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Ritualized WritingBuddhist Practice and Scriptural Cultures in Ancient Japan$
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Bryan D. Lowe

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824859404

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824859404.001.0001

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Haunted by Demons, Watched by Kings

Haunted by Demons, Watched by Kings

(p.171) 6 Haunted by Demons, Watched by Kings
Ritualized Writing

Bryan D. Lowe

University of Hawai'i Press

Chapter six uses a case study of the transcription of three texts sponsored by Queen Consort Kōmyōshi in 748—the Scripture on Saving and Protecting Body and Life, Golden Light Sutra, and Scripture on Brahma’s Spirit Tablets—to reevaluate the political nature of ritual in ancient Japan. By emplacing kings and queens in a world in which they were haunted by ghastly attacks and answered to celestial kings who threated to punish the impious, it suggests that rulers were compelled to cultivate virtuous conduct or risk punishment in accord with the cosmological schemes they themselves promoted. It argues that Buddhist ideas were an authoritative force that structured ethical codes of conduct in ancient Japan. It outlines the processes through which these texts were copied, provides an overview of succession disputes in the eighth century, and interprets the content of the scriptures within the political world and the context at the scriptorium.

Keywords:   Scripture on Saving and Protecting Body and Life, Golden Light Sutra, Scripture on Brahma’s Spirit Tablets, kingship, Kōken/Shōtoku, politics, ghosts, demons, divination, deities

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