The Restoration of Peace Through the Pacification of Vengeful Spirits: Jien (1155-1225) and the Construction of Buddhist Orthodoxy
Swanson, Eric Haruki
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CitationSwanson, Eric Haruki. 2019. The Restoration of Peace Through the Pacification of Vengeful Spirits: Jien (1155-1225) and the Construction of Buddhist Orthodoxy. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractPrevious research on Tendai monk Jien 慈円 (1155-1225) has often presented him as an exemplary literary figure of pre-modern Japan, and he is known most for authoring A Fool’s Exegesis on Historical Events (Gukanshō 愚管抄) and hence a prolific composer of Japanese poetry (waka 和歌). As such, he has been depicted as an intellectual figure who was also torn between his worldly obligations and his desire to pursue the aesthetic pleasures of composing poetry. However, these images of Jien have been constructed through modern academic disciplines and frameworks that have dictated the way his writings have been studied. By illustrating the extent to which he was intricately involved in the establishment and restoration of Buddhist institutions, reviving Buddhist learning, and performing exoteric and esoteric Buddhist rites, this dissertation seeks to show how his active participation in these various religious projects resists the commonly perceived persona of Jien as an internally troubled Buddhist poet, torn between the realms of “religious asceticism” and “politics.”
A critical assessment of Jien’s constructed identity can also help us re-evaluate his motivations for composing his most well known work, the Gukanshō. Although known primarily as a work of historical writing, a close analysis of the way Jien crafts his historical narrative suggests that it should rather be read as a religious discourse, and that the other qualities of his writings, such as the political issues it addresses, the poetic and rhetorical refinements as an exemplary literary work, or the understanding that it can be read as a pedagogical device, derive from a fundamental concern that can be seen as religious in nature, and that which addresses the issue of social disorder. I will focus specifically on Jien’s discussion of vengeful spirits (怨霊 onryō) that is weaved throughout the Gukanshō and argue that it is precisely in his discussion of vengeful spirits, which have often been relegated as “odd factors” in his historical writing, that reveal the extent to which Jien’s historical project intersected with his larger ritual projects, specifically in his establishment of the ritual program at Daisangehōin 大懺悔法院 located in the proximity of the Heian capital.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029681
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