Buddhism and law in Japan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Introduction The study of the relationship between Buddhism and law in Japan has developed only in the twentieth century. The pioneering work of scholars like Miura Hiroyuki and, especially, Hosokawa Kameichi, attempted to understand Japanese Buddhism within larger historical contexts, but it was not until recently that more extensive examination was undertaken. Given the limited amount of existing scholarship, the lengthy span of Japanese history, and the restrictions of space, this overview is primarily concerned with the developing relationship between Buddhism and law in the medieval era (ca. 950–ca. 1600 CE), providing only a brief consideration of the other historical periods. Buddhism and Law in Early Japan The Ritsuryō code of 718, patterned partially on Tang legal codes, issued a set of specific guidelines for the behavior of Buddhist monks and nuns in its seventh section entitled “Laws for Monks and Nuns” (sōniryō). While prohibiting acts not directly discussed by the Buddhist precepts, such as military training or action, the code also clearly intersected at points with the Vinaya, such as subjecting those who make false claims of enlightenment to civil law. In each temple, three monk administrators (sangō) were to keep the monastic register and oversee any changes in status, such as a monk’s or nun’s decision to return to lay life as well as other petitions, most of which required record keeping and government notification; they were, moreover, required to mete out the punishment for infractions – typically, labor on monastery grounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBuddhism and Law
Subtitle of host publicationAn Introduction
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781139044134
ISBN (Print)9780521515795
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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