hongwanji, kyoto

Institutionalism, anti-institutionalism

We pick up our conversation from last time about the attrition problem in American Shin Buddhism, its possible causes, and solutions. This time we focus on our listener’s suggestion that there is an essential anti-institutionalism within Shin Buddhism. We’re on the fence on that one; we want to be cautious about reading too much of our own cultural and historical biases into very different cultural and historical contexts. Was Shinran’s understanding of “institution” the same as ours? Or was he advocating for a completely different kind of community? Of course, we’ve inherited centuries of temple bureaucracy and hierarchy, and it’s absolutely important to be self-critical and question how we do things as an institution. Can we think of new ways to envision Shin community in contemporary America?