Icons and Iconoclasm in Japanese Buddhism | Shingon Texts | Philosophy As a Way of Life | A New History of Shinto | The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism | A Buddhist Theory of Semiotics | Kukai | Japanese Mandalas | Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism
The great Buddhist priest KÃ»kai (774-835) is credited with the introduction and establishment of tantric -or esoteric -Buddhism in early ninth-century Japan. In RyÃ»ichi AbÃ© examines this important religious figure -neglected in modern academic literature -and his profound influence on Japanese culture. Offering a radically new approach to the study of early religious history -combining historical research, discourse analysis, literary criticism, and semiology -AbÃ© contends that the importance of KÃ»kaiÂ´s transmission of esoteric Buddhism to Japan lay not in the foundation of a new sect but in his creation of a general theory of language grounded in the ritual speech of mantra. embeds KÃ»kai within the fabric of political and social life in ninth-century Japan and explains how esoteric Buddhism played a crucial role in many societal changes in Japan -from the growth of monasteries into major feudal powers to the formation of the native phonetic alphabet, kana. As AbÃ© illustrates, KÃ»kaiÂ´s writings and the new type of discourse they spawned also marked JapanÂ´s transition from the ancient order to the medieval world, replacing Confucianism as the ideology of the state. AbÃ© begins by placing KÃ»kaiÂ´s life in the historical context of medieval Japan and the Ritsuryo state, then explores his interaction with the Nara Buddhist intelligentsia, which was seminal to the introduction of esoteric Buddhism. The author discusses KÃ»kaiÂ´s magnum opus, () and introduces a number of Japanese and Chinese primary-source texts previously unknown by Western-language scholars. Instead of tracing KÃ»kaiÂ´s thought through literal readings, explores the rhetorical strategies KÃ»kai employed in his works, shedding valuable light on what his texts meant to his readers and what his goals were in creating a discourse that ultimately transformed Japanese culture. --
About: RyÃ»ichi AbÃ© presents the most thorough and innovative study to date on the Buddhist figure KÃ»kai (774 - 835) -- one that constitutes a radically different approach to the research on early Japanese religious history.
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