Field: East Asian Religion
Advisors: Michael Como & Bernard Faure
Abigail I. MacBain is a PhD candidate specializing in premodern Japanese religion and history. Her primary research interests include religio-political interactions, religious syncretism, and the spread of cultural and global awareness through the transmission of religions, especially Buddhism.
Abigail’s dissertation focuses on a group of Buddhist monks hailing from various parts of Asia who traveled to Japan in the mid-eighth century in response to an appeal for religious specialists. In addition to looking at these overseas monks’ involvement with developing state protection initiatives, establishing the Great Buddha (daibutsu) at Tōdaiji Temple, and transforming monastic precepts and ordination ceremonies, she is also considering how this diverse group contributed to Japan’s understandings of foreign lands and cultures.
This topic builds off of her Master’s theses (Columbia University, 2015, and McMaster University, 2008), which respectively examined the roles the god Hachiman and certain Buddhist sutras played in the eighth century Japanese court’s use of religion for legitimation and state protection. She also examined the theme of religion and state in the fourteenth century text Jinnō Shōtōki for her undergraduate honor’s thesis (St. Lawrence University, 2004).