Looking Bodhidharma in the Eye

The Beginnings of Otto's Interreligious Encounters with Japanese Buddhists


  • Katja Triplett University of Göttingen


Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy, mysterium tremendum, history of the study of religion, philosophy of religion


Rudolf Otto’s legacy is more than his written oeuvre, but also includes the collection of religious artifacts he assembled in Marburg (what would become the Religionskundliche Sammlung) and his wide network of acquaintances in many parts of the world including Japan. Examining contemporary sources such as personal letters and photos as well as other materials from the Religionskundliche Sammlung, the following chapter will shed light on the little explored connection between Otto’s academic writings on Japanese Buddhism, the Religionskundliche Sammlung, and his personal German-Japanese encounters. I examine how formative his contact with Japan was for his interest in the parallels and convergences in the development of different religions, in Zen as a noteworthy case of a religion stripped of its ‘rational’ elements, and for the blossoming of Zen Buddhist study in 20th century Marburg.





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