Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - Relics, Pure Land Ritual, and the Creation of Chōgen’s Religious Virtual Space

Friday, March 23
12:45 PM - 2:45 PM
Location: McKinley, Mezzanine Level

Relics and associated worship have been used from the early days of Buddhism to create virtual religious spaces; that is, to superimpose the religious significance of locales associated with the Buddha’s personal history upon contemporary venues, thereby creating equivalences across space-time. Such virtual spaces have traditionally enabled Buddhist followers to participate in the merits conferred by the Buddha, despite the problems posed by spatial and historical distance. Generally speaking, relics are associated with Śākyamuni, the Buddha who appeared in this world, rather than the Buddhas of other worlds, such as Amitābha, the Buddha of the Pure Land of the West. However, Chōgen (1121-1206), the Japanese monk charged with rebuilding Tōdaiji Temple in Nara, used relics, Amitābha imagery, and Pure Land ritual in tandem in order to create his own unique religious virtual space that encompassed Tōdaiji and his bessho subtemples in the provinces. Chōgen’s use of relics and associated ritual differed from common use: rather than attempting to relate contemporary venues with the historical Buddha, Chōgen aimed to create a virtual space with the esoteric-themed Tōdaiji at the center and his Pure Land-themed bessho at the periphery. This virtual religious space had several purposes. First, Chōgen encouraged the perception that the newly reconstructed Tōdaiji Temple should serve as the religious fulcrum for all of Japan. Second, he enabled populations in distant provinces to participate in the religious merit specifically bestowed by Tōdaiji and its Great Buddha. Finally, he stressed the complementarity between Pure Land ritual and other forms of Buddhism.

Shea Ingram

Chinese University of Hong Kong, Not Applicable, Hong Kong

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2 - Relics, Pure Land Ritual, and the Creation of Chōgen’s Religious Virtual Space



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