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


In From Outcasts to Emperors, David Quinter illuminates the Shingon Ritsu movement founded by the charismatic monk Eison (1201–90) at Saidaiji in Nara, Japan. The book’s focus on Eison and his disciples’ involvement in the cult of Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva reveals their innovative synthesis of Shingon esotericism, Buddhist discipline (Ritsu; Sk. vinaya), icon and temple construction, and social welfare activities as the cult embraced a spectrum of supporters, from outcasts to warrior and imperial rulers. In so doing, the book redresses typical portrayals of “Kamakura Buddhism” that cast Eison and other Nara Buddhist leaders merely as conservative reformers, rather than creative innovators, amid the dynamic religious and social changes of medieval Japan.

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David Quinter, Ph.D. (2006), Stanford University, is Assistant Professor of East Asian Religions at the University of Alberta. He has published eight articles on Buddhism, including “Localizing Strategies: Eison and the Shōtoku Taishi Cult,” Monumenta Nipponica 69/2 (2014).
'...Quinter reveals a fuller and more complex picture, which makes the contemporary perpetuation of esoteric Buddhism’s monastic institutions and popular pilgrimages more plausible. The text’s appendix of annotated translations for an extensive collection of relevant documents is a notable contribution. Even more commendable is Quinter’s emplacement of these primary sources into narratives of lived religion, which makes the study much more relevant and readable.'
Greg Wilkinson, Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Review, 42/3 (2016)

'There is much to praise in this carefully documented and judiciously argued volume, and some of the topics it considers will doubtless lead to further research. (...) From Outcasts to Emperors is a major contribution to the study of Kamakura Buddhism and the heretofore little-studied Saidaiji order. It belongs in every serious collection of books on Japanese Buddhism.'
Paul B. Watt, Waseda University, Monumenta Nipponica 71:2 (2016)
“The author has clearly thought carefully about the impact this volume will make to the field. The concern he expresses that the Shingon Ritsu order has “slipped through the historiographical cracks” (p. 5) is well addressed, making skillful and appropriate use of existing Japanese scholarship. Quinter also clearly intends to contribute to our understanding of the once-ignored Kamakura period innovations within Nara, Shingon, and Tendai Buddhism. He is successful in these aims, but it is its accessible and profoundly scholarly treatment of primary sources that makes this work an outstanding contribution to its field. (…) This work is a necessary addition to any library on premodern Japan. For specialists, it will be required reading for many years to come, but I hope that it will gain a wide readership outside of its immediate field. The author has done much to make his work accessible to an interdisciplinary readership, and the topic is a very rich one in that regard. (…) I recommend this volume unreservedly.” Jon Morris, Komazawa Women’s University, H-Japan (April, 2018)
Academic libraries, scholars, and advanced students interested in Buddhism, religious studies, and East Asian studies, particularly in the areas of premodern Japanese religion, history, and art history.
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