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An updated, augmented, and illustrated study and translation of this landmark collection of Buddhist tales

Table of contents

Part 1: Study
Chapter 1:  A Short History of Sanbōe   (Edward Kamens)    
Chapter 2:  A Reading of Sanbōe         (Edward Kamens)
Chapter 3:  Sanbōe and the Oratorical Arts of Devotional Liturgy    (Ethan Bushelle)

Part 2: Translation
(Edward Kamens and Ethan Bushelle)
General  Preface    
The First Volume: The Buddha
Preface to the First Volume    
1.1  The Pāramitā of Charity: King Śibi    
1.2  The Pāramitā of Discipline: King Śrutasoma    
1.3  The Pāramitā of Forbearance: The Recluse "Forbearance"
1.4  The Pāramitā of Effort: The Prince of Great Generosity    
1.5  The Pāramitā of Meditation: The Recluse Śaṅkhācārya    
1.6  The Pāramitā of Prajñā: Prime Minister Govinda    
1.7  The Elder “Water-bearer”    
1.8  The Lion Who Held Firmly to His Vows    
1.9  The Deer King    
1.10  The Himalaya Boy    
1.11  Prince Mahāsattva    
 1.12  Prince Sudāna    
1.13  Śyāma
The Second Volume: The Dharma
Preface to the Second Volume
2.1  Prince Shōtoku
2.2 En the Ascetic   
2.3 Bodhisattva Gyōki
2.4 The “Lump” Nun of Higo Province
2.5 Kinunui Tomo no Miyatsuko Yoshimichi
2.6 An Elderly Fisherman of Harima Province
2.7 Dharma Master Gikaku
2.8 Ono no Ason Niwamaro  
2.9 The Go-Playing Śrāmaṇera of Yamashiro Province
2.10 The Sūtra-box Patron of Yamashiro Province
2.11Takahashi no Muraji Azumahito
2.12 A Woman of Yamato Province
2.13 Omisome no Omi Taime
2.14 Nara no lwashima
2.15 A Monk of the Nara Capital
2.16 A Monk of Mount Yoshino
2.17 A Miner of Mimasaka Province
2.18 Yōgō of Daianji
The Third Volume: The Sangha
Preface to the Third Volume
    The First Month
3.1 Practices for the First Month
3.2 The Assembly for the Royal Meagre Feast
3.3 The Rites of Penitence at Hie
3.4 The Bath
3.5 The Poṣadha
    The Second Month
3.6 Practices of the Second Month  
3.7 Repentance Before Ānanda at Saiin
3.8 The Nirvāṇa Assembly at Yamashinadera
3.9 Stone Stūpas
    The Third Month
3.10 The Assembly for the Transmission of the Dharma in Shiga  
3.11 The Most Excellent Assembly at Yakushiji
3.12  The Lotus Assembly at Takao
3.13  The Flower Garland Assembly at Hokkeiji
3.14  The Assembly for the Encouragement of Learning at Sakamoto on Hie
3.15  The Assembly of Ten Thousand Lights at Yakushiji
    The Fourth Month
    3.16  The Śarīra Assembly at Hie
    3.17 The Great Prajñā Assembly at Daianji
    3.18  The Lustration of the Buddha
    3.19  The Ordination at Hie
    The Fifth Month
3.20 Bodhisattva Precepts at Hatsuse
3.21 The Rice Donation
    The Sixth Month
3.22  The Assembly of One Thousand Flowers at Tōdaiji
    The Seventh Month
3.23  The Mañjuśrī Assembly
3.24  The Ullambana [including the Confession]
    The Eighth Month
3.25  The Ceaseless Nenbutsu on Hie
3.26  The Assembly for Releasing Living Creatures at Yahata
    The Ninth Month
3.27  The Anointment at Hie
    The Tenth Month
3.28  The Vimalakīrti Assembly at Yamashinadera
    The Eleventh Month
3.29  The Assembly for Eight Lectures at Kumano
3.30 The Assembly in the Month of Frost
    The Twelfth Month
3.31  The Buddhas' Names



When the young Princess Sonshi became a Buddhist nun in the year 984, a scholar-official of the royal court was commissioned to create a guide to the Buddhist religion that would be accessible for her. He did so in the form of the illustrated works of fiction (monogatari) that appealed to women readers of her time and class. The text has survived in later manuscripts; the illustrations, if they ever existed, have not. This revised translation recreates Sonshi’s experience of receiving this multimedia presentation, with illustrations selected to help contemporary readers visualize its content and essays that provide context on the religious and cultural experience of the author. The Three Treasures is a unique document that opens a window onto the world of Buddhist religious experience—especially for women—in high classical Japan, the time of Sei Shōnagon’s Pillow Book and Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji.

Edward Kamens is Sumitomo Professor of Japanese Studies at Yale University.

Ethan Bushelle is Assistant Professor of East Asian Religions and Culture at Western Washington University.

“Dr. Kamens has researched his subject well and presents his study with a clarity that will be appreciated by students and scholars of Japanese literature, language, Buddhism, and history. The work of Tamenori is here translated into excellent English. . . . The Three Jewels is well researched and so well presented that it cannot fail to arouse interest in Western academic circles.”
Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (review of original edition)

- Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

“Kamens’s book makes a significant contribution to our understanding not only of the centrality of magical thinking in tales and legends, but also about the manner in which it is intertwined with the classical literature of the Buddhist tradition and Japan.”
Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (review of original edition)

- Japanese Journal of Religious Studies