The Culture of Secrecy in Japanese Religion

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Bernhard Scheid, Mark Teeuwen, ed., 2006
The Culture of Secrecy in Japanese Religion. London, New York: Routledge, 2006.
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The Japanese Middle Ages were a period when secrecy dominated many forms of religious practice. This fascinating collection traces the secret characteristics and practices in Japanese religion, while analyzing the rise and decline of religious esotericism in Japan.

Esoteric Buddhism developed in almost all Buddhist countries of Asia, but it was of particular importance in Japan where its impact went far beyond the borders of Buddhism, also affecting Shinto as well as non-religious forms of discourse. During the Middle Ages, secret initiations became a favoured medium for the transmission of knowledge among Buddhist monks, Shinto priests, scholars, actors and artisans alike.

The Culture of Secrecy in Japanese Religion looks at the impact of esoteric Buddhism on Japanese culture, and includes comparative chapters on India and China. Whilst concentrating on the Japanese medieval period, this book will give readers familiar with present day Japan many explanations for the still visible remnants of Japan's medieval culture of secrecy. This compelling look at a largely undiscovered field of research successfully demystifies the study of esotericism and Tantrism, and will be essential reading for scholars of East Asian Buddhism, Japanese religion and religious history.

For further information, see also the page on the preceding conference on this topic.


Preface (B. Scheid)
1. Introduction: Japan's medieval culture of secrecy from a comparative perspective (M. Teeuwen)

Part 1: Prologue

2. Secrets and secrecy in the study of religion: Comparative views on secrecy from the Ancient World (A. DeJong)
3. The problem of secrecy in Indian Tantric Buddhism (R. Davidson)
4. Myth and secrecy in Tang-period Tantric Buddhism (M. Lehnert)

Part 2: Japan's Medieval Culture of Secrecy

5. Secrecy in Japanese esoteric Buddhism (F. Rambelli)
6. Reconsidering the taxonomy of the esoteric: Hermeneutical and ritual practices of the Lotus sutra (L. Dolce)
7. Knowing vs. owning a secret: Secrecy in medieval Japan, as seen through the sokui kanjo enthronement unction (M. Teeuwen)
8. Secrecy, sex and apocrypha: Remarks on some paradoxical phenomena (N. Iyanaga)
9. Esotericism in Noh commentaries and plays: Konparu Zenchiku's Meishukushu and Kakitsubata (S. Klein)
10. The elephant in the room: The cult of secrecy in Japanese Tantrism (B. Faure)
11. Myths, rites, and icons: Three views of a secret (A. Kadoya)
12. Two modes of secrecy in the Nihon shoki transmission (B. Scheid)

Part 3: The Demise of Secrecy

13. When secrecy ends: The Tokugawa reformation of Tendai Buddhism and its implication (W. Bodiford)
14. Hiding the shoguns: Secrecy and the nature of political authority in Tokugawa Japan (A. Walthall)
15. "Esoteric" and "public" in late Mito thought (K. Nakai)


Öster­reichi­sche Aka­demie der Wissen­schaften
Institut für Kultur- und Geistes­geschichte Asiens
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