Outside the Way: Framing Non-Buddhist Practices in Heian Japan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


This chapter reflects on the multiple uses of the words gedō 外道 (“outside the way”) and gejutsu 外術 (“outside techniques”) in Heian period Esoteric Buddhist sources. The two terms, broadly indicating non-Buddhist teachings and methods, did not imply a straightforward value judgment. Thus, it is first maintained that while gedō often singled out unorthodox, evil ways to be warded off at all costs, it also pointed to originally non-Buddhist deities and practices that had been incorporated into Buddhist ones and were thus considered acceptable. As these two interpretations coexisted, the chapter considers the institutional politics that underpinned them. It is therefore discussed how Heian-period Esoteric monks deployed these concepts as part of lineage disputes over issues of ritual transmission and authority. Given the malleability of these terms, the conclusions interrogate how they inform understandings of “religious other” in the context of premodern Japan.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBuddhism and its Religious Others
Subtitle of host publicationHistorical Encounters and Representations
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameProceedings of the British Academy
PublisherOxford University Press
ISSN (Print)0068-1202


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