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Karen M. Gerhart

Women, Rites, and Ritual Objects in Premodern Japan, edited by Karen M. Gerhart, is a multidisciplinary examination of rituals featuring women, in which significant attention is paid to objects produced for and utilized in these rites as a lens through which larger cultural concerns, such as gender politics, the female body, and the materiality of the ritual objects, are explored. The ten chapters encounter women, rites, and ritual objects in many new and interactive ways and constitute a pioneering attempt to combine ritual and gendered analysis with the study of objects.
Contributors include: Anna Andreeva, Monica Bethe, Patricia Fister, Sherry Fowler, Karen M. Gerhart, Hank Glassman, Naoko Gunji, Elizabeth Morrissey, Chari Pradel, Barbara Ruch, Elizabeth Self.

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Ronald S. Green and Chanju Mun

Gyōnen’s Transmission of the Buddha Dharma in Three Countries is the first English translation of this work and a new assessment of it. Gyōnen (1240-1321) has been recognized for establishing a methodology for the study of Buddhism that would come to dominate Japan. The three countries Gyōnen considers are India, China and Japan. Ronald S. Green and Chanju Mun describe Gyōnen’s innovative doctrinal classification system ( panjiao) for the first time and compare it to other panjiao systems. They argue that Gyōnen’s arrangement and what he chose to exclude served political purposes in the Kamakura period, and thus engage current scholarship on the construction of Japanese Buddhism.

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David J. Gundry

The first monograph published in English on Ihara Saikaku’s fiction, David J. Gundry’s lucid, compelling study examines the tension reflected in key works by Edo-period Japan’s leading writer of ‘floating world’ literature between the official societal hierarchy dictated by the Tokugawa shogunate’s hereditary status-group system and the era’s de facto, fluid, wealth-based social hierarchy. The book’s nuanced, theoretically engaged explorations of Saikaku’s narratives’ uses of irony and parody demonstrate how these often function to undermine their own narrators' intermittent moralizing. Gundry also analyzes these texts’ depiction of the fleeting pleasures of love, sex, wealth and consumerism as Buddhistic object lessons in the illusory nature of phenomenal reality, the mastery of which leads to a sort of enlightenment.

Transforming the Void

Embryological Discourse and Reproductive Imagery in East Asian Religions

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Edited by Anna Andreeva and Dominic Steavu

Transforming the Void: Embryological Discourse and Reproductive Imagery in East Asian Religions considers paths to self-cultivation and salvation that are patterned on human embryological development or procreative imagery in the religions of China and Japan.
Focusing on Taoism, Esoteric Buddhism, Shinto, Shugendō, and local religious traditions, the contributors to the volume provide new insight into how the body’s generative processes are harnessed as powerful metaphors for spiritual attainment. This volume offers an in-depth examination of the religious dimensions of embryology and reproductive imagery, topics that have been hitherto solely approached through the lens of the history of medicine.
Contributors include: Brigitte Baptandier, Catherine Despeux, Grégoire Espesset, Christine Mollier, Fabrizio Pregadio, Dominic Steavu, Lucia Dolce, Bernard Faure, Iyanaga Nobumi, Anna Andreeva, Kigensan Licha, Gaynor Sekimori.

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David Quinter

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

Abstract

This chapter centers on the late 1230s through the 1240s and examines the early activities of Eison and his most famous disciple, Ninshō. The two monks met in 1239, when Ninshō discussed with Eison his plans to compose seven Mañjuśrī images and enshrine them at seven outcast communities as a memorial to his deceased mother. The introduction of the Mañjuśrī cult and social welfare practices to the Saidaiji order’s activities is directly tied to this meeting. Yet despite the master-disciple relationship and close collaboration between the two monks from this time, contrasts in their monastic and cultic orientations deserve greater recognition. This chapter addresses the contrasts in their involvement in the Mañjuśrī cult, the closely connected cult of the itinerant saint Gyōki (668-749), and social welfare activities. I argue that while Ninshō’s social welfare activities show close emulation of Gyōki, Eison’s literary and ritual efforts point toward a simultaneous emulation of the deity (Mañjuśrī) and “erasure” of the saint believed to have incarnated that deity (Gyōki).

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David Quinter

Abstract

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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David Quinter

Abstract

Focusing on the period from 1255 to 1269, this chapter investigates the “living Mañjuśrī” statue that served as the centerpiece for the restoration of the Nara temple Hannyaji and analyzes the two dedicatory texts for the statue written by Eison in 1267 and 1269. Hannyaji was located next to Yamato Province’s largest outcast community and was the temple most strongly linked to the Saidaiji order involvement with outcasts. Enshrinement ceremonies for the Mañjuśrī statue were held as broad assemblies, accompanied by devotional texts that promoted Mañjuśrī, Eison and his disciples’ exoteric-esoteric orientation, and their charitable relief activities for outcasts. I argue that Eison’s writings show a continuity in his teachings on Mañjuśrī and the bodhisattva path for diverse social groups that is neglected when the exceptional nature of his activities for outcasts is emphasized. I further suggest that Eison promoted the Mañjuśrī cult as a universal means for generating the aspiration for enlightenment, engaging in Buddhist practice, and attaining awakening. By examining the ritual, doctrinal, and narrative contexts of Eison’s writings on Mañjuśrī and outcasts in these texts, the chapter gives fuller life to Eison’s own “voice” and monastic milieu while clarifying his characteristic juxtaposition of egalitarian and hierarchical views.

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David Quinter

Abstract

This chapter explores fundraising for the restoration of the Nara temple Hannyaji and the Mañjuśrī main icon for the temple. I suggest that the Hannyaji restoration provides a rich case study of the integrated fundraising, temple restoration, and cultic activities that were typical of the Saidaiji order. Focusing on Eison’s writings and a 1287 text by his disciple Shinkū (1229–1316) dedicating attendant statues, I analyze the “rhetoric of reluctance” within which their views on fundraising and their often-invoked status as a muen (unattached) group were expressed. In short, the rhetoric and actual activities related to the rhetoric show a common pattern in which Eison repeatedly refused patronage from elites, before attaining compromise or a consensus within his group that enabled him to ultimately accept that patronage. I argue that the need for this rhetoric was exacerbated by a tension between their status as precepts-keeping “reclusive monks” and as esoteric masters gaining increasing patronage from political elites for their ritual expertise.

Series:

David Quinter

Abstract

This chapter examines a text dated 1269/8/25 and attributed to Eison that purports to record a direct esoteric transmission from Mañjuśrī to Eison to Shinkū. This chapter shows, however, that the text’s provenance is more complex than previously acknowledged. I argue that to evaluate the text, we must consider both the influence from hagiographical accounts of the Shingon-Kegon monk Myōe (1173-1232) and an increasing esotericization of the Saidaiji order after Eison’s death in 1290. I further suggest that Eison’s reputed 1269 transmission served to legitimize the transition from Eison to Shinkū and successive Saidaiji elders as well as the very relationship between Shingon and Ritsu in the order. By analyzing these developments alongside the related synthesis of esoteric and exoteric precept traditions in fourteenth-century Myōe-lineage transmission texts, this chapter underscores how dream-visions legitimized varied exoteric-esoteric formulations of medieval Nara monastics, including those of later followers of Eison and Myōe.