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Shin Buddhism, Authority, and the Fundamental Law of Education

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This article takes its cue from one of the most controversial issues in the contemporary Japanese scene, the 2006 complete revision of the Fundamental Law of Education, that includes among its objectives the cultivation of patriotism, the high evaluation of Japanese tradition and culture, and the promotion of general knowledge regarding religion in public schools. Within this framework, the role of religion in education indeed represents a sensitive subject, which entails once again reinterpretation of the issues of the separation of state and religion, and the freedom of religion, which are enshrined in the Japanese Constitution. There have been reactions to this revision from various religious institutions, ranging from support to overt opposition. What is argued here is that these responses are meaningful to understanding some of the major dynamics currently at work within the Japanese religious world, and their implications for the issue of religion and authority. In this respect, the Shin Buddhist position may be seen as a way of contesting the claims of authority by political institutions, and affirming an alternative authoritative discourse on the basis of selected doctrinal sources, and a positive approach toward globalization and the differentiation of religion, politics and education.

Affiliations: 1: NCC Center for the Study of Japanese Religions, Kyoto, 602-8011, Japan;, Email: ugodessi@yahoo.co.jp

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