Monday, July 2, 2012

Michael Como: Another of Columbia's University's finest gets published!!

This is another post that is in somewhat incomplete form, but I think that some readers should be able to get enough out of it as is to justify my putting it up now and moving on to other issues related to these topics that should generate some synergy when addressed in unison. 

So before I get back to Mr. Bialock’s publication, I’m going to address another publication by another apparent disciple of Mr. Faure’s, Mr. Michael Como. Again, please excuse some of the formatting/text coloring issues, as I do not have a handle on that.

Mr. Como is the:
Toshu Fukami Associate Professor of Shinto Studies, Columbia University

In relation to Bialock’s writing, too, I was compelled to point out what appear to be unscholarly disrespectful and perhaps outright bigoted slights directed at Shotoku Taishi, and with Como, the case is exacerbated by the fact that he has written an entire volume that seems to be an attempt to discredit perhaps the most prominent early Japanese scholar, statesman and historical figure. Mr. Como’s book is called
Shotoku: Ethnicity, Ritual and Violence in the Japanese Buddhist Tradition:

Even though I’m only about 80% through the book, the amount of content that calls for commentary and critique has reached a threshold that prompted this preliminary post.

Throughout his book, Como repeatedly uses terms such as “cultic practices” in relation to Korean immigrants to Japan that he attempts to place in positions of covert authority in the Yamato political sphere, portraying them as a sort of priest caste that he refers to as “intellectuals” employing their “cultic practices” of divination and the like to exert influence over the ruling class of the backwater Japanese kingdom of Yamato.

In short, Como attempts to discount the efforts of a singular Japanese individual whose achievements have merited his being feted as a historic figure, discrediting him as a later construction, in fact, as a fictitious figure fabricated by “immigrant kinship groups”. He attempts to neglect or discredit the big picture of history in order to promote some esoteric hermeneutic based on the “cultic practices” of said immigrant groups, and in a similar manner to Bialock, thereby attempts to degrade, discount or deny the role of reason and intellect in Japanese history..

It is unclear whether the miscellany of circumstantial connections presented by Como makes a clear case regarding the spreading of miraculous tales about Shotoku that cast him as a mythological figure as opposed to a historical figure. It is likely, however, that there is a degree of truth with respect to the mythologizing of Shotoku by into a quasi-cult status figure by the individuals and groups of people among the immigrant kinship groups seeking to advance their position in society as members of some sort of priest caste; alas, do I sense the presence of a Freemason?

It would seem, however, that this point should be addressed more directly in comparative terms examining the immigrant groups from the Korean Kingdom of Paekche, with whom Shotoku had collaborated and been affiliated, to the later immigrant groups from the rival Korean kingdom of Shilla, which it seems basically attempted to appropriate Shotoku when they took over areas that had been associated with the immigrant groups associated with Paekche and which had been displaced. It is only under examination in that context that the divergence in presentations of Shotoku by the respective groups at different points in time can emerge in a manner that might shed light on the motivation for attempting to rewrite history, or to do away with history by couching Shotoku in textual figurations that make him appear more of a mythological than human figure. That in turn could lead to analysis of different strains of thought in Buddhism, as well as the syncretic embodiment of other forms of religious thought and practice with Buddhism in order to spread the teachings of Buddhism to a wider swath of the population. It is clear that only then would such a line of questioning lead to insights that might help us better understand the politico-religious developments and struggles surrounding the figure of Prince Shotoku.

It bears mentioning, come to think of it, that there may be parallels here to the construction of the tales about Jesus. Refer to my post in relation to Jesus as a historical figure. Thankfully, in the case of Shotoku, he remains firmly embedded in the Japanese conscious for his historical deeds, and is therefore regarded primarily as a historic figure rather than a religious figure--thought the history and religion converge in his case--whereas in the case of Jesus, the opposite holds true--Jesus is probably regarded almost exclusively as a religious figure.

Several premises of Como’s texts basically assume—and insinuate—that the Japanese never were capable of learning anything on their own, having to rely on immigrant kinship groups and their “cultic practices” to confer culture on the people. Como would have us believe that, unlike the rest of humanity, the Japanese were impervious to the timeless universals found in texts such as the early Chinese histories, the Analects, and so on. Of course, that assumption runs counter to the central belief in Buddhism that all human beings can attain enlightenment, if they make a sustained effort, live according to the precepts, etc. Perhaps there is some room for overlap between the Confucian gentleman scholar and the enlightened Buddhist.

Let me reiterate a point that I made in an earlier post with respect to literacy in Japan and the establishment of the phonetic alphabets (kana). The Japanese developed a phonetic writing system very early (starting in the 5th century), which probably became of increasing importance in connection with facilitating the transmission of the Buddhist sutras to monks and nuns. The kana syllabary could be used to transliterate sutras written in Sanskrit, for example, whereas it was prohibitively costly and time consuming to educate people in classical Chinese, which was the official writing system used by the Confucian scholars of the court.

The phonetic alphabet spread through the general populous, and the Japanese became a highly literate people. By the 17th century, in fact, Japan is said to have had the highest rate of literacy of any country in the world—far surpassing that of Europe. The Koreans, incidentally, didn’t take up the idea of developing a phonetic alphabet until the 15th century, some 800 years after the full scale use of phonetic alphabets by the Japanese. In Korea, literacy remained a prerogative of the ruling class, like in the West. The data on literacy in Japan in the 17th century is from a book by Marius Jansen, if I recall correctly.

Note that I am aware that there has been a yet another book published by an Associate Professor at Columbia University, David Lurie,
on the Japanese writing system, which I intend to get a copy of and see what he has to say. On the basis of a comment I found of his online in relation to Shotoku Taishi, as well as the emphasis on Korean scribes and the like in the Amazon blurb, I do not expect to be impressed with the book, even though it was published by Harvard University Press, called Realms of Literacy, Early Japan and the History of Writing:
In light of the following comment in a forum for academics doing research related to Japan, the following comment by Lurie (which appears to be smugly dismissive of Shotoku), gives reason to believe that he is another member of the kabal at Columbia under Bernard Faure.
I briefly examined the early Shotoku cult in my dissertation, and plan on putting together a more extensive study of his significance (or lack thereof) in early Japan

It is simply astonishing that an American scholar at an Ivy League institution could make such a derogatory statement regarding perhaps the most universally renowned figure in Japanese history.

At any rate, although I haven’t discussed Taira no Kiyomori with respect to what Bialock has to say about him. Shotoku Taishi is a much more important figure in Japanese history overall, and Como treats him in a similar manner that Bialock treats Kiyomori, if not worse. That is to say, Como claims that Shotoku was a man of violence, that he couldn’t have possibly written the Seventeen-Article Constitution attributed to him, and that the historical figure we know as Prince Shotoku is in fact a fictional fabrication brought about by a group of immigrant kinship groups that served as an intellectual class of diviners checking the powers of the Yamato rulers, and has very little to do with the actual person, who was called Prince Kamitsumiya.

Perhaps I overestimate my level of knowledge, but it seems fairly easy to debunk this shameful and rhetorical overloaded screed by Como, and it is startling that it appears to have received no critical treatment from any of the academics in America that have written reviews on it. That shows the utterly debased state of affairs in American academia.

Note that in light of the harshness of the criticism I have made already, it is only fair to American academia (and British academia) that I quote a brief passage from The Cambridge History of Japan below to preface the analysis of some passages of Como’s text. Delmer Brown, a distinguished American Japan scholar, edited the volume. The point that I would like people to bear in mind is that not only have the current crop of “Associate Professors” whose writings I’m looking at not addressed the work of the preceding generation of distinguished scholars in their field, they have basically ignored it and tried to gloss it over with a pseudo mystical, esoteric diatribe couched in rhetoric loaded with religious tropes. That is hardly the type of writing that one would expect be coming out of prestigious Ivy League institutions like Columbia University or being published by Stanford University and University of Hawaii. So, I do indeed find it shocking and offensive, and thus the irascible tone of my critique.

On pp. 457-8 in chapter 9 of the The Cambridge History of Japan: Ancient Japan, Edwin Cranston writes: 
The training in Chinese classics that began with Wani in the early fifth century must have been cumulative, though greatly accelerated owing to the political and cultural ramifications of seventh-century contacts with the Asian continent. When Prince Shotoku ((574-622) produced his so-called Seventeen Injunctions (preserved in the Nihon shoki) in 604, he composed the text in kambun as a matter of course and displayed familiarity with fifteen different Chinese literary, historical, an philosophical works. As Japan’s earliest scholar-statesman and the most important patron of Buddhism of his day, Shotoku represents the new directions in which he wished to lead his country…

Further in the same paragraph another pertinent point is made.
…And yet, Prince Shotoku was also interested in the past. Indeed, it was inevitable that he would be, for among the Chinese writings that he studied were histories such as the Shih chi (Records of the historian) and the Han shu (Dynastic history of the Han). In 620, according to the Nihon shoki, Shotoku together with Shima no Oomi (Soga no Umako) compiled the first Japanese history of which we have record.

On p. 86 of his book on Shotoku Taishi, Como writes:
By the time of the composition of the Nihon shoki in 720, these conceptions of sage kingship had gained widespread currency at the Nara court. Perhaps the most extended statement of such views can be found in the Seventeen-Article Constitution attributed to Shotoku. This text, which is filled with quotations and allusions from classical Chinese sources, represents the best statement on the concept of the sage ruler in early Yamato literature. The importance attached to this document by the time of the writing of the Nihon shoki can be seen from the inclusion of the entire text within the Nihon shoki. Although the Nihon shoki attributes authorship of the text to Shotoku, it is far more prudent to treat it as reflecting the views of the immigrant kinship groups associated with the early Shotoku cult. Even if we do accept the rather dubious assertion that Kamitsumiya was the author of the text, the prince’s approach to the Chinese textual tradition would have doubtless have been greatly shaped by his immigrant teachers.
              Ono Tatsunosuke has analyzed the Constitution from the standpoint of its Chinese conceptual background. He concludes that, in addition to Buddhist influences, the text closely resembles the Kuan-tzu. An important apocryphal compilation from the fourth century that purports to record the teachings of the sage counselor Kuan-tzu. This affinity with a text that claims to be the work of a Chinese sage counselor reflects the Constitution’s pre-occupation with delineating the role of the counselors and ministers of Yamato rulers.

It is apparent from the opening statement of this passage that Como, like Bialock, is preoccupied with notions of ‘conceptions of royal authority’, as evidence by the reference to “these conceptions of sage kingship”.

Before analyzing what I consider to be basically bigoted as well as intellectually bereft and ludicrous assertions (some of which I’ve highlighted), let me simply dissect the seemingly innocuous portion about Kuan-tzu, as it borders on being plain and simple disinformation, the dissemination of which is a practice he seems to share in common with Mr.Bialock.
The Guanzi is an encyclopedic compilation of Chinese philosolphical materials named after the 7th century BCE philosopher Guan Zhong, Prime Minister to Duke Huan of Qi. The Han Dynasty scholar Liu Xiang edited the received Guanzi text circa 26 BCE, largely from sources associated with the 4th century BCE Jixia Academy in the Qi capital ofLinzi.
Guǎn Zhòng was a chancellor and reformer of the State of Qi during the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history.
Guan Zhong started multiple reforms in the State of Qi. Politically, he centralized power and divided the state into different villages, each carrying out a specific trade… He also developed a better method for choosing talent to be governors. Under Guan Zhong, Qi shifted administrative responsibility from hereditary aristocrats to professional bureaucrats…

The following quotes are from a German researcher (link found on Wikipedia page) whose English is not perfect, but the points are presented in a readily accessible manner.
Although Guan Zhong is renowned as the first Chinese legalist state philosopher the chapters of the Guanzi also deal with matters and display ideas that are traditionally attributed to Confucians or Daoist philosophy or to the Yin-Yang theory, the dialecticians, agronomists or to military theoreticians... It was seen as an important writing encompassing both the Confucian ritual and the legalist order by law as bases for an effective government. It might be that the paragraphs containing other thought were added to the Guanzi only later, presumably by Liu Xiang.
He is listed as the author of the Guanzi encyclopedia, actually a much later (of the late Warring States Period) compilation of works from the scholars of the Jixia Academy.

Both of the above quoted passages emphasize the historical importance of Guan Zhong, with the degree to which the text he is credited with being composed of actual writings by him a point of questioning. It doesn’t appear that there is any disagreement with respect to his status as the first philosopher of legalism in China, and the fact that he was a chancellor who implemented broad ranging institutional reforms, many of which promoted one form or another of meritocracy at their core, would certainly provide a contextual background supporting the production of such intellectual work.

In this regard, it is somewhat incomprehensible why Como would make such controversial remarks on the basis of two pages cited from an obscure Japanese scholar's work, and characterize the Kuan-tzu as an apocryphal work related to a sage counselor. Both of these seem to represent a simplification and mystification of the topical matter at hand, with the apparent aim of deceiving the reader in order to discredit Shotoku the scholar. I would suggest that Mr. Como discredits himself as an aspiring (albeit well-funded) scholar.

At any rate, I have briefly discussed meritocracy in relation to the Cap-ranks system in a previous blog post on Bialock, and the parallels are obvious. To imagine that Shotoku would not be familiar with the writings of (or about) an intellectual and reformist figure of the stature of Guan Zhong is simply preposterous.

I believe that I’ve posted this link already on another post (along with some actual Articles from the Seventeen, but for the sake of convenience, I’m posting it again here, with a comment or two.
The Seventeen-article constitution is, according to Nihon Shoki published in 720, a document authored by Prince Shōtoku in 604… The emphasis of the document is not so much on the basic laws by which the state was to be governed, such as one may expect from a modern constitution, but rather it was a highly Buddhist document that focused on the morals and virtues that were to be expected of government officials and the emperor's subjects to ensure a smooth running of the state, where the emperor was to be regarded as the highest authority. It is one of the earliest moral dictatorial documents in history.

Although the Seventeen articles have a legalistic framework, they are set forth more in terms of moralistic admonishments and duties (and thus are referred to as injunctions by some scholars), including, conspicuously, a requirement that Buddhism and the Three Treasures be not only respected by revered. This is most significant in light of the fact that Prince Kamitsumiya stood with the Soga in subjugating the Mononobe due to their unprovoked, and essentially irrational and bigoted attacks on the Buddhist community. The Seventeen-article Constitution secured religious freedom for Buddhism in Yamato era Japan. 

In fact, the subsequent establishment of a full-blown syncretic system by Kukai attests to the need for such vigilance. And it should be pointed out that irrational nativism was again responsible for motivating the attacks on Buddhism after the Meiji Restoration with the adoption of the official policies—Shin-Butsu Bunri—targeting the Buddhist community nominally with the purposed of separating Buddhism and Shinto, ending a thousand years of syncretism. The continuous importance and gravity of the themes addressed by Shotoku to the specific circumstances adhering in the Yamato polity and through to the present era are unmistakable.

Moreover, I have highlighted in green a point made by Wikipedia that this document is of historical significance of a world-wide scope. Though I am not well informed about the history of “moral dictatorial documents”, I would imagine that the admonition to revere Buddhism and the Three Treasures represents one of the earliest institutionalized guarantees of freedom of religion for an imported religion. In doing so, it thereby officially embraces a form of religious pluralism. Moreover, Shotoku’s Seventeen-Article Constitution can be seen as an monumental synthesis of Buddhist and Confucian values, which were two major sources of the cultural tradition in East Asia, and that fact is something that punctuates the ascension of Yamato era Japan as a matured member of the polities forming the East Asian cultural sphere. It is no exaggeration to state that Shotoku’s work represents an intellectual achievement of the highest level within the East Asian cultural sphere. In fact, I would be curious to know if there are any extant texts in Chinese and Korean from that period that proffer commentaries on Shotoku’s Seventeen-article Constitution.

With regard to another aspect in relation to the Chinese intellectual tradition, Como attempts to cast it in terms of esoteric knowledge for use in divination, as opposed to historical records and teachings aimed at promoting moral self-cultivation, with the convergent aim at various levels of generating feedback from said cultivation back into society and benefiting society.

p. 79
…In effect, the Chinese textual tradition allowed Yamato rulers to lay claim to a new type of cosmic sanction that could be verified for all to see.
    There was along with this, however, one significant danger for any Yamato ruler claiming the status of sage ruler—by relying upon propitious omens and placing the virtue of the ruler at the center of political discourse, Yamato rulers also opened themselves up to potential critique… In China, such critique served as one of the main checks on the Son of Heaven’s power; indeed, the authority to make such critiques was the quid pro quo extracted by Chinese intellectuals for supporting would-be rulers. With the adoption of this intellectual framework in Yamato, the hermeneutics of divination soon became an important arena for the contestation of power. No faction that aimed to seize power could ignore the political uses of omens and divination, nor could they neglect the textual tradition and intellectuals with whom authority for interpreting omens rested.

Como’s casting those engaged in the practice of divination as “intellectuals” is a gross distortion of both the meaning of the term intellectual, and an apparently deliberate over simplification of the historical context in which Chinese classics were studied, and applied in Yamato period Japan.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, the contact between the continent and Japan is preserved in various historical accounts in Chinese (as well as Korean) records, which predate literacy in Japan. In particular, relations between the Chinese court and Himiko would seem to have been on rather good, so much so that the Chinese court agreed to provide her military assistance to quell a rebellion, and bestowed a number of the ubiquitous Chinese bronze mirrors on her, as well, which were a symbol of culture and wisdom.

The extent of interaction in terms of cultural exchange is a matter for speculation; however, since the records tell us that the Chinese had an interpreter, then it is readily apparent that there were Chinese who were fluent in Japanese, which can only mean that linguistic study and exchanges were ongoing. It can be assumed that the individuals in Himiko’s court that were counterparts to the Chinese interpreters had acquired a degree of familiarity with spoken Chinese, at any rate. Of course this predates the introduction of writing in Japan, but any student of language can surmise that linguistic exchanges such as that described above probably encompassed the informal introduction of Chinese writing to the Japanese counterparts to the Chinese interpreters.

I don’t know when the archeological record dates the introduction of wet-paddy rice agriculture to Japan, but it was almost certainly brought over from the continent. And one can only assume that a certain degree of knowledge relating to the timing of planting and harvesting cycles was introduced concurrently; furthermore, such knowledge may have been provided within a framework having an affinity with divinatory practices, involving astronomical observation, etc. As such, divinatory practices were originally introduced along with an agricultural practice that became core to the material sustenance and growth of the population on the Japanese archipelago.

One reason that the Chinese classics were accepted in Japan was that they had a universal appeal. The legends of the Chinese historical figures transmitted in the classics had something to teach the Japanese, and once the Japanese were able to read the language, they could understand the lessons that the classics were conveying. In other words, the classics contained stories embodying teachings having a substantial degree of universal applicability in human societies crossing the bounds of historical period and place.

In this regard, there are at least two assertion made by Como that are troubling. First, he seems to claim that Shotoku could not possibly have learned enough from the Chinese classics he had been studying for many years to pen the Seventeen Injunctions (Seventeen-Article Constitution) credited to him in the Nihon shoki. Second, Como attempts to cast the Chinese classics in terms exclusively of the yin-yang divination or alchemical Daoist sort.

Again, here, a simple examination of the Kuan-tzu text that he refers to via an obscure Japanese scholar is described by general sources primarily as a text that represents the first treatise on legalism in China, containing peripheral elements relating to Daoism and the like that ere likely added at a later date by the compilers. Therefore, in drawing up his Seventeen-article Constitution, as a quasi-legalistic document, that Shotoku should have been influenced by what we can only assume to have been a very important treatise by Guan Zhong et al. at the time relating to the development of Chinese socio-political normativity and social institutions, would seem to be a given.

In fact, Shotoku's teachers would have been remiss had they not introduced such an apparently important text into Japan, and it is therefore inconceivable that Shotoku wouldn't have studied such the Kuan-tzu and incorporated aspects of the teachings that he found pertinent in his Seventeen-article Constitution, which is indisputably the first substantial Japanese contribution to the East Asian textual tradition, which of course has its origins in Ancient China. 

Shotoku's Seventeen-article Constitution contributes at a very high level to the evolution of society in the East Asian cultural sphere, and therefore marks Japan’s coming of age in the long established intellectual and cultural tradition in the sphere of East Asia. Furthermore, the fact that he also instituted a Cap-ranks system similar to that used in Confucian China clearly demonstrates his affinity and deep familiarity with that tradition. It is not a mystery!

In fact, one could also point to the fact that Como attempts to divert the attention of his reader to some phantom formalistic aspect relating to a purported similarity between the actual text of the Seventeen-article Constitution and that of the Kuan-tzu, which appear to be entirely different types of documents, whereas he completely neglect the overlap between the reforms enacted by the historical figure of Guan Zhong in the capacity of chancellor and the concomitant societal effects of the promulgation of the Seventeen-article Constitution and Cap-ranks system by the historical figure of Shotoku in the capacity of regent. 

The parallels are obvious, and it cannot be said that it would have been difficult for Shotoku the scholar and statesman to grasp the meaning of the actions of Guan Zhong the chancellor, applying some of those principles to the sociopolitical scenario he faced in Yamato period Japan in the capacity of regent. 

Furthermore, although Como may be ithin bounds in characterizing the Kuan-tzu as an apocryphal work, it's main theme of legalism as propounded by Guan Zhong is not a topic than can be said to be esoteric. And though I haven't read the Kuan-tzu, I would imagine that the doctrine of legalism set forth therein has nothing to do with divination. 

The fact of the matter is that Shotoku's work addressed problems  associated with religion and politics that were generating conflict and making society dysfunctional. 
On the one hand, with the Cap-ranks system, he  attempted to negate the counterproductive system of hereditary privilege embodied in the Kabane class, which was often associated with being a member of a Shinto priest caste--such as the Mononobe and Nakatomi. The Cap-ranks system served to instill a work ethic among the educated elite class and inject a degree of rationalization into the exercise of political power through the implementation of policies promoting meritocracy. Aside from fairness and reward for efforts aptly applied, meritocracy serves to promote a form of mutual intelligibility across society, and thereby helps prevent attempts at mystification or mass deception aimed at the public sphere. 
On the other hand, he explicitly promulgated in the Seventeen-article Constitution what amounts to a prohibition against attacking the Buddhist community and teachings, closing off any further recourse to violence that might be sought be former members of the Shinto establishment that felt their livelihoods tied to a monopoly over all matters religious was threatened by Buddhism. 

Moreover, I believe that Shotoku was also responsible for ending the relationship of suzerainty that existed between Japan and China up till that point. That clearly demonstrates that he was not a subservient weakling being used as a proxy by his immigrant kinship group teachers, nor was he beholden to China. He was acting in the interests of Yamato period Japan, as its defacto ruler in the capacity of regent. The occasion was marked by the apparently inconsequential courtesies paid to his counterpart in the greeting of equally famous message that Shotoku sent to the Chinese Sui court, in which he wrote,
"From the sovereign of the land of the rising sun to the sovereign of the land of the setting sun."
As the Wikipedia page states, this is the first known instance in which Japan is referred to as “the land where the sun rises”. I seem to recall reading somewhere that the Sui emperor was not very pleased with the comeuppance of Shotoku in this regard, feeling somewhat slighted by being referred to as the sovereign of the land where the sun sets, but the message was sent when Shotoku dispatched a mission to the Sui court, so it cannot be regarded to have been intended as a slight against the Sui emperor; it should be regarded as a somewhat indirect assertion of equality and independence. It should be noted that it was sent several years after the promulgation of the Seventeen-article Constitution. Again, it would be interesting to examine the Chinese records of this period with respect to relations with Japan during the regency of Shotoku.

Here is about where I should start to take Como to task for his offensive remarks:
Although the Nihon shoki attributes authorship of the text to Shotoku, it is far more prudent to treat it as reflecting the views of the immigrant kinship groups associated with the early Shotoku cult. Even if we do accept the rather dubious assertion that Kamitsumiya was the author of the text, the prince’s approach to the Chinese textual tradition would have doubtless have been greatly shaped by his immigrant teachers.  

But I will leave this post as is for now, as it is already fairly long and some of the criticism should be readily apparent on the basis of statements I’ve made above.

I will get around to more thoroughly critiquing this book at a later date, after I’ve completed reading it, etc.

However, I may post another preliminary critique of the book by Mr. Lurie first, depending what I he has written.

There remains the discussion of Kiyomori with respect to Bialock’s book as well.

As a closing remark, I would like to point out that Como is an Associate Professor whose position is funded by a Shinto group that has an obvious religious bias. Please refer to the following link. In that regard, because Como seems to be attacking one of the most renowned figures in Japanese history, who, in addition to the forgoing discussion of the Seventeen-article Constitution and Cap ranks system, is also revered for having been a staunch defender of Buddhism in the public sphere, and having written commentaries on several Sutras, one can only point at a bias against Buddhism in this text. In fact, that is even evidence in the baffling title, which makes recourse to ethnicity and refers to “Violence in the Japanese Buddhist Tradition”.

Who is Toshu Fukami, well I found this website about the organization with which he is affiliated, in fact, which he heads:
Toshu Fukami Professorship of Shinto Studies at Columbia University
One of the major activities of the International Shinto Foundation is funding the establishment of chairs specializing in studies of Japanese religion, specifically focused on Shinto as the core of Japanese cultural values
(my emphasis), at prestigious universities abroad. In 1997, the first Shinto chair was endowed at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) under the leadership of Prof. Allan Grapard. Another chair was set up, in 1998, for a graduate studies degree in "Shinto and Japanese Culture" at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. ISF began providing funds for the London University School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) to establish the Center for the Study of Japanese Religions (CSJR) and start a Masterfs degree course from 1999. In 2001 Dr. Toshu Fukami, ISF President, agreed to provide endowment funds to establish the Toshu Fukami Professorship of Shinto Studies at Columbia University’s Department of Religion. Prof. Michael Como was nominated the chair in 2006. In responding to the proposal of Prof. Nicholas B. Dirks, Vice President for Arts and Sciences of Columbia University Dr. Fukami pledged to increase the fund of this endowment for the full professorship covering not only the Department of Religion, but also the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. The new Gift Agreement was signed by both parties of the ISF and Columbia University on April 10, 2008.

In other words, it would seem that Columbia University is happy to receive money from an organization that has a religious bias, and to place someone in the position funded by that organization that is willing to attack another religion in a groundless manner with the aim of promoting the interest of the sponsor’s religious bias. Personally, I find that to be a disgraceful position for a prestigious institute of higher education—even a private institution—in the United States of America to adopt.

Perhaps I am idealizing the field, but it seems to me that religious bias has no place in scholarship. Note that I am not opposed to the activities of the aforementioned organization per se, and welcome their funding of libraries, etc. It is simply the apparent corruption of the practice of scholarship, and the publication of misleading and basically bigoted texts to which I object.

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