D. Max MOERMAN is Professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Barnard College, Columbia University and Co-Chair of the Columbia University Seminar in Buddhist Studies.
Archeology; Buddhism; Sutra Burial; Ise Shrines
This paper examines multiple religious identities in Japan by analyzing the history of Buddhist practice by priests of the Ise Shrines, traditionally presented as the paradigmatic site of an indigenous religion identity untouched by Buddhism. It challenges such claims of singularity with archeological evidence for the Buddhist aspirations of Ise’s sacerdotal lineages and the material record of the Buddhist texts, objects, rituals, monks, and nuns responsible for construction of Ise as a site of Buddhist identity. In the twelfth century, prominent members of the Watarai, Aradita, Isobe, and Ōnakatomi lineages of Ise priests buried specially consecrated Buddhist scriptures, images, and objects at sacred sites in the immediate vicinity of the Inner and Outer Ise Shrines. Forty-three burials, dating from 1159 to 1186, have been excavated from the Kyōgamine site near the summit of Mount Asama, east of the Inner Shrine. The most extensive of these burials was performed to insure the Pure Land rebirth of Watarai Masahiko, Head Priest of the Outer Ise Shrine in 1159. Other Buddhist scriptures were buried in 1173 for the Pure Land rebirth for Arakida Tokimori, Head Priest of the Inner Ise Shrine. A second massive set of scriptures and images, dedicated to assuring the Pure Land rebirth of Watarai Tsuneyuki, Head Priest of the Outer Shrine, were inscribed on more than four hundred and twenty ceramic tiles and buried at Komachi and Bodaiji jingūgi just west the Outer Shrine in 1174. These excavations challenge modern claims of an exclusive and homogeneous tradition and reveal a history of pluralism in the heartland of what long been claimed as the sacred ground of Japan’s singular religious identity.
Abstract Introduction 37 Underground Buddhism 40 Preparing for the Pure Land 43 A Canon in Clay 51 References 56