The Emergence of Modern Buddhist Social Work in Twentieth-Century Japan


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


This dissertation analyzes how early-twentieth century Buddhist clergy theorized and implemented a Buddhist form of social work, both as a field of religious practice and as a means to demonstrate their religion’s continued significance for Japanese society. This research offers a critical historical context to the study of “engaged Buddhism” more generally by turning to the earliest sustained encounter between capitalist modernity and Buddhist institutions to examine how Japanese Buddhists delineated the ethical and practical terms of their social engagement in relation to urban poverty and labor unrest. It also argues that practitioners of Buddhist social work contributed to the creation of a legitimate space for religious participation in civil society in prewar Japan.