The medieval period in Japan is usually characterized by the emergence of new schools (Zen, Pure Land, Nichiren) of Buddhism and of Shinto nativism. Yet it also saw the rise of a new type of deity called kojin (wild or raging god) that blurs the traditional distinction between gods and demons, but also between buddhas and kami. These ambivalent deities are often defined as “gods or demons of obstacles” (that is, gods who can either cause or remove obstacles of all kinds). For that reason, they are all rule over human destinies. My paper will focus on one of them, who could perhaps be seen as their prototype, and whose name is, precisely, Kojin.
Educated at Kyoto University and the University of Paris, where he received his doctorate in 1984, Bernard Faure taught at Cornell University and was for many years Professor of Chinese Religions at Stanford University. He now holds the Kao Chair in Japanese Religion at Columbia University, where he is also Director of the Columbia Center for Japanese Religion. He has lived for long periods in Japan and has traveled extensively in Asia, and is one of the few Asian studies scholars to have published groundbreaking work on both Chinese and Japanese topics, writing in English and French. Selected publications include The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism(1994), Chan Insights and Oversights: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Tradition (1996), The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality (1998), Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism (2000), The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender (2003), Double Exposure: Cutting Across Western and Buddhist Discourses (2003), Bouddhismes et violence (2008), and Unmasking Buddhism (2009). He just completed two books on Medieval Japanese gods, entitled, respectively: The Fluid Pantheon, and Predators and Protectors (University of Hawaii Press, 2015), and is currently working on a book on the East Asian Lives of the Buddha.