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The Dynamics of East Asian New Religions

Panel Chair: David William Kim | Thursday, August 27, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

The East Asian nations have a similar historical background of modernization in the 19th – early 20th centuries. While the society, culture, religion, and thought were altered with advanced technology and Christianity, the new religious movements also emerged from the Asian traditions of Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Shintoism, and Shamanism. Then, how did they motivate the local societies of East Asia region? What were the new perspectives they offered? How were the new religions challengeable over the traditional beliefs? The papers of this panel explore the following subjects to demonstrate the socio-religious dynamics of East Asia, such as the metaphysical relation between God and man within the context of the Korean Daesoonjinrihoe and Japanese Tenrikyo, the newly individualized spirituality of a Taiwanese new religion (‘the Sacred Teaching of Mind-only’), the social engagement of Won-Buddhism, and the history of Tenrikyo and its restoration in contemporary Japan.

Gyung-Won Lee

The God-Man Relation in East Asian New Religious Movements: The Cases of Daesoonjinrihoe and Tenrikyo

The paper explores the metaphysical relation between God and man within new religious movements in East Asia. The founder of Daesoonjinrihoe is taught to be present in the world as the Lord of the ninth heaven in order to create the earthly paradise through the work-process of so called, Cheonji-Gongsa (‘reforming the universe’). Human beings are seen to have privileges by which gods and men are harmonized (Shinin-Johaw). Meanwhile, the God of Tenrikyo (God the Parent) is comprehended as the creator of all creatures including human beings. So, all human beings are viewed as brothers and sisters. They teach that as God and men keeps the relationship of parent and children, they can enjoy an ideal life. Thus, the comparative study of the paper will not only demonstrate the individual concept of the God-man relation, but also unveil the creative identity of the Korean and Japanese new religions.

Shu-wei Hsieh

Master, Scriptures and Rituals: A Study on Taiwanese Sacred Teaching of Mind-Only

The paper investigates a new religious movement in Taiwan by focusing on its master, scriptures and rituals. The Sacred Teaching of Mind-only is a new religion which is integrated with divination and fongshui practices. The founding master, Hunyuan is a charismatic figure as well as a new religious innovator in Taiwan. The small-scale cases of charisma illuminate its theoretical and comparative purposes. Then, how can one interpret the religious community and their unique teachings? The paper analyses the new Taiwanese religion by means of three perspectives; 1) The relationship of master with the scriptures, 2) the links of circulation of impacts between scriptures and rituals, 3) methods and theories to explore alternative models of spirituality and new religion. The newly individualized spirituality is often represented in different ways, but this paper tries to address the new spirituality empirically as well as the broader flows within religious and divination traditions.

Kwangsoo Park

A Study on the “Gaebyok (Great Opening 開闢)” Thought and Social Reformation of Won-Buddhism

The religious culture of modern Korea is a traditional heritage of Korean spirit and history. It is very important to study such heritages because it is a treasure house maintaining a variety of Koreanity. They have been collected throughout the process of confrontation and naturalization of conventional religions of foreign origin. Among the founders of new Korean religions, Chung-Bin Pak (1891-1943), better known by his religious epithet, Sot’aesan, founded a reformed Buddhist movement called Won-Buddhism (Wonbulgyo). The leader’s main purpose in the reformation of Buddhism was to apply Buddhism to the contemporary secular society. Then, how do the new religious teachings engage with the local communities of Korean society? The paper argues that the new religious founder’s goal of reformation was based on the thought of Gaebyok (Great Opening of Era) in order to build the peaceful world through reformations of the imbalances in social and religious systems.

Jiro Sawai

Scriptures and Their Restoration: A Case Study of Tenrikyo

Tenrikyo has the three Scriptures, which constitute the foundation of its faith. Before the World War II, however, the new Japanese religion was severely persecuted by the Japanese Government. Therefore, it was very difficult for Tenrikyo adherents to communicate its teachings to people on the basis of its Scriptures. As soon as the World War was over in 1945, the Tenri community immediately began to restore its teachings, based on its Scriptures. Thus, in my presentation, by examining the history of conformation and restoration in Tenrikyo, I attempt to explore what the changeable or the unchangeable is in Tenrikyo faith. From a historical viewpoint of religions, in order to clarify the characteristics of religions in modern Japan, it may be significant to demonstrate how Tenrikyo restored its original teachings as the Foundress Miki Nakayama taught them.


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