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Esoteric images of light and life at Osaka Kokubunji, Japan.

Osaka Kokubunji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is a small, relatively nondescript temple compound in north-central Osaka. Apart from its diminutive seventh-century figurine of the compassionate Kannon and its Kamakura-period gate, little recommends the temple to the average visitor to the Kansai region. However, Kokubunji's intriguing history as a temple of imperial prayers (chokugan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), its idiosyncratic architectural layout, and its iconographic altar arrangements demonstrate that even the most overlooked temples have historical, doctrinal, and iconographic significance. The temple demonstrates that Buddhism's age-old conflation of light and life imagery, historically mobilized for the protection of the state and the physical health of the populace, currently serves to ensure the salvation of departed ancestors in creative and syncretic ways. Osaka Kokubunji still exhibits traces of the ways in which Shingon Mikky [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] esoteric Buddhism successively grafted new associations onto preexisting models for shining light and prolonging life, even to the point of extending one's life into a Pure Land after death.

This study takes as its point of departure the temple compound as it appears today, after the 1985 restoration of the 1965 post-war reconstruction. In the present-day compound, three main buddhas are enshrined in two main buildings: The golden hall (kondo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) houses the healing Medicine Buddha Yakushi nyorai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Bhaisajyaraja or Bhaisajyasamudgata) flanked by sculptures of Nikko [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Suryavairocana or Suryaprabha) and Gakko [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Candravairocana or Candraprabha), the personifications of sunlight and moonlight, respectively. Strategically placed behind these solar and lunar figures hang paintings of Shingon's famous Two World mandalas, which depict the solar and lunar aspects of the Buddha of Great Light, Dainichi nyorai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Mahavairocana). Across the compound to the West, the memorial hall (reimeiden [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) enshrines the Buddha of Immeasurable Light and Life, Amida nyorai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Amitabha or Amitayus). He presides over memorial tablets of departed ancestors who have ostensibly been reborn into his Pure Land in the Western Paradise. This presence of an Amida Buddha in an esoteric Shingon temple is the direct legacy of Kakuban's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1095-1143) twelfth-century introduction of Pure Land elements into esoteric Shingon art and doctrine.

This syncretic mixing, or "superscription of symbols," to borrow Prasenjit Duara's phrase, speaks to the sedimented layers of Buddhist artistic and doctrinal developments in Japan. Yakushi was originally a seventh-century non-sectarian exoteric healing Buddha who was believed to use Nikko and Gakko's illuminating power to discern and disinfect malevolent spirits. Dainichi Buddha's Great Light, by contrast, was introduced into Japan in the ninth century by Kukai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (774-835), not to supplant Yakushi's healing abilities but rather to supplement them with esoteric empowerments. The twelfth-century addition of Amida to these pre-existing figures for preserving life through the power of light simply extended their light-life symbolisms to the realm of the "infinite," that is, to Amitayus/Amitabha's Pure Land after bodily death. By examining both the material and visual culture of the site, this paper attempts to highlight the importance of light in physical healing in pre-modern Japan, as well as its continued resonance in Neo-Confucian-inflected memorial rites for "funeral Buddhism" in contemporary Japan. This paradoxical ability of light-life Buddhas to protect and prolong human life on both sides of the grave provides the religious, artistic, ritual, and doctrinal rationales for housing and venerating these images in the same esoteric temple complex.

The Early History of Osaka Kokubunji

According to temple histories, the founding of the temple dates from the period immediately following the Taika Great Reform of 645 (Adachi 1985). At this time, Emperor Kotoku [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 645-54) issued his Chinese-style ritsury [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] reforms from his renowned Palace of Long-lasting Dignity on the Flourishing Cliff (Nagara toyosakinomiya [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in Naniwa, Settsu province [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present day Osaka). After Kotoku's death in 654, his successor, Empress Saimei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 655-61), asked the monk Dosho [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (638-700) (1) to erect Nagara Temple [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] to pray for the repose of the late emperor's spirit. His memorial temple was fittingly named after his renowned palace. (2)

Almost a century later in 741, Emperor Shomu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 724-49) issued the first of four edicts mandating at least one temple in every province. (3) This measure emulated similar decrees in Tang dynasty China (618-907) and Silla-period Korea (57 BCE-935 CE) designed to unify their respective kingdoms under a single Buddhist ideology and centralized institution. (4) To recreate this unified Buddhist temple system in Japan, Emperor Shomu converted numerous pre-existing temples, including Emperor Kotoku's Nagara memorial temple, and renamed them Kokubunji National Buddhist Temples [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Nagara-dera's function and scope thus shifted from the localized ritual commemoration of an individual emperor to a much wider institutional network that invoked Buddha's golden light for the pacification and protection of the family-state (chingo kokka bukkyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Protection of this family-state (i.e., society structured according to the typical Confucian family model) was attributed at this time to the defensive and curative properties of Buddha's golden light. As one of five known National Buddhist Temples in Settsu province, Nagara-cum-Kokubunji was endowed with twenty official priests, about two-hundred square meters of land, twenty-five acres of rice fields, and the official title Temple for the Protection of the State by the Four Deva Kings of the Golden Light Sutra (Konkomyo shitenno gokoku no tera [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).

The Golden Light Sutra of the Four Deva Kings (Konkomyo shitenno kyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; Suvarnaprabhasottama-raja-sutra) was a particularly important early Buddhist sutra in Japan, and ten copies of it written in golden characters were supposed to have been interred under every Kokubunji's seven-story pagoda at this time. Admittedly, Emperor Shomu never fully implemented his massive copying and building campaign. Many converted temples held the Kokubunji designation but lacked the decreed seven-story pagoda, while still other entirely new compounds were planned but never built. In any case, the Golden Light Sutra was an appropriate choice for ensuring the health and safety of the land, since its radiance guarantees the physical wellbeing of the people in all four directions. In this sutra, the Four Deva Kings vow to "protect th[e] king and his people, give them peace and freedom from suffering, prolong their lives and fill them with glory" (DeBary 1958, 98). Later in the sutra, the Buddha himself declares, "If any king upholds this sutra and makes offerings in its behalf, I will purify him of suffering and illness, and bring him peace of mind" (DeBary 1958, 99). The Golden Light Sutra's explicit claims to protect the health and safety of the kingdom by virtue of the Buddha's golden light also occur in other scriptures widely circulated during the Nara period (710-94). For example, as early as the twelfth month of 728, Emperor Shomu issued to every province ten copies of the latest version of the Sutra of the Sovereign Kings of the Golden Light Ray (Konkomyo saishookyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) (Nara National Museum 1980, 147). Archaeological excavations at Kokubunji temples and convents (Kokubuniji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) also reveal that the Lotus Sutra (Myohorengekyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; Saddharma-pundarika-sutra) was widely disseminated. The explicit light imagery in this sutra and its perceived apotropaic properties undoubtedly functioned in much the same way as the Golden Light Sutra was believed to function, though some scholars maintain that the Lotus Sutra was selected by Shomu's wife Empress Komyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (701-60) due to its sections dedicated to female enlightenment (Nara National Museum 1980, 147). Whatever the rationale, it seems that the Golden Light Sutra and the Lotus Sutra were among the most widely copied and disseminated sutras in the Kokubunji system. This fact is particularly salient with respect to the adamantine light and lotus imagery in esoteric Diamond and Womb world sutras and mandalas.

The luminous focus for the entire Kokubunji system of regional temples was the colossal bronze statue of Birushana (Vairocana), the Kegon sect's main "Light" Buddha at Todaiji headquarters in Nara. Emperor Shomu originally commissioned this monumental symbol of illumination in 743 and presided over its official "eye-opening" ceremony in 752. (5) According to the highly cosmological doctrines of the Kegon sect, Birushana lives in the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light (Jojakko-do [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and embodies the dharmakaya, the cosmic world-body of universal Buddhahood (Japanese-English Buddhist Dictionary 1965, 17r:1441). Politically and therapeutically speaking, Shomu's bronze Birushana metaphorically cast the emperor as a universal world ruler or cakravartin, one who virtuously maintains the health and prosperity of his land. By identifying Birushana's world-body with his own body-politic, (6) Emperor Shomu united the land under one symbolic figure and extended his imperial influence through the circulatory system of Kokubunji temples. Therefore, just as the Buddha's light interpenetrates all enlightened bhumi (i.e., lands) without obstruction, the bronze Birushana's fear-dispelling and boon-bestowing hand mudras were believed to extend peace and prosperity throughout Japan. By association and extension, therefore, the enlightened cakravartin Shomu ensured protection and aid in every province by sponsoring imperial rites that invoked the golden light of the Buddha.

Under state sponsorship during the Nara period, then, Osaka Kokubunji served two primary functions: protection of the state and defense against physical illness. The two tasks of homeland security and national healthcare were inextricably linked at the time, since after all a safe and healthy body-politic has to be made up of safe and healthy bodies. The cosmic light of the Buddha was needed first of all to protect the state and quell unrest in the provinces. Battles with the indigenous Emishi were common, and in 740 imperial forces put down Fujiwara no Hirotsugu's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 740) revolt against the central government in Kyushu. Ostensibly a seven-shaku-tall Kannon statue and ten copies of the Lotus Sutra helped quell the rebellion (Nara National Museum 1980, 147). In addition, ritual measures invoking Buddha's golden light were imperative in an age of repeated natural disasters, famines, pestilence, and plagues such as the smallpox epidemic of 735-37. Moreover, ominous and ubiquitous evil spirits called magatsuhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] might threaten the individual or corporate health of the populous at any time. In this case, Buddhist temples such as Osaka Kokubunji functioned as hospital-temples (yakuin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), free dispensaries (seyakuin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and hospices of compassion (hiden-in [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) (Lock 1984, 25-29). In addition to herbal remedies, penitents and patients alike witnessed recitations of the Golden Light Sutra before dazzling sculptures of the Medicine Buddha Yakushi nyorai flanked by Nikko and Gakko, personifications of sunlight and moonlight, respectively. These deities functioned as a kind of Nara-period public health and welfare committee, subordinate to the monumental bronze Light Buddha at Todaiji. The ritual invoked the Buddha's illuminating and purifying rays to discern and purge the dark offending spirits believed to cause illness. This religio-politico-medical function of light is important to keep in mind as we next examine Heian-period (794-1192) esoteric developments that both complemented and supplemented Nara-period precedents.

Kukai's Esoteric Contributions

After two years of study in China, the Shingon patriarch Kukai returned to Japan in 806 and further strengthened the Kokubunjis' role in protecting and healing through the power of light. He did this by advancing Shingon doctrines as well as by his own imperial favor and institutional authority. By providing theoretical and practical elaborations on the already extant though inexact ritual science of Nara-period light-cures, Kukai's esoteric ritual art and practice involving the dharmakaya's purifying radiance became increasingly commissioned at temples like Osaka Kokubunji after the ninth century.

On the level of doctrinal discourse, Kukai introduced a new and improved power source for Birushana's traditional light-life functions. Kukai claimed that Dainichi the "Great Sun" Buddha empowered his newly imported esoteric rituals. Kukai was therefore able to maintain Buddhism's traditional role in state preservation, but departed from Nara academicism in favor of Mikkyo's more dynamic ritual practice based on Dainichi's solar source. Kukai's Ten Stages of Mind (Himitsu mandara jujushinron [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) explicitly ranks Shingon above Kegon, which by implication makes Dainichi more powerful than Birushana. In addition, instead of Birushana's subordinate group of mere deva kings guarding the four cardinal directions, Dainichi now boasted four fully enlightened directional Buddhas, each with its own Buddha family (Amida to the West, Amogasiddhi to the North, Aksobhya to the East and Ratnasambhava to the South). Moreover, while the Golden Light Sutra of the Four Deva Kings and the Lotus Sutra may have been important to the Nara establishment in the past, Kukai's newly imported Vajraeekhara and Mahavairocana Sutras, as well as the Diamond and Womb world mandalas, illustrated these Yogacara and Tathagatagarbha philosophical texts and elaborated the old radiance and lotus imagery for the new Heian order. In The Difference Between Exoteric and Esoteric Buddhism (Benkenmitsu nikyoron [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), Kukai proposes that Mikkyo's esoteric understanding of the personified dharmakaya is more powerful, active, visible, audible, and health-ensuring than the old guard in Nara had previously believed (Kukai 1972, 151-57; Gardiner 1994, passim). As Kukai writes in his essay on The Meaning of the Word Hum (Unji gi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), only those initiated into his advanced Mikkyo system can truly understand the profound truth and manifest potency of Dainichi's power:

Again, there is the opinion that ... [the Dharmakaya] is colorless, formless, voiceless, etc. All of these opinions result from not comprehending the ultimate truth and belong to the extreme of negation. All the statements, thoughts, and practices of those who do not understand the esoteric symbols, characteristics of expression, true significances, and real meanings of the various teachings are perverse and ungrounded, for these people do not know the true and ultimate principle [of Dainichi's wisdom and compassion].... Should there be a man capable of knowing the esoteric symbols and esoteric meanings ... he is to be called a perfectly knowing one. (Kukai 1972, 260)

This new esoteric discourse of one-up-manship and Dainichi's heightened efficacy was supplemented by other promotional techniques. Kukai effectively marketed his newly imported esoteric scriptures and commentaries as more profound and therefore more efficacious than the old Golden Light Sutra. The Sutra of the Benevolent Kings (Ninnokyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in particular supplanted the Konkomyokyo's protection of the state. Yet Kukai never denied the old exoteric power to protect and heal. Rather, he skillfully and systematically inserted his new esoteric ideas into the old Nara-period conceptual tropes. When the Yogacara monk Shuen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (7) invited Kukai to lecture on the Golden Light Sutra at Todaiji in 813, Kukai used the opportunity to introduce a far more elaborate two-tiered and bi-directional explanation for the healing properties of light. Presupposing two levels of existence, he versifies:
   [From the phenomenal perspective, looking from the "bottom up"]
   Bodies dissolve and harmonize with
   The Buddha's sunlight and moonlight,
   [From the noumenal perspective, looking from the "top down"],
   The Golden Body and the Diamond Body
   Provisionally manifest to save all (Kobo daishi kukai zenshu henju
   iinkai 1986, 3:483)

   If one takes this principle to heart
   One achieves the Diamond Body
   Whether man or woman
   One will sit in the Lotus Palace (Kobo daishi kukai zenshu henju
   iinkai 1986, 3:486)

Sunlight and moonlight simultaneously symbolize the old exoteric figures of Nikko and Gakko as well as the solar and lunar symbolism in the new esoteric Womb and Diamond World mandalas. Likewise, the Golden Body and the Lotus Palace correlate with the new esoteric iconography of Dainichi in the phenomenal Womb World, while references to the Diamond Body correspond to Dainichi's noumenal aspect in the Diamond World. Yet it is the mutual exchange of cosmic energies described in these verses that most deserves attention. The image of bodies dissolving into Dainichi's light and aspects of Dainichi's light manifesting as bodies suggests Mikkyo's theory of mutual empowerment or kaji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (adhisthana), which was soon adapted as a hands-on healing technique. Kukai also cast his newly imported mantras, mudras, mandalas, healing dharanis, and ritual abhiseka initiations as the new and improved medical technology du jour. His Catalogue of Imported Items (Shorai mokuroku [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) reads like a patent disclosure or compendium of R&D efforts to pump up the healing power of the old Nara establishment. Kukai effectively cornered the market on body-mind techne, artistic techniques and ritual technology, both at court and throughout the countryside. His innovations resonated with the relatively new Heian court, which was intent on a new ritual statecraft (matsurigoto [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) for protecting the country and curing illness. It also resonated with the populace at large, as peripatetic ascetics (hijiri [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) disseminated Kukai's thought and practices. With this kind of government backing and widespread popular support, the system of Kokubunji temples increasingly adopted the healing arts of Mikkyo as part of their ritual vocabulary and helped spread them throughout Japan. (8)

In terms of imperial patronage and institutional status, Kukai became a powerful insider in the state's main aristocratic and religious institutions. As Abe Ryuichi has demonstrated, Kukai seamlessly inserted his newly imported esoteric forms into the familiar exoteric ones. Kukai's influence eventually came to permeate the very center of Japan's power structures. Just a year before he died in 835, Kukai inaugurated his annual Latter Seven Day Rite (Goshichi nichi mishuho [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) within a specially constructed Shingon-in esoteric chapel in the emperor's palace at Heiankyo. Most relevant to our discussion of Osaka Kokubunji, however, is the fact that Kukai served as the main administrative superintendent (betto [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of Todaiji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] from 810-13 and built a Shingon chapel there in 822. As Yoshito S. Hakeda observes, "Kukai's later success in superimposing his own Esotericism on Nara Buddhism had its inception in this appointment" (Kukai 1972, 40). Kukai's administrative stewardship of Todaiji included the entire Kokubunji network. It is therefore exceedingly likely that the branch temples adopted Kukai's newly imported esoteric practices. Some of Osaka Kokubunji's most elaborate rites were sponsored by Emperors Saga [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 809-23), Junna [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 823-33), and Nimmyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 833-50), who were among Kukai's strongest supporters and patrons. Following Kukai's death, Emperors Montoku [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 850-58), Seiwa [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 858-76), and Ichijo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 986-1011) continued to commission rites at Osaka Kokubunji for the pacification and protection of the family-state. Osaka Kokubunji enjoyed renewed patronage in the thirteenth century under Emperors Gofukakusa [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 1246-59) and Go-uda [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 1274- 87). No other imperially sponsored rites at Osaka Kokubunji are documented until the nineteenth century under Emperor Ninko [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 1817-46) (Adachi 1985, ii).

Early Modern Constructions

Despite this loose association of imperial patronage and esoteric ritual performance throughout the history of Osaka Kokubunji, it is not known precisely when the temple "became" Shingon. As Sherry Fowler remarks in her study of Muroji (a mid-eighth century temple officially turned Shingon in 1700), "'Sectarian affiliation' is actually an early modern construct that only emerges with the shogunate's edicts of 1632 and 1692 establishing the 'main/branch system' (honmatsu seido [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])" (Fowler 2005, 43). This system categorized every single temple in Japan as either a main headquarters or a subsidiary branch temple of a recognized religious denomination (Kitagawa 1990, 163). Furthermore, the temple registration system (terauke seido [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) required all families to register with their local Buddhist temple, which organized government census-taking, facilitated tax collection, and ensured universal conformity to Buddhism (as opposed to illegal Christianity). As a result, temples increasingly assumed funerary and memorial obligations for departed family members. These government measures indicate that Osaka Kokubunji became a regional headquarters of the Shingon sect during the early Edo period (1600-1868).

Understanding ritual practices at Osaka Kokubunji is complicated further by the extensive physical damage that the temple suffered over time. Numerous undocumented earthquakes and fires occurred in addition to the documented fires of 1600 and 1614, when Tokugawa Ieyasu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1543-1616) laid siege to Toyotomi Hideyori's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1593-1615) forces at Osaka castle. Emperor Higashiyama's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1687-1709) rebuilding campaign began 1688 and ended in 1718, but the Allied bombings of 1945 destroyed almost the entire structure. Only the temple's Kamakura-period entrance gate survived. Throughout much of the Edo period, Osaka Kokubunji apparently served and benefited financially from both its locally registered families and its itinerant pilgrims. In the year of Anei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1772), the monk Gekkai Shonin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (dates unknown) included Osaka Kokubunji in his codified pilgrimage route of Settsu Province's Eighty-Eight Sacred Sites (settsuguo hachijuhakkasho reijo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). This was obviously a local version of the more famous Shikoku pilgrimage route of eighty-eight temples dedicated to the Shingon founder Kukai, whose hagiography was becoming ever more popular during the Edo period. Presumably temple fundraising as much as devotion to Shingon's founding patriarch motivated the early modern construction of such "traditional" Shingon pilgrimage routes. The reconstruction of Osaka Kokubunji as a sacred site dedicated to Kukai continues to this day both on the material and ideological levels, as evidenced by the 1985 commemorative restoration and an enormous stone statue of the founder in pilgrim's garb that dominates the southern quarter of the temple compound.

From State Sponsorship to Private Ownership in the Modern Period

Like many other Buddhist temples in Japan, Osaka Kokubunji was forced to negotiate the road from state sponsorship in the pre-modern period to private ownership in the present day. As the financial foundations of the temple shifted, its forms and functions changed dramatically.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Osaka Kokubunji's state sponsorship ended when Emperor Ninko [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1817-46) became the last emperor to sponsor prayers for the pacification and protection of the family-state. During the Meiji period (1868-1911), it was forced into financial self-sufficiency after centuries of imperial patronage as an official temple for imperial prayers (chokugan dojo). Between 1868 and 1872, the new Meiji government issued a series of shinbutsubunri [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] edicts that distinguished Buddhism from a retroactively formulated "native" Shintoism, and then shifted its financial support to the latter. Like many other temples, Osaka Kokubunji was compelled to adapt its forms and functions to facilitate fundraising, and the temple had to expand two of its primary roles. It increased its funerary activities and strove to attract the patronage of itinerant pilgrims in the Kansai region. As an indicator of the latter phenomenon, Osaka Kokubunji was and still is included in Kinki's thirty-six sites for Fudo-myoo worship (Kinki sanjuroku fudo son reijo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and in the Kansai region's forty-nine pilgrimage sites for Yakushi worship. It is not known how much income such strategies yield.

The government began preserving Kokubunji sites only with the 1921 passage of the Law for the Protection of Historic Sites and Natural Monuments. At present, fifty sites (forty Kokubunji temples and ten Kokubuniji nunneries) are officially protected under this law, but altogether sixty-nine sites have been excavated since post-war efforts began in 1950 (Nara National Museum 1980, 148). Local patrons and small businesses contributed funds to rebuild the present compound in 1965, with buildings that conform to Osaka's reconfigured post-war street plans. Today one enters through the Kamakura-period gate from the East, between a small temple shop and a unique two-story bell-tower with a small ihai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] hall below. Upon entering the compound, one finds the main golden hall to the right and memorial hall to the left. In the northern quadrant stands a hall enshrining the immovable wisdom king Fudo-myoo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and dominating the south quadrant lies the graveyard with a memorial to Emperor Shomu and the oversized statue of Kukai. Numerous other monuments have been donated to the temple over the decades, and the compound is strewn with statues, prayer wheels, and the like.

Thus Osaka Kokbunji provides a model study for the evolution of forms and functions of Buddhist ritual spaces in Japan. Let us now turn to the interior statuary of the two main buildings and the iconographic messages that their three light-life Buddhas convey.

Light-Life Symbolism: Yakushi Nyorai


In the Kondo Golden Hall, one observes the close association between light and life imagery. The main image or honzon [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is a gilt bronze Yakushi Medicine Buddha sitting on a lotus throne and holding his emblematic medicine jar in his left palm (fig. 1). This jar symbolizes Yakushi's vow to cure both physical and spiritual ills. Flanking him are two figures personifying the light of the sun and moon, respectively. Nikko appears to the spectator's right and Gakko to the left. (9) This light-life triad is the main focus of the present analysis, though the main altar also hosts twelve small bronze generals in military garb and the Four Deva Kings at the cardinal corners. The generals represent twelve yaksa demons who converted from Hinduism to the service of Yakushi Buddha and came to symbolize the Chinese zodiac and the twelve months of the year. Consequently their function is primarily temporal. They maintain the cycles of the agricultural calendar, prevent famine, and ensure adequate nourishment for all. The function of the four divine sentinels, by contrast, is spatial in nature. They are heavenly guardians stationed at the cardinal points of the compass. Their wrathful gaze scans the four corners of the earth and symbolically patrols and protects the country's borders. Taken together, Yakushi's retinue of subordinate deities personifies the proper functioning of the state throughout time and space.

The eternal and universal symbolism of this healing, illuminating, nourishing, and protecting sculptural group was a standard and popular configuration. Similar iconographic programs can still be found in the eighth-century temples of Yakushi-ji and Shin-Yakushiji in Nara, the ninth-century Toji and Jingoji esoteric temples in Kyoto, and numerous lesser known temples throughout Japan. Their arrangements are all informed by the Sutra of the Virtuous Original Vows of the Master of Healing, the Lapis Lazuli Radiance Buddha (Yakushi ruriko nyorai hongan roku tokukyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). In this sutra, Yakushi presides over his Eastern Paradise of Lapis Lazuli Radiance, whence he dispenses physical and spiritual cures from his inexhaustible medicine jar by virtue of his twelve healing vows:

1. May a radiant light blaze forth from my body after enlightenment, brightening countless realms, and may all beings have perfect physical form, identical to my own.

2. May my body be like pure and radiant lapis lazuli, with a radiance more brilliant than the sun and moon, illuminating all who travel in darkness, enabling them to tread upon their paths.

3. By my limitless insight and means, may I enable all beings to obtain the necessities of life.

4. May all beings be shown the path of enlightenment, and may adherents to the sravaka or pratyekabuddha paths become established in Mahayana practices.

5. May all beings be aided to follow the precepts of moral conduct. After hearing my name, those who have broken the precepts will be aided to regain their purity and prevented from sinking to a woesome path of existence.

6. May all who are deformed or handicapped in any way have their deformities removed upon hearing my name.

7. May all who are unwell be cured upon hearing my name.

8. May women, who, beset by woes, seek to become men be reborn as men in their next life.

9. May all who are caught in Mara's net, entangled in negative views, be caused to gain correct views and thus practice the Bodhisattva Way.

10. May all who are to be punished by the king be freed of their troubles.

11. May those who are desperately famished be given food. May they ultimately taste the sublime Teachings.

12. May all who are destitute of clothes obtain attractive garments and various adornments upon concentrating on my name. (Birnbaum 1979, 62)

Yakushi thus attends to nourishing both our corporeal and spiritual appetites ("may those who are desperately famished be given food; may they ultimately taste the sublime Teachings"). Indeed the double-entendre of his namesake indicates the double nature of his body-mind cures, for the homonyms yaku [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (medicine) and yaku [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (misfortune) simultaneously link Yakushi's physiological and psychological cures in an amusing semantic gloss (Miyata 1996, 67).

Yakushi's capacity to heal both bodily ailments and mental delusions runs quite deep. Implicit notions of Yakushi's perfected body and enlightened mind were already present in early Mahayana sutras that linked life-giving medicinal metaphors with light and visibility. In Mahayana sutras dating to the turn of the common era for example, Dharmaraksa mentions a proto-Yakushi figure called "Bodhisattva Heals Through Sight" (Takakusa 1924-35, XII, 345, 159B) while Bodhiruci refers to a healing substance called "All-Seeing" or "Seen By All" (Takakusa 1924-35, XI, 310, 599A). It seems that in early translations of Mahayana sutras, the term "King of Medicine" (Bhaisajya-raja) was an ambiguous term that could indicate either the intangible Dharma teachings (the ultimate medicine) and/or an actual healing substance, which Birnbaum identifies as the dried fruit of the myrobalan (Skt. haritaki, Lat. terminalia chebula). (10)

These implicit sight-light and med-life associations are further notable in the esoteric genealogy of Yakushi ( fig. 2). Detailed genealogies of Buddhist figures seem to have been fabricated and then elaborated upon in subsequent sutras in order to justify Mikkyo's expanded pantheon and in order to create mythological ties amongst disparate strains of Buddhist thought. The following genealogy derives from Birnbaum 's exhaustive study of the Healing Buddha's scriptural sources. Beginning at the turn of the common era, chapter 13 of the Vimalakirti nirdesa sutra explained that in a past life [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]kyamuni Buddha was named "Prince Lunar Canopy," who was a disciple of Buddha King of Healing (Bhaisajya-raja [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra compiled in the first to second centuries CE expanded upon this claim by explaining that this Buddha King of Healing in a past life was named "He Whom All Beings Delight to See" (another light-life, sight-healing association). Chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra also explains that "He Whom All Beings Delight to See" was once a disciple of the Buddha "Pure and Bright Virtue of the Sun and Moon," an early scriptural justification for iconographically grouping Yakushi with Nikko and Gakko. Chapter 27 of the Lotus Sutra, written roughly around the same time, further elaborated that this Buddha King of Healing was but one of two healing brothers. It identifies a younger brother Supreme Healer (Bhaisajya-samudgata [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and the older brother King of Medicine (Bhaisajya-raja [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).


According to the Sutra Spoken by the Buddha on the Contemplation of the Two Bodhisattvas King of Healing and Supreme Healer (Ch. Fo-shuo kuan yao-wang yao-sheng erh-p'u-sa ching [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) translated by the Central Asian monk Kalayasas in 424 CE, Supreme Healer was named Pure Eye in a past life, but will be named Pure Womb in a future lifetime (Takakusa 1924-35, XX, 1161; Birnbaum 1979, 38). Conversely, his older brother, King of Healing, was once named Pure Womb in a past life, but will be named Pure Eye in a future lifetime. The two healing brothers' role reversal across the eons is confusing at first, as is their mutually inspiring feedback loop of charity. (Solar Womb inspires a later incarnation of the older brother to offer medicine to the Buddhist community, and this in turn inspires a later incarnation of the younger brother to offer medicine to society at large.) However, the names and activities of these two healing brothers make sense if one considers them as an early Chinese esoteric attempt to reconcile Tathagatagarbha and Yogacara philosophies in a non-dualistic manner.

The moniker Pure Womb is esoteric code for Tathagatagarbha thought. This form of philosophical materialism teaches that our potential, embryonic Buddhahood can be literally born in the womb (garbha) of material phenomena, provided one practices Buddha's compassionate methods of enlightenment. Conversely, the personage of Pure Eye is esoteric code for Yogacara or Mind Only thought. This form of philosophical idealism teaches that perfected wisdom and the right view of emptiness can be achieved only in and through the mind, the realm of intangible noumena. In fully developed esoteric thought and practice, these two extremes are non-dualistic. Birnbaum argues that such implicit nuances were overlooked and these two body-mind brothers coalesced into the single healing figure of Yakushi-nyorai. This is why he has become known as the Buddha who can heal both physical and psychological disease.

The brothers' separate solar and lunar associations, however, live on in the figures of Nikko and Gakko. The fifth-century visualization sutra connects the younger brother Supreme Healer/Pure Womb with the sun on the right, since his former incarnation as Solar Womb sparked his older brother's aspiration for enlightenment and healing. In chapter 13 of the Vimalakirti nirdesa sutra, the royal King of Healing/Pure Eye is associated with the moon on the left, since he taught Sakyamuni the Dharma when he was Prince Lunar Canopy in a past life (Birnbaum 1979, 82). To sum up then: one may implicitly associate Nikko on the right with the sun, Solar Womb, Pure Womb, the younger brother, Tathagatagarbha thought, and body. Gakko on the left can be associated with the moon, Lunar Canopy, Pure Eye, the King, Yogacara thought, and mind. Yakushi in the center conflates and embodies all of their healing qualities.

Esoteric Light-Life Symbolism: Dainichi Nyorai


A second layer of light-life symbolism hangs directly behind the Yakushi sculptural triad. Two painted mandalas of Dainichi in his Womb and Diamond World aspects further empower the statues' healing abilities (fig. 3). Yakushi continues to sit on his lotus throne in the center flanked by statues of Nikko, Gakko, and other members of his retinue. Before the images we see a fire altar (goma-dan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) that purifies defilements and consecrates the ritual implements used in esoteric healing rituals. Many of these elaborate rituals involve Mikkyo mantras, dharanis, and kaji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Skt. adhisthana) that channel Dainichi's universal light energy to the receptive patient. It is unclear when this configuration was implemented. A thoughtful reading of the image-group reveals some striking iconographic resonances, but this requires a little background.

The key symbols of Kukai's system are the famous Two-World (11) mandalas (ryokai mandara [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) (fig. 4), which date from 853 and are housed at Toji temple in Kyoto. These microcosmic diagrams map out and correlate Dainichi Buddha's means and ends to realizing perfect enlightenment. There is a great deal of imagery in these mandalas that is not textually supported by Shingon's two main scriptures, but Kukai maintains that the "secrets of the sutras and commentaries are for the most part depicted in the paintings and all the essentials of the Esoteric Buddhist doctrines are, in reality, set forth therein" (Kukai 1972, 145-46).


Specifically, the Womb World mandala on the right depicts the teachings of the Dainichi-kyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Skt. Mahavairocana-sutra). The Diamond World mandala on the left depicts the teachings of the Kongochokyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Skt. Vajra sekhara-sutra). Their lotus and moon-disk imagery grafts nicely over the already extant conceptual framework established by the popular Lotus and Golden Light Sutras. Moreover, all of Dainichi's solar and lunar imagery depicted in these two mandalas resonate with the statues before the two paintings. Dainichi's twin associations also dovetail with Yakushi's brotherly alter-egos as personified by SunLight and MoonLight. Just as Yakushi embodied the two healing brothers Pure Womb and Pure Eye, so too Dainichi in his Womb and Diamond aspects embodies the power to heal both body and mind. Just as personifications of sunlight and moonlight were integrated into the Yakushi triad before, so too Dainchi's solar and lunar symbolism in the mandalas grafts new esoteric meanings onto this pre-existing model for healing.

Considered together, the Two World Mandalas hanging directly behind Yakushi, Nikko, and Gakko have an uncanny iconographic resonance. The red solar imagery of the Womb world mandala pairs with Nikko's red sun disk on the right (fig. 5). Iconographically, the Great Sun makes the seed of innate bodhicitta gradually blossom like a lotus flower given proper method in this Womb World. In the central sun-red lotus, Dainichi sits with his hands folded in the meditation mudra (jo-in [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). This indicates his compassionate method for gradually "Becoming a Buddha in This Very Body" (sokushin jobutsu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in the phenomenal realm. This correlates with our previous discussion of Nikko and Supreme Healer/Solar Womb, who initially inspired his older brother's aspiration to practice and heal. He wears only a practitioner's robe, recalling the younger brother whose compassionate methods heal all in the everyday phenomenal realm.


On the left, the white lunar imagery of the Diamond World mandala is paired with Gakko's white moon disk. This image indicates that in the noumenal realm the Great Sun immediately illuminates the white moon-mirrors of the mind, now radiant in Dainichi's reflected brilliance and Diamond-like crystal-clear wisdom. The royally clad Dainichi sits within a full white moon disk. His hands form the wisdom-fist mudra (chiken-in [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), indicating that as a world sovereign, he immediately grasps the correct view that all is one, one is all. These connotations of rulership correspond to the previous associations of Gakko and the imperial King of Medicine/Pure Eye, who personifies the enlightened mind of perfected wisdom in the noumenal realm. (12) The imperially clad Diamond Dainichi is bejeweled and crowned as a cakravartin world sovereign, recalling the King of Healing, the older, royal brother of healing.

In a kind of medical technology upgrade, therefore, these painted Vajrayana microchips graft another layer of potent light-life symbolism over the Yakushi triad sculptures. They empower Yakushi, Nikko, and Gakko to heal faster and better than ever before, since as Sharf has pointed out, the mandalas function primarily as aids to empowerment, not personal enlightenment in the ritual context. (13) Indeed for Kukai, Dainichi is the ultimate source of Yakushi's derivative power to heal. In his Secret Key to the Heart Sutra (Hannya shingyo hiken [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), Kukai rhetorically asks not without a certain spirit of one-upmanship, "If [people] do not go seeking for the remedies of the King of Medicine, when will they ever be able to see the Light of the Great Sun?" (Kukai 1972, 263). Stated in more affirmative terms, Kukai is subtly proposing that seeking remedies through Yakushi Medicine Buddha will eventually lead one to the radiance of Dainichi. Thus Kukai continues to acknowledge the potency of Yakushi's cures, but he advances his all-powerful esoteric methods in a complementary yet wholly superior light.

Pure Land Light-Life Symbolism: Amida Nyorai

The third and final layer of light-life symbolism at Osaka Kokubunji resides across the compound in the reimeiden or memorial hall. Here a smaller sculptural triad of Amida and his bodhisattva attendants is enshrined along with ihai memorial tablets of the departed. Those reborn into Amida's Pure Land in the Western Paradise enjoy infinite life after death, a notion that marks a distinct semantic shift from prolonging life in this world (Yakushi and Dainichi's job) to extending it into the next (Amida's job).

According to the controversial Shingon monk Kakuban [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1095-1143), Amida is tantamount to Dainichi. Hence Pure Land and Shingon rites and rituals partake of the same One Mind. As James Sanford explains, Kakuban "is best known for promoting the view that the Buddha Amida, the central divinity of the Pure Land school, and Shingon's own principal Buddha, Dainichi, were the same and that the true nature of the Pure Land was not transcendent but immanent" (2004, 124). In Kakuban's own words, "The Buddha Amida constitutes the Wisdom Body of the Intuition of the Self-Nature Dharmakaya, the support of enlightenment on which all sentient beings depend" (Sanford 2004, 124). Kakuban's equation of Dainichi with Amida was a shrewd and strategic move in an age when the cult of Amida was growing in popularity. Kakuban's accommodating stance had its detractors, but iconographically speaking, Amida's double identity does correspond with our previous associations. For this, again a little background is necessary.

Like Yakushi and Dainichi before him, the single figure of Amida unifies two distinct aspects: Amitabha the Buddha of Immeasurable Light and Amitayus the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. Again, it is the Lotus Sutra that conflates the two figures. Chronologically, it appears that the Buddha of Life predates the Buddha of Light. Chapter 7 of the Lotus Sutra (compiled in the first century CE) first mentions Amitayus the Buddha of Immeasurable Life, who is then directly linked to Sukhavati, the Pure Land of Bliss in the West in chapter 23 (compiled in the mid-second century CE). However, sometime after the second century CE, when chapter 24 was compiled, Amitabha the Buddha of Immeasurable Light (not life) came to reside in the Pure Land. The passage reads: "In the west, there the pure world Sukhavati is situated, there the Chief Amitabha, the tamer of men, has his fixed abode.... And Chief Amitabha himself is seated on a throne in the pure and nice cup of a lotus, and shines as the Sala-king" (Machida 1988, 13). Here again one notes the equation of lotus vessels with luminous kingship, and this new light Buddha with the life Buddha of previous chapters. These mixed metaphors and interchangeable names also echo throughout other Pure Land texts to varying degrees. The "Smaller" Sukhavativyuha sutra (Ch. Amituo jing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; translated into Chinese by Kumarajiva in 402 CE) prefers to call him Amitayus, with only a few mentions of his luminous qualities. However the five extant translations of the "Larger" Sukhavativyuha sutra (Ch. Wuliangshou jing; Jp. Muryojukyo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), literally the "Unending Life Sutra" first translated by Lokasema (ca. 186), explicitly emphasizes the luminosity of Amitabha. Machida argues that the Buddhist encounter with Zoroastrian thought throughout central Asia, northwestern China, and India accounts for this blending of life and light nomenclature (Machida 1988, 12-19).

Figures 6a and 6b clearly illustrate Amida's alter-egos. On the right, Amida's infinite light rises between two mountains like a magnificent Dainichi or Great Sun. This so-called Yamagoe or Yamagoshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Amida dates from the thirteenth century and is housed at Zenrinji, Kyoto. The siddham script for the letter "A" in the upper left corner immediately marks it as an esoteric image of Amida. "A" is both the root of Amida's esoteric namesake and Dainichi's seed syllable that is visualized in both Amida's setting-sun meditation and Mikkyo's Ajikan meditations (this according to Amoghavajra's interpretation of the five syllables, not Subhakarasimha's; see Kukai 1972, 240, note 24). On the left, in contrast to the very naturalistic landscape set in the realm of phenomena, Amida as the Buddha of Immeasurable Life presides over his Pure Land of Bliss in the Western Paradise. This numinous gold ink version of the Taima Mandara dates from the fourteenth century.

Thus Amida is yet another conflated light-life Buddha who grafts new associations onto pre-existing esoteric models for healing. Amitabha's solar halo recalls Nikko and the Womb World on the right. He is oriented towards the East, the rising sun, the direction of origins and the aspiration for enlightenment. Conversely, Amitayus ruling like a sovereign over his Pure Land recalls the imperially bedecked Diamond Dainichi on the left; he is oriented towards the West, the direction of completion and final achievement of nirvana. Fittingly, when displayed in the Shingon ritual hall, the Womb and Diamond world mandala maps are also oriented to the East and to the West, respectively. The only inconsistency seems to be a distinct lack of lunar imagery on the left. In his Esoteric Explanation of Amida, Kakuban explains that Amida's light surpasses the Sun and Moon altogether (a reference to one of Amida's thirteen epithets): "Because the shining brilliance of the Wondrous Intuitive Wisdom of the Dharmakaya is from the outset everlasting and always removed from day and night, time and space; and yet there is no place over which it does not shine, no season through which it does not shine; and because it surpasses the worldly sun and the worldly moon, some speak of 'The Buddha Whose Light Surpasses Sun and Moon'" (Sanford 2004, 132-33).

The esoteric understanding of Amida's name surpasses all dualities. According to Kakuban, the "A" in Amida represents the nonduality of principle and wisdom (Shingon code for the Womb and Diamond world mandalas). "Mi stands for the Lotus family" (i.e., the central lotus of the Womb world) and "Da stands for the Vajra family" (i.e., the adamantine wisdom of the Diamond world mandala) (Sanford 2004, 132). A-mi-da in the esoteric context, therefore, is tantamount to Dainichi in his non-dual aspects. It seems therefore that Kakuban is not without his own one-upmanship. For him, Amida promises nothing less than eternal life itself, something neither Yakushi nor Dainichi ever laid claim to. As mentioned previously, Kakuban's accommodationist stance had its detractors, but the light-life symbolism of his conflated and esotericized Amida effectively updated and strengthened the light-life symbolism of Dainichi, who in turn had updated and strengthened the light-life symbolism of Yakushi before him. Kokubunji today is heir to this triple heritage.


Thus it seems that Osaka Kokubunji has it all covered, from Yakushi's Eastern Paradise of Lapis Lazuli Radiance to Amida's Pure Land of Immeasurable Light and Life. From the Shingon point of view, these are all tantamount to Dainichi's universal world-body, which illuminates all equally in sickness and in health. From the Shingon perspective, the light of the Great Sun empowers and enables the health and well-being of all, even those who have passed away. This is why the bronze plaques of the Two World Mandalas (figs. 6a & 6b) empower even a bell tower that enshrines the overflow of ihai tablets. They are watched over by Jizo ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), an important psychopomp (i.e., guide to the afterlife) in the service of Amida. To this author's knowledge, this is a wholly unique architectural solution to even post-mortem overcrowding in modern Osaka.

This iconographic study of Osaka Kokubunji provides us with a contemporary case study of three successive waves of light and life symbolism, especially as they appear in the context of esoteric Buddhist thought and artistic expression. Excavating the nested layers of associations reveals a veritable Russian doll of luminous healing. Many questions remain, however, regarding the connection between radiance and remedy in Japan. It is true that Buddhism has long associated illumination with the cessation of suffering, but specifically what other temple networks, deity configurations, literary accounts of miracle cures and recorded techniques for faith healing provide perceived solutions to the body and mind's perennial ills? And what other theoretical frameworks and ritual logics might be employed to analyze the visual, textual, and ritual content of other sites, both historically and today? These questions and others must await future research, but this study may provide a working theoretical framework for understanding the ritual logic of Buddhist healing activities throughout Japanese history. At the very least, it demonstrates that reiterated conceptual tropes and inter-resonating iconographic systems originally designed to reinforce the Buddha's protective, healing, and salvific abilities are still very much in evidence in Japan today.




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Adachi Arinori [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. 1985. Konkomyo shitenno gokoku no tera chokugan dojo shingonshu daihonzan: settsu no kuni kokubunji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Kokubunji of Settsu province: the Shingon head temple for imperial prayers for the protection of the country by the four heavenly kings of the golden light]. Osaka: Daihonzan kokubunji.

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Elon University


(1) Dosho at this time had recently returned from China, where he supposedly studied with Xuanzang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and his disciples (Matsunaga 1974, 77). He is credited with first transmitting the Kusha sect (Abhidharmakosa) to Japan, though he is also associated with Hosso (Yogacara) Buddhism (112, 118).

(2) For a reconstructed model of this palace, see Nara Cultural Assets Research Center 2002, 59.

(3) Emperor Shomu issued further edicts in 743, 746, and 749 to strengthen local government financial support for the Kokubunji and Kokubuniji system of state-sponsored monasteries and convents (Nara National Museum 1980, 147). Scholars debate whether previous edicts may have preceded Emperor Shomu's. According to the Annals of Japan (Nihonshoki [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ca. 720), Emperor Temmu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (r. 673-86) issued a similar decree in 685, ordering Buddhist shrines in every house of every province. Alicia and Daigan Matsunaga see this as an important precedent for the Kokubunji system (1974, 23), though Ian Reader looks to this same entry as a precedent for butsudan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] family altars (1991, 84). Reader's interpretation is more compelling, for replacing ujigami [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] shrines with bustudan altars meant that Emperor Temmu could displace each clan's patron deity and unify the nation under a single religious ideology.

(4) Even today, Pulguksa [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] temple in the former capital of Kyongju, Korea stands as a testament to the national Buddhist temple network unifying the ancient Silla kingdom.

(5) The "eye-opening" ceremony is a consecration ritual that animates and empowers the image. The artist completes the image by painting the eye in with a brush or dotting in a pupil with a stylus.

(6) The idea that the emperor's physique microcosmically embodies the body politic ultimately derives from the Chinese notion of zishen ziguo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("own body, own country"). In a kind of symbolic and distributive logic, the Chinese emperor annually made his ritual progress through microcosmic structures such as the Ming Tang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] or the temple of Heaven and Earth. This ostensibly maintained the peaceful regulation of the cosmos and the timely rotation of the agricultural seasons.

(7) Shuen is alternately pronounced Shinen. See Kobo daishi kukai zenshu henju iinkai 1986, 6:477; Abe 1999, 63.

(8) For more on esoteric healing and the dissemination of kaji, see Winfield 2005.

(9) For variations in Nikko and Gakko nomenclature in different Chinese translations of the Sanskrit Suryavairocana (or Suryaprabha) and Candravairocana (or Candraprabha), see Birnbaum 1979, 75, n. 37.

(10) For more information, see Birnbaum 1979, 24, 83, plate 5.

(11) Originally, Kukai used the term "world" exclusively in reference to the Diamond World mandala (kongokai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), not to the Womb Treasure Ocean mandala (taizokai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). However, the twin homonyms for world (kai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and ocean (kai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and the mandalas' ubiquitous twin displays soon collapsed this distinction and led to the appellation of the Two Worlds.

(12) The solar and lunar correspondence with the two world mandalas is further reinforced by Michelle Louise Bambling's analysis (2001) of Kongo-ji's fourteenth-century Sun and Moon Landscape screens that were used in Mikkyo kanjo initiations.

(13) Robert Sharf (2001) deconstructs as textually unfounded previous assumptions regarding the practitioner's visualized progress through the Shingon mandalas. He further underscores the importance of the mandalas as ritual agents of spatial empowerment, not personal enlightenment. He argues that in the Shingon ritual context, there are too many figures, too many shifting shapes, and too little time to do anything but ritually intone the liturgical instructions to perform deity yoga with each Buddha or bodhisattva. He further argues that the mandalas' automatic ability to transform the ritual hall into a pure land (and hence anyone in its presence into a Buddha) means that the presence of the mandalas "does not so much serve as an aid for visualizing the deity as it abrogates the need for visualization at all" (192).
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Author:Winfield, Pamela D.
Publication:Southeast Review of Asian Studies
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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