Kashōken, an internationally renowned ensemble of Japanese Shingon priests, will perform a Daihannya Tendoku, a “rolling reading” of the Great Sutra on the Perfection of Wisdom (Mahāprajñāpāramitā sūtra) at the Memorial Church of Stanford University. The Daihannya Tendoku is one of the most important rituals of Japanese Buddhism. It features the Great Sutra on the Perfection of Wisdom, one of the central texts of Mahayana Buddhism, and with 600 fascicles also the longest text in the Buddhist canon. Since the early eighth century, rituals centered on a reading of this sutra have been performed in Japan.
In early times, several hundred clerics gathered for several days to read the sutra character by character. However, this was often impractical, or even impossible, as not enough clerics were present to recite the entire text. For this reason, clerics sought to find ways to abbreviate the ritual. When sutra books in concertina format were introduced, clerics started to just skim through the text by having the pages of the book quickly glide from one hand to other, while loudly exclaiming the titles of the sutra and its volumes, as well as a few lines of the sutra itself. This way of reading, called “rolling reading,” resulted in the dramatic visual effect of accordion-like sutra pages cascading through the air. Paired with the sound of loud voices intoning the titles of the sutra and its volumes, the ritual creates what the priests call a “wind of wisdom.” In today’s concert, Kashoken invites you on a journey to the sounding world of Japanese esoteric Buddhism, to feel the breath of the “wind of wisdom” yourself.