Section 8 | Religion and History of Ideas | Session 2

The phenomenon of invoking Fudô for rebirth in image and text

Karen Mack

Invoking the esoteric Buddhist deity Fudô for rebirth is a lesser known aspect in the development of Pure Land worship. Fudô is a manifestation of Vairocana sent to assist Buddhist practitioners and to arrest those who would impede the Buddhist path, yet he was invoked for ôjô and incorporated into raigô paintings. Reviewing the process by which Fudô was incorporated reveals alternative developments within Pure Land worship and the subtle influence of esotericism even within the mainstream Tendai tradition. Fudô was initially invoked for ôjô by reciting his incantation as a deathbed practice to prevent distraction at the moment of expiration and forfeiting one’s rebirth into the Pure Land, particularly Miroku’s Heaven. Invoking Fudô in the context of Miroku’s Heaven seems to have originated with the Tendai priest Sôô (831-918), who according to the legend was carried to Miroku’s Heaven by Fudô. This practice was at first more common among the clergy, including both priests and nuns, before extending to the laity. Myôe (1173-1232) is a famous priest of the Kegon school known to have invoked Fudô seeking rebirth in Miroku’s Heaven and he himself owned devotional images of Fudô and Miroku. Ordinary members of the clergy also performed this practice, such as the priest in the Shinshû mountains who attained rebirth due to Fudô’s incantation or the nun who was helped to ôjô by Fudô for having recited his incantation regularly. This practice eventually extended beyond the clergy, including Emperor Horikawa who recited Fudô’s name on his deathbed. Fudô was then incorporated into Amida raigô paintings with the conflation of Amida and Vairocana introduced by the Shingon priest Kakuban (1094-1143) as a Shingon response to the Tendai tradition of developing practices for the laity.

Tourists in paradise: topographies of the Pure Land in medieval Japanese fiction

R. Keller Kimbrough, Colby College

The popular prose fiction of late-medieval Japan is replete with purportedly first-hand accounts of lay and monastic pilgrims’ travels to various hells and the Pure Land. The “tourists” are frequently granted guided tours of the afterworld, after which they are returned to the mundane realm in order to tell or write of their unusual experiences. My paper will explore a variety of these accounts as they are preserved in setsuwa, otogizôshi, and illustrated temple and shrine histories from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I will examine the plots and conventions of these works, and demonstrate some of the ways in which these accounts (or the earlier oral tales upon which many of them appear to have been based) were employed in centuries of Buddhist preaching, fund-raising, and temple-based entertaining. By doing so, I hope to shed light on some little-known aspects of medieval Japanese Pure Land Buddhist belief, illuminating the sometimes startling gap between orthodox doctrinal and popular vernacular conceptions and representations of Amida Buddha’s Western Paradise.

Kagura, hanamatsuri, and the concept of the Pure Land in Shugendô rituals

William Lee, University of Manitoba

hile the concept of the Pure Land found its way into many mainstream Buddhist doctrines and practices, it also was adopted by yamabushi of the syncretistic Shugendô cults. In particular, it was incorporated into the cosmology of Kumano Shugendô, and from there found its way into many yamabushi rituals and performances. This paper will examine one example of this incorporation, namely the Kagura of the Okumikawa region (present-day Aichi Prefecture). Today this region is perhaps best known for its many Hanamatsuri, twenty-four-hour-long, year-end festivals that take place in several locations and which are characterized by yudate rituals and the appearance of masked ogres (oni). The Hanamatsuri, however, can itself be seen as an offshoot of an even larger-scale kagura festival which during the Edo period was mounted periodically by several villages acting together. Although the last performance of this large-scale kagura took place in 1856, several records have survived. In addition, there are also a number of earlier published eyewitness accounts. Using this information, it is possible to piece together not only the general outline of the festival but also some of the details of individual steps. One of the most intriguing of these was the jodôiri ritual, a symbolic recreation of the act of crossing the Sanzunokawa and entering the Pure Land. This dramatic recreation, moreover, was part of a larger structure aimed at purifying and preparing participants for the key life cycle stages of birth, youth, adulthood, and death. While the symbolic enactment of death and rebirth had long been a part of Shugendô practices, it was the incorporation of the concept of the Pure Land that allowed the yamabushi to present death in a more positive way, one more compatible with the Shinto emphasis on birth and growth, and which therefore also helped bolstered the position of the yamabushi as all-around providers of magico-religious services for the people.

EAJS 05, Programme