All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

John E Van Sant

Advisory Committee Members

Pamela S Murray

Mary B Whall

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2012

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Nichiren Buddhism, based on the teachings of the 13th century Buddhist sage Nichiren (1222-1282 CE), ultimately originating with the Lotus Sutra, came to the United States in the 1960s, primarily through the efforts of young Japanese women who married U.S. servicemen stationed in their native land following World War II. The women, converts to Nichiren Buddhism through the lay organization Soka Gakkai, managed by the late 1960s to attract thousands of young Americans to the practice. During the years that followed, thousands of Americans not directly connected with the counterculture also converted to Nichiren Buddhism. Buddhist ideas reverberated with some strains of American culture. I examine the egalitarian strains of Buddhism beginning with the life and teachings of its founder, Shakyamuni Gautama, the "Buddha." Examination of origin of Mahayana follows with specific examination of the Lotus Sutra as doctrinally defined by Chi-i (T'ien T'ai) and as expanded into a populist form of Buddhism by Nichiren. I scrutinze(1) the teachings of Nichiren, (2) the spread of his teachings during his lifetime, and (3) the revitalization and spread of Nichiren Buddhism in the twentieth century by Soka Gakkai, first in Japan and then in the United States. Resonating American cultural antecedents that facilitated the spread of Buddhism are assessed. Parallels between societal conditions in ancient Bharata (India), Kamakura Japan, post-Pacific War Japan and late twentieth century America set the stage for this study.

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