2018 Tessa J. Bartholomeusz Lecture

The Love of Fame and the Desire for Enlightenment: Life of the Scholar Monk in Medieval Japan
Prof. Asuka Sango, Carleton College

Scholar monks of medieval Japan have often been disparaged for their love of fame—for studying Buddhism to participate in public debates and to receive a resultant promotion. According to their critics, they represented the degenerate old Buddhism, which was challenged and replaced by the socalled “New Kamakura Buddhism,” whose leaders were, in contrast, reform-minded and motivated by the desire for enlightenment both for themselves and for their followers. However, this narrative of reformation, in which the “good” Buddhists triumphed over the “bad,” obscures the rich intellectual and devotional life of scholar monks. It is true that many of them not only sought fame, but also drank, gambled, and had sex; they also struggled to overcome their infirmity by going to retreats, aspiring for rebirth in the Tuṣita Heaven, and profusely wrote while training themselves and their disciples in Buddhist philosophy and practice. Their life was marked by the tension between the love of fame and

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