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Miracles of Book and Body

Buddhist Textual Culture and Medieval Japan

Charlotte Eubanks

Publication Year: 2011

Miracles of Book and Body is the first book to explore the intersection of two key genres of sacred literature in medieval Japan: sutras, or sacred Buddhist texts, and setsuwa, or "explanatory tales," used in sermons and collected in written compilations. For most of East Asia, Buddhist sutras were written in classical Chinese and inaccessible to many devotees. How, then, did such devotees access these texts? Charlotte D. Eubanks argues that the medieval genre of "explanatory tales" illuminates the link between human body (devotee) and sacred text (sutra). Her highly original approach to understanding Buddhist textuality focuses on the sensual aspects of religious experience and also looks beyond Japan to explore pre-modern book history, practices of preaching, miracles of reading, and the Mahayana Buddhist "cult of the book."

Published by: University of California Press

Series: Buddhisms

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

Note on Sutras

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pp. xi-xii

Note on Setsuwa

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pp. xiii-xiv

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. xvii-xviii

...Several institutions were instrumental in supporting me as I worked on this manuscript. Iwould like to thank JimHeisig, Paul Swanson, and BenDorman of Nanzan University and the Shubunken staff for providing lodging, library access, office space, and stimulating conversation during several stages of the research for this book.The Devaney Fellowship, Gambil Family Endowment...

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Introduction: The Cult of the Book and the Culture of Text

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pp. 1-18

...person’s devotion or true intentions.Thus, as a sign of his sincerity, he picked up a dagger and sawed off his right ear, spattering blood over the various ritual implements arrayed before him.According to his disciple Kikai,Myōe’s logic in choosing to cut off his earwas as follows...

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1 The Ontology of Sutras

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pp. 19-61

...Earth. He arrives, with a multitude of beings trailing him, at the foot of the historical Buddha. After circumambulating the Buddha seven times, he announces, “I have come to listen receptively. I beg of theWorldHonoredOne to preach...

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2 Locating Setsuwa in Performance

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pp. 62-96

...unknown priest Kyōshakubō delivered a sermon before an audience of highranking aristocrats in the imperial capital ofHeian.His sermon was part of a multiday event organized in accordance with a vow made by one of the imperial princesses. Seated before the assembly, he opened his address with the following words: “The heart of the Dhāranī...

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3 Decomposing Bodies, Composing Texts

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pp. 97-132

...whose example I began this book. As I suggested in the introduction, Myōe’s act, although a singular one, could not have been wholly unexpected in medieval Japan, simply because his bodily self-sacrifice responds to and is contextualized by Buddhist metaphors, tropes, and figures that were pervasive in scripture and in the visual, literary, and musical arts of his time. Myōe’s act performs, in essence, an excruciatingly literal reading of the...

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4 Textual Transubstantiation and the Place of Memory

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pp. 133-172

...kind of performative writing in the Buddhist tradition. Their focus on disappearance and disintegration into textual fragment is balanced against other religious writings and art forms that feature the performative reintegration of textual fragment into body. In chapter 1 I have already discussed the literary mechanisms through which sutras take on the characteristics...

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Conclusion: On Circumambulatory Reading

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pp. 173-196

...cut off his own ear, believing wholeheartedly in the material connection between the sacred words he read from the sutras’ pages and the physical matter of his own body. Tomark one was tomark the other. And I ended the last chapter with the complementary image of the sutra-reading noblewoman (painted in 1164), whose figure provides a metacommentary...


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pp. 197-228


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pp. 229-236

Works Cited

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pp. 237-256


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pp. 257-269

Production Notes

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p. 270-270

E-ISBN-13: 9780520947894
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520265615

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Buddhisms