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Buddhism and the Transformation of Old Age in Medieval Japan$
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Edward R. Drott

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780824851507

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824851507.001.0001

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From Outcast to Saint

From Outcast to Saint

Overcoming Pollution in an Age of Decline

Chapter:
(p.53) Chapter Four From Outcast to Saint
Source:
Buddhism and the Transformation of Old Age in Medieval Japan
Author(s):

Edward R. Drott

Publisher:
University of Hawai'i Press
DOI:10.21313/hawaii/9780824851507.003.0004

Chapter Four examines how late-Heian groups utilized the aged body as a symbolic medium through which to challenge the categories of center/margin and purity/pollution. It focuses on didactic tales (setsuwa) that used immanentist Buddhist logic to confront mappō—the “evil age of five defilements (gojoku)—depicting aged saints (shōnin) able to achieve salvation not by abandoning their polluted bodies, but through them. Legends depicting Okina oshō, Zōga shōnin, and the outcast okina preacher purported to have delivered the inaugural sermon at the Tokujōju-in, presented the aged body as a locus of miraculous inversions in which defiled effluvia were transformed into Buddhist relics or provide an opportunity for a saint to distance himself from the world of elite Buddhist institutions or the court, now coded as morally corrupt. These legends were not derived from the Buddhist canon or “official” sources, but from the experiences of people long marginalized, including lower-ranking nobles of the provincial governor class or unofficial beggar priests.

Keywords:   Explanatory tales (setsuwa), saints (shōnin), mappō, “the evil age of five defilements (gojoku), Okina oshō, Zōga shōnin, outcast preacher of Tokujōju-in

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