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Hokkeji and the Reemergence of Female Monastic Orders in Premodern Japan (Kuroda Studies in East Asian Buddhism) Hardcover – April 30, 2010
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"Well written and well edited, this book is a landmark in scholarship on Japanese Buddhism, women and Buddhism, and the history of monastic institutions." --Fabio Rambelli, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies
"This meticulously researched volume documents how women in Japanese Buddhist orders negotiated the constraints of their presumed inferiority, barriers to Buddhist education, and obstacles to full ordination."
"This study will become a standard reference on the topic of women in medieval Japanese Buddhism for years to come."
"Meeks eschews the notion of female monastic life as being either repressed or for that matter, liberated; instead, she . . . explains how [women's] performance of religion differed greatly from what one might assume based on doctrinal assertions about female salvation." --Tom Conlan, The Journal of Asian Studies
"[Hokkeji] may be the best book on Buddhism in pre-modern Japan published in recent years. . . . To my knowledge, no other book so successfully reveals the actual intersections of monastery, court, and society in Kamakura Japan." --Miriam Levering, Monumenta Nipponica
"This book makes major contributions to at least three key topics: women and Buddhism, mainstream Buddhism in premodern Japan, and religious institutions as settings for cultural and religious life." -- William M. Bodiford
"Lori Meeks' book is one of the best books on Japanese Buddhism I have read in recent years. It should appeal to a wide variety of readers, including those interested in Buddhism, Japanese history, Japanese literature, and gender, and will establish her as a leading figure in the field of women and Buddhism and Japanese Buddhist history." -- Paul Groner
From the Back Cover
"This book makes major contributions to at least three key topics: women and Buddhism, mainstream Buddhism in premodern Japan, and religious institutions as settings for cultural and religious life. It is the first study to provide readers with a detailed and comprehensive overview of a single specific religious site and the women who lived there. Although the number of works that deal with women and Buddhism continues to grow (testifying to the on-going interest in this topic), none to my knowledge have yet attempted such a sustained analysis of a female religious order. While the so-called new Buddhism of the Kamakura period attracts the most attention from scholars, this study demonstrates the importance of the mainstream religious centers of Nara (and Kyoto) for our understanding of religions in premodern Japan.--William M. Bodiford, University of California, Los Angeles
"This is one of the best books on Japanese Buddhism I have read in recent years. There are a number of books and collections of essays that deal with the relationship between women and Buddhism, but Lori Meeks' study of Hokkeji surpasses anything else I have seen. While earlier studies have frequently focused on the lives or works of a particular person, Meeks draws on a broad range of sources, both primary and secondary, to reveal some of the presuppositions underlying these earlier studies. In doing so, she gives us a much clearer vision of how medieval women related to Buddhism. Her book should appeal to a wide variety of readers, including those interested in Buddhism, Japanese history, Japanese literature, and gender, and will establish her as a leading figure in the field of women and Buddhism and Japanese Buddhist history."--Paul Groner, University of Virginia
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On a more specialized level, if one looks into Kamakura Buddhism with any tenacity one will soon become familiar with Eison's Shingon Ritsu movement and with the story of how Eison kindly condescended to help out a group of well-intentioned but non-legit women practitioners at Hokkeji temple and ordain them properly as nuns. Through judicious and extensive investigative work with primary sources, Meeks flips the perspective on this old story and we start to get some sense of what an alliance with Eison and his movement did to further their own goals and intentions. How did they see the relationship, and what was in it for them?
If all this book did was make these two important points, that would be enough in and of itself, but in the process the highly detailed and richly complex world of religious belief and practice at this particular time and place is painstakingly brought to life from a variety of angles in these pages. Hokkeji's shifting fortunes as a pilgrimage destination involving relics and faith in a deified empress, the evolving religious vocations of court ladies and their role in Hokkeji's revival, the nuts-and-bolts financial aspects of the revival and the socioeconomic dynamics of Hokkeji's plural class makeup, the nuns' varied and busy ritual calendar and more are all reconstructed vividly along with a properly cautious and nuanced analysis of the gender dynamics actually operating in religious writings by the nuns of Hokkeji themselves and the Shingon Ritsu monks acquainted with them.
"Hokkeji and the Reemergence of Female Monastic Orders in Premodern Japan" then is an accurate if dull title for a deeply interesting and illuminating landmark study in Japanese Buddhist history.