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Sanskrit Studies In Early Modern Japan

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Chapter Summary

The study of Sanskrit in Japan prior to the Meiji period, when Japan opened to the West, focused on Siddham script and was tied to a ritual science of sound found in esoteric Buddhism. Esoteric Buddhism envisioned a means for realizing buddhahood in the present through rituals for the body, speech, and mind. The link between Sanskrit and the ritual science of mantra ensured that its study would continue within esoteric Buddhist spheres in Japan for the next millennium, but it also gave Sanskrit study a distinct character, as a science of sounds and writing rather than of grammar. This chapter aims to suggest future directions for research not only on the transformation of esoteric Buddhism in the early modern period, but also on the contribution of its ritual sciences to the development of Japanese linguistics.

Keywords: esoteric Buddhism; Japan; Sanskrit; Siddham script

10.1163/ej.9789004184916.i-1200.369
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