The Presence of the Buddha: Transmission of Sacred Authority and the Function of Ornament in Seiryōji's Living Icon
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In 985, a Japanese monk named Chōnen commissioned a statue of Śākyamuni Buddha during a pilgrimage to China, which was later enshrined in the temple Seiryōji near Kyoto, Japan. The statue was lavishly ornamented both on its exterior and interior and came to be considered a "living icon" modeled after the legendary first portrait of the historical Buddha made under the patronage of the Indian king Udāyana. Through a holistic examination of historical context, textual evidence, and the diverse forms of ritual adornment (shōgon), I argue that the Seiryōji statue was designed to function as a field for the perpetual generation of karmic merit (fukuden). This statue, through the careful selection of inserted objects and their resonance with its external appearance, embodies the multiplicity of the "Buddha body" as the "living" body of the historical Śāyamuni and the eternally present Buddha of the Lotus Sutra.