When the East meets the West: Art as a medium for religious and spiritual education

Nanako Sakai, Fordham University


As a Buddhist female from Japan who has lived in the United Sates for 15 years, I examine how Buddhist spirituality and aesthetics influence religious inspiration through woman’s eyes; in other words, from a feminist perspective to the “practice” of justice based on Buddhism. Hence, the driving questions of this dissertation are, how can we define beauty and spirituality from a feminist perspective so that they empower women’s voice through art, and what kind of contribution can this study provide to feminist scholarship in the West? The study’s significance lies in its illustration of the concept of feminist aesthetics that nurtures spirituality based on Buddhism, Taoism and Asian traditional thought which are not well known to the Western world. Thus, through using art and feminist- based research, as well as symbolic interactionism as a perspective, principles for a feminist aesthetics theoretical model as a dimension of spiritual and religious education are generated based on Eastern thought. The use of symbols and their interpretation are crucial to understanding the relationship between art and human perception which fosters awareness for social justice. Therefore, this study addresses the following questions: (1) What does Buddhist feminist aesthetics mean? (2) What are the characteristics of feminist ecology in Eastern thought? (3) How does Buddhist or Eastern feminist aesthetics contribute to eco-justice in the context of religious education? (4) In what ways can a theoretical model of Buddhist or Eastern feminist aesthetics enhance and contribute to foster spirituality as dimension of religious education in the West? The dissertation has five chapters. The first chapter is an introduction to the study, while chapter two reviews art as a source of creating imagination. The third chapter describes Rima Fujita’s artistry based on an Eastern perspective of aesthetics. Chapter four reviews feminist theological aesthetics and suggests how a Buddhist feminist perspective can make a contribution to Western scholarship. The final chapter proposes educational application, in particular to interreligious education, which fosters spiritual growth. Drawing deeper insights from these and other scholars, a new perspective, which incorporates and contributes to Western scholarship is proposed.

Subject Area

Asian Studies|Womens studies|Religious education

Recommended Citation

Sakai, Nanako, "When the East meets the West: Art as a medium for religious and spiritual education" (2016). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10014283.