Sonja Arntzen, Professor Emerita, University of Toronto, will present a lecture:
“Telling it Slant”: Dreams and Religious Meaning in the Sarashina Diary (Kameyama Lecture, Department of Asian Studies)
5:00 pm, Friday, September 30, at UBC’s Asian Centre, 1871 West Mall, Room 604
Altogether eleven dreams are recorded in Sarashina Diary (c. 1060 by Sugawara Takasue no Musume), more than in any of the other Heian diaries. They are spread throughout the text and signal key shifts in the author’s awareness. Moreover, all except one of the dreams have religious import. Therefore, the study of religious meaning in the text is intimately connected with the nature of her dreams. This talk will give an overview of the Heian attitude toward dreams and demonstrate how the syncretic character of religious belief during the Heian period is mirrored in dreams of the Sarashina Diary. Analysis of specific dreams will reveal how the dreams and the author’s attitude toward them conform to the dominant understanding of the goal of Buddhist devotions in the Heian period. Yet, examination of the relationship of the dream accounts to other sections of the text will bring a much more complex and dialectical spiritual dimension into view. It is a view that has much in common with what William Lafleur termed “high medieval” consciousness in Japan, which was itself inflected by the headier levels of Tendai philosophy and the“double-talk” of Zen, none of which Takasue no Musume could have been expected to have known anything about. In her case, this perception appears to have been nurtured from the practice of poetry and most importantly her reading of the Tale of Genji.