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Wednesday, April 26 • 10:00am - 10:20am
Digging Up The Dead: Death And The Afterlife In The Shinto Tradition

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Shinto, the native religious tradition of Japan, includes many facets and rituals that would seem unsurprising to a practitioner of any other faith. Shinto has its creation myth, deities, shrines, prayers, and so on. One thing it is lacking, however, is a concrete notion of the afterlife. Unlike most other religious traditions, Shintoism never burdened itself with fully investigating the phenomena of death. Instead, there are traces about afterlife ideas from stories on the dark and dreary underworld of Yomi, other vaguely described lands of the dead such as the moon, to turning into a bird or even other forms of spirit reincarnation as examples of what happens at death. Some of these are discussed in a primary text of the Shinto tradition, the Kojiki, a collection detailing the history of Japan from the age of the Gods to the early emperors. However, the majority of afterlife ideas are developed through the extended exegesis of prominent Shintoist scholars from the Kokugaku School who aimed to revitalize the native faith against the corruption of foreign traditions such as Buddhism and Confucianism. The scholars Hirata Atsutane (1776-1843) and his predecessor Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801) chose to build their afterlife understandings off of the fragments in the Kojiki, instead of the Nihongi, another prominent Shinto source which was written just a few years later. This paper examines the construction by Atsutane and Norinaga of a more coherent vision of the Shinto afterlife from fragments in the Kojiki and the strategies used by these Shinto philosophers to solidify their interpretations within the orthodox Shinto canon.

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Wednesday April 26, 2017 10:00am - 10:20am
102 Carmichael

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