Kumano bikuni

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  • Japanese: 熊野比丘尼 (Kumano bikuni)

Kumano bikuni was a sect or order of Buddhist nuns who traveled Japan as preachers of a Buddhist path to a positive afterlife for women. Most prominent in the 16th-17th centuries, they encouraged women to recite certain sutras for their own benefit, taking their spiritual wellbeing into their own hands, whereas most mainstream teachings taught that the fate of women's souls was largely in the hands of their sons, who were expected to pray and recite sutras for their mother's sakes.

The ketsubonkyô (Sutra of the Lake of Blood), in particular, was to be recited by firstborn sons in order to release their mothers from the Hell of the Lake of Blood, to which they were doomed due to the spiritual impurity of menstruation and childbirth. The Kumano bikuni encouraged women to recite this sutra for themselves, and to "live positively [with]in [a] network of women [in order] to overcome women's hardships."[1]


  • Haruko Nawata Ward, Women Religious Leaders in Japan's Christian Century, Ashgate (2009), 13-14.
  1. Ward, 14.