J=okei and Buddhist Devotion in Early Medieval Japan

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This is the first book-length study in any language of J=o kei (1155-1213), a prominent Buddhist cleric of the Hoss=o (Yog=ac=ara) school, whose life bridged the momentous transition from Heian (794-1185) to Kamakura (1185-1333) Japan. "Kamakura Buddhism" has drawn notable scholarly attention, largely because it marks the emergence of new schools-Pure Land, Nichiren, and Zen-that came to dominate the Buddhist landscape of Japan. Although J=okei is invariably cited as one of the leading representatives of established Buddhism during the Kamakura period, he has been seriously neglected by Western scholars.

In this book, James L. Ford aims to shed light on this pivotal and long-overlooked figure. Ford argues convincingly that J=okei is an ideal personage through which to peer anew into the socio-religious dynamics of early medieval Japan. Indeed, J=okei is uniquely linked to a number of decisive trends and issues of dispute including: the conflict between the established schools and H=onen's exclusive nenbutsu movement; the precept-revival movement; doctrinal reform efforts; the proliferation of prominent "reclusive monks" (tonseis=o); the escalation of fundraising (kanjin) campaigns and popular propagation; and the conspicuous revival of devotion toward 'S=akyamuni and Maitreya. J=okei represents a paradigm within established Buddhism that recognized the necessity of accessing other powers through esoteric practices, ritual performances, and objects of devotion. While J=okei is best known as a leading critic of H=onen's exclusive nenbutsu movement and a conservative defender of normative Buddhist principles, he was also a progressive reformer in his own right. Far from defending the status quo, J=okei envisioned a more accessible, harmonious, and monastically upright form of Buddhism.

Through a detailed examination of J=okei's extensive writings and activities, Ford challenges many received interpretations of J=okei's legacy and the transformation of Buddhism in early medieval Japan. This book fills a significant lacuna in Buddhist scholarship

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This first in-depth study of the noted Hosso monk who defended the established schools of Buddhism against the new Kamakura movements in their historic break with traditional values will be required reading for students of Japanese religion for decades to come. It provides new insights for our reassessment of the events of these momentous times which have ripple effects even to the present day. Professor Ford is to be highly commended for his clear-sighted handling of the issues." --Robert E. Morrell, author of Early Kamakura Buddhism: A Minority Report

"To say that James Ford's Jokei and Buddhist Devotion in Early Medieval Japan is an important contribution to the study of medieval Japanese Buddhism is not a mere commonplace. It fills a long-standing lacuna in both Japanese and western language scholarship. Ford successfully places Jokei back at the center of our understanding of the Buddhism of the Kamakura era. His treatment of Jokei is well-developed, presenting Jokei as an important religious thinker in his own right, and not solely as a sectarian partisan-as has usually been the case. Ford's examination of Jokei allows us to see Buddhism as it existed for its medieval practitioners, rather than through the lenses of later sectarian rhetorics." -- Richard K. Payne, editor of Discourse and Ideology in Medieval Japanese Buddhism

"Finally, we have a thorough study in English on this extremely important religious figure from medieval Japan. Ford's insightful work provides us with a totally new grounding to understand Jokei's life and thought. It also illustrates, from Jokei's unique perspective, the intricate relationship between the court and the Buddhist order, the celebrated rivalry between the 'Old Buddhism' and 'New Buddhism,' the influence of Esoteric Buddhism on new doctrinal developments, and other major traits of Buddhism in the most tumultuous period in Japanese religious history. With its lucid narrative and incisive analysis, James Ford's work is a gem that illumines amidst the ongoing process of revising our knowledge of Japanese Buddhism." -- Ryuichi Abé, author of The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse

"Jokei still remains woefully neglected by religious studies specialists in Japan -- and all but ignored in the West. In view of this situation, the appearance of Ford's excellent volume, the first book-length study on Jokei in any language, is truly a very welcome event." --Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

"I enthusiastically recommend Jokei and Buddhist Devotion in Early Medieval Japan. It is an erudite book...Ford's book is a welcome addition to the field." --History of Religions

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195188141
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/21/2006
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

James L. Ford is a Z. Smith Reynolds Fellow and Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Wake Forest University where he teaches courses relating to East Asian religions. He holds a Master's in Theological Studies (M.T.S.) from Vanderbilt Divinity School (1992) and an M.A. and Ph.D. in East Asian religions from Princeton University (1998). Dr. Ford recently served for six years as executive secretary for the Society for the Study of Japanese Religion and currently serves as co-chair for the Japanese Religions Group of the American Academy of Religion.

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Table of Contents

1 Biography, texts, and context 13
2 Jokei and the revival of Hosso doctrine 35
3 Sources and objects of Jokei's devotion 71
4 Soteriological aims, means, and boundaries 101
5 Toward an understanding of Jokei's devotion and practice 139
6 Jokei, Honen, and the Kofukuji sojo 159
7 "Kamakura Buddhism" reexamined 185
App Jokei's five-part Miroku Koshiki (c. 1196) : a translation 207
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