reasons why Zen was more often than not a “conservative” force in modern Japan.