February 22, 2011

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Montréal-based professor of humanities and film producer Mark Mcguire will screen his acclaimed documentary film, "Shugendo Now," on Tuesday, March 1, at 7 p.m. in the Gallery Theatre of the Elaine Langone Center at Bucknell University.

The screening and discussion are free and open to the public.

"The concept of Shugendo, loosely translated as 'the way of acquiring power,' is rooted in ancient East Asian religious practices, but also speaks to contemporary concerns with protecting the environment and living in harmony with nature," said James Mark Shields, assistant professor of comparative humanities and Asian thought at Bucknell.

"A complex blend of several different Asian religious traditions, Shugendo rituals reconnect practitioners with nature through such activities as hiking, climbing and retreats to bring a greater balance to your life," he said. "The history of Shugendo as a religious 'institution' in Japan also raises critical questions about gender, national and religious identity, as well as the significance of the body in religious practice."

The feature documentary traces the Shugendo practitioners' journey into the mystical practices of Japanese mountain asceticism. Combining ritual actions from shamanism, Shinto, Daoism and Tantric Buddhism, they seek experiential truth during arduous climbs in sacred mountains. Through the peace and beauty of the natural world, practitioners purify the six roots of perception, revitalize their energy and reconnect with their truest nature - all while grasping the fundamental interconnectedness with nature and all sentient beings.

Mcguire, who teaches humanities at John Abbott College in Montréal, is writing a doctoral thesis on the production and reception of "Shugendo Now" in the faculty at Concordia University. Following graduation from Davidson College, he spent three years teaching English and living in a tiny village in northeastern Japan before beginning graduate school in Asian religions at Cornell University.

Since 2005, he has taught courses on religious studies, Japanese culture and religions, documentary film and politics, north-south relations, and most recently, environmental ethics and campus sustainability.

"What I try to do is increase awareness about the far-reaching consequences of daily choices — our ways of consuming, thinking, and habits of being in the world — and inspire young people to become more fully engaged citizens who take the responsibilities and rights of civic life more seriously," Mcguire said of his teaching.

This event is organized by Bucknell's Comparative Humanities Program, and is co-sponsored by the departments of English, East Asian Studies, Religion, and Environmental Studies, and the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender.

Contact: Division of Communication