A New Buddha for Troubled Times
This chapter asserts that abstract notions of Prince Shōtoku's sacred identity are not merely esoteric curiosities for religious historians. The divine personality of the prince is what animated the production and experience of his visual art, and a nuanced understanding of his sacred nature is essential for gaining a clear picture of the functions of the material culture of his cult. Just as with Śākyamuni, the historical Buddha, inherent in Shōtoku's legend are his death and the concomitant problem of his absence. On that note, the efficacy of visual arts as ritual objects is predicated on the notion of Shōtoku's continuing presence, which these arts promote by providing concrete, visual signs of his existence in the contemporary world of the viewer.
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