Paul Groner (University of Virginia) will be speaking for the Buddhist Studies Seminar on Friday, 4/25 from 5:00 - 7:00 pm. This event is co-sponsored by the Buddhist Studies Seminar and the Donald Keene Center.
Monastic Discipline and Ordinations (Or Their Absence) in Medieval Japanese Tendai
Most surveys of Japanese Buddhism describe the founder of the Japanese Tendai School, Saichō (767-821) as rejecting the traditional rules found in the vinaya for the precepts of the apocryphal text, the Fanwang jing (Brahma’s Net Sutra). The court accepted his proposal about a week after his death. Most histories leave the story at that point. I explore the subsequent history of Tendai views on ordinations and precepts from the late Heian through the Muromachi periods. Saichō’s proposal quickly proved to be unworkable and his early death at age 55 left the Tendai School without much guidance about how to proceed. I look at several approaches by Tendai exegetes who thought about what it meant to be ordained and whether monastic discipline was required. I conclude with an examination of the doctrinal justification of violence by monks.