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Experiences and Message from JSPS Fellows

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Dr. David E. Riggs




Pre-fellowship host institute

University of California, Santa Barbara,
Department of Religious Studies

Host institute

National Institutes for the Humanities
International Research Center for Japanese Studies Research Department

Host researcher

Dr. KOMATSU Kazuhiko

Fellowship period

2003/03/07 - 2005/03/06

Research field



Research title

The role of precepts and ordinations in the development of Tokugawa Zen Buddhism


The reason for choosing Japan to conduct research

My field of study is Buddhism in Japan, so Japan is the source of the original material of texts, buildings, art object and communities of people, as well as the location of the most learned scholars in the field.

Research achievements

Thanks to the JSPS fellowship I have been able to publish several articles and to develop a new area of research. My previous work has concentrated on the history of the revival of Soto Zen in the Tokugawa period, but my new area of research concerns the relationship between the professional Buddhist clergy and the laity as enacted in the taking of precepts. To understand this requires actually observing these ceremonies and talking to participants, something that cannot be done outside of Japan. Thanks to this fellowship I have developed a new theory of contemporary Japanese Buddhist lay practice.

Advice to new fellows

Whatever ones field of study, I think that one key to making the best use of one's time in Japan is to have a balance between a disciplined focus on the main project and a readiness to respond to unexpected opportunities in a flexible manner. It is easy to get distracted by the richness of the opportunities in Japan, and one needs to be strict about spending enough time on the main project. However, some of the best parts of being in Japan cannot be predicted and cannot easily be entered into a final report. But these more human and unexpected aspects can be of more lasting value than the "main work", and we need to be open to following events as they unfold around us.