The Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies, founded in 1968, celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with a wide range of activities commemorating the seven-hundredth anniversary of the death, in November 1298, of Abbess Mugai Nyodai, the Zen master whose life and legacy have been the inspiration for much of the work of the Institute during the past decade.
Abbess Mugai Nyodai (1223-1298) was a disciple and spiritual heir of the Chinese Rinzai Zen Monk Wu-hsüeh Tsü-yuan (known in Japan as Mugaku Sogen) [Bukkô Kokushi]); the founding Abbess of Keiaiji Convent, the head temple-complex of the Five Mountain Rinzai Zen Convent Association; and the spiritual matriarch of many of the remaining Imperial Convents today. The discovery of the magnificent life-size thirteenth-century chinsô portrait sculpture of Abbess Mugai Nyodai was one of the initial revelatory events that drew scholarly attention to the wholly ignored female side of Buddhist institutional history and, more broadly, to the role of women in Japanese religious history. In many ways, therefore, she has been the Institute’s ‘patro-saint’.
We invite you to celebrate with us our past thirty years and to share in our ongoing goals and aspirations. As we approach the millennium, we hope you will join us and support our innovative programs so as to bring to the center stage of world culture those extraordinary areas of Japanese culture which remain too often neglected.