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CJS Noon Lecture ~ "Takagi Kenmyo and Buddhist Socialism: A Meiji Misfit and Martyr"

Thursday, February 9, 2012
5:00 AM
Room 1636, School of Social Work Building, 1080 South University, Ann Arbor

Paul Swanson is a Permanent Fellow at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture at Nanzan University. He has done fieldwork on Shugendo (a Japanese mountain ascetic tradition), produced textal studies and translations of 6th-century Chinese T’ien-t’ai treatises, and as the editor of Japanese Journal of Religious Studies kept an interest in all aspects of Japanese religions. His publications include "Foundations of T’ien-t’ai Philosophy," "Pruning the Bodhi Tree," and the "Nanzan Guide to Japanese Religions" (a Choice “Outstanding Academic Book” 2006).
Takagi Kenmyo (1864–1914) was a Shinshu Otani branch Pure Land Buddhist priest who was arrested by the Japanese government on trumped-up charges as part of a crackdown on “socialist elements” in 1910, known as the Taigyaku (“great treason”) incident (taigyaku jiken). He was identified as a troublemaker by the government on account of his social activism for anti-discrimination and anti-war (Russo-Japanese war) causes. After his arrest he was immediately renounced by the Shinshu hierarchy, with his ordination rescinded, and his family driven from their temple and home in Shingu, Wakayama. Takagi himself was sentenced to be executed, but died in prison in 1914, reportedly by his own hand. His honor was finally restored in 1996 with an official apology by the Otani organization, and the posthumous restoration of his priestly rank. In my presentation I will look at the life and times of Takagi, and examine his experiences and writings (mainly his essay on “My Socialism”) as one of a very few Buddhist priests who conscientiously opposed the official policies and social pressures of early 20th century Japan.