En no Gyōja’s Legitimization in the framework of Esoteric Temples
En no Gyōja was an orthodox esoteric monk, even though nobody would believe it today. As a lay Buddhist practitioner, he was active before esoteric Buddhism was introduced by Kōbō daishi. However, in the medieval period, shugen practiced by yamabushi was acknowledged as orthodoxy, and before long, this discourse was indispensable in order to set up Shugendō as one of the branches constituting Japanese Buddhism. Mino’o dera engi is a foundation narrative (jisha engi) compiled before 1173, during the insei period. This document records how En no Gyōja, on a visit to the waterfall at Mino’o, in the province of Settsu, receives an esoteric initiation by Ryūju bosatsu, who is believed to be Ryūmyō, the first patriarch of the tradition of Shingon esoteric Buddhism. The peruse of this narrative was not restricted to the temple of Mino’o only. It soon spread to the Southern capital (Nara), where its contents got actively integrated into various strands of En no Gyōja’s hagiographies. Then again toward the end of the Kamakura period, documents making use of the discourse presented in Mino’o dera engi appear even in Shingon temples, where one would think it difficult to accept that there had been an orthodox esoteric monk before Kōbō daishi (Kawasaki Tsuyoshi, JJRS 41/1, 2015; Jūjitsu hyōgen bunka 11, 2017). From the Heian period onwards, the marvelous powers of yamabushi were highly valued by society at large, but while results were expected from them, their legitimacy was frequently questioned. In this respect, is it possible to think that the formation of Shugendō obtained legitimacy by way of conceptual, historical and textual references through the orthodoxy of exo-esoteric Buddhist through India, China and Japan. In this presentation, I will examine through what kind of theories Mino’o dera engi‘s discourse is linked to Shingon esotericism, or to the interpretation of Ōmine as the Twofold Mandalas. On the basis of documents pertaining to the reception of Mino’o dera engi, I intend to explain what kind of historical perception of Buddhism came out of this process.