Rites, Rice, and Rokuji Myōō

Sacred Materialities Workshop at Sophia University

Saturday July 9, 2016, 2pm-6pm, Room 301, 3F, Building 10, Sophia University Yotsuya Campus

This workshop launches a series of talks on sacred visual and material culture. The three presenters will consider new approaches to sometimes overlooked or peripherally-regarded objects and agents in esoteric Buddhist contexts.

Program (Download PDF)

2:00
Opening Remarks, Caroline Hirasawa, Sophia University

2:10- 2:50
“Dipper Worship or gejutsu 外術 Practice?: Framing Rokujiten 六字天 in Medieval Japan”
Benedetta Lomi, University of Virginia

3:10-3:50
“Turning the Dharma Wheel: How a Curse Rite was Used to Construct the Esoteric Buddhist Sovereign and Kami-Buddhist Multiverse of Medieval ‘Japan’ (Nihon 日本)”
Brian Ruppert, University of Illinois

4:10-4:50
“The Universe Inside a Rice Bowl: Prolegomena to the Sacredness of Rice Grains in Medieval Japanese Esoteric Buddhism”
Steven Trenson, Hiroshima University

5:10-6:00
Discussion
Chaired by Sherry Fowler, Professor, History of Art, University of Kansas

Sponsored by the Sacred Materialities Project, Institute of Comparative Culture (ICC)
Organized by Caroline Hirasawa, Sophia University

Directions to Yotsuya:
http://www.sophia.ac.jp/eng/info/access/directions/access_yotsuya
Campus Map:
http://www.sophia.ac.jp/eng/info/access/map/map_yotsuya

Paper Abstracts

Benedetta Lomi
Mellon Assistant Professor, Department of East Asian Languages, Literatures and Cultures, University of Virginia
“Dipper Worship or gejutsu 外術 Practice?: Framing Rokujiten 六字天 in Medieval Japan”

This presentation proposes to explore the iconography and ritual of Rokujiten 六字天, an esoteric manifestation of Kannon invoked during exorcistic rituals of the Shingon school of Buddhism in the Heian and Kamakura periods. Although Rokujiten is said to instantiate the rokuji dai myōju 六字大名呪, the renowned six-syllable dhāraṇī of Kannon expounded in the Kāraṇḍavyūha sutra, its representations are identical to those of two other deities worshipped within Tōmitsu and Taimitsu circles as incarnations of the Pole Star: Myōken 妙見 and Sonjōō 尊星王. Taking as a point of departure a lavish example currently in the possession of Hōjūin 宝寿院, dated to the 14th century, I suggest that instead of resulting from a conflation between these two deities, Rokujiten was a carefully crafted product. First, I present how ritual sources draw a clear picture of Rokujiten aimed at setting it apart—both in terms of iconography and ritual—from Pole Star imagery. Then, by looking at the way that Kamakura-period ritual sources addressed its striking similarities with icons connected with the Dipper, I explore the possible temple and lineage disputes that may have facilitated its creation.

Brian Ruppert
Associate Professor, Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures, Department of Religion, University of Illinois
“Turning the Dharma Wheel: How a Curse Rite was Used to Construct the Esoteric Buddhist Sovereign and Kami-Buddhist Multiverse of Medieval ‘Japan’ (Nihon 日本)”

Buddhist curses (chōbuku 調伏) are seldom studied due to a series of presuppositions about Buddhism, but increased study of a broad range of esoteric Buddhist rituals of East Asia has propelled a reconsideration of such rituals, the temple complexes and lineages of those who have undertaken or sponsored them, as well as their connections to larger questions about the character of esoteric Buddhist discourse and practice. This talk examines the “Turning-the-Dharma-Wheel Rite” (Tenpōrin hō 転法輪法) of Shingon lineages in early medieval Japan, drawing upon a series of manuscript and printed sources that indicate not only that the rite was used to combat enemies of the court but that the ritual texts inscribing its protocol depict a direct association between the rite, the “kami of Japan” (nihon [no] shoshin 日本諸神), and the welfare of the realm, which marks it as uniquely connected with the construction of Japanese sovereignty in 11th to 13th century Japan.

Steven Trenson
Associate Professor, Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University
“The Universe Inside a Rice Bowl: Prolegomena to the Sacredness of Rice Grains in Medieval Japanese Esoteric Buddhism”

This talk will attempt to clarify some basic aspects of the sacredness of rice grains in medieval Japanese esoteric Buddhism. Grains of rice were given special metaphysical importance in medieval Mikkyō due to their association with the relics of the Buddha, which formed the nucleus of a rich and dense network of esoteric Buddhist concepts and practices. The present talk intends to highlight key features of the esoteric Buddhist metaphysics of rice grains as indicated by medieval sources, and attempts to trace the doctrinal, scriptural, and ritual foundations supporting the development of such esoteric beliefs.

And our Chair, Sherry Fowler (University of Kansas) is researching ephemera produced by Buddhist temples.

Back to the Research Unit page: Materialities of the Sacred 2016