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Right Thoughts at the Last MomentBuddhism and Deathbed Practices in Early Medieval Japan$
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Jacqueline I. Stone

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780824856434

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824856434.001.0001

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Interpreting the Signs

Interpreting the Signs

(p.182) 4 Interpreting the Signs
Right Thoughts at the Last Moment

Jacqueline I. Stone

University of Hawai'i Press

Auspicious signs attesting to particular individuals’ ōjō gave assurance to the bereaved that their dead had indeed achieved the Pure Land. They legitimated the practices of specific religious communities and were also linked to the forming of favorable karmic connections (kechien)—to teachings, persons, places, or objects—deemed able to assist one’s own efforts to achieve ōjō. Signs showed which practitioners, living or dead, were worthy of reverence as objects of kechien. Corporeal signs, such as remarkable preservation of the corpse, helped people to negotiate otherwise incommensurable understandings of death as both defiling and as the moment of encounter with the Buddha. Identifying auspicious signs, often through revelatory dreams, also allowed those concerned to cope with deaths that would otherwise have seemed senseless or tragic by recasting them as instances of ōjō. Since signs could be recognized only by the living, ōjō as a social fact was determined by survivors.

Keywords:   signs, karmic connections (kechien), ōjō, corpse, pollution, dreams

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