2 Tradition and Transformation: Precedents for the Saidaiji Order Manjuśrī Assemblies

In: From Outcasts to Emperors: Shingon Ritsu and the Mañjuśrī Cult in Medieval Japan


This chapter investigates the historical precedents for the Mañjuśrī assemblies led by Eison and his Saidaiji order disciples. I first examine the four precedents most commonly cited: the Mañjuśrī Parinirvāṇa Sutra, the Mañjuśrī cult on Mt. Wutai in China, Gyōki’s activities, and Japanese state-sponsored Mañjuśrī assemblies that began in the early ninth century. I then argue that it is also necessary to widen our perspective to include a consideration of both warrior government-sponsored Mañjuśrī assemblies in the early thirteenth century and the link between memorial rites for mothers and the Mañjuśrī cult in the Saidaiji order assemblies. In exploring the multifaceted precedents for the Saidaiji order assemblies, this chapter reveals how Eison and his disciples adopted and adapted earlier Mañjuśrī cultic traditions while staging the assemblies as performative opportunities to showcase their particular exoteric-esoteric expertise.


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