Lori R. Meeks
- Associate Professor
- University of Southern California
How Buddhist Views of the Female Body Entered Popular Discourse: Tracing Ideological Change in Late Medieval and Early Modern Japan
Although orthodox Buddhist texts present disparaging views of the female body, most members of the Japanese laity knew little of such teachings until the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. But by the mid-sixteenth century, doctrines emphasizing the impurity of the female body had gained wide circulation. This period also saw the emergence and spread within Japan of the Blood Bowl Sutra, which teaches that the discharges of the female body damn women to hells comprised of bloody pools. How was it that such extreme views of the female body gained currency during this time? Why did priests choose to focus on these teachings, and how did they spread them? This project examines the sociocultural processes that led to Japan’s adoption of particular views of gender at particular historical moments.
A Scholarly Translation of Kōshō Bosatsu Eison gokyōkai chōmonshū
We propose to publish a book-length translation and analysis of _Kōshō Bosatsu Eison gokyōkai chōmonshū_ (Collected Instructions of Kōshō Bodhisattva Eison), which consists of nearly eighty short teachings by Eison (1201-1290), recorded and edited by his closest disciples when he was in his 80s. This text, which has not been translated into English (or into any Western languages, as far as we know), provides an intimate glimpse into the life and thinking of a monk who died perhaps the most prominent and charismatic Buddhist figure of his day. It offers a wealth of nuanced information not only about the details of Eison’s contributions to the development of Japanese Buddhism, but also about thirteenth-century Japanese Buddhism more broadly, and its place in the Buddhist world of East Asia.