Discourses on the Body-Mind Complex (1): Sex, Gender, and the Body-Mind

Mariko Yoneda (Kobe Gakuin University)
Religion and Religious Thought
Torre A, Piso 0, Sala 03
Start time:
31 August, 2017 at 14:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

An exploration of the impact of Esoteric Buddhist teachings (Shingon and Tendai) regarding the body-mind complex on discourses on sex and gender in early medieval Japan, with special emphasis on the role of sex in medicine (gynecology), salvation, and poetry hermeneutics.

Long abstract:

Esoteric Buddhist teachings on the body-mind complex, based on an amalgam of Indian Tantric teachings and Chinese ideas about the constitutive elements of reality (articulated in series of five), played an extremely important role in all realms of medieval Japanese systems of knowledge. Particularly significant was the formulation of the body-mind by the Shingon monk Kakuban (1095-1143), involving eleboarate correlations among numerous five-element series, but other concepts and practices were also relevant. Medieval understandings of the body-mind complex attributed a central role to sex, not only as the source of creation and reproduction, but also as a metaphor for salvation, artistic creation, and as an aspect of a larger medical discourse. The papers in this panel deal with three central texts from the Heian and Kamakura periods, composed between the ninth and the thirteenth centuries, that develop Kakuban's work in original directions. The first paper focuses on the Gushi nintai sanshō himitsu hōshū, a work containing instructions on gynecology, apparently written for aristocratic women and attributed to Annen (841-889?), one of the patriarchs of Tendai Esoteric Buddhism. The second paper deals with the Ingoshū, a little-known work by Eisai, the Tendai monk credited with the introduction to Japan of Zen Buddhism and tea ceremony, that discusses salvation in terms of sexual union between man and woman, thus showing the importance of sexual imagery for medieval Japanese Buddhism. The third paper analyzes the Kokin kanjō, a representative waka treatise from the Kamura period and the consecration ceremonies based on it (known as waka kanjō), which combine elements form Kakuban's correlative vision of the body-mind complex and other Esoteric Buddhist ideas about the salvific nature of sex mediated from Yugikyō, an esoteric scripture that was very influential in the middle ages. These papers show that the three texts they address generated a set of teachings and practices that were very influential in their respective fields.