chapter  11
12 Pages

Preaching as performance: notes on a secretive Shin Buddhist sermon

ByCLARK CHILSON

On a cool November afternoon I arrived at an old wooden Buddhist temple nestled in an urban residential area of Kyoto, Japan. The priest and others at the temple were performing an annual memorial service for the temple’s founder, Kūya, who is widely known as a tenth-century holy man. The temple was dimly lit, with about a hundred people sitting pressed shoulder to shoulder on tatami mats. Although I had come that day to learn about Kūya, I met people who would teach me about a religious tradition that had little to do with Kūya and which scholars assumed had died out long ago – secretive Shin Buddhism.