Hokkeji, an ancient Nara temple that once stood at the apex of a state convent network established by Queen-Consort Komyo (701-760), possesses a history that in some ways is bigger than itself. Its development is emblematic of larger patterns in the history of female monasticism in Japan. In this volume, Lori Meeks explores the revival of Japan's most famous convent and the reestablishment of a nuns' ordination lineage in Japan. Meeks considers a broad range of issues surrounding women's engagement with Buddhism during a time when their status within the tradition was undergoing significant change. Hokkeji rejects the commonly accepted notion that women simply internalized orthodox Buddhist discourses meant to discourage female practice and offers new perspectives on the religious lives of women in premodern Japan. Its attention to the relationship between doctrine and socio-cultural practice produces a fuller view of Buddhism as it was practiced on the ground - outside the rarefied world of Buddhist scholasticism.
Lori R. Meeks is assistant professor in the School of Religion and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Southern California.