Report: Buddhist Culture and Monseki Temples in Japan

M. Editor  |  March 11, 2010

The International Ryukoku Symposium, with the theme of “Buddhist Culture and Monseki (Imperial and Aristocratic lineage) Temples in Japan” was held on Saturday, March 6, 2010 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at The RUBEC (Ryukoku University Berkeley Center) located at the Jodo Shinto Center, 2140 Durant Avenue, Berkeley, CA.

The symposium was co-sponsored by the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of California, Dr. Duncan Williams, Director; Ryukoku University, Kyoto, Japan, and Institute of Buddhist Studies, Berkeley. Dr. Richard Payne, Dean.

The first presenter was Professor Yukio Kusaka of Ryukoku University. His presentation was “Literary Texts and Archives at the Imperial Temple of Shogo-in.” He spoke on the literary contribution and transmission of classic literary texts to future priests of the imperial temples.

The second presenter was Associate Professor Tesshin Michimoto of Ryukoku Univertsity. His presentation was “The Five Wisdom Crown Buddha (Image) of Mt. Hiei.” His paper dealt with the use of the Five Wisdom Crown Buddha as a main shrine in the “jogyodo” or continuous nembutsu practice halls of Mt. Hiei. Also, in the field of religious studies, he showed that a single tradition held on to divergent interpretations of a single text, practice, or ideas without trying to reconcile them.

The third presenter was Visiting Professor Koichi Fujimoto at Ryukoku. His presentation was “Aristocratic Society and Temple Complexes with a Focus in the Construction of Byodo-in Temple.” In his presentation Fujimoto states that the founder of Byodo-in Temple, Fujiwara no Yorimichi show that every aspect of the temple, design and iconography was aimed at helping individuals envision the Pure Land. He also used the temple for a larger political and economic purpose, which was to protect the interests of his own clan Sekkanke line of the Fujiwaras.

The fourth presenter was, Dr. Donald Drummand Director of RUBEC Berkeley Center. His presentation was “Monastic Imperial Prince Kakuho and the Imperial Temple of Ninnanji.” He takes up the life of Prince Kakuho, his early life and his education. Kakuho’s major contribution stabilizing the factions on Mt. Koya.

Dr. Lori Meeks, Assistant Professor of Religion and East Asian Languages and Culture, at the University of Southern California, gave the final summation. In her summation she posed one large question to the presenters, that is, “what was the broader impact, on Japan Buddhism as a whole, of the aristocraticization of certain monastic institutions from the late Heian period forward? How did the expansion of monzeki culture, and the growing power of aristocratic elites at places like Mr. Hiei, affect the larger history of Japanese Buddhism?”

On Saturday, March 5, welcome reception was held at the JSC.