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Bryan Lowe – Preaching to the Periphery: Buddhism in Provincial Villages in Ninth-Century Japan
February 12, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Speaker: Bryan Lowe, Vanderbilt University
This paper looks at itinerant preaching in early ninth-century Japan with a particular focus on sermons intended for provincial villagers. In contrast to most studies of this period, which address sectarian founders, I will highlight figures peripheral to dominant scholarly accounts: minor monks, provincial patrons, and destitute villagers. I will introduce a ninth-century collection of homiletic notes, known as the Draft of Tōdaiji Liturgies (Tōdaiji fujumon kō), as well as related archaeological and narrative evidence that illuminate Buddhism as a lived religion in the provinces. These sources show how monks crafted doctrines aimed at their provincial and sometimes impoverished audiences. They taught that joining one’s palms could replace almsgiving and depicted the village as manifesting the body of Vairocana. I will argue that a study of these individuals and teachings prompt a reassessment of the development of Buddhism in ancient and medieval Japan.