Bernard Faure (Columbia University, New York)

From Womb to Cosmos
The Gods of Destiny in East Asian Buddhism


Beliefs regarding deities that control or protect human destiny, from birth to (and beyond) death, are found throughout Asia. Sometimes these deities dwell in the stars or in the underworld, at other times, inside or on top of the human body. One significant case is that of the "placenta deity," which came to play a major (if usually hidden) role in medieval Japan, eventually ascending to the status of primordial god. A closer look at these mythological figures will reveal some rather unexpected facets of East Asian Buddhism.

Bernard Faure is one of the most esteemed Western scholars on Japanese Buddhism, also famous for his studies on Chinese Chan (Zen) and Daoist traditions. His major works include The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality (1998), Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism (1996), Chan Insights and Oversights: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Tradition (1993).