James C. Dobbins is professor of religion and East Asian studies at Oberlin College.
Eshinni (1182-1268?), a Buddhist nun and the wife of Shinran (1173-1262), the celebrated founder of the True Pure Land, or Shin, school of Buddhism, was largely unknown until the discovery of a collection of her letters in 1921. In this study, James C. Dobbins, a leading scholar of Pure Land Buddhism, has made creative use of these letters to shed new light on life and religion in medieval Japan. He provides a complete translation of the letters and an explication of them that reveals the character and flavor of early Shin Buddhism. Readers will come away with a new perspective on Pure Land scholarship and a vivid image of Eshinni and the world in which she lived. After situating the ideas and practices in the context of the actual living conditions of 13th-century Japan, Dobbins examines the portrayal of women in Pure Land Buddhism, the great range of lifestyles found among medieval women and nuns, and how they constructed a meaningful religious life amid negative stereotypes.
Part I. Eshinni's letters -- Eshinni and her letters -- The letters of Eshinni : a translation -- Part II: Eshinni's world -- Pure Land Buddhism and the medieval experience -- Women, sexuality, and Pure Land Buddhism -- The medieval and the modern in Shin Buddhism.