How Old is the Wine?

Ningen Zen Kyodan and the Formation of Lay Zen Practice in Modern Japan


  • Erez Joskovich Tel-Aviv University


Ningen Zen, laypeople, koji, Japanese religion, Zen, Buddhism


This article explores the development of the contemporary model of "lay Zen" that is nowadays prevalent in Japan as well as in the West. The main question that this article considers is "How was the Zen narrative and ideology modified to fit contemporary society?" By following the development of Ningen Zen Kyodan, a modern Japanese Zen organization, the article will illustrate the ways in which Zen doctrines and practices were molded and reshaped to meet the rapidly changing life circumstances in modern Japanese society. This article suggests that such notions and practices evolved as part of an attempt to modernize Buddhism, as well as a cultural and religious response of Japanese Zen to challenges posed, inter alia, by modern Western thought. Such statements raise the question--is it still "authentic" Zen? Should this be considered a new phenomenon, or is it "old wine in new bottles"?


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International Journal for the Study of New Religions