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Death and the Afterlife in Japanese Buddhism$
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Jacqueline I. Stone and Mariko Namba Walter

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780824832049

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824832049.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM HAWAII SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.hawaii.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Hawaii University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in HSO for personal use (for details see www.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 16 December 2018

Beyond Death and the Afterlife

Beyond Death and the Afterlife

Considering Relic Veneration in Medieval Japan

(p.102) 3 Beyond Death and the Afterlife
Death and the Afterlife in Japanese Buddhism

Brian O. Ruppert

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter looks at the funerary and mortuary dimension in premodern Japan of the worship of relics. The account of the Buddha's cremation has didactic value as a dramatic performance of impermanence, the body of a once-living person being reduced to smoke and ashes before the viewers' eyes. But at the same time, cremation has an equally significant if opposing purpose in generating enduring physical relics for enshrinement and veneration. Buddha relics, then, transcend the boundary between life and death and thus, came to represent the ongoing possibility of enlightenment even in an age of decline. The chapter also shows how relic worship in medieval Japan was bound up in a multivalent “thematic complex” involving indebtedness to the Buddha, the soteriological value of self-sacrifice in repayment, and the legitimation of rulership.

Keywords:   relic worship, premodern Japan, Buddha's cremation, Buddha relics, medieval Japan, self-sacrifice, rulership

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