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Mourning the Unborn DeadA Buddhist Ritual Comes to America$
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Jeff Wilson

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195371932

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195371932.001.0001

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“A Shadow in the Heart”

“A Shadow in the Heart”

Mizuko Kuyō in Convert American Zen

(p.55) 2 “A Shadow in the Heart”
Mourning the Unborn Dead

Jeff Wilson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the growing performance of mizuko kuyō-related rituals — often referred to as “water baby ceremonies” — in convert American Zen centers. Since the late 1970s and increasingly since about 1990, Zen centers run mainly by and for white converts to Buddhism have been providing rituals for use after an abortion or miscarriage. Created by first-generation converts rather than imported by Japanese missionary priests, these rituals are partly derived from mizuko kuyō and partly the invention of female Zen teachers seeking to meet the needs of their students in the wake of Roe v. Wade. Tied to the growth of these rituals is the increasing popularity of celestial bodhisattva figures such as Kannon and Jizō, whose convert devotees promote a more devotional side of Buddhism than has been acknowledged in new Buddhist circles.

Keywords:   abortion and religion, American Zen, female religious leaders, Jizō, Kannon, mizuko kuyō, ritual, water baby

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