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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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The Eccentric Avatar

The Eccentric Avatar

Reimagining the Body of the Bodhisattva in Early Medieval Engi

(p.74) Chapter Five The Eccentric Avatar
Buddhism and the Transformation of Old Age in Medieval Japan

Edward R. Drott

University of Hawai'i Press

Chapters Five examines Buddhist engi and other religious texts in which okina (some of whom depicted engaged in polluting and morally troubling activities) were revealed to be buddhas or bodhisattvas—at times the principle object of worship (honzon) at a given temple. These texts relied on Buddhist theories of avatarism that held that buddhas manifested themselves in three bodily modes (sanshin), often adding the fourth, more flexible category of “transformation body” (keshin). Some of the earliest texts involving okina divinities were compiled not by high-ranking Buddhist priests, but by less eminent religious practitioners and mid-ranking scholars, and featured legends derived from religious institutions disadvantaged in competition with more powerful rivals or from underclass lay communities attached to shrine-temple complexes through ties of patronage or service.

Keywords:   engi, principle objects of veneration (honzon), three bodies of the Buddha (sanshin), “transformation bodies” (keshin)

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