Buddhists pledge $6.6 million to boost Japan studies at USC

A major philanthropic gift from a relatively new Buddhist order will help boost the study of Japan at USC, university officials announced Friday.

The Shinnyo-en Buddhist order has pledged $6.6 million to support the recently founded Center for Japanese Religions and Culture, USC officials said. They called the gift one of the largest ever for an institution focusing on the study of Japan.

“This allows us to continue translational work, major research that will inform public policy and continue supporting our graduate students,” said religion professor Duncan Williams, co-director of the center -- which will be renamed the Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture, in honor of the order’s leader.

Shinnyo-en was established in Japan in the 1930s and now has nearly 1 million followers throughout Asia, Europe and the United States. It emphasizes peaceful coexistence with other religions, engagement with society through works of service and the belief that all people can achieve enlightenment.

USC’s Japanese religions and culture center hosts regular seminars and functions like a think tank, with projects focusing on religion, racial identity and Japan’s history and future. It was founded in 2011 by Williams, an ordained Zen priest who also chairs USC’s school of religion.  

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