ASCJ 2009
Session 34: Room 11-209

Over One Thousand Years of Kōshiki: Points of View on the History and Performance of a Buddhist Ritual Genre

Organizer: Michaela Mross, Komazawa University

The liturgical genre of kōshiki developed in the late tenth century in the context of Pure Land belief within the Tendai tradition. In the following centuries this genre spread throughout all Buddhist schools and kōshiki were performed for various objects of veneration. The composition of kōshiki reached a high point in the Kamakura period with Myōe (1173-1232) and Jōkei (1155-1213) as the most productive authors of kōshiki. We can assume that more than 400 kōshiki were composed. Some of them are still performed today.

For a long time these rituals have been largely ignored in scholarship on Japanese Buddhism. Research on kōshiki started not in the field of religious studies, but in music historiography and literature, which attests to the importance of kōshiki beyond the borders of monastic practice. In recent years kōshiki are increasingly being studied as devotional texts in their socio-religious contexts.

This panel will explore the role and performance of kōshiki in different times and places. The first presentation by Steven Nelson will cover the musical performance of kōshiki. Then David Quinter will discuss the Monju kōshiki of Eison (1201-1290). The third paper by Lori Meeks will explore the use of kōshiki in the nunnery Hokkeji. And Michaela Mross will study the Hōon kōshiki of the Sōtō School. Finally, Niels Guelberg will put these themes into the broader historical perspective of kōshiki and its research.

1) Steven G. Nelson, Hosei University
The History of the Musical Realization of Kōshiki Texts: From Planned Improvisation to Standardized Sectarian Versions

As a genre of texts written in kanbun and then realized vocally in kanbun kundoku style by a solo singer in the ritual context, kōshiki developed from a body of earlier genres sharing the same linguistic attributes but considerably shorter in length: saimon, jinbun, hyōbyaku and the like. The length of kōshiki texts apparently required an increased variety in terms of musical interest for their successful performance, thus leading to the development of a standard method for their vocal realization that involved the planned yet improvisatory manipulation of fixed melodic formulae at three different pitch levels.

Though we have no explicit musical notations from any earlier than the late fourteenth or early fifteenth centuries, earlier manuals written for their performers give us specific information about the musical content of these formulae and how they should be arranged for the effective communication of the contents of the kōshiki texts in performances that could differ according to the wishes of the interpreter. In later centuries, however, the increased importance of transmission within sectarian lineages meant that musical realization became standardized, with a corresponding loss of the element of improvisation.

In this paper, I will survey this history through manuals and musical notations for the ‘model kōshiki,’ the Ōjō kōshiki (ca. 1079) of Eikan (also Yōkan, 1033–1111), and a five-section Shari kōshiki of Jōkei (1155–1213), for which primary materials are plentiful.

2) David Quinter, University of Alberta
Who Drives the Buddha-Vehicle? A Study and Translation of Eison’s Monju Kōshiki

Analyses of the leading “revivers” of Nara Buddhism in the Kamakura period typically emphasize their faith in the historical Buddha and cast their devotional innovations in a framework of competition with the rising Pure Land movements. Monks such as Jōkei (1155–1213), Myōe (1173–1232), and Eison (1201–90)—who were each at the forefront of creative movements among the Nara schools—did show strong faith in Śākyamuni Buddha and reject the exclusive nembutsu practices advocated by Hōnen (1133–1212) and his followers. But the continued focus on these aspects of their activities risks understating the very pluralism that was at the heart of both their rejection of exclusivist Pure Land trends and their doctrinal and ritual innovations more broadly. Moreover, even among revisionist analyses of their activities, this twofold emphasis subtly reinforces outdated models of Kamakura-period Buddhism that present the Pure Land, Nichiren, and Zen movements as the drivers of change and the Nara schools as reactionary forces.

To redress these tendencies, this paper examines a liturgical text (kōshiki) by Eison, dedicated to the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, that helps call into question the reputed primacy of Śākyamuni in his devotional practices. In addition, the text serves as a powerful but neglected example of a literary and ritual genre widely employed by medieval Nara leaders. I will therefore use Eison’s Monju kōshiki and the kōshiki genre to highlight a creativity and plurality among such Nara monks extending well beyond Śākyamuni faith and competitive reactions to new Pure Land movements.

3) Lori Meeks, University of Southern California
Ritual and Identity at the Medieval Convent Hokkeji: An Examination of the Ānanda and Rahula Kōshiki

The 1322 liturgical calendar and guide Hokke metsuzaiji nenjū gyōji 法華滅罪寺年中行事 provides extensive insight into the ritual program in place at the Nara convent Hokkeji in the decades following its large‐scale revival in the mid‐1200s. Although the nenjū gyōji is mostly comprised of the same rites and offerings one would find at any thirteenth‐century kenmitsu temple, there are two kōshiki, or chanted lectures, that stand apart from other rituals listed in the document. One is a kōshiki in honor of Ānanda, recognized as the disciple who convinced the historical Buddha to accept women into the sangha. The other is a kōshiki venerating Rāhula, the son of the Buddha. Both of these kōshiki appear to have been quite rare in medieval Japan.

This paper will explore the significance of these two kōshiki at medieval Hokkeji. What does the inclusion of these chanted lectures in the ritual calendar of Hokkeji tell us about the doctrinal vision of Hokkeji nuns? What do the kōshiki tell us about the ways in which Hokkeji nuns strove to identify themselves, and their place in the Ritsu (Vinaya) order, through ritual practice?

After analyzing the history of affiliations between nuns, Rahula, and Ānanda, in India and China, I will argue that Hokkeji nuns used these kōshiki to construct specific claims about the legitimacy of nuns’ orders in the sangha.

4) Michaela Mross, Komazawa Universit
The Development of Hōon Kōshiki in the Sōtō School: Hagiography in a Ritual Context

Kōshiki have played an important role in the Sōtō School since its very beginnings with its founder Dōgen (1200-1253). Starting in the medieval period various kōshiki were performed and composed in this school. The oldest one is the Rakan kōshiki, which became a model for all following kōshiki of the Sōtō School. In the Edo period the Sōtō monks standardized their kōshiki and started to publish printed editions of these liturgical texts.

Among them were also kōshiki composed in memoriam for the two most important monks of the Sōtō School, Dōgen and Keizan (Hōon kōshiki). In the Edo period at least three different kōshiki were composed for Dōgen. In the Meiji period a new kōshiki for Keizan (1268-1325) was composed, adding to any earlier one for him. And in as late as 2003 a new kōshiki for Dōgen was written. All these kōshiki use a standard ritual form; only the main liturgical text was replaced.

This paper explores the reasons for the composition of the new liturgical texts. Further I will study the use of discourse in these rituals, which stand not in relation to other devotion rituals, but to the self-perceived image of the Sōtō monks in their historical context. New interpretations on the lives of the high monks were propagated through the means of kōshiki beyond the circle of the clerical elite. Through the performativity of the ritual these views were validated and confirmed by all present.

Discussant: Niels Guelberg, Waseda University