The Rise of Zen: Changes in the Medieval Buddhist Landscape

Masatoshi Harada (Kansai University)
Molly Vallor (Meiji Gakuin University)
Religion and Religious Thought
Torre A, Piso 0, Sala 03
Start time:
31 August, 2017 at 11:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Once dominated by the kenmitsu (exoteric-esoteric) lineages, medieval Japanese Buddhism changed dramatically in the late fourteenth century following the rise of the Zen lineages. This panel will shed new light on this understudied period by addressing it from multiple angles.

Long abstract:

Until the close of the thirteenth century, medieval Japanese Buddhism was dominated by the kenmitsu (exoteric-esoteric) institutions comprised of the six Nara lineages, along with the Tendai and Shingon lineages. The rise of Zen at that time initiated major changes that would eventually result in the reconfiguration of the whole Japanese Buddhist landscape beginning in the late fourteenth century. As is well known, kenmitsu lineages were responsible for performing a variety of Buddhist ceremonies (hōe), many of which were esoteric rites. Held to ensure peace in the state and the wellbeing of the emperor, kenmitsu ceremonies were indispensable to assuring the medieval social order. In contrast, beginning in the thirteenth century, Zen lineages began performing state services based on the rules of purity (shingi) imported from the Chinese continent. Zen lineages also adopted new forms of monasticism, ritual, and temple architecture, all of which differed greatly from those employed by their kenmitsu counterparts. Despite its importance, this critical time of transition has received very little scholarly attention. Accordingly, this panel will consider the relationship between the kenmitsu and Zen lineages in Japanese society at this time from the angles of ritual, rhetoric, and architecture. Masatoshi Harada will begin by examining the role of kenmitsu and Zen ceremonies in medieval society. In addition to highlighting their differences, he will address the rivalry that ensued as Zen and kenmitsu monks vied to perform ceremonies in the service of elite patrons and the state. Molly Vallor will then turn to the critique of contemporary Shingon and Zen found in Musō Soseki's influential tract, Muchū Mondōshū (1342). Finally, Yoshiyuki Tomishima will discuss the relationship between imperial authority and esoteric ritual spaces at both kenmitsu and Zen temples.