III. BUDDHISM AND CONFUCIANISMSOME critics see in the encouragement given to learning that flaw in the Tokugawa system of government which caused its ultimate downfall. Under the régime inaugurated by Iyeyasu every child in the empire was obliged to learn to read and write, under the instruction of the local priests, thus giving a certain amount of education to even the meanest peasant, while innumerable academies were established throughout the length and breadth of the land. It is doubtless true that the result of these measures was to prepare the national mind for receiving the message of the Restoration. Yet, when we come to examine into the nature of the instruction so freely given to the people by the Tokugawas, we shall find that perhaps Iyeyasu and his immediate successors were not so far amiss in their calculations, after all.
All branches of knowledge are interesting, but some courses of study tend to encourage ignorance, and such were the courses in Buddhism and Confucianism which formed the sole curriculum in the Tokugawa academies. To those who have seen our landscapes studded with pagodas, and heard our temple bells calling from every hill, or to those who remember the great halls of learning in the various daimiates, and the chant of reciting voices in every Tokugawa village, it must seem strange that Buddhism and Confucianism played so small a part in the Restoration. The fact is that their teachings never interfered in matters of state, and their influence was solely directed toward enforcing ideas of submission and the love of peace.
We do not agree with those enemies of Iyeyasu who accuse him of being a skeptic and utilizing ethics and religion only as a means to further his own ends. He was a great statesman who combined many of the characteristics of Cromwell and Richelieu. He was sincere, and acted, according to his lights, for what he considered the best interests of the nation. The following instance of his humanity is enough to refute those charges of heartlessness which have been brought against him. Noticing, during one of his campaigns, that the enemy were using loose-shafted arrows, the heads of which remained in the wound and caused a cruel and lingering death, he gave orders that all the Tokugawa arrowheads should be securely fastened and lacquered to the shafts. We believe, however, that the "Old Badger," as he is often nicknamed, knew full well the nature of Buddhist and Confucian teaching, and that his astuteness and knowledge of men did not fail to recognize the bearing which the Oriental philosophy of his day might have upon the furtherance of his system of government.
Buddhism was never a menace to the state. The reason for this lies far back in the antithesis of the Oriental conception of the social and supersocial order. By that antithesis the ethical life of the householder is distinguished from the religious life of the wandering recluse, the two standing in contrast, though not necessarily antagonistic. Eastern society, with all its beauty of harmonized duties and intercalated occupations, is based on mutual dependencies, and at best can but end in conventionalism-the moral bondage of the commune. Religion, on the other hand, furnishes the means of true emancipation, and constitutes the acme of individualism. The ideal monk is the child of freedom, who, dying to the mundane, is reborn to the realm of the spirit. He is like the lotus which rises in purity above the mire. He is silent, like the forest in which he meditates; untrammeled, like the wind that blows his gown around him. He is of no caste and no country. What if thrones are overthrown and nations enslaved: did not Buddha, the great teacher of renunciation, watch with undimmed eyes the total annihilation of his own kingly race?
Society, the world of tradition and ethics, looked with respect on the world of freedom, and gazed with wonder at the achievements of the spiritual workers who left behind them the boundary lines of school and sect as they traveled through the regions of the unexplored toward the light. Chinese mandarins dreamed, amid palatial luxuries, of the bamboo forest, and sighed at the call of the pine-clad hills. The highest desire of an Indian or Japanese householder was to reach the age at which, leaving worldly cares to his children, he might learn that higher life of a recluse known as Banaprasta or Inkyo. In donning the monkish robe, a privilege open to all, he found release from the world of convention. It was in order to escape from social trammels that our artists shaved their heads and assumed the guise of priests.
But the social and the supersocial worlds never clashed, for each was the counterpart of the other. In Indian society we find the Shramanic as the necessary counterbalance to the Brahmanic ideal, while in China the same positions are held by Taoism and Confucianism. Herein lies the secret of that toleration which has made of India a museum of religions, and has caused China to welcome, so long as they do not interfere with her political system, the alien faiths of Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Nestorianism, Mohammedanism, and modern Christianty. The existence of this twofold development also explains, in a certain measure, that attitude of liberalism and apparent indifference which our modern statesmen of Japan display toward religious questions,-an attitude often construed as a false idea of European statecraft, if not of agnosticism. The demarcation of the political from the religious life, the divorce of state and church, is no new idea with us. Indeed, despite our temples and monasteries, we have no church.
The innate individualism of the Buddhist ideal, unlike that of the papal church of Europe, which is even now a source of concern to some nations, has ever prevented the formation of a single powerful organization to impose its influence on the state. The temporal power exercised by some of our monks was due solely to their personal influence over the Mikado or his officers, in the imperial days before the feudal period. It was a sort of mundane offering laid at the feet of holiness, and was the temporary result of a purely personal relationship. The priesthood, as a body or sect, rarely tried to retain authority over the government, and the social consciousness was always eager to reclaim what it considered its own special function. A sovereign might be carried away by his spiritual zeal, but the dynasty invariably recovered its equilibrium. With the rise of the Kamakura shogunate, the Buddhist power, which had its root in the devotion of the Kioto court, declined. The ultra-individualistic sect of Zen, which at this time became the leading school of thought, made no pretense to political ambition. During the turbulent age that followed, the predatory attacks of neighboring barons on the monasteries caused the establishment of an armed monkhood. These warrior-priests guarded the sanctuaries, and, either alone or in alliance with various daimios, were a prominent feature in the Ashikaga wars, where they are often found foremost in the fray, their robe of mercy ill concealing the blood- stained mail beneath. They had, however, almost disappeared by the time of Iyeyasu, when the Hongangi, the last sect which still boasted of some military adherents, was easily made to submit to the authority of the shogun.
The policy of Iyeyasu toward Buddhism is characteristic of the fundamental idea of Eastern statesmanship. Himself a Confucian, he counted among his best friends the three great Buddhist monks of his age. He would have tolerated even Christianity, if the Jesuit movement had not covered a political menace. He guaranteed the privileges of the monasteries, restored and insured their revenues, and granted funds for the publication of religious works. He even enforced ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and punished by the pillory and banishment all those who broke the monastic vows. But at the same time he debarred the priesthood from any participation in the government. He abolished the custom of employing Buddhist agents in diplomatic amenities with Korea, and appointed a lay officer to control all affairs connected with the clergy. The influence of Buddhism was on the wane. Under the protection afforded to the monkhood, and the cultured ease they enjoyed, the monasteries became universities whose occupants were famed more for their erudition than for their holiness. The single new sect which originated in that era differed from the others only in discipline, a subject widely discussed in that age of order and strict régime.
Like Buddhism, Confucianism had in its later developments become supersocial and indifferent to politics through its absorption of Taoist and Buddhist ideals. In China, from the latter part of the Tang dynasty, Confucianism tended to become religious instead of being purely ethical, as in previous days. In Japan this tendency was even more pronounced, for during our feudal age all branches of learning were confined to the Buddhists, so that the early teachers in the Tokugawa academies were mostly monks who had been induced to return to a secular life in order to impart secular teaching. They did not give up their Buddhist costume for a long time, and used to shave their heads even after they began to wear swords like other samurai. They were all followers of the school of Shiuki, a Neo-Confucian of the Sung dynasty, and the teaching they imparted accorded well with their dress. Neo-Confucianism, a product of that remarkable age of "illumination," so rich in creative efforts both in art and literature, aimed at a synthesis of Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian thought, and marks the result of a brilliant effort to mirror the whole of Asiatic consciousness. Its exponents differed in their interpretation of the Confucian classic, according to their mental affinities with Chinese or Indian thought. Some of them were called "strayed Zen," in the same sense as Sancharacharya, the Neo-Brahmanist, was accused of being a "disguised Buddhist."
Shiuki, however, through his greater leaning toward the doctrines of the Chinese sage, was recognized as the central figure of Neo-Confucianism. His Commentaries on Confucius were made official text-books by the Emperor Yan-lu of the Ming dynasty, and his school was accepted as orthodox by Iyeyasu. The general trend of Neo-Confucianism, even with Shiuki, tended to make it abstract and speculative, so that as a result its votaries differed but slightly from the followers of Buddha, making self-concentration an important part of mental exercise. The Ming scholars, with their formalistic instincts, dogmatized the instructions of Shiuki, and wasted their energy on his abstract rules of morality and terminology,-an example followed by the Japanese academicians. Confucianism was thus deprived of its very essence-practical ethics. "As foolish as a scholar," was a common witticism of Tokugawa days. Two schools of heresy tried to stem the tide and infuse vitality into the Confucian doctrines, but they commanded an insignificant minority, for the Tokugawa censorship was rigorous in suppressing all schools of thought that dared to differ from the orthodox teaching of its own academy.
Thus the knowledge that Iyeyasu imparted to the nation was, after all, of a kind that gave no great stimulus to social activity. His system of instruction formed as much a part of his scheme for preserving absolutism as any of the military precautions he took against the power of the Kioto court or that of the daimiates. Yet it is but fair to say that the encouragement of learning inaugurated by him had much to do with the formation of modern Japanese character. Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism (which is truly Buddhist in its nature) gave to the nation that meditative trend of mind which makes it possible for it to face emergencies with calmness. If he did not initiate an era of progress, at least he taught stability. If it had not been for this, the fierce turmoil of the Restoration, with its violent accession of Western thought, would have swept Japan from her ancient anchorage into an unknown and stormy sea.
Asia is nothing if not spiritual, but the man of the spirit is not one of names or forms. He comes, we wist not whence, and, like another Lohengrin, vanishes when revealed, to follow the quest mysterious in regions unknown. True spirituality forsook the luxury of the monastery and the ease of the academy, to take its rugged seat in the breast of the lonely ronin-scholar. Like the snow-covered narcissus pining for a glimpse of heaven, its silent soul bore the quenchless prophecy of spring.