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Goddess Genealogy: Nyoirin Kannon In The Ono Shingon Tradition

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Chapter Summary

Bodhisattva Nyoirin Kannon takes the form of a "jewel woman", a beautiful concubine who brings boundless good fortune to the sovereign and causes him to be reborn in the Pure Land paradise of Amida Buddha after death. Nyoirin's appearance as the jewel woman reflects a long history of her convergence with other deities within the Ono branch of Shingon, in a process of mythological contagion that endowed her with the qualities of a fecund goddess of fertility and fortune. Avalokitesvara is known to have changed gender in China, from male to female, in the early Song dynasty, but Ruyilun/Nyoirin appears to have taken on explicitly female characteristics only in Japan, possibly by the mid-ninth century. These manifestations hint at the process through which Nyoirin at times took the form of a goddess. It also reveals that "Nyoirin Kannon" was never a single entity but a family of deities.

Keywords: Avalokitesvara; Bodhisattva Nyoirin Kannon; Buddha; China; Japan; Ono Shingon tradition



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