(State University of New York-Albany Press, July 2006)
Robert E. Morrell, Ph.D., professor emeritus of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures and Sachiko Kaneko Morrell, retired East Asian Studies head librarian in Arts & Sciences
Two longtime members of the University’s East Asian studies community have published a book tracing the history of a Japanese Zen convent through seven centuries.
The book, Zen Sanctuary of Purple Robes: Japan’s Tokeiji Convent Since 1285 (Albany: State University of New York Press, July 2006), is co-authored by Sachiko Kaneko Morrell, retired East Asian Studies head librarian, and Robert E. Morrell, Ph.D., professor emeritus of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures in Arts & Sciences.
The authors’ research examines the affairs of the Rinzai Zen convent founded in 1285 by nun Kakusan Shido after the death of her husband, Hojo Tokimune, the Kamakura regent noted for having repelled the Mongol invasions.
The book explores the nuns’ Zen practice; Abbess Yodo’s imperial lineage with nuns in purple robes; Hideyori’s 7-year-old daughter spared by Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle for Osaka Castle (1615) and later to become the convent’s 20th abbess, Tenshu (1608-1645); Tokeiji as “divorce temple” (enkiridera) during the mid-Edo period and a favorite topic of senryu satirical verse; the convent’s gradual decline as functioning nunnery; its continued survival during the early Meiji persecution of Buddhism; and its current prosperity.
The work includes translations, charts, illustrations, bibliographies, and indices.
Within the historical overview, the authors emphasize the convent’s “inclusivist” Rinzai Zen practice in tandem with the nearby Engakuji Temple. The rationale for this “inclusivism” is the continuing acceptance of the doctrine of “Skillful Means” (hoben) as expressed in the Lotus Sutra — a notion repudiated or radically reinterpreted by most of the Kamakura “reformers.”
In support of this contention, the authors include a complete translation of the Mirror for Women (Tsuma kagami) by Kakusan’s contemporary, Muju Ichien.
“This is engaged scholarship,” says Edwin Cranston, Ph.D., a professor of Japanese literature at Harvard University.
“This cultural history of the famous Tokeiji Convent is rich in detail and generous in providing translations of the prose and poetry speaking to both its Rinzai Zen cult and its popular reputation as a sanctuary for women escaping from abusive marriages.”
— Gerry Everding