This study explores self-referential passages in Mahāyāna sutra literature. It argues that these passages serve to mediate a reader or listener’s approach to a text in much the same manner as paratexts mediate one’s approach to a text through external or adjacent devices such as commentaries; these passages, rather than being paratextual and outside of a text, are rather within the body of the text itself. This study explicates the types of self-referential passages in Mahāyāna literature, including encouragement to practice and propagate the text; turning it into a book; preserving the text; statements regard- ing the text’s benefits; identification of the text with other qualities or principles; the qualifications required for obtaining the text; and passages for the entrustment of the text. After noting the relative absence of such passages outside of Mahāyāna literature, it is argued that such passages reveal that for some of the adherents of the disparate early Mahāyāna, textuality was a medium of unprecedented value and utility in promoting novel texts and doctrines.
The medieval Japanese monk Chōgen 重源 (1121–1206), who sojourned at several prominent religious institutions in China during the Southern Song, used his knowledge of Chinese religious social organizations to assist with the reconstruction of Tōdaiji 東大寺 after its destruction in the Gempei 源平 Civil War. Chōgen modeled the Buddhist societies at his bessho 別所 “satellite temples,” located on estates that raised funds and provided raw materials for the Tōdaiji reconstruction, upon the Pure Land societies that financed Tiantai 天 台 temples in Ningbo 寧波 and Hangzhou 杭州. Both types of societies formed as responses to catastrophes, encouraged diverse memberships of lay disciples and monastics, constituted geographical networks, and relied on a two-tiered structure. Also, Chōgen developed Amidabutsu 阿弥陀仏 affiliation names similar in structure and function to those used by the “People of the Way” (daomin 道民) and other lay religious groups in southern China. These names created a collective identity for Chōgen’s devotees and established Chōgen’s place within a lineage of important Tōdaiji persons with the help of the Hishō 祕鈔, written by a Chōgen disciple. Chōgen’s use of religious social models from China were crucial for his fundraising and leader- ship of the managers, architects, sculptors, and workmen who helped rebuild Tōdaiji.