Bringing Zen Home: The Healing Heart of Japanese Women's Rituals. By Paula Arai. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2011. Pp. xiv + 263; illustrations. Cloth, $52.00.
Article first published online: 7 MAR 2013
© 2013 Rice University
Religious Studies Review
Volume 39, Issue 1, page 52, March 2013
How to Cite
Mross, M. (2013), Bringing Zen Home: The Healing Heart of Japanese Women's Rituals. By Paula Arai. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2011. Pp. xiv + 263; illustrations. Cloth, $52.00. Religious Studies Review, 39: 52. doi: 10.1111/rsr.12020_2
- Issue published online: 7 MAR 2013
- Article first published online: 7 MAR 2013
This book is a rich ethnographic study on the religious practices of twelve devoted Japanese Buddhist women associated with the Aichi Zen nunnery in Nagoya. The first chapter serves as an introduction. In chapter 2, Arai suggests ten principles for a “Way of Healing” based on an analysis of her fieldwork. Chapter 3 covers funerary and memorial rites from the perspective of lay women, and examines how rituals serve to heal from loss and form a new intimacy with the deceased, who are transformed into “personal Buddhas.” Chapter 4 studies how these Japanese women practice in their daily life, and chapter 5 explores practices like calligraphy, poetry, music, or flower arranging as a way to healing through beauty. Arai's study demonstrates the complexity and diversity of rituals and Buddhist practices of devoted Japanese Zen Buddhists. Arai shows that lay Buddhists “do not often turn to meditation for healing. Instead, they turn to ritual,” and she argues that these “ritualized activities transform emotionally intense moments—charged with fear, pain, and untamed anger—into healing.” Bringing Zen Home is an essential reading for those who miss the perspective of Buddhist lay women in Japanese Buddhist studies; to overlook this aspect means to ignore an important part of contemporary Buddhism in Japan. Students and scholars of Buddhism, Zen, and ritual studies will leave this book with an enriched understanding of the diversity and complexity of Japanese contemporary Buddhism as well as on the healing function of rituals.