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Combinatory practices of Buddhist and kami worship on Mt. Hiei

Panel Chair: Meri Arichi | Friday, August 28, 1:30-3 p.m.| Venue

In addition to being the center of an esteemed Buddhist institution, Mt. Hiei is also known for its unique tradition of kami worship. The tutelary kami of Mt. Hiei, Sanno Gongen is an avatar of Buddha Shakyamuni. He was regarded as the highest god in all Japan, and was the focus of devotion for his power to grant worldly benefits. This panel engages with different ways in which we may approach and explain the relationship between kami and buddhas that was nurtured on Mt. Hiei, paying particular attention to aspects relating to religious culture and understandings of kami. The first panelist will focus on aspects of cultic devotion in historical context while the remaining two panelists focus on aspects of art, examining the images of kami and buddhas and the cultural influence of Mt. Hiei.

Satoshi Sonehara

The Lineage of the Sanno Deity

This presentation examines traditions relating to the protector kami of Mt. Hiei, Sanno Gongen, taking particular account of the influence of the Daishu scholar monks of Mt. Hiei. It is said that Sanno was a protector deity of Mt. Tiantai in China who now defended the dharma in Japan. Another tradition states that Oonamuchi-no-kami, who bequeathed the land to Amaterasu-Oomikami, became the Miwa deity then shifted location again to become Sanno. We may understand this presentation of the origins of the Sanno deity as involving an attempt to establish Mt. Hiei as a separate, independent religious authority and rival the secular rule which had passed from Amaterasu to the Imperial House. The respectful regard in which the Imperial Court of the middle ages held Mt. Hiei was due to a sense of awe felt for a rival, yet complementary institution.

Meri Arichi

Iconography of Hie-Sanno Mandara in the British Museum Collection

The belief in kami Sanno of the Hie (Hiyoshi) Shrine flourished within the Tendai theoretical framework in the climate of Shinbutsu Shūgō on Mt. Hiei from the medieval period. The extant examples of Hie-Sanno mandara indicate that the iconography of the twenty-one Sanno deities was well established by the Muromachi period. The Edo period example of Sanno Mandara, now in the British Museum, conforms to the established iconography and follows the typical format that depicts the deities in hierarchical rows, but the unique feature of this example is the addition of an extra figure in the prominent position in the lower center. This figure can be identified as Goin from his distinctive physiognomy of karasu tengu, the mythical creature with a beak. This paper will trace the origin of the iconography, and considers the significance of this figure in the historical and ritual contexts.

Eriko Saeki

The Faith and Pictorial Images of Sanju-ban Shin

This paper introduces the influence of Tendai Buddhism on religious traditions concerning deities indigenous to Japan, with a focus on the Sanju-ban Shin (the thirty protective deities). The thirty deities were each allocated a certain day of the month during which they were to protect the Lotus Sutra or the emperor and the country. This faith was systematized at the Enryakuji temple on Mt. Hiei during the Heian period, and spread widely afterwards. The Nichiren sect of Buddhism adopted the thirty protective deities as the tutelary deities of the Lotus Sutra. They were to support the promulgation of the Nichiren sect teachings in Kyoto. Moreover, Nichiren’s disciples were greatly influenced by the art of the Tendai sect, including works such as the Hie-Sanno Mandara. This paper will trace the influence of the aspects of Tendai Buddhism described above by comparing pictorial images of the Sanju-ban Shin with the Hie-Sanno Mandara.


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