Hundreds of years before Sigmund Freud diagnosed the human predicament as a tug-of-war between one's id and superego, popular theology in medieval Japan conceived of a similar notion in the form of the deity named kōjin ("Raging Deity").
In his lecture "The Watchful Twins: Gods and Destiny in East Asian Buddhism," Kao Professor in Japanese Religion Bernard Faure (Columbia University) put forth a challenge to the classic expression of Buddhas and Kami and proposed a "latent" pantheon in which kōjin plays a central role. Faure argued that kōjin "undermines the neat distinction and hierarchy established by the Honji Suijaku theory between these two types of sacred beings. It is a Janus-faced deity, whose nature encompasses both good and evil . . . " Among the deity's various features, the one Faure highlighted is the control kōjin wields over human destiny throughout all rebirths until nirvana.
Faure examined several instances of kōjin, and explained that one in particular, ena kōjin ("placenta god"), has the "embryological function" of nurturing and protecting a baby in utero. In this form it represents a protective twin which, at birth, becomes a gushōjin ("guardian spirit"). As gushōjin, Faure added, they are "silent witnesses of all our acts, and are thus 'closer to ourselves' than we ourselves are — even though they remain invisible and alien to us." However, they can also be harmful, "either through ill intent, or merely through their eagerness in reporting our misdeeds." Kōjin, according to Faure, appears as a peaceful buddha to those who are virtuous and as a wrathful one to those who are not. Iconographically the gushōjin are portrayed as a pair — one to record good deeds and one bad.
The duality, Faure remarked, "becomes a ternary structure, in which the central figure (the individual, or the Buddha on the mythological plane) is flanked by two morally opposite figures . . . The two images tend to overlap, so that the Kōjin himself, who was initially the doppelganger of the individual, becomes identical with him, becoming as it were his the inner truth, the true nature of the individual, his buddha-nature." Thus the two — good and evil — reflect temporal dualities on the path to enlightenment.
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