Course of
Field Study of Cultures

Professor MORI Masahide (Field Study of Cultures)

[Theme] Asia and Japan as seen through Cultural Research

(1) Research on the rites and art of Tantric Buddhism in India

Buddhism collapsed in India by around the 13th century. In the last few centuries, Tantric Buddhism was dominant; however, not much progress has been achieved in the study of Tantric Buddhism even within the studies of the history of Buddhism in India. Tantric Buddhism is characterized by systems of complex rites and the creation works of art like the Mandala. My research is to elaborate the state of Tantric Buddhism using these rites and icons.

In more specific terms, I use Sanskrit materials from India to clarify the structure and symbolic system of Indian Tantric Buddhist rites. As the basic preparatory work, I compile and translate critical editions of fundamental materials on rites and icons. I also do on-site investigations of Buddhist art and archaeological data from this period, and conduct studies on Buddhism from a more comprehensive perspective.

(2) Comparative Cultural Studies of Buddhism in India and Japan

Buddhism originated in India and passed through Central Asia, China, and Southeast Asia before reaching Japan. Through this process of diffusion, the nature of Buddhism was accepted as it was influenced by each region and group of people. Buddhism spread through all of Asia, but that doesn't mean that it is the same in every region. Buddhism has many different faces in each land in terms of doctrine, thought, representations of Buddha, training methods, and links with the government and citizens.

These varieties of Buddhism can actually serve as an appropriate theme for denoting the nature of each culture. The thought, art, literature, folklore, rituals that emerged in Japan due to the influence of Buddhism are particularly essential elements while considering the culture of Japan. Through a comparative study of Buddhism, I research into such as the nature of Japanese culture, the nature of Japanese people, and between Japan and India and the other nations of Asia.

(3) Interdisciplinary studies of the symbolic nature of religious spaces

The questions of how a religion takes up space and how it is presented are extremely crucial to the understanding of religion itself. For example, the space for rites, temples, holy grounds, and pilgrimages can be interpreted as symbols of space. We also often see holy spaces dictating the construction of cities or reflected in the structure of the entire universe. Furthermore, the future, other realms, and the afterlife can also be viewed as religions spaces. The issue of space is a composite theme that spans many fields like religion, history, mythology, cosmology, urban theory, architecture, and art history. It is also intimately connected with time and body theories. By advancing interdisciplinary studies based on these multifaceted viewpoints, I hope to create new fields of research in religion and cultural history.

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