Illustrations and Explanations of the Three Jewels
This introduction to Buddhism was written for an imperial princess plagued with bad luck.
The Three Jewels are the three core elements of Buddhism, namely the Buddha, the teachings, and the clergy. The roots of this work lie in the Sanpo-e, a collection of illustrations and texts explaining the Three Jewels. The text was later extracted and compiled into three booklets known collectively as the Sanpo Ekotoba, or “Illustrations and Explanations of the Three Jewels.” The end of the third volume recounts how the text was copied out on the eighth day of the eighth month, 1273. This valuable work is the oldest extant example of the Sanpo Ekotoba in its more-or-less intact form.
The Sanpo-e was written by Minamoto no Tamenori, a noble and scholar who lived during the mid-Heian period. The introduction to the first volume states that the Sanpo-e was edited in 984. The first volume features tales of the Buddha’s past lives; the second volume consists of stories about 18 people with a deep connection to Buddhism, including Prince Shotoku and Gyoki; and the third volume records details about Buddhist ceremonies.