3 Discrimination and Empowerment: Hannyaji, Outcasts, and the Living Manjuśrī

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