Lori MeeksJun 20, 2011
Hokkeji and the Reemergence of Female Monastic Orders in Premodern Japan
University of Hawaii Press 2010
Scholars have long been fascinated by the Kamakura era (1185-1333) of Japanese history, a period that saw the emergence of many distinctively Japanese forms of Buddhism. And while a lot of this attention overshadows other equally important periods of Japanese Buddhist history, there is still much to be learned. Take the Buddhist convent known as Hokkeji, located in the old capitol of Nara. Founded in the eighth century, the complex fell into decline and was all but forgotten for centuries before reemerging in the Kamakura period as an important pilgrimage site and as the location of a reestablished monastic order for women. This is the subject of Lori Meeks' wonderful new book, Hokkeji and the Reemergence of Female Monastic Orders in Premodern Japan (University of Hawaii Press, 2010). Prof. Meeks questions some of the assumptions and biases of previous scholarship on women in Japanese Buddhism and explores the multivalent ways that Buddhist women were able to assert their autonomy and agency in what is presumed to be an androcentric, patriarchal Japanese Buddhist establishment. Mentioned in the interview (and in the epilogue of her book) is another Buddhist text called the Ketsubonky or the Blood Bowl Sutra. You can learn more about this and Prof. Meeks' future work on this subject from the Institute of Buddhist Studies podcast.