Accepted paper:

Creating the person and changing the world. Religious and social aspects of human resources development (jinzai ikusei) in Risshō Kōseikai.


Aura Di Febo (The University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the interplay between religious and social aspects of jinzai ikusei through the analysis of social welfare training in Risshō Kōseikai. While invested with religious significance, training activities also fulfil practical social functions relying on secular concepts and methods.

Paper long abstract:

Emphasis on self-cultivation is regarded as a distinctive feature of Japanese New Religions, stemming from a common worldview where the domains of the world and the self are inextricably interrelated (Hardacre 1986). As practices primarily aimed at personal development, training activities can be included in broader notions of self-perfection or "creating the person" (hitotsukuri). However, when training is projected outside the individual sphere to address more practical concerns, the boundary between religious and social aspects becomes blurred. The paper aims to explore the complex interplay between religion and the secular unfolding in the notion of "training" or human resources development (jinzai ikusei) in Japanese new religious movements, using social welfare training activities promoted by the lay-Buddhist movement Risshō Kōseikai as a case-study. On one side, welfare training can be said to carry religious significance both as preliminary to social service, seen as implementation of the "bodhisattva way" (bosatsugyō) and as means of "perfection of the character" (jinkaku kansei), a key component of Kōseikai's practice. More broadly, training plays a key role in the construction of doctrinal foundations for social activism, by inscribing social care activities with religious meanings. On the other hand, it fulfils practical social functions as providing members with the knowledge and skills to contribute to their community and forming the next generation of local "leaders". The analysis of social welfare training, by looking at whether and how mainstream concepts and methods from the field of social care are invested with religious significance, may also shed a light on how religious organisations and practitioners articulate the "distinctiveness" of faith-based social care vis-à-vis services offered by non-religious providers. Finally, jinzai ikusei could provide new insights on organisational responses to demographical dynamics. While tackling ageing by equipping elderly members with the tools to carve a role for themselves in local churches and surrounding society, training activities may also address the issue of generational turnover within the organisation. Through doctrinal study and practices of socialisation, ikusei could serve as a response to the challenge of keeping alive the commitment of young members.

panel S8a_10
Religion and Religious Thought: individual papers II