Jessica L. Main

Jessica L. Main

Tung Lin Kok Yuen Canada Foundation Chair, Buddhism and Contemporary Society

Institute of Asian Research and
Department of Asian Studies

University of British Columbia
C.K. Choi Building, 1855 West Mall
Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z2

Tel: (604) 822-9305
Fax: (604) 822-5207

Jessica Main began work in the summer of 2009 as the Tung Lin Kok Yuen Canada Foundation Chair on Buddhism and Contemporary Society. The Chair is the steward of UBC’s Buddhism and Contemporary Society Program. Her research concerns modern Buddhist ethics, social action, and institutional life in East and Southeast Asia. She completed her dissertation on the modern history of human rights and descent-based discrimination in Japanese True Pure Land, or Shin Buddhism, at McGill University. She has had the opportunity to work with a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funded project on religion and health, investigating possible contributions of Buddhism to a physician’s ethic. She is also a member of the steering committee for the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies (IASBS).

Research Interests:

Buddhism, Ethics, and Human Rights
Modern Buddhist Institutions, Law, and Governance
Buddhists and Buddhist Institutions Active in Modern Society: Social Welfare, Healthcare and Healing, Rehabilitation, Incarceration and Corrections
Modern Japanese Religions and Society
Japanese True Pure Land Buddhism (Jōdo Shinshū 浄土真宗)

Educational Background:

  • Ph.D. (2012) Asian Religions, Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University
  • Cert. (2006-2008) Otani University, Kyoto
  • BA (1997) General Studies, University of Calgary
  • Cert. (1996-1997) Kansai Gaidai University, Osaka


Asian Studies: Together with colleagues at Asian Studies, Jessica is working to expand the undergraduate and graduate course offerings covering Buddhism, Japanese religions, and religions in Asia. Courses currently offered and coming soon:

  • ASIA 110: Introduction to Asian Religions
  • ASIA 250: Introduction to Buddhism: Modernism and Other Forms
  • ASIA 211: Sex, Sexual Ethics, and Asian Religions
  • ASIA 300x (coming soon): Mahayana Buddhist Philosophy: Emptiness, Ritual, Ethics
  • ASIA 300x (coming soon): Theravada Buddhist Stories: Ancient Texts to Modern Film
  • ASIA 450 (shell course): Topics in Buddhist Studies
  • ASIA 468 R1: Approaches to Asian Religions

Institute of Asian Research, MAAPPS Program: Jessica is primarily involved with the MAAPPS Program in the area of religion and public policy, religions in the Asia Pacific as transnational and local actors, and the effects of media representation and soft power on policy.

  • IAR 500 Media: Media Representations of Asia: Culture, Religion, Nation
  • IAR 515B: Buddhism and Contemporary Society
  • IAR 515D: Media, Society, and Policy in Asia

Selected Presentations and Publications:

“The Admonishers (kyōkaishi 教誨師): Buddhist Prison Chaplains in Modern Japan.” Centre for Japanese Research Brown Bag Lunch Series. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Sep 2012.

“Amida’s Righteous Anger (ikari 怒り): Shin Buddhism and Social Justice in the 1970s.” American Association for Asian Studies (AAS). Toronto, Canada. Mar 2012.

“Reducing Suffering with Reinterpretation: Modern Struggles with Discriminatory Terms in Japanese Buddhist Sacred Texts.” Risshō University Lotus Sūtra Seminar. Tokyo, Japan. Mar 2012.

“Shin Buddhism for the Good of Society: To Act Within or Beyond the Religious Organization (kyōdan 教団).” Shin Buddhist Comprehensive Research Institute, Ōtani University, Kyoto, Japan. Nov 2011.

“A Shin Buddhism for the Left: Miura Sangendō and Interwar Japanese Buddhist Marxism.” American Academy of Religion (AAR), San Francisco, United States. Nov 2011.

“A Humanistic Shinran: The Shin Buddhist Thought of Saikō Mankichi (1895-1970).” XVIth Congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (IABS), Taipei, Taiwan. Jun 2011.

“Venture Capitalism or Obligatory Donations?: The Ōtani-ha’s Search for Financial Stability in the Modern Era.” 2010 American Academic of Religion Annual Meeting, Atlanta (October 30-November 1).

“To Lament the Self: The Ethical Ideology of Takeuchi Ryō’on (1891-1968) and the Ōtani-ha Movement against Buraku Discrimination.” The Social Dimension of Shin Buddhism. Ed. Ugo Dessi. Brill. 2010. 137-164.

“The Concrete Manifestations and Understandings of Buraku Discrimination within Ōtani-ha Shin Buddhism.” Asian Studies Group, Kyoto (March 31, 2009).

“The Constitution of a Religion: Ōtani-ha Shin Buddhism as Civil Society Actor.” Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia (January 9, 2009).

“The Karma of Others: Stories from the Milindapañha and the Petavatthu-atthakathā.” Online conference “Revisioning Karma.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 12, 2005. [Published in Revisioning Karma: The eBook. 2008.]

“Other Agency in the Jōdo Shinshū: Neither Monk, Layman, Nor Conventional Moral Actor.” IASBS Conference, University of Calgary (August 3-5, 2007).

“Cultivation of Buddhist Leadership in Contemporary Japan: Principle and Policy.” Presented at Challenges for Japan: Japan as a “Normal Country, 2005 Shibusawa Foundation North American Seminar, Toronto (June 16-18, 2005).