Guardians of the Buddha’s Home: Domestic Religion in Contemporary Jōdo Shinshū

Paperback: $28.00
ISBN-13: 9780824888398
Published: July 2020
Hardback: $80.00
ISBN-13: 9780824866921
Published: February 2019

Additional Information

200 pages | 7 b&w illustrations
  • About the Book
  • In Guardians of the Buddha’s Home, Jessica Starling draws on nearly three years of ethnographic research to provide a comprehensive view of Jōdo Shinshū (True Pure Land) temple life with temple wives (known as bōmori, or temple guardians) at its center. Throughout, she focuses on “domestic religion,” a mode of doing religion centering on more informal religious expression that has received scant attention in the scholarly literature.

    The Buddhist temple wife’s movement back and forth between the main hall and the “back stage” of the kitchen and family residence highlights the way religious meaning cannot be confined to canonical texts or to the area of the temple prescribed for formal worship. Starling argues that attaining Buddhist faith (shinjin) is just as likely to occur in response to a simple act of hospitality, a sense of community experienced at an informal temple gathering, or an aesthetic affinity with the temple space that has been carefully maintained by the bōmori as it is from hearing the words of a Pure Land sutra intoned by a professional priest. For temple wives, the spiritual practice of button hōsha (repayment of the debt owed to the Buddha for one’s salvation) finds expression through the conscientious stewardship of temple donations, caring for the Buddha’s home and opening it to lay followers, raising the temple’s children, and propagating the teachings in the domestic sphere. Engaging with what religious scholars have called the “turn to affect,” Starling’s work investigates in personal detail how religious dispositions are formed in individual practitioners. The answer, not surprisingly, has as much to do with intimate relationships and quotidian practices as with formal liturgies or scripted sermons.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Jessica Starling, Author

      Jessica Starling is assistant professor of religious studies and Asian studies at Lewis & Clark College.
    • Mark Michael Rowe, Series Editor

      Mark Michael Rowe is associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies, McMaster University.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • Using her extensive ethnographic research, Starling skillfully and conscientiously presents her informants' voices so that readers can reimagine and reevaluate the stereotypical image of Buddhist traditions dominated so far by the collective voices of male priests. . . . There is no doubt that this book is a must-read for those who are interested in issues of contemporary Japanese Buddhism and gender. Although the focus of the study is the temple wives of the Jōdo Shinshū tradition, which in itself is very valuable, it also contributes greatly to scholarship on "domestic practices" of religion, especially for those interested in women's roles and family relationships in modern Japanese society.
      —Eisho Nasu, Ryukoku University, The Journal of Japanese Studies, 47:1 (2021)
  • Supporting Resources