October 16 2015: A Rite of Their Own: Japanese Buddhist Nuns and Ritual Praise of Ānanda

On October 16, Barbara Ambros, from the University of North Carolina, will deliver a lecture on Anan kōshiki, a ritual that has been an important marker of female monastic identity for centuries.

Time: 15.00-17.00, Friday 16th October, 2015
Place: Lipsius 011

In 2003, the Aichi Senmon Nisōdō in Nagoya, Japan celebrated the one-hundredth anniversary of its founding as a training convent for Sōtō Zen nuns. To commemorate the occasion, the nuns performed the Anan kōshiki, a chanted lecture commemorating the Buddha’s disciple, Ānanda, and recorded the event on film in order to preserve it for posterity. Rituals dedicated to Ānanda, of which the Anan kōshiki is one example, have a long history within the community of Buddhist nuns dating back to India.

Originating in medieval Japan, the Anan kōshiki has been performed exclusively by Buddhist nuns in honor of Ānanda’s role in convincing the Buddha to admit women to the monastic order. Even though it is largely unknown to most male Buddhist clerics in Japan and rarely celebrated within nuns’ communities today, the ritual has been an important marker of female monastic identity for centuries. The ritual has functioned ambivalently for nuns, affirming their marginalization and lesser status vis-à-vis the male clergy, while also serving as a means for nuns to celebrate their gender difference as female monastics. In performing the Anan kōshiki, nuns employ oblique strategies of self-affirmation that allow them to invert androcentric concepts to suit their own agendas.

About Barbara Ambros

Barbara R. Ambros is professor of East Asian religions in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She is the author of:

  • Emplacing a Pilgrimage: The Ōyama Cult and Regional Religion in Early Modern Japan (Harvard University Asia Center 2008),

  • Bones of Contention: Animals and Religion in Contemporary Japan (University of Hawaii Press, 2012), 

  • Women in Japanese Religions (New York University Press, 2015).

Last Modified: 28-08-2015