Academic journal article Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

The Invention and Reception of the Mino'odera Engi

Academic journal article Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

The Invention and Reception of the Mino'odera Engi

Article excerpt

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AS DISCUSSED in the introduction to this special volume, jisha engi ... narrate the origins, which is to say the invention, of sacred sites. Although in many cases research on engi has attended primarily to the circumstances surrounding the initial process of textual composition, more creativity is involved in the reception of these texts. My objective in this article is to illustrate this assertion through an analysis of the Mino'odera engi.

Religious practice in the mountains (sanrin shugyo ...), which was an integral element in the religious culture of Mino'o, had been common among both semi-lay figures and official monks (kanso ...) even earlier than the Nara period (Tsuji 1991, 1-6). In the Heian period, monks who had acquired "marvellous powers" (genriki ...) through practice in the mountains joined specialists in esoteric ritual as "persons of power" (genja ...) who served the emperor or high-ranking aristocrats by performing healing treatments (Tokunaga 2001). During the insei period, yamabushi ..., literally "men who lie down in the mountains," who were not necessarily fully ordained, gained public recognition for their special powers. Yamabushi were employed among the guardian monks (gojiso ...), who were charged with ritually protecting the emperor's person (Wakamori 1972, 108-10). It was also during the insei that pilgrimage to Kumano became popular among the royalty and aristocracy (Moerman 2005); when retired emperors traveled to Kumano, they employed yamabushi as their pilgrimage guides (gosendatsu ...), rewarding them with honorary monastic rank and office (Miyachi 1954, 93-129, 147-69; Tokunaga 2002).

As a corollary to their new recognition in the social sphere, yamabushi also began to make a place for themselves as important participants in the history of Japanese Buddhism. The legitimacy of Japanese Buddhism was grounded in the understanding that Buddhism had been transmitted in an unaltered state from India to China and then Japan: this concept is known as "transmission through the three countries" (sangoku denrai ...). Therefore yamabushi, who did not trace their dharma lineage back to India, were situated outside of the Japanese Buddhist orthodoxy. During the insei period, yamabushi for the first time appear to have felt the need for a founder of their own.1 En no Gyoja ..., the most famous historical mountain practitioner, was chosen and vene- rated in this role. Importantly, En had long been known as an upasaka (ubasoku ...), that is, as a religious specialist who had not been officially ordained as a Buddhist monk. In time, En no Gyoja's apotheosis as a founder figure was so successful that, based on the temporal and spatial imaginaire of Japanese Buddhism, which had been shaped by notions of the transmission through the three countries, the temporal and spatial imaginaire of sacred mountains around the capital (that is, Kyoto) and "the southern capital" (nanto ..., Nara) were successively reconceptualized.

The process of reimagining En no Gyoja's career in order to cast him as a founder figure provides the primary context in which the Mino'odera engi circulated. One of the many oral transmissions (kuden ...), records (kiroku ...), and engi-type documents that appeared during the insei period, this particular text focuses mainly on En no Gyoja's founding of the temple of Mino'o in the mountains of the Teshima ... district in the province of Settsu ..., an area that is now part of Mino'o, Ikeda, Toyonaka, and Suita cities in the northern reaches of present-day Osaka. The engi also contains En no Gyoja's admonitions, in which he warns monks against negligence and promises them his protection. Although the tone is general, he instructs them to view those who break the precepts as "manifestations of Hitokotonushi" (Hitokotonushi no hengen ...), and tells them that even if his body may go to "Hu and Yue" (..., that is, China), his heart shall always remain at Mino'o. …

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