Universiteit Leiden

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University Lecturer

+31 71 527 2551

Or Porath is an assistant professor of the Religious Traditions of Japan with broad interests in East Asian religions, the history of gender and sexuality, and monasticism. Porath specializes in the religions of Japan, specifically the influential school of Tendai Buddhism, its doctrines and practices, and the intersection between the Buddhist worldviews and issues of gender and sexuality. His current book project, The Dharma of Sex: Initiation and Deification in Medieval Japan, examines the "consecration of acolytes" (chigo kanjō), a sexual initiation that was doctrinally sanctioned in orthodox Buddhist teachings. Porath investigates in his work how male-male sexual acts were sanctified and grounded in Tendai doctrinal concepts, and the manner in which they shed light on the Buddhist assimilation of local forms of worship including Shinto.

More information about Or PORATH

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My research combines archival analysis with the methods of queer theory to trace the ritualization of male-male sexuality in medieval Japan (13th to 16th centuries). My examination of temple repositories of the capital region and the eastern provinces reveals that Japanese monks formulated a sexual rite-of-passage (abhieka, in Sanskrit), termed chigo kanjō (“the ritual consecration of acolytes”). The ritual was mobilized to legitimize the sexual acts that were historically and contemporaneously thought of as detrimental to Buddhist awakening. The chigo kanjō ritual has long been misunderstood, in both Japanese and western historiography, as an aberrant form of Buddhism practiced only in marginal and subversive monastic communities. As I argue in my upcoming book, however, this set of rituals were far from heterodox; they were carried out and encouraged by the most powerful institution of the time, Tendai Buddhism; they were grounded by genuine doctrinal concerns; and, they were transmitted through a network of seminaries which reproduced the ritual prescriptions of the ceremony, which housed their own chambers of initiation, together functioning as a veritable cultic hub of the chigo kanjō ritual.

Grants and awards

  • 2018:  Graduate Division Dissertation Fellowship, UC Santa Barbara
  • 2017-2018:  The Professor Wilbur M. Fridell Memorial Award for Academic Achievement in Japanese Religion, UC Santa Barbara
  • 2017-2018:  American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies Dissertation Fellowship
  • 2015-2016: Japan Foundation Dissertation Fellowship
  • 2013:  Japan Foundation Graduate Studies Fellowship, UC Santa Barbara


  • Postdoc, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. University of Chicago, 2019-2021
  • Ph.D. Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2019
  • M.A. East Asian Languages and Cultures, Major: Japanese History, with Departmental Honors, Columbia University, New York, 2012
  • B.A. Department of East Asian Studies (summa cum laude), and History, Tel Aviv University, Israel, 2010

Key publications

Rambelli F. & Porath O. (Eds.) (2022), Rituals of Initiation and Consecration in Premodern Japan: Power and Legitimacy in Kingship, Religion, and the Arts. Berlin: De Gruyter.

University Lecturer

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • SAS Japan

Work address

Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 2
2311 BZ Leiden
Room number 2.04A



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