This article deals with the problem of initiation of the first Buddhist nuns in Japan. The author considers the process of full monastic initiation in Buddhism, and also cites episodes from the biographies of the first Buddhist nuns in Japan. Based on the analysis, the author comes to the conclusion that the first Buddhist nuns in Japan were mainly from families of immigrants from China and Korea. It is also noted that the first nuns were considered to be the priestesses of the Buddha in Japan. In many sources it is noted that the nuns received firstly incomplete initiation, and this fact made some researchers doubt about the legality of their monastic vows. Perhaps, the fact that the first nuns were revered in this status by a patron and follower of Buddhism Soga-no Umako, despite the fact that their first initiation did not correspond to the canons of vinaya, suggests that during that period of time they were perceived, as the priestess and guardians of the new deity Buddha, like Shinto priestesses.

Key words: Japan, first Buddhist nuns, Soga-no Umako, vinaya, Buddha, Shinto priestesses.

DOI: 10.22250/2072-8662.2018.3.35-45

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About the author


Elena S. Lepekhova – Doctor of Philosophical Sciences, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies,

Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow;

12 Rozhdestvenka str., Moscow, Russia, 107031; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.