CCS SEMINAR SERIES No.2: Religion and Religious Studies in Japan and Thailand: Comparison of a Secular Society and Less Secular Society

Mar 23, 2018

CCS has the biggest privilege to invite Prof. Hidetake Yano to teach a seminar on “Religion and Religious Studies in Japan and Thailand: Comparison of a Secular Society and Less Secular Society” on 21 March.

Prof. Yano pointedly compared the characteristics of religious studies between secular Japan (particularly after World War II under American Influence) and less secular Thailand. In the secular societies such as Japan, according to Prof. Yano, the religious studies are embroiled with the following characteristics as:

1. Maintaining and cultivating faith is not the role of religious studies;

2. Religious are generally undertaken by religiously unaffiliated scholars, or by those who are able to maintain a critical distance from their own belief systems;

3. Religious studies stress the importance of understanding the religions of others.

Prof. Yano also stated that the research Sociology of religion and cultural anthropology of religion have been popular in Japan.

Compared to secular Japan, the religious studies in the less secular Thailand embody the following characteristics as”

1. It values Buddhist studies, especially those of Theravada Buddhism ( less influenced by Western Religious Studies; Buddhist studies is influential than Religious Studies);

2. Religious Studies tend to be influenced by one’s own beliefs (Apologetic or faith-based philosophical studies; Buddhist Scriptural studies are mainly based on Pali literature; Critical and reformative philosophy of religion or comparative ethics);

3. Religion is regarded as a public matter and as ideal or philosophy (Religious Studies in Thailand places less emphasis on the individual consciousness of religion, rather Philosophy and Religion Society of Thailand);

4. The normative framework of religion has the influence on researchers (Chinese Religion, spirit cults, shamanism, and folk religion are researched mainly by anthropologists, but relatively few studies on these topics);

5. Researcher’s networks are relatively closed within each religion;

6. Religious Studies in Thailand value much on understanding one’s own belief.

In conclusion, Prof. Yano encouraged the religious researchers in a less secular society to necessarily emphasize the understanding of other as well as the development of one’s own religion.

Prof. Yano’s profound insights won a big applaud from the audience. Prof. Tavivat, on behalf of CCS, invited Prof. Yano to give another seminar on his research at CCS in the near future.