Organized Panel Session
The ritual turn in Buddhist studies argues for paying greater attention to what practitioners do, understanding the day-to-day activities of lay believers as integral to understanding what and how religion means. Similarly, the material turn in literary studies encourages attention to the socially embedded and materially entangled nature of cultural production and knowledge circulation. I situate my talk at the nexus of these two conceptual turns, grounding my argument through an in-depth analysis of the 1848 edition of Zen’aku sugoroku gokuraku dōchū zue (Good and evil board game, illustrating paths to the Pure Land). Initially developed by the well-known Kyoto publisher Kikuya Kihei (1739-1818), the game circulated throughout Edo and Meiji era Japan in a variety of formats, and was distributed by Pure Land temples as a New Year’s give-away, so that families gathered for the extended holiday could play the game repeatedly. I argue that, as the material occasion for a social event, the game becomes a mode for learning how to ‘read’ Pure Land space and to place Pure Land events into an experiential and learned habitus. Attending to the material thing of the game board, I use it to think to and through the experience of playing as a knowledge-generating activity. This approach brings to light the sensorial nature of religious knowledge, the importance of feeling and of moving through doctrinal propositions via group play, and the methods through which players experienced Buddhist doxis as part and parcel of their everyday lives.