chapter  5
13 Pages

GYÔKI’S CHARITABLE PROJECTS

In most full-length studies of Gyôki, his prime achievement is his participation in numerous charitable projects. In the last few decades, interest has grown in investigating the reasons for Gyôki’s involvement, but no satisfactory answers have been presented, because the extent of his actual participation cannot be incontrovertibly proven with the present level of archeological evidence. To conclude that Gyôki’s construction projects were unlike any other “social welfare” projects in Japanese history is tempting. In the Heian and Kamakura periods, such monks as Kôya (903972) and Eison (1201-1290) performed similar “charitable works,” but they did not cover the range of activities that Gyôki was believed to have undertaken. Constructing bridges, road-side shelters, and orphanages was sometimes viewed as one of the activities that an ascetic monk performed during his period of training. However, Gyôki seems to have continued to direct these large-scale projects for his entire life and, aside from the Vairocana Buddha campaign at the end of his life, organizing various kinds of construction projects seems to have been Gyôki’s primary occupation. Very likely, Gyôki did not lead such a large-scale movement without the knowledge of other monks who helped to construct bridges, orphanages, and road-side shelters. To the extent possible, we should determine which particular monks or texts might have inspired him to devote his life to charitable projects.