The Institute for Japanese Studies presents:
Philosophy and Religious Studies
North Carolina State University
Discipleship through Classical Music in a Japanese Religion: Beethoven, Buddhism, and Youth Cultivation in Soka Gakkai
Flyer: Levi McLaughlin Flyer [pdf]
Abstract: Soka Gakkai is Japan’s largest lay Buddhist organization. With a claimed membership of 8.27 million households and close to two million adherents in 192 other countries and territories, it is Japan’s largest following of the medieval Buddhist reformer Nichiren (1222-1282) and Japan’s most successful religious export. This presentation draws on McLaughlin’s years as a non-member researcher and musician within Japanese Gakkai communities to consider striking aspects of the group’s institutional construction and adherent practices around the category of “culture.” Why is the only museum at Soka Gakkai headquarters filled with pianos? Why did Ikeda Daisaku, Soka Gakkai’s Honorary President, sing the praises of Ludwig van Beethoven? And how did Gakkai adherents transform playing Beethoven into a Buddhist practice? This presentation will reconsider definitions of what counts as “religious” as it proposes an alternative history of Japanese aspirations for social legitimacy, cultural sophistication, and enlightenment.
Levi McLaughlin is Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at North Carolina State University. His work deals primarily with religion and politics in contemporary Japan. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University after previous study at the University of Tokyo, and he holds a B.A. and M.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto. Levi is co-author and co-editor of Kōmeitō: Politics and Religion in Japan (IEAS Berkeley, 2014) and co-editor of the special issue “Salvage and Salvation: Religion and Disaster Relief in Asia” (Asian Ethnology, June 2016). He is author of Soka Gakkai’s Human Revolution: The Rise of a Mimetic Nation in Modern Japan (University of Hawai`i Press, 2019).
Free and Open to the Public
If you require an accommodation, such as live captioning, to participate in this event, please contact Stephanie Metzger at email@example.com or 614-247-4725. Requests made at least two weeks in advance of the event will generally allow us to provide seamless access, but the university will make every effort to meet requests made after this date.
This event is supported by a U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant to The Ohio State University East Asian Studies Center.