Buddhism Essay

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Buddhism reflected in The Tale of Genji(change title) The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu written in the late 10th Century describes an aristocratic worldview in the Heian period (794-1185 C.E) and therefore, allows a closer look at the religious and spiritual understanding of the Japanese nobility during this timeframe. What is worth discussing is the role that Buddhism played for the nobility during those years by analyzing the actions of the characters of the novel. The characters’ access to Buddhism will be focused on by first, discussing official appearance and second, private practice. In the Tale of Genji (TG) Buddhism provides a religious and philosophical setting for court life. First, Buddhist rituals are performed, second, a desire of the characters for escaping from the wheel of life (nirvana) can be witnessed. Rites are established as institutions to deal with specific tasks and events of the daily life. Therefore, at court Buddhism is often used in a pragmatic way to ask the deity for; recovery from illness, having a safe childbirth, or a successful exorcism of evil spirits. For example illness is explained as being “someone here is suffering from a spirit possession” (pg.74/80). Monks are expected to perform “exorcism” or prayers (pg.80) in order to fight the disease as mediums or healers. The rites are performed along with Buddhist prayers or chanting. Often the Lotus Sutra is sung by priests (pg.85/91/240). Also the aristocrats turn personally to monks and nuns in difficult life periods as well. Genji himself often consults Buddhism to solve problems, but asks for discretion. One time, he is involved in his secret lover’s death and turns to a nun in a temple in the Eastern Hills for help (pg.75). After 49 days he sponsors secretly a service for her at the Lotus Hall on Mt.Hiei, too (pg.83). Another time, Genji is sick himself and goes to monk

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