A (Presumably Chinese) Tantric Scripture and Its Exegetical Practices: The Yuqijing (Yogin Sutra) in Medieval Japan
A Special Lecture marking the inauguration of The Numata Visiting Scholar and Program Fund, Princeton University
The Yuqijing (Jingangfeng louge yiqie yujia yuqi jing, T 867) is often listed as one of the most important scriptures of Tantric Buddhism in East Asia, but its content and contribution to the esoteric system have so far been little understood. Traditionally regarded as a translation by Vajrabodhi, it was probably compiled in China in the late eighth century. The role that it played in Chinese Buddhism, however, remains unclear. Its use in early Japanese esoteric Buddhism was also negligible. In the medieval period, on the other hand, the scripture appears to have been rediscovered and enjoyed great fortunes: several commentaries of varying size and format were produced by scholar-monks of the major esoteric lineages and secret transmission documents (injin) circulated across lineages. Medieval interpreters intervened on the text by articulating novel conceptual associations, often expressed through curious imagery, which engendered a distinctive discourse on the yogic identities pursued by a tantric practitioner. At the same time, a new type of initiatory abhiseka informed by the sutra (yugi kanjô) emerged, which would eventually take a central place in the later programs of Taimitsu lineages. What spurred such sudden interest in the Yuqijing in medieval Japan? What did Japanese exegetes read into the text and how did they translate it into performative terms? What do such interpretative practices tell us of shifts in Japanese Buddhism and links with continental trends? The talk addresses these issues by exploring 'canonical' commentaries and unpublished initiatory documents that have recently come to light in temple archives.
Lucia Dolce is Numata Reader in Japanese Buddhism and Chair of the Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions at SOAS University of London. Her wide-ranging work has examined hermeneutical and ritual practices of religion in Japan, in particular within the Lotus Sutra and Tantric traditions, and the relation between Buddhism and Shinto. She is currently writing a book on discourse on the body in the ritual landscape of medieval Japanese Buddhism.