Religious Discourses on the Body-Mind Complex (2): The Further Reaches of Esoteric Buddhism

Fabio Rambelli (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Fabio Rambelli
Religion and Religious Thought
Torre A, Piso 0, Sala 03
Start time:
31 August, 2017 at 16:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Intense transformations in the Esoteric Buddhist discourse on the body-mind complex took place in the Muromachi period, such as their diffusion among performers and practitioners in the provinces, their incorporation in the martial arts, and the gradual shift towards elements of Chinese thought.

Long abstract:

The Muromachi period saw intense developments and transformations in the Esoteric Buddhist discourse on the body-mind complex. On the one hand, the growing importance of non-esoteric Buddhist traditions, such as Zen and Pure Land, and the formation of Shinto discourses that were largely based on Neo-Confucian and Daoist thought, relativized the weight of Esoteric Buddhism among the intellectual elites. On the other hand, Esoteric Buddhist constructs and practices, originally part of a secret body of knowledge, spread outside of a small circle of priests and aristocrats and reached large numbers of performers and practitioners in the provinces; at the same time, the growing importance of the samurai resulted in the incorporation of Esoteric Buddhist body-mind discourse into the martial arts. Finally, the gradual shift away from Buddhism towards non-Buddhist Chinese thought also affected fields such as medicine and military techniques. The three papers in this panel address some central aspects of the Esoteric Buddhist discourse on the body-mind in the Muromachi period by focusing on different bodies of texts and related practices. The first paper discusses a type of saimon ritual texts, known as gogyō saimon (saimon of the five shapes), that incorporatedinto kagura theory and performance Kakuban's correlative ideas of the body-mind and Tendai musical theory. The second paper explores the vastly understudied field of military secret texts from the Ogasawara-ryū and Jigen-ryū and related veterinary books on horse health and highlights the Esoteric Buddhist elements present in them. The third paper discusses three representative texts of so-called military techniques (hyōhō) and traces the shift away from Esoteric Buddhism toward Chinese texts such as the Sunzi (The Art of War) and Yijing (Book of Changes), with their different visions of the body-mind complex, one that would become more important in the Edo period.