Inaugural Robert Morrell Memorial Lecture in Asian Religions: "Gratitude and Treasuring Lives: Eating Animals in Contemporary Japanese Buddhism"

Barbara R. Ambros, Professor in East Asian Religions, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and the program in Religious Studies announce the Inaugural Robert Morrell Memorial Lecture in Asian Religions. 

Named after the late Professor Emeritus Robert E. Morrell, this annual series commemorates his life work by bringing distinguished scholars of Asian religions to campus.  Dr. Robert Morrell taught Japanese literature and Buddhism, and was the first to teach courses on Buddhism at Washington University.  For more on his life see his obituary.

"Gratitude and Treasuring Lives: Eating Animals in Contemporary Japanese Buddhism"

Over the past ten years, an increasing number of Buddhist publications and public events in Japan have drawn attention to the fact that humans must rely on animal lives for food. The moral principle at the center of this discourse is gratitude. While the connection between animals and gratitude has a long history in Buddhism, in modern Japan the meaning of repaying a debt of gratitude has shifted from an emphasis on liberating animals to consuming animals with gratitude. In other words, as meat eating has become normative in modern Japan, even among the Buddhist clergy, a sacrificial rationale that relies on ex post facto devices has replaced anti-meat-eating discourses that have remained central features of a Buddhist identity in other parts of East Asia. The contemporary Japanese Buddhist discourse of gratitude envisions an interconnected chain of becoming that is sustained by animal lives and culminates in human lives. As animal bodies are consumed and transformed into human bodies, humans have the moral obligation to face this reality and express their gratitude.

A reception will follow the lecture.

Bio: Barbara Rossetti Ambros is a professor in East Asian Religions in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research on Japanese Religions has focused on issues in gender studies; human-animal relationships; place and space; and pilgrimage. She is the author of Women in Japanese Religions (New York University Press, 2015), Bones of Contention: Animals and Religion in Contemporary Japan (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2012), and Emplacing a Pilgrimage: The Early Modern Ōyama Cult and Regional Religion (Harvard University Asia Center, 2008). She has been serving as co-chair of the Animals and Religion Group of the American Academy of Religions since 2014.

Please click here for a campus map marked with the lecture location and parking.  All parking on campus requires a permit.  Visitors should display a daily parking pass if not parking in metered parking. Additional information on visitor parking can be found on the university's parking website