This talk introduces three female Buddhist priests from different schools of Buddhism in different areas of Japan: A Shingon priest from Mt. Koya, a Pure Land priest from Tokyo, and a Nichiren priest from Sapporo. In response to the general trend in Buddhist studies to focus on exemplars of the tradition, I am concerned with uncovering stories of “ordinary” priests. It is my contention that these lives are, in fact, both extraordinary and significant in what they can teach us about how temple Buddhism is lived. When we look at female priests not simply for insights into how their experiences differ from men’s, but rather take their stories on their own merits, we discover a Buddhist world that is both familiar and unknown, one with new landmarks, coastlines, and boundaries.
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Dr. Mark Rowe is an associate professor in the department of Religious Studies at McMaster University, where he teaches a variety of courses in East Asian Religions, with a focus in Buddhism. His current research focuses on collecting biographies of what he refers to as “non-eminent” priests. Foregoing investigation of the oft studied famous exemplars of the tradition, he seeks to offer insight into the lives of “ordinary” priests. Dr. Rowe was the recipient of a Japan Foundation fellowship in the summer of 2016, where he traveled to Japan to conduct further research. In this talk he presents some of the findings uncovered during this most recent research trip to Japan.