From Outcasts to Emperors: Shingon Ritsu and the Mañjuśrī Cult in Medieval Japan
David Quinter, University of Alberta
In From Outcasts to Emperors, David Quinter illuminates the Shingon Ritsu movement founded by the charismatic monk Eison (1201–90) at Saidaiji in Nara, Japan. The book’s focus on Eison and his disciples’ involvement in the cult of Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva reveals their innovative synthesis of Shingon esotericism, Buddhist discipline (Ritsu; Sk. vinaya), icon and temple construction, and social welfare activities as the cult embraced a spectrum of supporters, from outcasts to warrior and imperial rulers. In so doing, the book redresses typical portrayals of “Kamakura Buddhism” that cast Eison and other Nara Buddhist leaders merely as conservative reformers, rather than creative innovators, amid the dynamic religious and social changes of medieval Japan.