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Hachiman River -- Religious Meanings of the Hachiman Cult: Releasing Living Beings in Hojogawa

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Hōjōgawa is a god play by Zeami which is in the currently performed repertoire. It describes the autumn festival (Hōjōe) of Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine at which birds and fish are released. Like its counterpart, Yumi Yawata ["The Bow of
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   Religious Meanings of the Hachiman Cult: Releasing Living Beings in Hōjōgawa   HACHIMAN RIVER a translation --Ross Bender "Hirai is a Shinto priest who studied the history of    religions at Chicago with Joachim Wach. One day he took    us to see a famous temple at Ise. Someone in our group,   an American philosopher, told him: I see the temples, I   attend the ceremonials, the dances, I admire the   costumes and the courtesy of the priests -- but I don't   see any theology implied by Shintoism. Hirai reflected   a second and answered: "We have no theology. We dance."   -- Mircea Eliade      Usa Hachiman Jingu, photo by Yukiharu Kai Hōjōgawa  is a god play by Zeami which is in the currently performed repertoire. It describes the autumn festival (  Hōjōe ) of Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine at which birds and fish are released. Like its counterpart, Yumi Yawata ["The Bow of Hachiman"], which describes the spring festival at Iwashimizu, Hōjōgawa  portrays a god who protects the emperor and brings peace to the realm. Like the spring festival, the Hōjōe connects the present time with the Age of the Gods, the divine time of srcins with the temporal cycle. Although Hachiman in Yumi Yawata is depicted as a Bodhisattva, Hōjōgaw a more explicitly stresses the religious mission of the Bodhisattva. The  Hōjōe  is a Buddhist rite that makes tangible the vow of the Bodhisattva to release all living beings. The action of releasing birds and fish in the shrine precincts is a salvific gesture that mimes the cosmic deliverance. McCullough and McCullough (Tales of Flowering Fortunes, p. 403) describe the two day festival of  Hōjōe  (whch began on the 15th day of the 8th month) as practiced at Iwashimizu Hachiman in Heian times:   “On the first day, an imposing procession of senior nobles escorted the sacred god's palanquin from the top of the mountain to the bottom, where offerings of food were presented, an Imperial prayer was read, sacred dances were performed, and the Saishōō Sutra (Suvarnaprabhasa -sutra) was expounded. On the second, as recommended in the Saishōō Sutra, birds were released from the mountaintop and fish were set free in a stream. The occasion ended with dances and wrestling matches.” The Nihon Kiryaku gives a brief description of preparations for the  Hōjōe  in the year 974: "The Iwashimizu Hachimangu has its Hōjōe on the fifteenth day. The director of Gagaku will be in charge of the music; it will be patterned on Sechie music. There will be music and dance of T'ang and Korai. The festival is to be celebrated after this pattern in perpetuity. Also, the Left and Right Headquarters of the Inner Palace Guards will present riders, ten from each division, in alternate years." The srcins of the  Hōjōe  are obscure. At Iwashimizu the first mention in the Nihon Kiryaku occurs in the year 948. According to De Visser, the first notice in the Fusō Ryakki  comes in 939, although that passage notes that the festival had already been performed for many years before; the Daijii, he notes, says that Seiwa Tennō first “held such a meeting" in 863.  It is generally agreed that the  Hōjōe  had srcinally been practiced since early times at the Usa Hachiman shrine and was then transferred to the Iwashimizu shrine sometime after its foundation in 859. It should be noted that the  Hōjōe  is not mentioned in the Rikkokushi in connection with either shrine, although some Usa shrine traditions link it to the suppression of a Hayato uprising of 720 recorded in the Shoku Nihongi. The practice is seen as srcinating in the Buddhist prohibition against killing and the scriptural basis for the rite is variously given as the Bonmokyō, the Konkōmyōkyō and Saishōō - kyō. The T'ien T'ai abbot in T’ang China is said to have had special pools created for the release of fish on the T'ien T'ai mountain in 759. In the Nihongi, various imperial prohibitions on killing animals are noted beginning in the reign of the Emperor Bidatsu (578) and these proliferate with the rise of B uddhism at the court. Shōtoku Taishi admonished the Empress Suiko against hunting in 611. But the first specific reference to  Hōjō   is in 677 (Temmu 5.8.16) when the emperor Temmu commanded that hōjō  be carried out in all the provinces, and, later in the ye ar, specifically in the home provinces. The empress Jitō established   hōjōchi (ikihanatsutokoro)  in all provinces in 691.   During the Nara period hōjō  was ordered several times during the illness of retired empresses. On one occasion cormorants and wild boar were released all over the country; there were two general orders prohibiting killing in the Tempyō years. Finally, the Emperor Shōmu's edict of Tempyō Shōhō 3.10.23 (751) notes that by releasing living beings all will escape sickness and lives will be lengthened. In 764 a  Hōjō   Commissioner was appointed. That the Buddhist doctrine of compassion was translated specifically into prohibitions of killing and the release of animals in early Buddhist Japan is clear. But the specific festival of  Hōjōe  was associated with the great Hachiman shrines at Usa and then at Iwashimizu, and the srcins of that festival remain unclear. While the practice of hōjō  has a Buddhist pedigree, Nakano Hatayoshi and others believe that the Buddhist practice was superimposed on a native Shintō festival and that the result is an early example of the fusion of Shinto and Buddhism. The locus of the first  Hōjōe  at Usa, according to Nakano, was a tumulus of the koen  type. See also:   Ross Bender, The Political Meaning of the Hachiman Cult in Ancient and Early Medieval Japan, 81-84 Ross Bender, Metamorphosis of a Deity: The Image of Hachiman in Yumi Yawata  Ross Bender,  The Hachiman Cult and the Dōkyō Incident  Jane Marie Law Violence, Ritual Reenactment, and Ideology: The "Hōjō -e" (Rite for Release of Sentient Beings) of the USA Hachiman Shrine in Japan; History of Religions, Vol. 33, No. 4 (May, 1994), pp. 325-357 Mae J. Smethurst and Christina Laffin, eds. The Noh Ominameshi: A Flower Viewed from Many Directions   Mircea Eliade -- No Souvenirs: see pp. 31-35 indifference toward the abstract and the transcendent;   in a word, longing for the primordial bridge which used     to connect heaven and earth (the floating bridge, Amano   Ukihashi, by which, in illo tempore, Izanagi and     Izaname ascended to heaven). The Japanese soul yearns    for a concrete epiphany of the divine. I don't think    that a doctrine of the incarnation of the Christian    type (that is, historical and once-and-for-all) could    interest a Japanese; he is attracted by a theology of     the provisional, lightninglike incarnation of the    spirit; gods, god-men, spirits, souls of the dead,    souls of animals, etc., etc. The gods are travelers    par excellence, visitors (they are, in fact, marebito).    Everything in the cosmos can be transfigured, no one is   unworthy to receive the visit of a god: a flower, a    stone, a pillar of wood. The universe is constantly    being sanctified by an infinity of instant epiphanies.   The gods do not settle down anywhere in the world. The    spirit descends any time, anywhere, but it does not  
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