CHAPTER III. DEVELOPMENTS OF BUDDHISM IN JAPANA. Introduction of Buddhism into Japan
IN the last chapter we tried to show briefly the development of primitive Buddhism into Mahāyāna Buddhism. We saw that Buddhism in its spread from India northward and in its triumphant march across China and Korea underwent some radical changes, not only in minor points, but in the very fundamentals of religion. And thus when Buddhism reached Japan in the middle of the sixth century A.D. it was no longer the pure religion of the founder. It was not the Buddhism of the Pali scriptures and the religion which western scholars usually describe when they speak of Buddhism, but it was that expanded and much modified religion which we know as Mahāyāna Buddhism. A part of the original Indian stream and a great many later streams from Hinduism reached Japan through China; so that Japanese Buddhism does go back to India, but the stream had been enlarged by many tributaries from the local cults and religions of other countries, and these were so well mingled with one another that it is impossible to say just what was Buddhist and what was not.
Now in this chapter we shall trace the flow of this great stream of many waters across Japanese life and we shall see as we go on that in Japan, too, it was fed by other streams - principally by that mighty current of the native Shintō which modified Buddhism so seriously after its union with it in the beginning of the ninth century that the resultant stream was known for many centuries as Ryōbu-Shintō, Two-sided Shintō.
As we saw at the close of the last chapter, Buddhism reached Korea from China during the last half of the fourth century A.D. and from Korea it crossed the narrow channel which separates the peninsula from the island empire of Japan. Japan and Korea had known each other for many years. The Japanese claim that as early as 32 B.C. the little province of Mimana or Kara sought the protection of Japan against the oppressions of the kingdom of Shiragi, and for several centuries it remained a sort of dependency of the emperor of Japan. Then in the year 202 A.D. the great Japanese heroine, Empress Jingō, made her famous expedition to Korea and apparently reduced the kingdom of Shiragi to a dependency of Japan. Empress Jingō's son and successor, Ōjin Tennō, deified later as the God of War, is supposed to have continued the suzerainty over southern Korea, and during his reign there was probably a real vital connection between the two countries. This is a point on which some of our modern imperialistic Japanese love to dwell, and in connection with the annexation of Korea it was used as an argument by some to justify Japan in taking the step.
Japan's hold on Korea was, however, never very firm, and, as we have said, by the time Buddhism reached Korea in the fourth century the peninsula was occupied by three small independent kingdoms. And this was also the political situation about one hundred and fifty years later, when, in 552 A.D., King Seimei of Kudara sent a gold and copper image of Buddha (probably an image of the Buddha Amitābha and not of Gautama), Buddhist books, and a letter in which he praised the great merit of Buddhism to the emperor of Japan. As a matter of fact this was but one of many missions sent by this king. It would seem that the three Korean kingdoms were always more or less at war with one another, and it is quite likely that the king of Kudara was moved by political considerations rather than religious when he recommended his religion to the Japanese court. To gain the friendship of this island empire would be a real advantage in his conflicts with his rivals; and all the more did this seem necessary, for the Chinese monarch was showing himself quite unfriendly to Buddhism at this time and in consequence not over-friendly to the Buddhist king of Kudara. Whatever were the motives that lay back of this official Buddhist mission from Kudara, we know that it was sent and that it met with success.
It is an interesting story how these Buddhist beginnings were received. The emperor of Japan was apparently greatly pleased with these gifts, for it must be remembered that images and books were exceedingly rare among the simple Japanese of that early day. He said to the messengers, "I have never heard such sublime teachings, yet I myself dare not decide whether to accept this doctrine or not." The matter was submitted to the counsel of his vassals and one Soga no Iname replied, "Western countries all believe this doctrine and why should not we?" But two other ministers of a more conservative disposition said in substance, "We have our own gods, and if we now change and worship the gods of other nations we are in danger of bringing the wrath of our gods upon our heads." The image was turned over to Soga with the instruction that he was to worship the new god and give the new religion a test; for like the Athenians of old the Japanese did not dare run the risk of leaving any god without an altar even though they already had myriads of their own. Soga accordingly converted his own house into a temple, set up the new image and began the new cult.
But soon after this introduction of the new god a terrible pestilence afflicted the land and the conservative party were not slow in discovering in this the wrath of their native gods. Soga's temple was burned to the ground, and the Buddhist image was thrown into a canal of Naniwa (Osaka). The Buddhist god was, however, to get his innings and show what he could do. A great conflagration suddenly destroyed the great hall of the Imperial residence, and, of course, this could have but one meaning. Furthermore the pestilence seems to have only increased in violence and threatened to extinguish the nation. Some claim that the image was therefore speedily fished up from the sea and reverently placed in a new house of worship. At any rate it seems true that, under the leadership of Soga Mumako, son of Soga no Iname, Buddhism began to take root in Japan.
Thus we see how trifling and chance occurrences may play a great part in momentous issues. Not that these were the only or even the main determining factors, for in the long run the success of Buddhism in Japan was due to its real superiority over the native Shintō faith.
Before we proceed with a narrative of the development of Buddhism in Japan from these small beginnings, it may be well to pause a moment and give very briefly what the native Shintō was and what were the conditions of Japan in general at this time; for the successful entrance of a religion into a country depends more or less upon the religious, social, political and intellectual condition of the people to be won to the new faith.
The population at this time consisted possibly of about two million people - hunters, fishermen and farmers, divided up into many different clans. The center of population was in the Ōsaka-Kyōto region, and the dominant tribe whose head was the Mikado exercised authority over a considerable portion of the main island, though the outlying portions, especially in the north, were still in the hands of the aboriginal Ainus. The people, though very simple in their manner of life, were intellectually well gifted and later proved to be endowed with extraordinary æsthetic ability. Their religion was Shintō - The Way of the Gods. This religion was and is in some of its phases even to-day an animistic and polytheistic Nature Worship with a strong admixture of Ancestor Worship. The forces of nature are personified and anthropomorphized, while the heroes and ancestors, especially those of the royal family, are deified. The soul of Shintō is reverence and implicit obedience to the Mikado; and religion and patriotism are made one. Yamato Damashii, The Spirit of Japan, is largely the product of this religion, and it has played a great part in the conquest, unification and civilization of the entire country. Japan is regarded by Shintō as the sacred land of the gods; and every mountain, river, rock, tree and cloud is the abode of some deity. But Shintō was really too childish in many of its conceptions and did not satisfy the deeper needs of the human mind and heart. The rising tide of Japanese civilization, quickened as it was by the introduction of new ideas from the continent, made Shintō more and more inadequate, and Japan was on the whole ready for the new and more elaborate faith of Buddhism.
So much for a summary of conditions which prevailed in Japan when Buddhism was first introduced. It was therefore comparatively easy for the new religion to get a firm hold, especially upon the more progressive element. Its success was, however, not due simply to its superiority as a religion, but even more to the fact that it was the vehicle of a higher civilization, namely, the Chinese civilization from whose fountains Japan has ever drunk deeply even up to almost the present day. We have a modern parallel in what is happening in Korea today. The success of Christianity in that land is due in some measure at least to the fact that it is the vehicle of western civilization and not simply because it is a superior religion.
Soon after the incidents connected with the introduction of Buddhism related above, the ruler of Japan, more anxious for the concrete things of Korean and Chinese civilizations than for the new religion, sent a message to the king of Kudara in which he asked the king to send no more Buddhist priests and images, but to supply him with physicians, apothecaries, soothsayers, almanac makers and artisans of one sort and another. The priests, books and images, however, continued to come together with the things specially asked for. This influx of so many new things had very much the same effect that the influx of western things has had in our own day; it caused a temporary upheaval and led to much internal strife and war. But it was not long till Buddhism had won for itself a place in the heart of members of the ruling family and thus secured protection. Empress Suiko (593-628 A.D.) became an ardent Buddhist, giving over the affairs of state to the Crown Prince Mumayado (better known as Shōtoku Taishi), so that she might have more time for advancing the new faith. More important than this was the fact that the Crown Prince himself embraced the new religion and administered the affairs of state in such a way that every thing tended towards the spread of Buddhism. In the so-called constitution of Seventeen Articles promulgated by him, he expressly ordered his people to pay all due respect to the new religion. He "bent all his energies to import from Korea, scholars, priests, architects, wood carvers, bronze founders, clay modelers, masons, gilders, tile makers, and weavers; in short, all skilled artisans whose work was involved in creating and installing a great Buddhist temple such as were already known in the peninsula kingdom." In fact, it is held by some scholars that the prince was no mean artist himself and that the famous Hōryūji near Nara erected under his direction has among its art treasures some created by his own hands. It is therefore not at all strange that by the end of Empress Suiko's reign (628 A.D.) there were already 46 temples in existence, and 816 priests and 569 nuns had been consecrated. Not only did Buddhist missionaries pour in from Korea and China, but Japanese were beginning to go in greater and greater numbers to the continent to study at the great centers of religion and culture and then come back with new learning and enthusiasm for the Buddhist faith.
The influence upon Japanese civilization of this close contact with the higher continental civilization can hardly be overstated. In a comparatively short time this simple island people had taken over the fruit of centuries of Chinese culture and made it their own. In fact, the assimilation of western culture in our own day which has astonished the world is no more wonderful than what happened in the history of this people during the seventh century. With the founding of the great monastery of Hōryūji early in the seventh century began that marvelous development of the fine arts which in a few decades issued in the production of world masterpieces, for art critics claim that the famous Shaka trinity with its marvelous lacework screen created at this time has never been surpassed as a work in bronze by any people in any age. Not only did Japan quickly learn what China and Korea had to teach, but the pupil went beyond his teacher in many respects, so that if one would see the highest development of Asiatic art one has to turn to Japan for specimens. In the political world, too, Japan was quick to learn from the continental neighbors. The great reform, beginning in 645 A.D. and continuing through the rest of the century, known as the Taikwa Reforms, changed the ruler of Japan from what was little better than a tribal chief into a real monarch of an empire. We might say in a word that the impact of Chinese culture fostered largely by Buddhists changed, at least in the upper classes, a simple, unlettered people into a people of culture and refinement.
Rise of the Nara Sects
It is a rather significant fact that Buddhism was firmly rooted in Japan before any sectarian differences were introduced. For a period of about seventy years wise missionaries were content with teaching the general tenets of their faith. Perhaps this was due to the fact that the people of Japan were really not intellectually prepared to appreciate the fine points of the sectarian speculations, and were more interested in the external trappings of religion and the simpler teachings contained in the moral maxims and precepts more or less common to all the sects. Finally, however, the sectarian differences made their appearance early in the seventh century.
Curiously enough the first sect to be introduced was the highly metaphysical Sanron Sect (Mādhyamika school founded originally by Nāgārjuna). It was brought in from China in the year 625 by Ekwan. Its headquarters was the famous Hōryūji near Nara mentioned above. The Sanron sect belongs to what is called the Provisional Mahāyāna school. Starting with the Hōnayūna position of the nonreality of the ego, it carries the principle of negation to the point at which it denies the reality of all phenomenal ex- istence; and the noumenal world, it holds, can only be defined in negative terms.
Synchronous with the establishment of the Sanron was that of the Jōjitsu Sect (Satya-siddhi-sastra Sect). This sect never gained a real independent existence, but was propagated in conjunction with the Sanron. It belongs to the Hīnayāna school and represents in its doctrines a rather strong subjective idealism. The third sect to find its way into Japan was the Hossō (Dharma-lakshana Sect, i.e., the Yoga school). It was brought over from China by Dōsho probably about the middle of the seventh century, though some would put it as early as 625. The Hossō, like the Sanron, belongs to the Provisional Mahāyāna school. This is the sect which in the person of Gyōgi Bosatsu, during the eighth century, initiated that syncretistic movement by which the claims of the native Shintō and the new religion were reconciled. Of this we shall speak later.
The Kusha Sect (Abhidharma-kosa-sastra Sect) was the fourth to be established in Japan, being introduced in 658 by two Japanese priests who had studied in China, namely, Chitsu and Chitatsu. This sect is usually regarded as the best representative of the Hānayāna school of Buddhism. The center of its teachings is an elaborate psychological analysis through which it seeks to account for the complex of the phenomenal world and yet at the same time denies the reality of the ego.
About three quarters of a century elapsed before the fifth Chinese sect was introduced. This was the Kegon (Avatamsaka-sūtra Sect) brought over in 736. The Kegon was the first sect of the true Mahāyāna school which later was to be the type 10 of Buddhism which really won Japan. Though this sect has now practically disappeared, it has exerted a great influence upon other sects through its chief scripture, the Kegonkyō (Avatamsaka-sūtra), which has ever been popular with Buddhist scholars as one of the chief sources of Mahāyāna philosophy.
Last of these older sects to reach Japan was the Ritsu (Vinaya Sect), introduced in 754, though it would seem that its doctrines, or rather its classifications of the moral laws and precepts contained in the Vinaya scriptures, were among the first teachings to be introduced into Japan. In fact, it was probably these practical moral teachings rather than the philosophical speculations of the other scets which helped win Japan so speedily to the religion of the Buddha. The Ritsu belongs to the Hīnayāna school. It, too, like the other Hīnayāna sects, has disappeared, but its teachings have been more or less absorbed by the existing Mahāyāna sects, and in that way still exert an influence.
Now these six sects are frequently spoken of as the Six Sects of Nara to distinguish them from the later Kyoto and Kamakura sects. They are called Nara sects because it was in and around Nara and during the Nara Epoch (710- 794) that they attained their highest development. The marvelous progress made by Japan during the seventh century, of which we have spoken above, was continued during the eighth. In fact we may say that the eighth century marks one of the great culminations of Japanese history. Many of the great things of old Japan came into being at this time. Thus, e.g. Nara, which was made the capital of the realm in 710, was the first real city Japan had up till that time. And it was no mean city even when compared with the great cities of other lands, its population, it is claimed by some, reaching upward of 500,000. Here, or in the immediate vicinity, were to be found many a noble Buddhist edifice filled with treasures of art, some of which have come down to our own times to be the wonder of connoisseurs. It was in the Nara epoch, namely in 749, that the enormous Nara Daibutsu, the world's largest bronze statue, was cast. It is 53 feet in height and into its creation entered 500 Japanese pounds (about 666 lb.) of gold, 16,827 pounds of tin, 1,954 pounds of mercury and 986,180 pounds of copper and some lead. The famous Tōdaiji Bell, over 13 feet high and weighing 40 tons, belongs to this century. Early in the Nara Epoch were published Japan's oldest histories, namely, the Kojiki in 712 and the Nihongi in 720. Aston calls this age the "Golden Age of Poetry," for during this period were written the Manyōshū, or "Collection of Myriad Leaves," containing more than 4000 pieces, mostly short poems (Tanka) but also some longer ones (Nagauta).
All this splendor of culture and civilization was largely the work, either directly or indirectly, of Buddhism and shows to what power and influence the new religion had attained by this time. It must not, however, be supposed that the common people of the land had been won over completely to the new faith. This outward splendor and magnificence made, of course, a very strong appeal to the imagination; but, after all, there was deep down in the heart of the average man still a strong loyalty to the old things of the native cults, and he was therefore ever ready to blame the gods of the new religion for the adverse things which befell him or the nation from time to time. It was so even during the Nara Epoch. A great epidemic of smallpox afflicted the realm. Introduced from Korea into the southern island of Kyūshū, it spread northward until in 735 it began to devastate even the aristocratic circles in the capital itself. Offerings were made at the various temples by priests and their royal patrons, but all seemed to be of no avail. It was at this time that the Emperor Shōmu contemplated the erection of the great Nara Daibutsu. However, before he dared to show his confidence in the Buddhas in such an open manner he had to find a way by which to appease the native deities and their devotees. Accordingly, he sent the illustrious Gyōgi Bosatsu, a grandson of a Korean immigrant, to the Ise shrines to inquire of the Sun Goddess what she thought of the emperor's project. Gyōgi remained at the shrine for a week and then he returned to Nara with a favorable answer, viz. that the Sun Goddess had declared herself as identical with the Buddha to whose honor the statue was to be erected. A few nights later the emperor himself is said to have had a dream in which the Sun Goddess said to him, "The Sun is Biroshana." (Biroshana is the Japanese transliteration for Vairochana). This marks the beginning of that syncretistic movement so successfully carried out during the ninth century by Dengyō Daishi and especially by Kōbō Daishi which resulted in reconciling the claims of the two religions in the hearts of the people. It should, however, be added that it also resulted in perverting things, and so in the long run really did more harm than good, as every unprincipled compromise must do.
The influence of Buddhism during the Nara period was great, not only in the spheres mentioned above, but it extended perhaps even more into the field of politics and state affairs. This is only natural, for it must be remembered that Buddhism gained its first and chief hold on the upper and ruling classes rather than upon the common people. Frequently this influence was for the good, as might be expected from the fact that it was the men who had studied in China, or under Chinese priests in Japan, that were best acquainted with politics and matters of government as conducted on the continent. This superior knowledge gave these men a natural place as advisers to the court and other officials. But the temptations which this influence gave to the disciple of Buddha was more than could be endured, and it was not long therefore till the monks and priests became more interested in the "things that are Cæsar's" than in their true mission. In fact things reached such a state that during the reign of Empress Shōtoku (765-770) a Buddhist monk, Dōkyō, had managed to make himself the most powerful subject in the land and was even planning to place himself upon the imperial throne. In this, however, he did not succeed, and while the ambitious clergy continued to meddle in such things, the time was fast approaching when not only the guilty were to suffer for their sins, but the whole Buddhist world which had centered around the old capital of Nara, yea Nara itself, was soon to wane in importance and yield its place to another.
C. The Kyōto Sects
In the year 782 Emperor Kwammu succeeded to the throne. He must have been a man of daring and originality, for it was he who cut the Gordian knot of the political tangle of his day by simply abandoning Nara to the Buddhists and their schemes and setting up his capital first at Nagaoka and then at a place he significantly called Heian (Peace), namely, the present Kyōto. This took place between 784- 793, and here at Kyōto the capital of the empire remained for almost 1100 years, namely down to 1868, when the late Emperor Meiji removed his seat of government to Tōkyō. Kyōto soon overshadowed Nara and became indeed one of the world's greatest centers of culture. The decline of Nara had apparently a disastrous effect upon the Buddhist sects entrenched there, for it must be remembered that a Japanese, true to the fundamental principle of his native Shintō, is first a patriot and then a man of religion. When the two conflict, religion is apt to be the loser. To this day this seems to be a characteristic of the average Japanese. Religion is presented by its advocates as something good for the welfare of the state, and by those who oppose it, it is opposed on the grounds that it is injurious to the state. The greatest obstacle which Christianity has met in Japan is the claim on the part of its enemies that it undermines the state. Even a scholar in Japan is very slow to follow where truth would lead him if it should seem to conflict with the sacred traditions of the nation.
Now this running away from the meddling of the Nara sects did not mean that Emperor Kwammu had turned his back on Buddhism as a religion. He simply wanted the monks to keep their proper place and to leave for Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's. But to make sure that he was getting the right type of religious leaders he sent a promising young man directly to China to bring back a purer religion which would minister in things spiritual and leave the affairs of state in his own hands. This young man was Saichō, better known as Dengyō Daishi, the founder of the powerful Tendai sect in Japan. He was followed a few months later by the equally famous Kukai, known best by his posthumous title Kōbō Daishi, the founder of the other powerful sect of this period, namely, the Shingon Sect. These two, Dengyō Daishi and Kōbō Daishi, are the great names in Japanese Buddhism of the ninth century; and the two sects which they founded have occupied a prominent place in Japanese history down to the present day.
1. Dengyō Daishi and Tendai . - The Tendai sect may be characterized as the harmonizing, comprehensive sect. That is, Tendai tries to hold to all the contradictions of the voluminous Mahōyōna and Hinay¯na scriptures as being the direct teachings of the founder of Buddhism. It was Chi K'ai, the founder of the Tendai (Chinese, T'ien-t'ai) Sect in China who worked out an elaborate harmonizing 14 scheme by which he tried to show how every Buddhist scripture has its own peculiar place and is the direct or indirect product of S'akyamuni's mind. Humanity has varied needs and these needs must be met in different ways. Thus every scripture has its truth, each giving its own peculiar angle of vision. This irenic attitude was taken by Chi K'ai in the face of contending sects, each of which seemed to proclaim a different system. There were e.g. in China at that time the old Abhidharma sects which tried to define all truth with an Aristotelian precision of detail. On the other hand the Pure Land sects were teaching that all attempts of salvation through knowledge of detailed truth was vain and that there was only one way, namely, the way of Faith in the Grace of Amit¯bha. And still another group of sects were the contemplative sects which held that neither book learning nor a pious trust in Amit¯bha saved a man, but that quiet meditation and abstract contemplation was the only true way. Now in the face of these contending schools the comprehensive Tendai Sect arose and it included all ways, rejecting none. Thus a Tendai disciple may find salvation through philosophic wisdom, or, rejecting the great mass of doctrines contained in the voluminous scriptures, he may select merely the comfortable doctrine of salvation through faith in Amit¯bha's great name. Or, again, he may reject all book learning and all simple faith and work out his own salvation through silent meditation and abstract contemplation, as do the contemplative sects.
The broad-minded Tendai philosopher, however, would try to hold to the truth in every way, though as a matter of fact very few ever attained this supposedly lofty ideal. After all, there was developed what we might call an orthodox Tendai system which did reject some things and included others as characteristically Tendai teachings. Thus while theoretically Tendai accepted all scriptures as of equal value, Tendai teachers looked upon the Saddharma-Pundarīka-sūtra with peculiar reverence. This sūtra together with the Mahāprajna-pāramitā-sūtra contain, after all, the loftiest teachings of S'akyamuni; and while the teachings of other scriptures are not false they must be regarded as incomplete and only provisional. As we have said in the preceding chapter, the Saddharma-Pundarīka breathes a Buddhism quite different from the Buddhism of S'akyamuni. S'akyamuni himself is regarded as but one of the manifestations of the Eternal Buddha, or Buddhas. The identification of the historical manifestation with the Eternal Buddha is the great revelation of this scripture. To know this and to trust in this knowledge far outweighs all merit which man can heap up by practicing the Buddhist virtues and perfections through countless incarnations. Inasmuch, then, as Tendai lays peculiar stress on these scriptures it does have its peculiar doctrines, but it does not thereby exclude absolutely other doctrines even if they should seem to be contradictory.
Now this all-inclusive system was brought to Japan by Dengyō Daishi early in the ninth century. But the Japanese Tendai Sect underwent certain changes and differs considerably from the parent sect in China. This is due to the fact that not only Dengyō Daishi, but also other learned Japanese priests, such as Jikaku Daishi who studied in China, drank not only from the fountains of wisdom which flowed from the sacred mountains of T'ien-t'ai, but also from the deep wells of truth guarded by other Chinese sects. Another factor which was operative was that deep-rooted Japanese characteristic which is quick to adopt anything new but always only after some slight modifications and a mingling with something from other sources. Japanese Tendai claims to be eclectic rather than all-inclusive. That is, it does not simply take everything contained in other schools, but it rather chooses what it regards the best of all schools. But, of course, an eclectic process may be carried so far that it ceases to be eclectic and becomes simply an absorption of things good, bad and indifferent. And that is what seems to have gradually taken place in Japanese Tendai. It is practically impossible to say for what it really stands. Thus, e.g. some Tendai temples you will find littered up with images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas innumerable. They impress one as religious junk shops. Other temples may have only a trinity of Buddhas, and still others seem to honor but one Buddha. In the temples which sprang from the famous Miidera, Amida (Amitābha) seems to be the sole object of worship. Thus the Amida teaching was held in Japan long before the real Amida sects came into existence. Again in one and the same temple, one believer may preface his meditations and prayers by the formula, "Namu Amida Butsu," "I adore Thee Thou Buddha of Eternal Life and Light" and another believer may use the equally popular form of, "Namu-Myōhō Renge-kyō," "I worship Thee Thou Scripture of the Wonderful Lotus"; the former being to-day the special prayer of the Amida sects, and the latter the "vain repetition" of the Nichiren Sect.
Now the Tendai harmonist may believe that he can reconcile the varied beliefs and practices of his own sect by saying that they are but different angles of the same truth; to the Western mind, however, it is difficult to see how such a harmony is anything more than an empty formula. And to the practical Japanese mind it also has appeared so, and that is the chief reason why the Tendai Sect not only split into several sub-sects but also why from it went out many great reformers who could not endure the contradictions. Thus, as we shall see later, from the Tendai Sect came forth the founders of the great Amida sects of Japan, the Zen sects and the Nichiren Sect. In these independent sects these conflicting doctrines found their freest development, and these sects in the course of time gradually overshadowed the great Tendai Sect itself.
2. Kōbō Daishi and Shingon . - As we stated above, at the time Dengyō Daishi introduced the Tendai Sect Kōbō Daishi laid the foundations for the beginnings of the Shingon Sect. The latter, like the former, studied at the various centers of learning in China. He remained abroad several years and seems to have come into contact with various influences - Buddhist and others. When he returned to Japan he brought with him many scriptures from the Chinese canon, and these he studied assiduously. He soon began to preach his new teachings, the core of which was that man can even in this present life attain Buddhahood since he is essentially one with the Eternal Buddha. His teaching was naturally challenged by the priests of the older Nara sects, but tradition has it that in his disputations with them he usually gained a miraculous victory on account of which he was held in high esteem by emperor and people. Especially did he gain the gratitude of Japan when once, after a long drought, the heavens responded to his prayers offered at the request of his Imperial patron. Kōbō was not only a man of prayer but also a man exceptionally gifted in other lines. He is credited by some with the invention of one form of the simple Kana script, and his linguistic ability may be seen in the fact that the Emperor Saga often summoned him to the palace that he might hear his beautiful language. As an educator of the common people he may be said to have been a pioneer, for he it was who founded the Sōgei Shuchiin which was the first institution in which the general public had access to education and which was the forerunner of those temple schools which were often the chief centers of light during the dark ages in Japan. The culture of the silkworm, from which industry Japan to this day draws its greatest revenue, was apparently greatly promoted by him. As a sculpturer he must have been a marvel, for there are many places in central Japan which boast of relics of his work in stone.
But while popular with emperor and people, Kōbō Daishi preferred solitude, and after much searching for a quiet spot he finally found Mt. Kōya, where with the emperor's permission he built a temple. Later when his Imperial admirer gave him the temple Tōji in Kyōto he settled there and made it the center of his sect. But when old age approached and he saw the end coming he fled to his quiet retreat on Mt. Kōya, where he died in 835 in fasting and silent meditation. There he is buried, and the pious followers of this great teacher believe that he is sitting in his tomb waiting for Maitreya (Miroku), the Buddha of the Future, to come and convert the world. When Maitreya comes Kōbō will come forth from his tomb and join in the glory of victory.
If Dengyō Daishi's teachings may be described as a comprehensive system, Kōbō Daishi's system is characterized by the words Mystery and Magic. In many respects the Shingon Sect is furthest removed from the teachings of S'akyamuni. Strange to say, it, too, holds the Saddharma- Pundar¯ka in highest regard, and its great Buddha is the Eternal Buddha Vairochana of whom S'akyamuni is but one of many manifestations. Where the Tendai holds to a theory of successive stages in the Buddha's teachings, Shingon divides the doctrines into exoteric and esoteric teachings, and calls its own peculiar doctrines, The Secret Teachings (Himitsuky¯). The great secret is the revealed secret that man can even now attain Buddhahood because he is essentially one with the Eternal Buddha. There are, in general, two ladders by which this pinnacle of all truth may be reached; one is the intellectual ladder and the other the moral ladder, each of which has ten rungs. The intellectual ladder leads upwards, rung after rung, from the lowest being to the highest being, from the finite to the Absolute. The moral ladder is the Buddhist decalogue with its elaborations in the various monk rules which have been handed down from century to century.
In Shingon we have "a world of ideas" (Kong¯kai, literally, Diamond World) which is unchangeable and everlasting, having existence only in universal thought. Parallel to this "world of ideas," as a sort of material counterpart, is the world of phenomena. The center of both worlds is the great Buddha Vairochana. In the "world of ideas" the central sun Vairochana (Dainichi, literally, Great Sun) tends to draw all bodies to itself, and when one has reached the highest enlightenment one sees that the thought of Vairochana really includes all thoughts, for Vairochana is the All. In the world of the material counterpart, however, the movement is in the opposite direction, i.e. the movement is outward and from Vairochana emanate other Buddhas. From these other Buddhas emanate Bodhisattvas; from the Bodhisattvas, in turn, issue other and lesser beings, and so the emanation process goes on till the whole phenomenal world is evolved. The source of all existence, then, is the Eternal Buddha. All other beings have only relative existence. They are not void but neither are they permanent as such. Vairochana as the center of "the world of ideas" is conceived of after the analogy of a planetary system, Vairochana being the sun and Akshobhya, Amitābha, Ratnasambhava and S'akyamuni being four great planets, each of which has lesser beings as satellites. Vairochana as the center of the world of phenomena is conceived of as the heart of an eight-leaf lotus flower, the eight petals being Amitābha, Avalokitesvara, Dioyagosha, Maitreya, Ratna Shvaya, Samantabhadra, Muktapushpa and Manjusrī.
Thus as we have said, Vairochana is on the one hand the source of all life and of all beings, and on the other hand he represents the sum total of all truth. Since man is but a fragment of the sum total of all Being his knowledge is fragmentary; but the great and saving revelation of Shingon doctrine is the great secret that man, just because he is an emanation from Vairochana, is really one with him. Man's apparent separateness is not real; deeper than this is the fact of his oneness in essence with the Great All.
This doctrine of the essential oneness of man with the great Eternal Buddha Vairochana differs very little from the pantheistic philosophy underlying the teachings of most Buddhist sects. The difference comes with the method by which this truth is to be reached. We said that Shingon holds that parallel to "the world of ideas" is the world of phenomena, the former being the underlying cause of the latter. From this it follows that ideas are the source of things, and thus if one has the correct ideas one can control things. This is the real meaning of the name Shingon, True Word. The True Word which becomes the Magic Word will become an efficient cause of the desired phenomenon. The one, then, who knows the Magic Word is able to achieve results by simply thinking or speaking the thought expressed by such words. Thus, as we said above, Shingon is characterized by the words Mystery and Magic, and Shingon priests are past masters in all mystery as to magic words and signs made with the fingers and the hands. These occult powers may be used for the benefit of the living or the dead. Especially are the dead to be delivered from the sufferings of hell and lower realms of existence by reciting the correct magical formulæ or making the required signs with the hands and fingers.
Both in its theory of emanations and in its wealth of magic and mystery Shingon seems rather far removed from the teachings of original Buddhism and also from other forms of later Buddhism. Some scholars have sought to find historical connections with other religions and philosophies, and particularly has it been pointed out that there is much affinity with Manichæism. It is doubtful whether it can be shown that Shingon has historical connections with Manichæism, nor does it seem necessary to go very far for the source for these peculiarities of the sect. We have already seen in the last chapter that in the fifth century Asanga had thrown open the flood-gates to all the "magic and mystery" connected with the animism of India and the lands west and north of India. This stream was increased in volume later on by a powerful current which had passed through Tibet and then joined the Chinese Buddhist stream again. But whatever was its source, it is clear that this prominent aspect of the Shingon Sect is in flat contradiction to the teachings of S'akyamuni, who branded such things as superstition and folly and the real enemy of the ethics of the Middle Path.
We said that Kōbō Daishi was a great benefactor of Japan, and his piety and good works must have done much to recommend his religion to his people. The thing, however, which had more to do with making his religion acceptable to the people of Japan than anything else he did was his clever compromise with the native Shintō. We have already stated above how during the preceding century Gyōgi Bosatsu had begun the movement of religious syncretism by the clever answer he brought back from the Ise shrines, viz., that the Sun Goddess had declared herself to be identical with the Buddha Roshana or Birochana (Vairochana) to whose honor Emperor Shōmu erected the great Nara Daibutsu. How far Gyōgi carried his scheme is hard to say, but as he was one of the greatest artists of his day it is quite likely that with his marvelous creations in bronze and wood he made the union of Shintō and Buddhist deities very real to the people of his day. But, after all, it was Kōbō Daishi who must be given the honor of being the one who really succeeded through his Ryōbu Shintō in making the two religions but two sides of the same thing. The Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, was made identical with Vairochana, the great Buddha of Shingon (Vairochana is usually called Dainichi, Great Sun), and the lesser Buddhist deities were identified with the lesser Shintō gods, or the latter were declared to be just so many manifestations of the Eternal Buddha. The Shingon theory of emanations lent itself unusually well to this syncretistic movement, for it was easy thus to account for the essential oneness of the Buddhist and Shintō pantheons. One and all of the many gods of both religions were but emanations or radiations of the Central Sun which Buddhists knew as Vairochana and Shintōists as Amaterasu. Since the Central Sun is one and the same in both systems the emanations must be essentially alike, no matter what different names they might have.
This movement, of course, resulted in bringing into Japanese Buddhism many elements which were quite foreign to original Buddhism, and carried still further the tendencies which manifested themselves as early as the third century B.C., namely, the tendency to overcome alien beliefs by compromise and absorption. From the deification of its founder, Buddhism went on step by step to the admission of gods upon gods, the greatest of whom being the Buddhas Amitābha and Vairochana, both of whom were symbolized by the sun. And when these had been declared to be identical with the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, the next steps in this religious syncretism were comparatively easy to take. Even the Shintō War God, Hachiman, was not refused entrance into this new religion which in the mind of its founder was to have been above all else a religion of peace and one which subdues the passions which lead to strife and war. It is not strange, then, that Japanese Buddhism has always been and is to this day - at least as far as the uneducated masses are concerned - a polytheistic and idolatrous religion. And Kōbō Daishi, the saint par excellence of early Japanese Buddhism, who succeeded in making his religion popular with the people, may be regarded in a true sense as a perverter of Buddhism.
This clever compromise made not only Kōbō's sect popular but also the Tendai Sect, for Dengyō Daishi, too, had worked out a scheme by which he harmonized the claims of Shintō and Buddhism. All over the land temples were built in which both the old Shintō deities and Buddhist saints and Bodhisattvas were worshipped. The two new sects grew with leaps and bounds, so that they soon overshadowed the old Nara sects. Mt. Hiei was gradually being covered with monastery after monastery, and soon branch temples of the famous Enryakuji were being built in other parts of the land. The same was true of Mt. Kōya and the Shingon sect.
Just as in the Nara period so in the Heian period Buddhism was closely identified with the ruling classes. Kyōto became the capital of magnificence and splendor that it was largely because the Buddhist monks who went back and forth between China and Japan kept the latter country in close contact with the superior civilization of the former. The light of culture and refinement which radiated from Japan's new capital in ever widening circles till it reached even the more remote places of the empire was strongly tinged with Buddhist colors. What Chamberlain says so well of Japanese Buddhism as a whole is especially true of the Heian epoch when he writes: "All education was for centuries in Buddhist hands, as was the care of the poor and sick; Buddhism introduced art, introduced medicine, molded the folk-lore of the country, created its dramatic poetry, deeply influenced politics and every sphere of social and intellectual activity. In a word, Buddhism was the teacher under whose instruction the Japanese nation grew up." A few instances from the time of Emperor Shirakawa (1072- 1086) may indicate how extensive must have been its influence by that time. It is said that e.g. the Buddhist injunction against taking life was so strictly enforced that "eight thousand fishing nets were seized and burned; no gifts of fish were to be offered to the court; hunting and hawking were rigidly prescribed, and the hawks set at liberty." This same emperor spent immense sums of money upon Buddhist temples and equipments. "Besides 5470 scrolls or hanging pictures painted and presented to various fanes, Shirakawa was responsible for the erection of one huge idol 32 feet in height, 127 half that size, of 3150 life-size, and of 2930 three-feet images. Then of seven-storied pagodas the tale was twenty-one, and of miniature pagodas as many as 44,630." And what he did so lavishly others imitated to a considerable extent; so that all central Japan was literally studded with Buddhist structures of one sort or another.
From this the reader should not infer that all was well with the Buddhism of the Heian period. Though it did much to advance civilization in Japan in many ways, it must be admitted that there was not a corresponding advance in the moral and spiritual life of the people. In fact, towards the end of the tenth century the great centers of religion themselves began to be hotbeds of vice and intrigue rather than seats of learning and virtue. The age itself, of course, was partially responsible for this, for it was beginning to be an age of political disturbances and military conquest as a result of a complex of causes for which no one in particular was responsible. But, after all, the Buddhist leaders must be blamed for not doing their duty as spiritual guides. In truth, they sank to the level of their surroundings and in many cases became the blind leaders of the blind. "By the end of the eleventh century," writes Murdoch, "any one of these great fanes (i.e. Enryakuji, Miidera and Kōfukuji) could readily place several thousand men in the field at very short notice. Each of them had become a huge Cave of Adullam, - a refuge for every sturdy knave with a soul above earning a livelihood by the commonplace drudgery of honest work. Each of them had in truth assumed the aspect of a great fortress garrisoned by a turbulent rabble of armed ruffians. And each of them had degenerated into a hotbed of vice, where the most important precepts of the moral code were openly and wantonly flouted. . . . And yet in spite of the foulness of their lives, the prestige of the priests had never stood higher, while the resources of the monasteries had never been greater; and year by year they were adding to their wealth." The ex-Emperor Shirakawa well expressed the situation in a witticism when he remarked that although he was the ruler of Japan there were three things in the Empire beyond his control, - "the freaks of the river Kamo (which often inundated and devastated the capital), the fall of the dice, and the turbulence of the priests."
Thus we see the irony of history; the very Buddhism which Emperor Kwammu had fostered in his new capital of Peace to counteract the influence of the old Nara sects, in the end turned out to be a greater nuisance and meddler in the affairs of state than the older rival ever dared to be. Not infrequently did these occupants of Hieizan set at defiance both the entreaties and threats of the imperial court itself. Truly Buddhism had wandered far from the path of quiet meditation and peace in which its founder had sought to lead his followers.
D. The Sects of the Great Awakening
But as out of decadent Catholicism sprang the great Protestant Reformation, so out of this prosperous and degenerate Heian Buddhism came the great religious awakening in Japan during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
What might be regarded as a voice in the wilderness was that of a half-witted wandering priest called Kūya who according to some was really an Imperial prince, a son of Emperor Daigo. He went dancing from place to place, repeating incessantly the Nembutsu (the prayer, Namu Amida Butsu) by which he hoped to direct the attention of the people to the spiritual side of life which had been so utterly buried in the confusion and tumult of the age. He did not, however, confine his activity to preaching and praying, but gave expression to his faith in a real concrete way; for he built bridges, improved roads, repaired temples, dug wells in barren lands, tunneled mountains and labored with his hands unceasingly - all with the purpose of turning men's minds to the better and higher things of life. It is difficult to say whether Kūya's preachings did more than arouse a passing curiosity.
A man who indirectly exercised a great influence on the generation of religious reformers which was to appear later was Genshin. While still a youth of tender years he dreamed that a priest gave him a small mirror and asked him to polish it. He did not understand the significance of the dream until later when he entered, at the age of thirteen, a Tendai monastery on Mt. Hiei, where under the great priest and scholar Jie he was led into the deep truths of Tendai doctrines. At the early age of fifteen he began his lectures on the sacred scriptures and was greatly admired by the emperor who gave him many beautiful garments as a token of his esteem. Young Genshin was much elated over this recognition and sent these gifts to his mother. But his mother was not so pleased as he expected her to be and sent him the following reprimand: "The idea of your leaving home was that you might enter the path of true enlightenment and not to gain any profit or make a name for yourself. Do not be led astray by these things. I thought you would be a bridge to connect this world with the next, but I am sad to find that you are only a monk of this world." These words were sufficient, and the young Genshin turned his back on worldly ambitions and gave himself to a diligent search for the truth. He wrote to his mother in reply to her rebuke, "I regarded books as bridges that lead across this life (i.e. learning as a way of success in life), but now happily I have entered the Way of Truth through them." It is said that when his mother was on her deathbed Genshin spent the last hours at her side leading her into the joy of the faith and trust which he had found, namely, the faith in the name of the great Buddha Amida.
The books which Genshin wrote attracted attention not only in Japan but even learned priests in China were deeply impressed by his learning and marveled that Japan should have men of such profound insight and piety. And the Chinese emperor, when he learned of Genshin's death, built a special pagoda in which he had an image of Genshin placed. Genshin was not the founder of a new sect nor did he inaugurate any great reform in the decadent Buddhism of his own day. He remained a priest of the Tendai Sect though he is regarded as one of the great church fathers of the Amida sects which arose soon after his day. This is due to the fact that by his writings he helped lay the foundation for the reforms and new sects of the Kamakura period. His three small volumes on Paradise, the Intermediate States and Hell have exerted a great influence and should be of special interest to Western readers, especially to students of Dante. His description of the eight Buddhist hells, each with its sixteen compartments, affords particular interest to one familiar with Dante's Inferno. Genshin probably received most of his ideas on this subject from Indian sources, and one cannot help but wonder whether Dante may not have drawn from the same. Genshin, of course, wrote several centuries before Dante's day.
1. Ryōnin and the First Amida Sect. - Genshin was followed by Ryōnin (1072-1132) who, too, was a student at the Tendai monasteries. Ryōnin also studied the doctrines of the Shingon sect, but he felt that in all his studies he was not really entering the way of true enlightenment. Not only did he himself fail in his search but he saw that this was the experience of other monks. All of them were so busy with their much learning that they did not really take time to find the heart of truth. He therefore retired to a quiet spot and spent his time in reading and repeating the prayer "Namu Amida Butsu," "I adore Thee Thou Buddha of Eternal Life and Light." It is said that he repeated this prayer sometimes as often as 60,000 times in one day, thus concentrating his mind and heart on Amida. One day when he was thus absorbed in prayer and deep meditation Amida appeared to him in a vision and said: "Great is the merit of Nembutsu (i.e. repeating the prayer, Namu Amida Butsu). If by your own prayers you teach others to pray the Nembutsu, their prayers will become your merit and in this way there will be mutual benefit. This is entering Paradise through the power of another." This thought impressed Ryōnin very much and so he formed the Yūdzū Nembutsu Sect (Society of Mutual Benefit through Nembutsu). He went to Kyōto with a roll-book and enrolled the Emperor Toba and many courtiers and officials. Afterwards he wandered from province to province enlisting people in his new sect.
The Yūdzū Nembutsu Sect is the oldest of the four Amida sects in Japan and the first outward expression of that great religious development which took place during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It is the first distinctively Japanese sect; the Six Nara sects and the Tendai and Shingon sects having been introduced from China. But while it is the oldest of the Amida sects and as a sect the first Japanese product, it must not be regarded as the beginning of the Amida teaching in Japan nor as even a fair representative of this great division of Japanese Buddhism. The truer representatives of this type of Buddhism are the Jōdo Sect introduced from China but greatly modified in Japan, and its main offshoot, namely, the great Shin Sect of which we shall speak presently. But before we come to these we wish to make a few remarks about the beginnings of the Amida doctrines in Japan.
The idea that one can be born into Amida's Western Paradise by praying sincerely the prayer "Namu Amida Butsu" is a very ancient one in Japan. To begin with, it would seem that the image sent by the king of Kudara to the emperor of Japan in the year 552, when Buddhism was officially introduced, was an image of the Buddha Amida, and so the Amida faith may be said to date from the very beginning of Japanese Buddhism. This may be stretching a point and so we lay no stress upon it. It does seem true, however, that Shōtoku Taishi, the first great royal patron of Japanese Buddhism, expressed longings for the Western Paradise, and during the reigns of Kōgyoku and Kōtoku (642-654), Enon is said to have lectured on the Paradise scriptures in the palace. Gyōgi Bosatsu, the Father of religious syncretism in Japan, preached salvation through the name of Amida; and Chikō of the old Sanron Sect drew pictures of the Western Paradise and wrote an essay on Paradise. Coming down to the end of the Nara period, i.e. at the end of the eighth century, we find pictures of Amida and his Western Paradise in most of the head temples of every province. Besides this it seems to have been the custom at this time to copy on the forty-ninth day after a death occurred the Shosan Jōdokyō (a hymn on birth into Paradise), and on the first anniversary it was the custom to erect an image of Amida six feet in height. All of this goes to show that the Amida doctrines were more or less known at this time. After this Dengyō Daishi, the founder of the Tendai Sect in Japan, gave Amidaism a prominent place in his comprehensive system, and another great Tendai priest, Jikaku Daishi, carrying out Dengyō's wish, built a special hall in which he placed an image of Amida. We have already stated above that the Tendai temples which were connected with the famous Miidera give Amida the highest place of honor. The half-witted priest Kūya, as we have said, went everywhere repeating the Nembutsu, and the learned Genshin laid a more lasting foundation for this doctrine in his writings. But Amidaism as a separate sect did not come into existence in Japan until Ryōnin founded his society of Mutual Benefit through Nembutsu, i.e. the Yūdzū Nembutsu Sect.
2. Hōnen and the Jōdo Sect. - Ryōnin's conception of Amida's way of salvation was, however, a very inadequate one. He laid too much stress on the idea of merit of the believer, i.e. the merit of repeating the Nembutsu. This was really too much of "a vain repetition of the heathen" to satisfy thoroughly the deeper religious sense of the people of Japan. The great teacher of Amida Buddhism was yet to come. This was Genku, better known as Hōnen Shōnin. When Ryōnin died in 1132 Hōnen was a baby boy of two. It was an age of civil wars, 19 - wars in which not only the Samurai took part, but also the monks of Hieizan, Miidera, Kōfukuji and the other great monastic centers of the time. One day the father of Seishimaru (Genku's name as a boy) was mortally wounded in the conflict, and the little lad, reared in the atmosphere of war, attempted to kill his father's enemy. The father praised his son for his loyalty and courage, but in his dying words he said: "I now die through this misfortune, but you must not take vengeance on my enemy. My death is only the reward of my former life. If you avenge my death you will in turn be subject to the vengeance of your enemy's descendants. All living beings fear death. As I suffer from my wounds, other men suffer; and as I cling to life, shall not others cling to life equally? Henceforth pray only for salvation for yourself and your fellowmen. Cast away all vengeance and malice and seek to attain enlightenment."
These words made a profound impression on the boy, and soon after this incident he entered a monastery of the Tendai Sect on Hieizan. He was a diligent student and penetrated far into the various doctrines of not only the Tendai Sect but of all the sects. But in all his seekings he found no peace for his soul. Like Luther more than three centuries later, Genku longed for a deeper assurance of salvation and a more vital religious life than was offered at the centers of learning on the slopes of Hieizan. One day, as if by chance, he hit upon Genshin's "Ōjōyōshō" (Collected Essays on Entering Paradise). A little later he became acquainted with the writings of Zendō Daishi, from which he drank deeply; for here he learned that man's salvation does not depend upon his own strength so much as upon the grace of Amida. Even the lowest sinner may find a way of escape from this life of misery and suffering into a life of happiness and peace if only he has learned to pray in faith to the great Buddha Amida who has prepared for those who believe in him his Western Paradise. When Genku read these great words of hope, he flung away then and there the ordinary way of salvation which Japanese Buddhism had usually been proclaiming, namely, the way of salvation through one's own wisdom and virtue; and he became the prophet of the new way, the way of faith in the mercy of Amida. He became the founder in Japan of the great Jōdo, Pure Land or Paradise Sect (1175) which has as its chief tenets a semi-theistic conception of God, a doctrine of a personal future life and salvation for all men who believe in the grace of Amida. This way of salvation, it holds, was worked out for man by the vicarious sufferings of the (divine) man Hōzō Bosatsu.
With the founding of Hōnen's sect, Amida Buddhism may be said to have been thoroughly established in Japan. The influence of Hōnen's teachings soon became far-reaching. People from all classes of society - from the nobility and the royal family down to the lowest peasants - entered the new sect. Priests of other sects, one after another, began to give their allegiance to this new school and helped spread the way of salvation through faith in Amida. Among Hōnen's followers were a great many men of real ability and this naturally gave prestige to the Jōdo Sect. But strong men are often "strong-minded" men and that frequently becomes a seed of discord. It was not long therefore before the new sect began to divide into several branches or factions, all of which seem to have had a remarkable vitality and so hastened to spread the influence of the sect. The differences were usually very minor and not sufficient to make any serious break.
3. Shinran and the Shin Sect. - There was, however, one disciple, Hōnen's greatest disciple, namely, Shinran Shōnin, who thought that his master had not gone far enough in his exposition of the Amida doctrine, and so felt compelled finally in 1224 to establish an independent sect. This sect is the powerful Jōdo Shinshō, The True Pure Land Sect, usually spoken of by the shorter term, Shin Sect.
When Hōnen founded the Jōdo Sect in 1175, Shinran was two years old. He was of noble birth; being a descendant on his father's side of the great Fujiwara family, and on his mother's side, of the illustrious Minamoto family. As a lad of four he lost his father, and in his eighth year his mother also died. Acquainted early with the vicissitudes of life, neither his social standing nor the luxury of his condition could at all satisfy his heart. His mind became more and more set upon deeper things and at the age of nine he became a pupil of Jichin, the abbot of Shōrenin monastery on Hieizan. He is said to have composed the following beautiful line when he took this step: "The heart that thinks there is a to-morrow is as transient as the cherry blossom, for is there not the midnight wind?" He spent a good many years on Hieizan studying the deep things of Tendai philosophy. He also visited Nara and there learned what he could from the scholars of the older sects, among whom there were a great many men of real ability at this time. So profound was his learning that he was popularly known as "The Genius of Hieizan" and "The Famous Priest of the Future." He was made abbot of one of the monasteries on the mountain and was in a fair way of becoming a high priest of the Tendai Sect and of being placed at the head of the Sansenbo, the 3000 monastic buildings which studded Hieizan, thus overshadowing with his dignity the whole mountain and the neighboring capital of Kyōto. But like the founder of Buddhism, Shinran, having given up all worldly ambition when he first entered the way of enlightenment, was not to yield to the temptation of occupying a conspicuous place as a high priest. He rather gave himself the more diligently to the search after truth and to prayer.
One day Shinran happened to hear Hōnen preach on the way of salvation through faith in Amida's great name. After the sermon he called on Hōnen in his study and after an earnest inquiry as to the fuller meaning of this teaching he then and there gave up the old way of salvation through the Law (Shōdomon) and accepted the doctrine of salvation through faith in Amida (Jōdomon). This was at the age of twenty-nine. Two years later, influenced by a vision of the Goddess of Mercy (Kwannon) and urged on by his master Hōnen, he married Princess Tamahi, the daughter of Prince Fujiwara Kanezane, thus setting an example to the Buddhist world of a new type of priesthood. By this step he broke down the barrier between priest and layman, seeking to demonstrate to the people of Japan that religion should not make a man live an abnormal life and break up the most sacred institution of humanity, namely, the family. Shinran also ate meat and other food forbidden to the priesthood, and in his dress he conformed to the style of ordinary citizens of the land. In short, he lived as a man among men, for he felt that religion has to do with the ordinary things of life and should enable the ordinary man to live this life in the best way possible.
It is not strange that he was attacked fiercely by the priests of the other sects, for his innovations were every whit as extraordinary as any thing Luther ever thought of. He was accordingly banished in 1219 to the province of Hitachi, but he looked upon this exile as an opportunity rather than a hardship. "If I do not go to my place of banishment," said he, "how can I convert the people of those remote parts? This, too, is a blessing flowing from the master's teachings." After six years the ban was removed, but he was in no hurry to get back to Kyōto and civilization. He took a roundabout way through the outlying provinces, preaching the new way and building temples as he went. After an absence of twenty-eight years he finally reached Kyōto, rich in his experience and confident in his gospel of salvation through Amida's Name. The remaining years of his life he spent in writing and preaching. People came even from the distant places to sit at his feet and learn from this great teacher how to walk in the way of Amida's grace. He died at the ripe age of eighty-nine, true to the end to his determination not to know anything but Amida and salvation in his Western Paradise. "Vain thoughts flee at the prayer Namu Amida Butsu. Both the mouth which utters these words and the heart which believes them are in Paradise." "When you see the change which befalls all men, arouse your heart to rely upon Amida." (Shinran.)
At no point in the history of Buddhism would a comparison with the founder of Buddhism and his teachings be so interesting and instructive as just at this point. If the reader bears in mind what was said in Chapter I about the kernel of S'akyamuni's teachings, the contrast between that and the teachings of Shinran and his sect will be striking. It is impossible to give here in detail the doctrines of the Shin Sect and the reader is referred to the author's translation of "A Catechism of the Shin Sect," but we must give at least an outline of the main tenets of this remarkable form of Buddhism.
As we stated above, Shinran taught salvation through faith in the Name of the Buddha Amida and rejected the old way of salvation through one's own wisdom and virtue. Just what does this mean? Briefly stated it means the following:
There may have been a time back in the "golden age" of the human race, said Shinran, when it was possible for man to save himself through his own strength, but in "these latter days" this is quite out of the question; for man is entirely too corrupt and lost in ignorance and sin for this task. There is for him now only one way of salvation, namely, the way of simple faith and trust in the great mercy of Amida. But who or what is Amida? Not trying to give the history of the Amida faith we shall give simply what is believed about this Buddha Amida. Amida Butsu (Buddha Amitābha), before he became a Buddha and while he was still the Bosatsu Hōzō (Bodhisattva Dharmakara) many æons ago, made a great vow 23 in which he vowed that he would not enter the full bliss of Buddhahood until he had worked out a way of salvation for all men, including even the lowest sinners. He remained true to his vow and after many incarnations of self-sacrificing lives he finally succeeded in heaping up so much merit that he became the great Amida Butsu, the Buddha of Eternal Life and Light who offers every man entrance, or rather birth, into his Pure Land of Bliss. There is but one thing which man must do in order to win this birth into Paradise, and that is to accept the gift that is offered in a spirit of simple faith and trust. The believer is told to call upon the name of Amida in the prayer Namu Amida Butsu which probably means, "I adore Thee," or "Have mercy upon me, Thou Buddha of Eternal Life and Light." He who does this shall be saved. Some go even so far as to say that the faith itself which enables the believer to utter this prayer effectively is also a gift of Amida. The works of the Law, i.e. the good works of a man's daily life, which most Buddhists regard as a heaping up of merit or good Karma, are of no avail, according to the followers of Shinran. Faith in Amida's great Name and that alone can save. Good works are not excluded, but they are regarded as only expressions of the believer's gratitude to Amida for his gift of salvation. That is, good works are not the cause of a man's salvation, but they are the effect of his having been saved through faith.
The teachings of the Shin Sect in regard to the way of salvation do not only differ widely from the teachings of the founder of Buddhism and those of the older Japanese sects but also somewhat from the teachings of other Amida sects. The Yūdzū Nembutsu Sect, of which we spoke above, also preached salvation through Amida's name; but, after all, salvation had to be earned by a faithful repetition of the Nembutsu. That is, the believer made merit, or heaped up a good Karma, by repeating his simple prayer over and over again. Then the great Jōdo Sect, of which the Shin sect is really an offshoot, also continued to lay a good deal of stress on making merit. While Amida's grace was held to be sufficient to save, still the believer was warned to be strict in his observance of certain rules of conduct and was made to feel that, after all, good works had a great deal to do with one's salvation. The follower of Shinran, on the other hand, is taught to rest in perfect peace of heart and to trust solely in Amida. He should not even worry about his moral condition or have any anxiety as to his growth in character. "Whether we are saved because our sins have been blotted out or not we do not know; it is as Amida has ordained. We have nothing to do with it; we have but to believe." And Rennyō, one of the great lights in the Shin Sect, says, "The important thing according to the founder's (i.e. Shinran's) teachings is nothing else than this heart of faith. He who does not know this is to be regarded as an outsider; he who knows what faith is has the true marks of a follower of Shinran."
Now this way of salvation proclaimed by Shinran, and to a certain extent also by other Amidaists, obviously signifies a rather radical departure from the fundamentals of S'akyamuni's religion. In the first place it would seem that Amidaism, at least in the minds of some of its adherents, not only makes room for a real God-idea, but this idea seems to come very near a theistic conception. In Chapter V, under the general heading of "The God-idea" and the section on "Theistic Buddhism," we shall discuss this point more fully, but here we simply wish to point out the fact that in these Amida sects the conception of Amida is very much the same as the conception of God in theistic systems. It is significant that the Buddha S'akyamuni almost disappears in the Shin Sect and is regarded simply as the teacher of the gospel of Amida. He is revered as a great man and the founder of Buddhism, but he is not usually held up as an object of worship. If he is worshipped at all it is only because he is regarded as an incarnation or partial manifestation of Amida; never as the highest Buddha as such. As we have just said, we shall treat of this subject more fully later and show that Amida Buddhism is not a real monotheism, but for the present we may treat it as pointing in the direction of a truer conception of the divine than is found in the other schools of Buddhism.
Another fact about these Amida sects and the Shin Sect in particular is that salvation means the salvation of the individual into a future life where there seems to be a real continuity and identity of the individual and not a mere Karma continuity and identity. The Shin Sect teaches that at death the believer really enters Amida's Western Paradise, and to many this hope of a future life of happiness seems to have been a real source of joy and peace. There are even cases on record where men have committed suicide in order to hasten their departure from this world and enter Amida's Paradise. Others have lived in such a joyful anticipation of this that this world was turned into a Paradise for them; in fact, Shinran rather emphasized the thought that salvation begins in this life.
A third point of difference is in the conception of sin which one finds in the teachings of the Shin Sect. Man is regarded as totally depraved and beyond the possibility of saving himself. Sin is not regarded as mere outward evil or misfortune, as it is so often in Buddhist thought, but rather as a condition of the heart which may cause outward evil and misfortune. The one thing necessary, then, is to have a change of heart, and this change of heart comes through faith and not through an effort on the part of man to cleanse his heart through his own wisdom or strength. When Amida is received through faith he controls the heart and so uproots all sin. "When we firmly believe in this vow (i.e. Amida's vow to save all living beings) and do not doubt it for a moment, Amida graciously governs our heart. Our evil heart at once becomes united with the good heart of the Nyōrai (i.e. Amida)." (Shinran.)
Thus in some of the great fundamentals of religion, namely, the God-idea, the doctrine of the future life, the conception of sin, and especially in the conception of the way of salvation, Amida Buddhism in Japan seems to differ rather widely from the rest of Buddhism and the teachings of the founder S'akyamuni; particularly is this true of the great Shin Sect founded by Shinran Shōnin.
A further difference, which though it may not be a fundamental of religion is nevertheless of great importance, is the attitude towards the duties of men as citizens of this world. Where other sects divide the teachings of Buddhism into esoteric and exoteric, or into higher and lower truths, the Shin Sect divides its teachings into doctrines which relate to salvation into a future life and doctrines which relate to a man's duties as a citizen of this world. Buddhism has always been exceedingly other-worldly, and from the very beginning it has held up the life of retirement from the world, the ascetic life of the monk or nun lived in some secluded spot, as the highest type. All through the long centuries the chief function of the average Buddhist priest seems to have been to officiate at funerals and to take charge in one way and another of those who have passed into the great beyond. The Shin Sect, too, is other-worldly; in fact, it has the clearest doctrine of a future life, but it also has a good deal to say about a man's duty as a citizen of this world. We saw above that Shinran himself married and lived the normal life of an ordinary citizen of Japan. This was not a mere accident, but it grew out of a profound conviction that a man of religion should be a model citizen. Household rather than temple or monastery religion was the thing the world needed.
This emphasis on the every-day duties of life really grew out of two things. One was the conviction that salvation has its beginning in this world, i.e. the believer is even now united with Amida and so can live in the world without being in bondage to the sins of the world. "How happy the thought," says Hōnen, "that though we are still here in the flesh we are numbered among the holy ones of Paradise." The other reason is the fact that in Japanese Buddhism in general and in the Shin Sect in particular there is much less emphasis put upon the evils of our present existence than in Indian Buddhism. This world, S'akyamuni had said, is a world of suffering and sorrow and therefore its hold on us should rigorously be reduced to the lowest terms possible. The Japanese mind has never accepted this doctrine fully, and the Shin Sect, which is the purest Japanese product of all Japanese sects, has been least influenced by it. It is more natural for the Japanese mind to look upon life and the things of life as good, for Japan is above all else "the land of the gods," and Japanese are the offspring of "the sons of heaven." Thus the religious life cannot be so very distinct from the normal life of a man as a citizen of Japan, and any teacher who can show how religious faith and practical conduct may be harmonized is bound to have a great following. Shinran did have a great following and his sect is to-day the strongest of all sects of Japanese Buddhism. In fact, it has a vitality which is rather unique among the old religions of the orient. Unhampered by any elaborate metaphysical system, it seems to be able to adjust itself to the great changes - political, economic and social - which have come over modern Japan, and to continue its hold upon the people of this generation while most of the other sects seem to be on the decline. If Buddhism has any future in Japan it will be the Buddhism of the Amida sects in general and the Shin Sect in particular.
With these few remarks we must leave for the present this most interesting of all Japanese Buddhist sects and pass on to an account of the other great sects.
4. Introduction of the Zen Sect. - Between the founding of the Jōdo and the Shin sects there was introduced from south China one of the main branches of the Dhyāna school, namely, the Rinzai branch of the Zen Sect. The Dhyāna school of Buddhism reached China from India in the year 520 A.D. when Bodhidharma came to China as a missionary. Bodhidharma (Japanese, Daruma) is regarded as the twentyeighth patriarch, being in direct "apostolic succession" from S'akyamuni. With his removal to China the center of the school passed from India, and so he is also looked much less emphasis put upon the evils of our present existence than in Indian Buddhism. This world, S'akyamuni had said, is a world of suffering and sorrow and therefore its hold on us should rigorously be reduced to the lowest terms possible. The Japanese mind has never accepted this doctrine fully, and the Shin Sect, which is the purest Japanese product of all Japanese sects, has been least influenced by it. It is more natural for the Japanese mind to look upon life and the things of life as good, for Japan is above all else "the land of the gods," and Japanese are the offspring of "the sons of heaven." Thus the religious life cannot be so very distinct from the normal life of a man as a citizen of Japan, and any teacher who can show how religious faith and practical conduct may be harmonized is bound to have a great following. Shinran did have a great following and his sect is to-day the strongest of all sects of Japanese Buddhism. In fact, it has a vitality which is rather unique among the old religions of the orient. Unhampered by any elaborate metaphysical system, it seems to be able to adjust itself to the great changes - political, economic and social - which have come over modern Japan, and to continue its hold upon the people of this generation while most of the other sects seem to be on the decline. If Buddhism has any future in Japan it will be the Buddhism of the Amida sects in general and the Shin Sect in particular.
With these few remarks we must leave for the present this most interesting of all Japanese Buddhist sects and pass on to an account of the other great sects.
4. Introduction of the Zen Sect. - Between the founding of the Jōdo and the Shin sects there was introduced from south China one of the main branches of the Dhyāna school, namely, the Rinzai branch of the Zen Sect. The Dhyāna school of Buddhism reached China from India in the year 520 A.D. when Bodhidharma came to China as a missionary. Bodhidharma (Japanese, Daruma) is regarded as the twentyeighth patriarch, being in direct "apostolic succession" from S'akyamuni. With his removal to China the center of the school passed from India, and so he is also looked Sect. He also became a student of the "Secret doctrines" of the Shingon Sect, but finding no satisfaction in this he returned to Hieizan and for eight years studied profoundly the voluminous canon of Mahāyāna Buddhism. An opportunity presenting itself he carried out a long cherished wish and sailed for China where he studied for a while at the headquarters of the Tendai Sect. Here he secured thirty volumes of rare books and with these he returned to Japan, hoping thus to find the object of his earnest quest. A few years later, however, he felt again constrained to go to China and there at the Tendai center he was initiated into the true teachings of the Zen Sect. When he started for home his teacher bestowed upon him, as a special mark of his achievements, the Great Mantle, the symbol of his having mastered the truth as known by the Zen school. The Zen Sect dates its origin in Japan from about the time of Eisai's second return from China, i.e. about 1191. In 1201 the reigning shōgun invited him to establish himself at the Kenninji in Kyōto, and later at the Kenkōji in Kamakura, which city became the center for the sect. And having its center in this military capital of Japan is one reason why the Zen Sect has always had and why it has to this day a great many military men among its adherents.
Not many years after the founding of the Rinzai branch of the Zen Sect a sister branch of this contemplative school, namely, the Sōtō branch, was established by Dōgen, or Shōyō Daishi, with headquarters in the province of Echizen. The chief difference between the Sōtō and the Rinzai branches of the Zen Sect is that the former puts more weight upon book learning as a subsidiary aid to silent meditation on the truth.
It is the claim of the Zen Sect that it represents most truly the spirit and teaching of the founder of Buddhism. This claim seems substantiated by the facts in the case. Not only does the historic connection with early Indian Buddhism seem more direct than in the case of other sects, but its emphasis on meditation and self-discipline seems nearer to the practice and teachings of S'akyamuni. To be sure, Zen philosophy does not give the Four Great Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path the same importance as S'akyamuni probably did, but still it insists, as he had done, on the doctrine that man must save himself through his own strength and must not depend for help upon God, or the gods. In fact the Zen Sect makes little or no room for the God-idea, or for the idea of the real permanency of the individual in a future life. It has nothing to say about an Eternal Buddha, though it does recognize an ultimate reality transcending the power of the human mind to grasp, which reality S'akyamuni himself, as we saw, did not deny. While S'akyamuni laid his chief emphasis upon the idea of "escaping from the evils of this life," the Zen teachings of Japan lay the emphasis on the escape from the limitations of the present and empirical self into the glorious liberty of the union with the Greater Self; without stating, however, what that Greater Self is or what the nature of such a salvation might mean.
The practice of Zen, or Zazen, is a kind of mystical selfintoxication by which the believer seeks to rise above the world of sense with all its limitations and differences into the freedom and harmony of the Reality which lies beyond and in which there are no differences and jarring contrasts. Naturally not all who practice Zazen pass exactly through the same experience. With some it is entering into a feeling of oneness of all reality, so that the consciousness of the self and all individual existence fades into nothingness and only a "holy vacancy" remains. With others it may go no further than a heightened sense of the oneness of all reality, so that no matter what loss may come to the individual, there can be no permanent loss since the self is regarded as being really one with the Greater Self, or the Universal Self. But in any case, the believer who has entered this ecstatic state feels himself no longer bound by the ordinary laws of our every-day experience. "He has ceased to think of good or evil, released himself from a relative idea of wise and common beings, given up any discussion or consideration of ignorance and intelligence, and delivered his mind from an idea of the boundary between Buddhas and sentient beings. He gives up doing all works and abandons perceiving all objects, does nothing at all, and abstains his six organs of sense from performing their respective functions."
All our ordinary knowledge, i.e. the knowledge of the sense-world in which we make differences between things, is regarded as illusion. Even our moral distinctions have no value and must be treated as the product of the unenlightened mind. "The ancients say: 'When illusion vanishes, quietude will appear; when quietude appears, knowledge will arise; when knowledge arises, truth will make its appearance.' If you want to put an end to such illusive thoughts, you should abstain from thinking of good or evil, and without perceiving objects or performing works, you should not think with the mind and do anything with the body. This is the first precaution to be taken. When illusive objects vanish, the illusive mind will consequently vanish. If the illusive mind vanishes, the entity that never changes will appear. It always knows things distinctly. It is not an object of quietude, nor an object of activity."
In order to attain this state of mind which is void of all sense objects and in which Reality Itself will appear, the student of Zazen is given minute directions as to how and where he is to sit in his silent meditations. We can do no better than quote rather at length from a translation of the works of the founder of Sōjiji, one of the two headmonasteries of the Sōtō Sect, from which the above excerpts are also taken.
"As for the place of meditation, a quiet place is good; the cushion you use must be thick; you should prevent wind and smoke from coming in, and rain and dew from moistening you; you should take good care of the place where you sit, and always keep it clean. . . . The place of sitting should not be too bright in the daytime, nor too dark at night, it should be warm in winter and cool in summer. . . .
"While you sit, you should abandon the ideas of heat, will and consciousness, put an end to the thoughts of recollection, perception and contemplation; you should not intend to become a Buddha and care for right or wrong; and valuing time highly, you should be so urgent in the practice of Dhyāna as though you were trying to rescue your head from fire. . . . Shih-hsiang taught his disciples to become like dead trees, and Ju-ching of Tai-pai used to warn his disciples against dozing. For the Dhyāna man there is no need of burning incense, worshipping, invocating the Buddha-name, making confession, reciting Sūtras, or performing daily services; he has only to sit on in meditation and thereby he will attain enlightenment.
". . . There are two ways of sitting: full cross-legged sitting, and half cross-legged sitting. According to the former way, you must put the right foot on the left thigh, and the left foot on the right thigh. Your clothes must be loosely tied and well arranged. Put the right hand with the palm upturned on the left foot and the left hand on the right palm. The thumbs of both hands stand supporting each the point of the other, kept closely to the body. The points of the thumb must be kept just in front of the navel. Keeping the body upright and sitting erectly, you should not incline or bend the body to right or to left, nor should you lean your body forwards or backwards. Your ears and shoulders, nose and navel should be kept respectively in perpendicular lines. Your tongue must be stuck to the upper gum. Breathing must be made through the nostrils. Lips and teeth must be stuck to each other. The eyes must be opened moderately, neither too widely nor too narrowly. Thus making proper arrangements of the body, you should inhale and exhale a few times through the opened mouth. Next, settling your body, you should move your body from side to side, each time decreasing the degree of the motion, and finally coming to a firm upright sitting, when you should consider unconsiderableness. How could unconsiderableness be considered? It is considerationless, which is an important means of Dhyāna sitting, by means of which you must forthwith destroy evil passions and obtain full enlightenment.
"When you want to rise from sitting, first of all you must put both the upturned hands on the knees and move the body from side to side seven or eight times, each time increasing the degree of the motion and breathing out of the opened mouth. Putting your extended arms on the ground, stand up easily and walk slowly along the left side of the room, ever turning to the right."
As one reads these detailed instructions given to those who would practice Zazen, one cannot but be struck with the contradiction involved in the means of achieving this goal of abstract contemplation and the goal itself. The one is the most careful - almost puerile - regard for the details of the sense world, while the goal is a state of mind in which the sense world has no existence. The follower of Zazen may say that this regard for the detailed arrangement of the body is only provisional and these things vanish with the illusive mind when once the believer has entered the state of perfect quietude and truth. Quite so; only then it should not be necessary for one who has reached such a state to return again to an ordinary state of consciousness in which the details and differences of the sense world seem so very real. That is, the student of Zazen should not be given any rules as to how to arise from his posture of sitting in meditation; for why should he wish to arise and return to the sense world if he has really entered a state in which Truth has appeared and in which he knows that the objects of our every-day consciousness are illusive? Obviously the world of sense is too real to be disposed of in this way for any length of time, and the problems of truth and reality must be approached in another way than by a mystical self-intoxication lasting under favorable conditions for only a few hours at best. That the "quiet mind" is the most favorable condition in which Reality may be apprehended, no one would question; but it cannot be apprehended simply by a process of elimination and evacuation of the content of our ordinary conscious states. This can only end in an abstraction and vacuity which may be a pleasant feeling to those who would escape for a little while from the "evil of existence" in this "incurably evil world," but it can hardly satisfy permanently the hearts of those who would overcome the evils of Life and enter a life of a Positive Good.
It seems a curious phenomenon that a sect which lays such an emphasis on the contemplative life and which holds out the "white silence of truth" as the highest goal should have always had among its followers a great many men of the military class. Even in modern industrial and bustling Japan it is the fashion of military men to practice "Zazen." Besides the reason already given above, namely, the fact that the Zen Sect made the military capital of Japan its center of activity, there are two other reasons. One is that the Zen Sect has always shown itself very friendly to Confucian ethics and made it a part of its practical teachings. From the earliest times Confucianism has been a sort of religious philosophy for the military classes and never has it been regarded in Japan as antagonistic to Buddhism. The vagueness of the God-idea in Confucianism is exceedingly congenial to the Zen mind, and the definiteness of the Confucian ethics, especially the ethical teachings which deal with the relationship of lord and vassal, formed a good substitute for the ethics of the Noble Eightfold Path. At any rate, the former were not regarded as contrary to the latter. The other great reason for the popularity of Zen thought with military men is the fact that it lays a strong emphasis upon self-discipline and self-control, the primary qualification of any true soldier. Even the physical discipline of a true student of Zen is Spartan, and the mental discipline is often such that men become indifferent to all dangers and face death without a tremor. The capture of Port Arthur in the Russo-Japanese war was in part at least the fruit of Zen discipline. For a further presentation of Zen thought the reader is referred to Chapter V.
5. Nichiren and the Nichiren Sect. - There is one more great sect which arose during this remarkable period of Japan's religious history, namely, the Nichiren Sect founded by Nichiren Shōnin in 1253. Of all the founders of sects in Japan or leaders in things religious, Nichiren is the most picturesque and in many respects the most powerful personality. He was born in 1222 in an unknown village of Awa Province. As a lad he became somewhat acquainted with the teachings of the Shingon Sect, but later he went to Mt. Hiei and studied under the great priests of the Tendai Sect. For about ten years he gave himself to these studies and then returned to his native province ready for his great campaign. Like all great reformers, Nichiren did not start out to found a new sect. He began by denouncing what he regarded as a real perversion of the master's teachings. Such perversions he found especially in the teachings of the sects which were just then coming into great popularity, namely, the Jōdo, the Shin and the Zen sects. In his Rissho Ankoku Ron, Nichiren's chief writing, he makes a vehement attack on Hōnen, the founder of the Jōdo Sect, and upon all the followers of the Amida doctrine. He laments that the teachings of Dengyō Daishi and the older type of Buddhism were being neglected and that the people had ears only for the writings of Zendō and the Amida scriptures. This bears testimony to the wonderful success the Amida sects had soon after their coming into existence. The Zen sects, too, he could not endure and opposed them as the invention of the devil. Even his first love, the Shingon Sect, he denounced as "a traitor to the country."
The reason Nichiren so bitterly opposed these other sects was because he felt that they were dividing Buddhism, and especially that the Amida sects were taking away the glory of S'akyamuni and giving it to another, namely, Amida. And on the other hand, with a divided religion Japan would be a divided nation, and so both religion and state would be destroyed. That is why he cries in one of his impassionate utterances, "Awake, men, awake! awake, and look around you. No man is born with two fathers or two mothers. Look at the heavens above you: there are no two suns in the sky. Look at the earth at your feet: no two kings can rule a country." But this, he felt, was exactly what was happening in Japan. Politically the country was divided into factions, some giving their allegiance to the emperor, at Kyōto, others to the shōgun or regent at Kamakura. Spiritually some were true to what he thought was the real teaching of the founder and others were followers of Amida, Dainichi or some other Buddha. And as the former was the real outgrowth of the latter division, there was but one thing to do, namely, to uproot the sects which had proved themselves disloyal to the pure teachings of the founder.
Not only was the political and religious world divided and disintegrating, but because of this the nation was being destroyed, he felt. Evidence of this seemed abundant on every hand. In 1257, e.g., a terrible earthquake shook things from their very foundations. This was followed the next year by an equally terrible hurricane; and as a result of these two calamities, famine and pestilence completed the work of destruction. And still further, there were signs that what was left by these natural calamities would fall a prey to a foreign invader, the Mongols who in 1264 had established themselves in Peking under Kublai Khan and were threatening to subdue the whole of eastern Asia, including the islands of the Sunrise Kingdom. To avoid this impending peril Japan must be a united nation both politically and spiritually.
That Nichiren was not a mere alarmist is shown by the events which followed in the political world. The predicted invasion of the Mongols actually materialized, and apparently the only reason it did not succeed beyond the occupation of a few minor islands and a narrow strip of coast line in Kyūshū was the timely appearance of a severe typhoon which caused the Mongol ships to share the fate of the great Spanish Armada. The proud Japanese, however, prefers to lay greater stress on the valor of his illustrious forefathers, who, he claims, were the only people of that age able to check the advancing hordes of the Mongols which at one time or another overran great portions of the two continents of Asia and Europe. Nichiren was equally right in his estimate of the religious situation. The new sects, especially the Amida sects, were doing much to dethrone the founder of Buddhism from his place of honor; for it is a fact that most Amidaists regard Gautama as simply the great teacher and not the Buddha to be worshiped. If he is worshiped at all it is only because he might be regarded as one of the historic manifestations of Amida. The Shingon was equally a departure though in quite a different way, as we have already shown above. Whether his attacks on the Zen Sect were justified on the same grounds is a question; for, as we have said above, the Zen is nearer the teachings of the founder in many ways than, perhaps, any other Japanese sect. But on the whole Nichiren was correct in raising an alarm and trying to bring his people back to the historical Buddha S'akyamuni if Japanese Buddhism was to follow the teaching of him whom they professed to follow.
But while Nichiren was zealous to restore Buddhism to its pristine purity it does not at all follow that he even knew what the pristine purity of Buddhism might mean. Both the spirit of his religion and the content of his doctrines prove that he knew really very little on this subject. As a student of the Tendai he became acquainted among other books with the Saddharma-Pundara-sūtra (Japanese, Hokkekyō) which he made the main foundation of his teachings. As we have already pointed out, this is a comparatively late writing and breathes a Buddhism quite different from the Buddhism of S'akyamuni. The great Buddha of that scripture is the Eternal Buddha of Original Enlightenment with whom S'akyamuni is identical, or of whom he is one of many manifestations. But the historical Buddha S'akyamuni had nothing to say of such a Buddha, and he certainly never claimed to be identical with or the manifestation of such a Buddha. Then further, Nichiren and his followers lay great emphasis on faith, faith in this sacred scripture which is regarded with a superstitious reverence. The prayer which is so constantly upon the lips of Nichiren's disciples, "Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō" (Hail, Thou Scripture of the Lotus of the True Law), seems of all "vain repetitions of the heathen" the most vain; especially is this true when judged from the standpoint of what S'akyamuni regarded as the kernel of his teachings.
Then Nichiren's bitter attack on other sects was also a great departure from the spirit of older Buddhism, which was nothing if not tolerant of views that differed. This tolerant attitude was especially characteristic of the Tendai Sect, from which Nichiren learned practically all that he knew about Buddhism. This characteristic of Nichiren was not altogether a bad one, for if there is anything that Buddhism needed it was a firmness which would enable it to hold to some definite things and reject others that were incompatible. But we simply wish to point out that Nichiren, in trying to give Buddhism some backbone, was infusing into it his own vigorous personality to whom distinctions were real and vital, and he was not restoring a characteristic of the older Buddhism. In his Rissho Ankoku Ron this comes clearly to light, for in this dialogue between the master of a house and a guest the latter frequently makes the point that the spirit of Buddhism is one which tolerates all views and persecutes none, and the master has great difficulty in proving from the sacred scriptures that heretics should be opposed. The truth of the matter is that Nichiren was anything but a reformer of Buddhism. He thought he was one, but in reality he was a man who gave Japanese Buddhism a new turn. This new turn was not in the doctrines he taught, for there is nothing new in the teachings of the Nichiren Sect, but in the spirit which he infused into the new sect which he founded. The very fact that it is the only Japanese sect which calls itself by the name of its founder shows that it was founded on Nichiren's spirit and personality rather than upon any new doctrine or upon any old Buddhist teaching restored to life. Nichiren has transmitted his positive spirit to his followers, though it must be admitted that the positiveness which made him a towering figure in Japanese life, in most of his followers assumes a fanatic character which is the enemy of all true progress and has made the sect, as one has put it, "the Ishmael of Buddhism." Nichiren's bitter attacks upon the political and religious leaders of his day naturally led to counter attacks from his many enemies. By the priests of other sects he was accused of promulgating heresy, and his political enemies accused him of inciting rebellion. In 1261, he was arrested and brought before the regent's court at Kamakura. It is not strange that he was found guilty and that he was banished to the peninsula of Idzu. Three years later, however, he appeared again in the streets of Kamakura, more outspoken than ever. For a while he was safe, for the people believed that it was in response to his prayers that the heavens sent rain after a long drought. Like Elijah of old, he mocked the "false prophets" and came off victorious. But even so, it was impossible for a man of his temper to keep out of trouble, and we soon find him again before the regent's court. This time the charges were so serious that the court felt constrained to condemn him to death. He was led to the sands on the Kamakura beach and the executioner's sword was about to strike the fatal blow when, as if by miracle, a messenger from the regent appeared upon the scene and saved his life. Nichiren was instead banished to distant Sado, where he remained till 1272, when he returned once more to resume his preachings and warnings. By this time, he had won so many followers that he was quite safe. The remaining ten years of his life he spent at Minobu and Ikegami, which two places are regarded to this day as the chief seats of the sect. At Ikegami Nichiren entered into rest from his strenuous life, and there is his tomb, which is still a sacred shrine to thousands. Every autumn his numerous followers gather there from all quarters to do him honor. But the thoughtful student, when he listens to the deafening noise of those drunken worshipers - drunken not with Nichiren's enthusiasm and inspiring message but with cheap saké - mourns the thought that one so earnest and on the whole so sane should have such unworthy followers. For it is true that while there are some educated people in the Nichiren Sect the rank and file come from the most ignorant and lowest classes; and the religion which they profess, instead of lifting them to a higher and purer life, seems only to rivet upon them more tightly the superstitions and follies of a darker age.
6. The Ji Sect. - Another sect which came into existence about this time and which we mention just in passing is the last of the four Amida sects, the Ji Sect founded by Ippen Shōnin. Some hold that it was first founded by Kūya and that Ippen is the second founder, but if it was founded as early as Kūya's day it made no place for itself before Ippen's day. It is of little consequence now as it has only about 500 temples in all Japan, but in its early history it promised to be of great influence and at one time had even an imperial prince for its head. Ippen Shōnin was remarkable for his zeal in trying to spread his message, going from one end of the land to the other to teach men the Easy Way, the Way of Faith in the Mercy of Amida. He seems to have transmitted this characteristic to his followers, for the sect has apparently always laid great stress upon itinerant preaching. One naturally wonders why such efforts have produced no greater results, unless it be that they are reaped by the more powerful Amida sects from which the Ji Sect really does not differ enough to warrant a separate existence.
All four of these great sects, the Jōdo, Zen, Shin and Nichiren came into existence within a period of about three quarters of a century, namely, between 1175-1253, and their beginnings undoubtedly represent the greatest outburst of religious life to be found in Japan's long history. The student who reads with an unbiased mind this movement and the lives of the great men who led the way, cannot fail to be impressed with the positive contribution made by Japan to at least one of the world's great religions. To know this period of Japanese history will cure any man of the superficial thought so often expressed by Westerners that the Japanese have borrowed everything they possess and that they are only imitators. The religion of these four great sects is as truly a real development of Indian and Chinese Buddhism as is the Protestantism of Germany, England and America a development of medieval and early Christianity; the only difference is that it took place some three centuries earlier. The old Nara sects and the two Kyōto sects of the ninth century had their influence on Japan because they represented a higher civilization than that of Japan, but these four great sects of the Kamakura period gained their hold because they were the first real expression of Buddhism in terms of things Japanese, i.e. with them Buddhism may be said to have been thoroughly planted in Japanese life. It was planted not only in the life of the upper classes, as was largely the case with the older sects, but in the life of the people at large. It is only natural that these sects should become very popular, and while the old Tendai and Shingon sects continued to exercise a great influence they were relegated to a secondary place, especially in the new Kwantō region, the center of the military rulers of Japan. Out of a total of 72,000 temples in existence to-day over 53,000 belong to the above-mentioned four great sects, and as we shall see later, they represent the dominant forces of Japanese Buddhism to-day.
Unfortunately this reformation of Japanese Buddhism in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries had in it also some of the evils of the Protestant Reformation. It had in it from the beginning the seeds of schism and divisions. We saw above that Nichiren was alarmed at the influence the new sects were having and that he sought to rally Buddhists around the one standard of loyalty to S'akyamuni and one earthly ruler; but as a matter of fact his efforts resulted in making further divisions and in bringing in a period of strife and hatred among the various sects. Not that Nichiren was responsible for all these fights and divisions but that he marks in himself the tendency of the age. Any account of these divisions, or even the barest outline of them, would try the patience of even an interested student. It is enough to say that the process went on and on, old schisms dying out and new ones taking their place, until to-day, Japan has over fifty Buddhist sects recognized by the government.
Of these there are thirty-six divisions and subdivisions within the four sects of the Kamakura period.
The differences between the main divisions of Japanese Buddhism, of which it is customary to make twelve, are often much greater than the differences between the great divisions of Christianity. On the other hand the differences between the subdivisions of a sect are often very minor. Thus, e.g., the ten subdivisions of the Shin Sect are due not to any doctrinal differences but sometimes simply to the fact that some temple, harboring perhaps a royal or other important personage, became thereby too prominent to be regarded as a branch-temple and so was made independent and the center of a new subdivision. In other cases subdivisions were caused by the rise of some great priest who by his own personality impressed himself so powerfully upon his followers that they banded themselves together into a brotherhood without thereby intentionally cutting themselves loose from the parent body but which nevertheless in the course of time became independent. In still other cases, the divisions were due merely to geographical conditions, for in a mountainous country like Japan, before the advent of the railroad, travel and intercourse were exceedingly difficult. This fact had made the political divisions very real for centuries before the advent of Buddhism, and these political divisions in turn made the religious differences very natural and easy.
Thus Japanese Buddhism is quite accustomed to the idea of schisms and divisions, as indeed Buddhism in India and China was from the early days; but it must be added that the average Buddhist, especially the average Buddhist philosopher, sees in this nothing to be regretted, but only a sign of life. Even a Christian must admit that schisms are often a sign of life, though frequently a misdirected life. The Buddhist philosopher on the other hand would hold that because Truth is many sided and men's minds are so finite, it is the glory of a religion to have many divisions each of which brings out its own peculiar angle of the whole truth. So far do some philosophers carry this half truth that they do not hesitate to regard the most glaring contradictions as but the opposite sides of the same truth. But of this characteristic of Buddhism we shall speak more fully in Chapter V, when we take up the Buddhist theory of knowledge, and so we leave it to pass on with the historical narrative.
E. Political Strife and Religious Decline
The wonderful religious outburst of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was followed by a sad decline. For about one hundred years after the founding of the Kamakura shōgunate Japan enjoyed peace and a measure of prosperity. The Hōjō regents who supplanted the descendants of the great Yoritomo were on the whole strong and capable rulers, and under their administration the country was able to recover somewhat from the devastating wars which had preceded this period. But in the beginning of the fourteenth century things began to change for the worse again. In 1333 the Hōjō regents were overthrown, and upon this followed the long Wars of Succession when Japan had two rival lines of emperors, and for more than fifty years civil war and private wars were the order of the day. Finally in 1392 the Ashikagas succeeded in bringing the land once more under one central authority, but this did not mean much gain to the average citizen. As a matter of fact the peace under the Ashikaga shōguns was often less endurable than war, for the tax-gatherer was more to be dreaded than the soldier or the plague and famine which in those days usually followed in the wake of war. It is claimed that in one form or another the poor peasants had to pay about 70 per cent of the produce of their fields as taxes. The money thus extorted from the people was not used to repair the ravages of preceding wars but was squandered in extravagant and luxuriant living by the shōguns and their hangers-on. The third Ashikaga shōgun, Yoshimitsu, e.g., spent enormous sums on magnificent palaces and private residences. One writer states that his "Flower Palace" cost about five million dollars; a single door costing as much as $150,000.
In this mad craze he was followed by the upper classes who could - and more often could not - afford it; so that the city of Kyōto had at this time between six and seven thousand such extravagant residences. Even when the land was stricken with a severe plague and famine, as it was, e.g., in the time of the eighth Ashikaga shōgun, Yoshimasa, when in two months about 80,000 people perished, this extravagant style of living was kept up.
It is therefore not strange that in such days the heart for quiet and industrial living was taken out of the common people and that industry and the constructive forces of life lagged. Nor is it strange that finally Japan was so impoverished that when, e.g., in 1500 the Emperor Tsuchimikado II. died it was forty-four days before enough money could be gotten together to defray the funeral expenses, while his successor, Nara II., had to wait twenty-one years before he had sufficient means to celebrate his coronation appropriately.
That this should be a period of religious decline goes without saying. Of course, in one way religion seemed to gain a firmer hold on the people just because of the adverse circumstances under which they lived. Especially those sects which held out to the common man the hope of a speedy entrance into paradise from this "vale of tears" found a rather congenial atmosphere in which to propagate their doctrines. In fact the pessimistic spirit of Buddhism as a whole, which was one born in a world-weary civilization and which regards life as incurably evil and everything as evanescent, fitted in remarkably well with the temper of the age. The very woes of the people became a source of prosperity to the unscrupulous priests, who were usually quite ready to exchange their "spiritual treasures" for deeds to broad acres and stately manors. The pleasureloving Yoshimitsu and his successors were indeed ever ready to spend goodly sums upon temples and temple decorations. Yoshimitsu was specially generous towards the Zen Sect and gave liberal gifts to the five great fanes of Kamakura (Go-zan) and the five great fanes in Kyōto and its vicinity.
He went so far as to direct that each province should have its own great Zen monastery. The land owned by all the temples and monasteries was exempted from taxation, and many monasteries received funds from the special tax known as Dansen. And still further, certain ones received directly the custom duties and transit duties collected at the various barriers which were now being erected all over the land. Thus, e.g., the great Kōfukuji of Nara received the customs of the port of Hyōgo.
With such favors extended to the Buddhist monks and priests it is only natural that outwardly at least religion was flourishing in this age of bloodshed and misery. But a religion which lives on the fears and tears of its adherents is not a healthy product; and as a matter of fact this period of the great Succession Wars and Ashikaga shōguns was not great in spiritual realities. Very few indeed were walking in the Noble Eightfold Path of the founder. Not only had the Buddhist layman wandered far from this path but the priests and monks seem to have gone even farther astray. Even the new sects which had been founded as a protest against the corruption of the old Kyōto sects had gone the way of all the rest. The great monasteries were great only as formidable camps of fighting monks, for the military monk was the order of the day. Some authorities claim that in the early part of the sixteenth century the Buddhist priests were on the whole the strongest political force in Japan. This is probably not an exaggeration, for it must be remembered that by this time all semblance of a central authority had vanished. The emperors were figure-heads and even the shōguns were mere puppets, and the various feudal chiefs were each a law unto himself. And often greater than the authority of these feudal chiefs was that of the rich monasteries with their extensive lands and their mountain fortresses. But, of course, the priests did not wield this authority as a unit nor in the interest of what might work for the good of the land. When they were not taking part in the general civil wars of the age on one side or the other, the various monasteries fought among themselves. Hieizan, Miidera and Kōfukuji had been in the habit of doing this for centuries, but now they were imitated by the new "centers of light." Particularly fierce was the feud between Jōdo and Nichiren sects. Even the followers of the great Shinran apparently believed in the power of the mailed fist as much as the rest, for we read that towards the close of this age a great monastery of this sect was able to resist successfully Nobunaga's besieging army of sixty thousand.
But it was not only that the religious leaders of this day had exchanged their spiritual weapons for steel swords and spears and that the foes they were fighting were their own brethren and not the hosts of sin and darkness, that marks the spiritual decline of the times. These "centers of light" were guilty of far more infamous deeds of darkness. We read, e.g., of the abbots of monasteries, after taking the customary vows of poverty and celibacy, spending their days in riotous living with lewd women. And the worst of it was that apparently nobody regarded this wrong or inconsistent. In the middle of the fifteenth century, when famine and plague stalked through the land and daily between seven and eight hundred peasants fell by the wayside, it was quite common to dispose of the daughters of poor families by selling them to brothels, while the boys were frequently sold to the priests, "who shaved their eyebrows, powdered their faces, dressed them in female garb and put them to the vilest of uses, for since the days of Yoshimitsu, who had set an evil example in this as in so many other matters, the practice of pederasty had become very common, especially in the monasteries, although it was by no means confined to them."
It would, however, not be correct to infer from what we have just said that Buddhism did not exert any influence for good during this period of bloodshed and misery. In fact there are many cases in which Buddhist priests intervened with the mercy of Buddha to stay the wrath of men. Buddhist monasteries were often like the cities of refuge in ancient Israel, and political criminals frequently were allowed to choose between the tonsure and the sword. It is true that the guilty occasionally escaped thus from welldeserved punishment, but more often the law from which they escaped was not the law of right but only that of might. Then here and there were individual priests of real power who exercised a great influence for good over the rulers of the day and so helped guide them through these periods of storm to days of peace. Perhaps the most conspicuous case of such an influence was that of the relation between Ashikaga Takauji and the famous Zen priest Soseki. Not only did such men give spiritual consolation to these leaders in their trying times but perhaps more often gave them real solid advice as to the affairs of state. Soseki especially seems to have tried to apply the truths of religion to the practical problems of life. He sought to show Takauji that mercy, patience and serving others were not only the expression of the Buddha heart but also the quickest and surest road to a reign of peace. "If one rises above the clouds, the moon can be seen without an obstruction," he once wrote to the founder of the Ashikaga shōgunate. Little did he realize how few would be able to do this during the two centuries which followed.
Then again, should it be said to the credit of Buddhism, that this period marks a wonderful development in pictorial art, viz., the rise of the great Zen school of painters which has dominated the ideals of artists in one way or another down to almost the present day. Of course, such an influence may not have been very far reaching in that age, but the fact that this development of at least one of the fine arts was possible at all goes to show that, after all, there were individuals here and there who had time and taste for the higher aspects of life.
But after this has been said it must be confessed that the period of the Ashikaga shōguns was in general one of religious decay. Buddhism though outwardly strong was really bankrupt morally and spiritually. Here and there a man, e.g., like Rennyō (1415-1499) of the Shin Sect appeared and tried to make Buddhism a real spiritual force in society, but the darkness of the age was against them. Rennyō, e.g., was compelled to write out the doctrines of his sect in the simple Hiragana script, as not only the lower classes but also the middle and some of the upper classes were unable to read or understand anything written in Chinese characters in which all the Buddhist scriptures were published. It is true, some light continued to stream into Japan from China during these dark days, but it was rather faint, for the Neo-Confucianism which was to exert such a great influence during the Tokugawa shōgunate had not yet taken a firm hold, though a number of Zen scholars had been more or less under its influence from the end of the thirteenth century onward.
F. Religion in the Tokugawa Period
1. Reconstruction Days and the Catholic Mission . - The long period of strife and bloodshed of which we have just spoken was followed finally by the great peace of the Tokugawa shōgunate. By the middle of the sixteenth century the movement had begun which was gradually to bring about a unification of the empire and restore peace and prosperity to a much afflicted people. There are three great names around which the history of Japan centers during these reconstruction days, viz., Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Of course, there were other great men who helped in the unification of the empire, but these three stand out like great peaks. We shall not stop to give even an outline of their lives, though it would not be out of place in even such a hurried review of the development of Buddhism, for while they were not men of religion they had a great deal to do with determining the religious development of the empire for several centuries. All three were men who rose from an obscure environment, and Hideyoshi, the greatest of the trio, was the son of a simple peasant. A Japanese wit has well expressed their respective characteristics as follows: "If you do not sing," said Nobunaga to a nightingale, "I will wring your neck.""If you do not sing," said Hideyoshi, "I will make you.""If you do not sing," said the more diplomatic Ieyasu, "I will wait until you do." The nightingale finally did sing the song of peace and unity for Ieyasu, but each of the three had a big part in making it sing. Their work resulted in the great Tokugawa shōgunate, which ruled the land with such skill and firmness for about two centuries and a half that there was hardly so much as a dogfight on this blood-drenched soil.
It was just at the beginning of this reconstruction period that the Catholic mission under Xavier came to Japan in the year 1549. The mission landed from a Portuguese ship in the southern island of Kyūshū. The missionaries were well received, for in their train came the merchants and traders with guns and other implements of war so much appreciated by a warlike age. We are told that even the Buddhist priests received these Christian missionaries in a friendly spirit, for they regarded their religion as simply one more form of the comprehensive Mahāyāna teaching. And besides, they were not half so much concerned with rivals in things spiritual as in worldly power and prestige. It goes without saying that the Catholics were not willing to compromise with the Buddhists, though they did not take an openly hostile attitude until they had first ingratiated themselves with certain political factions to whom they looked for patronage and protection.
We find thus the missionary Froez, in the year 1568, seeking an interview with the great Nobunaga. At this conference, apparently, an understanding was reached by which the Catholics were to be utilized for fighting and crushing the Buddhist monasteries, which had incurred Nobunaga's enmity. We do not know the details of the arrangement, but it is a fact that Christianity in Japan at that time advanced with leaps and bounds and that Nobunaga in 1571 exterminated the three thousand monasteries which studded Mt. Hiei. This wholesale destruction of the historic center and home of Buddhism was but the beginning of similar operations against the other monastery centers in the land. By the zealous Catholics Nobunaga was regarded as the "true scourge of God." Nobunaga, however, was not a Christian himself; he simply used the Jesuits to serve his purpose. His religion was his own ambition, for he built a great temple and placed in it a stone image of himself which he expected the people to worship. But as in the case of vain Herod of old, his self-exaltation was speedily followed by his downfall. The hand of the assassin, inspired by his trusted general Akechi Mitsuhide, brought his career to a sudden end.
Nobunaga was succeeded by his friend and lieutenant Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi was quick to conserve what Nobunaga had begun. He "made the nightingale sing," not so much by threatening "to wring its neck" as by less drastic measures, though he, too, resorted a good deal to the sword to carry out his program of harmonizing the nation. Hideyoshi, too, was not a friend of the Buddhists and continued the work of Nobunaga in reducing their military strength, though he showed some consideration for certain monasteries which he could use to an advantage. He had begun to suspect the Jesuits of political intrigues and in 1597, he suddenly dropped his mask of friendship and had twenty-six of them crucified on Martyr's Peak near Nagasaki. This did not mean that all Christians were put under the ban, for later on he entrusted the Christian general Konishi with a regiment of Christians to carry out a military expedition against Korea, though he took the precaution to send also some Buddhist troops with them, the idea being that the two groups would spy on each other and so neutralize their influence. Hideyoshi like Nobunaga made his own ambition his religion as may be seen from the fact that he erected a magnificent temple to the New War God which was to be none other than himself.
Hideyoshi was succeeded by Ieyasu, the last of the great triad. Nobunaga and Hideyoshi had done preparatory work for the unification of the empire, Ieyasu consummated and consolidated it. He had but one great battle to fight, namely, the famous battle of Sekigahara, and then he could wait till the "nightingale sang" its song of peace. And sing it did, for Ieyasu became the founder of the illustrious Tokugawa shōgunate which gave peace and order to Japan for more than 250 years. The emperor at Kyōto was allowed the nominal rule of the empire but it is an open secret that the shōgun's word at Yedo (Tōkyō) was supreme, and when Commodore Perry opened the closed doors of Japan in 1853 it was with the shōgun that he dealt as the real ruler of the land. The relative power of emperor and shōgun may be best appreciated when it is remembered that the annual appropriation for the royal family and its dependents was only 150,000 koku of rice and this was not taken directly from the national revenue but was given by the shōgun out of his own fat income of 4,000,000 per year.
Ieyasu's attitude toward religion differed from that of his two predecessors in that he was himself a professing Buddhist and took a more or less active interest in religious reform. Whether he was really a religious man is another question. The truth of the matter seems to be that he was very liberal in his views and looked upon organized religion as a force that might help him in the affairs of state, for Ieyasu was above all else a shrewd statesman. That is why he was so intimate with the priest Tenkai who became his right hand man to control not only the Christians but also the Buddhists themselves. And that is also why he encouraged the revival of Confucianism in Japan, for he saw in the Confucian philosophy of state and its emphasis on the spirit of loyalty a desirable force to help him in his great work of national unification.
2. The Closing of the Doors and the Suppression of Christianity . - It may seem strange at first sight that a man so liberal minded should be the one who closed the doors of Japan to the outside world. The truth of the matter is that this policy which seems so narrow to us moderns was really in the interest of peace and order. The only mistake was that the doors were kept closed so long after the danger which Ieyasu sought to avoid had passed. It is safe to say that if his successors had been as open minded as he was they would have changed the policy long before they actually did. Ieyasu's reason for cutting Japan off from the outside world was simply to enable him to consolidate his work of unification. He did not wish any disturbing element to come in from the outside and upset the peace that had been bought at such great cost. Too long had Japan bled from the wounds of discord. Now Christianity was undoubtedly a foreign element and in the form in which it had been propagated in Japan from the beginning it meddled entirely too much with the things that belong to Cæsar to be allowed with impunity. The Buddhists, of course, meddled even more than did the Christians but Buddhism had been the religion of the people for centuries and could not be opposed too much. It was enough to regulate it through the priests themselves. But Christianity was a new outside element and if it was not willing to be merged in the national religion of the land there was but one thing left, namely to exterminate it. An additional reason for this attitude towards Christianity was the fact that the Jesuits were the real agents of the pope at Rome and that all true disciples were called upon to regard the pope as not only the spiritual head but as also superior to earthly rulers in temporal matters. It is only natural that Ieyasu should see in the rising Catholic church in Japan the seed of future political troubles.
We find accordingly that step by step the regulations against Christianity became more and more severe until it was positively forbidden by law after 1611. Whereas under Nobunaga's régime the Catholics were used as an instrument to fight Buddhist monasteries, Ieyasu turned the tables and used the Buddhist monks to suppress Christianity. In every city and village of the land certain officials were set over well-defined districts, their sole duty being to spy out those suspected of being Christians. (It is an interesting fact that the second man to become a bishop in the Japan Methodist Church, Bishop Hiraiwa, is the son of such an official, the office having been hereditary in the family for several generations.)
The story of the suppression of Christianity in Japan has been told by others and we need not repeat it here. We simply state that after the first severe persecutions the majority of the thousands and tens of thousands of the nominal Christians who became such in the period of governmental patronage recanted and entered the Buddhist ranks. One of the requirements of the day was the registration of every Japanese citizen as an adherent of one of the Buddhist sects. This, we might remark in passing, accounts for the fact that to this day the great majority of the people regard themselves as Buddhists, though as individuals they may not care a fig for the religion or know the barest outline of Buddhist teachings. But not all these Catholic Christians recanted. Many of them died the martyr's death, and in spite of the closest watch on the part of the government for 250 years Christianity kept cropping up again and again. There are many people still living who saw the edict boards against Christianity along the highways of the empire; and the brass crosses worn smooth by the feet of those who thus proved that they were not Christians, may be seen in the museums of the nation. But when the edicts were finally taken down there were several thousand Christians in and around Nagasaki who had kept the faith. And in other parts of the land there are Christians in whose families precious Christian relics have been handed down in secret from generation to generation.
3. Partial Revival of Buddhism . - We have said above that the Buddhists were used as an instrument of the government to suppress Christianity. This does not mean, however, that Buddhism under the Tokugawa shōguns ever got back its former vitality or even its outward prestige. The truth of the matter is that the blow which Nobunaga dealt to the famous Tendai monastery on Mt. Hiei proved almost fatal. And as Mt. Hiei was really the mother of all the great leaders who founded the leading sects this blow proved serious to Japanese Buddhism as a whole. All the more serious was it for the religion of Buddha when it is remembered that other great centers of the faith were equally disturbed during the stormy times that preceded the great calm.
After peace was restored and prosperity and culture began to return, Buddhism, too, recovered somewhat from the shock. In almost every one of the leading sects appeared men of real ability and character. It is therefore customary among Buddhist writers to speak of the "Middle Reformers," i.e. the men who after the devastating wars of the Ashikaga period brought new prosperity to the various sects. Thus, e.g. the Tendai Sect, while crushed in and around Kyōto, began to show new activity in the Kwantō with Nikkō and Yedo as centers. In the Shingon Sect we see the New School party growing in power and influence. The Rinzai and Sōtō branches of the Zen Sect had suffered most severely from the wars, for as we have said, these sects had a great many military men as adherents, and the old law that he that takes the sword shall perish by the sword held good in Japan as truly as elsewhere. But when peace was restored these sects became quite flourishing, especially in outward things, for it was the fashion of the day among the various feudal lords who were usually military men to bestow much property upon Zen temples and monasteries. The Jōdo Sect seemed specially favored from time to time by the Tokugawa shōguns and it recovered much of its former glory, having among its strong temples such places as the famous Chionin of Kyōto and the Zōjōji of Tōkyō, and counting among its priests many men of real ability. And what is true of the Jōdo is equally true of the Shin Sect. Its great temples built in the modern period and some during the past few decades are numerous. The headquarters of the two Hongwanji branches in Kyōto are especially a credit as magnificent specimens of temple architecture. The Nichiren Sect, too, had its reformers and shared with others a certain degree of prosperity during the peaceful days of the Tokugawa period.
This day of renewals saw even the introduction of a new sect from China, namely, the Ōbaku branch of the Zen Sect founded in 1659 by a Chinese priest named Ingen and by Chinese refugees who came to Japan after the fall of the Ming dynasty. This sect has never attracted many adherents but it has exerted a great influence and counts among its few followers a number of the strongest men of Japan. The distinguishing feature of the sect is its use of modern Chinese for its scriptures whereas other sects still use the ancient Chinese, though in very recent years they have begun to use Japanese translations for the general public. But after all this has been said about the renewal of Buddhism during the Tokugawa period it cannot be held that the religion of Buddha ever reached again the heights it had attained during the great period of religious awakening in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In spite of this outward prosperity and activity which led in some cases to the formation of new subdivisions, the period as a whole cannot be regarded as a great period for Buddhism as far as real spiritual influence and strength is concerned. The truth of the matter is that the springs of the spiritual life for this age were really outside of Buddhism, namely, in Confucianism.
4. Neo-Confucianism . - Confucian thought had influenced Japan from the earliest days - even before Buddhism was introduced during the sixth century. But while this is true it cannot be said that Confucianism before the Tokugawa age was ever the dominant life-current in this land. It was rather like a number of minor tributaries which fed the main stream; particularly was its influence felt in the realm of practical ethics. In fact, as we have said before, much of the ethical teachings of Japanese Buddhism is really only a restatement of Confucian ethics. That is, the strongest influence which Confucianism exerted on Japan before the Tokugawa age was exerted through Buddhism.
Now it is a peculiar coincident that at the very time when Buddhism in Japan burst forth into the four great sects of the Kamakura period, namely, the rise of the Jōdo, Zen, Shin and Nichiren sects, Confucianism in China was being reshaped in the Neo-Confucian schools of Shushi (Chinese, Chu Hi 1130-1200) and Ōyōmei (Chinese, Wang-Yang- Ming 1472-1528). The foundations for the Ōyōmei school were really laid by Riku-Shōsan (1042-1094), and so while Ōyōmei, who gave the school its permanent influence, belongs to a little later period we may say that these Neo-Confucian schools arose about the time of the great Buddhist awakening in Japan. It was this type of Confucianism which was to overshadow Buddhism during the Tokugawa period. Particularly was the Shushi school to become the dominant force in the official world of Japan, for it was made the authorized system of education by Ieyasu and became so firmly entrenched that any one opposing its teachings was regarded as a traitor to the state.
This reshaping of Confucianism in China into the Shushi and Ōyōmei schools was really more than a restatement of an old system; it was in fact a syncretism of Confucianism and Buddhism. Even as early as the days of Mencius and a little later Confucianism was being strongly influenced by Taoism. That is, Confucian scholars, while clinging to the practical ethics of the Five Relations, began to seek for a metaphysical and religious basis for their ethics. Then with the coming of the Zen philosophy in the sixth century A.D. and the general development of Mahāyāna Buddhism in China, the movement in Confucianism from the external and formal to the internal and spiritual continued. This was the period when Chinese Buddhism took up into itself much of the practical teachings of Confucianism which have ever since constituted the practical ethics found in Chinese and Japanese Buddhism. But not until the days of Riku- Shōsan, Shushi and Ōyōmei did Confucianism develop a real metaphysical and religious basis for its teachings. These philosophers and their followers were always talking about the "Ri" and the "Ki" and the relation between the two. That is, where the older Confucianism was always talking about the human relations these Neo-Confucianists were more concerned with the problem of the relation of the human to the divine, of the finite to the infinite, of the phenomenal world to the noumenal world. The "Ri" becomes in Confucianism what the "Tao," or Way, was in Taoism, and what the Eternal and Monistic Substance or the Rational Principle was in Mahāyāna Buddhism. And the "Ki" in Confucianism takes very much the same place which the transitory and phenomenal world occupies in Buddhism. The chief difference is that the "Ri" in Confucianism is usually more than a mere Rational Principle but frequently has a moral quality. That is, it is the personification of Moral Wisdom rather than the personification of mere Reason. In some writers the conception of this Moral Wisdom approaches very near the conception of a personal God, though in others it remains rather pantheistic. And as the Absolute is thought of in terms of Moral Wisdom rather than mere Reason, the relation of man to the Absolute is also thought of more as a moral relation, i.e. man's chief duty is expressed in terms of righteous conduct rather than in terms of right knowledge, as is usually the case in Buddhism.
While these two Neo-Confucian schools are alike in that both are the expression of a union of Confucian and Buddhist thought, they differ somewhat from each other in other respects. The Shushi school regards itself as a true transmitter of orthodox Confucianism and consequently lays a great deal of stress upon a knowledge of the classics and erudition in general. The Ōyōmei school, on the other hand, while claiming to be a follower of Confucius in spirit, is more free in what it regards as orthodox. It lays not so much stress upon erudition as upon intuitive knowledge. Very much like the Zen Sect in Buddhism, which holds that the true teaching of the master is transmitted from heart to heart and not through books, so the Ōyōmei school holds that books are only guideposts to the truth and that the heart must find the truth in itself. Or as Kumazawa Banzan, one of the chief representatives of the Ōyōmei school in Japan, has so well put it when he compared books and the teachings of wise men of the past to the foot prints of a rabbit which one wishes to catch. Obviously the foot prints are a help in catching the rabbit, but they are not the rabbit itself. But if one has once caught the rabbit the foot prints are no longer necessary. Where Shushi said, know before you act (and by knowing he meant a knowledge of what wise men of the past have said), Ōyōmei said that one can know fully only as one acts. Both schools lay emphasis on practical moral wisdom, but the one looks upon transmitted knowledge as a guide to conduct and the other rather emphasizes the mutual influence of knowledge and action which alone gives true wisdom.
It is not our purpose to give here a detailed account of the introduction of this Neo-Confucianism, nor of its real place in the life of Japan. As already stated before, it was brought in gradually by priests of the Zen Sect who have always been among its chief exponents. The first representatives seem to have been two Chinese Buddhist scholars, Sōgen and Ichizan, the former coming to Japan in the latter part of the thirteenth century. These were followed by other Chinese teachers and by Japanese scholars who studied in China, but the political strife and bloodshed which caused Buddhism to degenerate in Japan also kept Confucianism from gaining much of a hold. It was not therefore until the famous trio, Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu, had restored peace that Neo-Confucianism became fully established in the person of the scholarly Fujiwara Seigwa (1561-1610) who is usually regarded as the first real exponent of the Shushi school in Japan. He was followed by Hayashi Razan (1583-1672), also a descendant of the great Fujiwara family. Both these illustrious scholars had been Buddhist scholars and the latter became a Buddhist priest after retiring from his position in the Tokugawa government. His opposition to Christianity was pronounced and the account of his interview with one of the Jesuit missionaries is of special interest to the student of Christianity in Japan. Other great lights regarded as disciples of the Shushi school in Japan are such men as the scholarly Muro Kyuso, the famous educator Kaibara Ekiken, Yamazaki Anzai and a whole host of strong and earnest men.
Just as the Shushi school had been recognized in China as the orthodox school by the government during the Ming era (1402-1644), so it was made, as we have said above, the authorized system of education by the Tokugawa shōguns. Ieyasu and his successors encouraged this teaching because of its great emphasis on loyalty and obedience which a subject owed to the ruling powers. So general became this teaching and so deeply was it planted into the Japanese mind that we see its effect to this day in the intense loyalty and patriotism so characteristic of the people of Japan. In fact, it was the spirit of this teaching so zealously fostered by the Tokugawa shōguns which finally, in the teachings of the Mito branch of the Shushi school, resulted in the overthrow of the shōguns and the restoration of the emperor as the real ruler of Japan.
But while the Shushi school was recognized and encouraged as the official teaching and while opponents to this system were often suppressed, there were in Japan, as there had been in China before, men whose thought-life could not be confined to a fixed rut by government edicts or persecutions. These became the followers of Ōyōmei and constituted the Ōyōmei school. The first and in many respects the greatest of these was Nakae Tōjiu, the Sage of Ōmi. In his philosophy of life Japanese thought reaches in many respects its loftiest form, and it is not strange that he is still regarded with great reverence. Some say he was really the only true sage Japan has produced. His conception of the nature of the "Ri" and man's relation to it and to his fellowman was indeed a close approach to the best Christian thought, and should be a real schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. Another man of this school was Nakae's greatest disciple, Kumazawa Banzan, who was perhaps the most independent thinker of all these Neo-Confucianists and whose views on Buddhism and Christianity are of special interest. The Ōyōmei school, like the Shushi school, counted among its exponents many of the leading men of the Tokugawa era. In fact the stream of Confucianism in this school kept purer and fresher than in the official Shushi school, for the latter was too closely hemmed in by official regulations to allow the freedom so essential for the spiritual life. The official school became really corrupt and helped rivet upon Japan that formalism and dead uniformity so characteristic of much of the life during the Tokugawa period.
In addition to these two Neo-Confucian schools, found both in China and Japan, there developed in Japan, during the latter part of the seventeenth century, a third school of Confucianism known as the Classical school. The founders of this school were Yamaga Soko and Itō Jinsai, of whom the latter is of greatest importance, though the former is of peculiar interest in that he is regarded as the father of Bushidō "The Way of the True Knight." This school may be said to be a protest against the emphasis which both the Shushi and Ōyōmei schools were placing upon the thought-life as over against the life of action and emotion. That is, Confucianism was becoming much like Buddhism, which conceives of life too much in terms of the intellect and not enough in terms of the feelings and the will. The school has a right to be called the Classical school in that it made a conscious effort to get back to Confucius and even back to the life-ideal of the wise rulers before him and of which he was only a transmitter; but, after all, the philosophy of life held by the chief exponents of this school is a great advance over the older Confucianism. Particularly is this true of the philosophy of Ogiu Sōrai. Though he claims to go back to the teachings of the sages that preceded Confucius, it is clear that his lofty conception of the divine and man's relation to it and to his fellow-man is more than the exposition of these ancient texts, but rather shows that, keen scholar that he was, he was a true heir of all the ages. Ogiu Sōrai and Nakae Tōjiu represent the best blending of what is loftiest in the teachings of the old philosophies and religions of Japan. Other great names in this Classical school are Itō Togai and Dazai Shundai, the latter being of special importance as a vigorous opponent of Buddhism.
Of less importance in the life of Japan during the Tokugawa period than the above three schools of Confucianism is a fourth one, known as the Eclectic school. The tendency towards eclecticism is always strong when too many schools of philosophy and religion occupy the field, and there were a number of such movements in Japan at this time. But this Eclectic school of Confucianism must be distinguished from the others in that it professed to draw its material only from the existing Confucian schools. When it is remembered, however, that the schools of Neo-Confucianism are themselves a syncretism of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, this so-called Eclectic Confucian school is really a wider eclecticism.
Now from this brief summary of Confucianism in Japan during the Tokugawa age it is clear that Buddhism had indeed a strong rival, for while, as we have said, this Confucian thought was first introduced by Buddhist priests as a part of Buddhist teachings, the movement gradually became independent of its foster mother and in some cases even opposed. In fact, some of the most bitter enemies which Japanese Buddhism ever had were among these great Confucian scholars who came to Confucianism through Buddhism. Gradually the intellectual leadership and the guidance in matters of moral education passed from the hands of the Buddhists into the hands of men who drew their inspiration from Confucian thought. The function of the Buddhist priests was more and more limited to matters pertaining to the future world and to taking care of men's dead bodies rather than directing their daily lives. The official world in Japan and the military classes and men of affairs had indeed little to do with Buddhism and so it became more and more the religion of the ignorant masses, who knew nothing of its better teachings or of its past glory. Even the better minds in Buddhism could not cope with the new situation. When challenged by the progressive Confucianists to state their religious views in terms applicable to Japanese life they could not do it acceptably. The simple truth of the matter is that the Buddhist philosophy of life, being itself the expression of a world-weary civilization, cannot be made a constructive force in an age of reconstructions.
5. Neo-Shintō Opposition to Buddhism . - But Neo-Confucianism was not the only force with which Buddhism had to divide the field after the rise of the Tokugawa shōgunate. There developed also what might be called a Neo-Shintō.
We saw how at the beginning of the ninth century Shintō and Buddhism were merged into one system known as Ryōbu Shintō. What this really meant was that Shintō was virtually swallowed up by Buddhism. Not that Shintō disappeared entirely, for the religion of the masses in Buddhism was often more like the old Shintō than Buddhism, but that it was Buddhist thought which dominated the minds of the thinking sections of society. But when, through the civil wars that preceded the Tokugawa age, Buddhism had been weakened, the spirit of the native Shintō came to life again. It is rather difficult to account for this, but one factor in the matter seems to have been a growing national consciousness caused, on the one hand, by the influx of the Neo-Confucianism, and on the other hand, by the enforced unification of the empire under Ieyasu. That is, the growing knowledge of things Chinese naturally led men to think of things Japanese by way of comparison. We know, e.g., that Hayashi Razan and other Confucian scholars went so far as to work out a theory of a relation between Japan's first emperor, Jimmu Tennō, and the Chinese Emperor Taikaku of the Shu era, and that these views led Tokugawa Mitsukuni (1628-1700) to gather together many great scholars into an institution called the "Shōkō Kwan" for the purpose of investigating Japanese history. It was these scholars of the Mito branch of the Shushi school who wrote the Dai Nihon Shi, "Great Japanese History," which was to play such a big part in the Restoration of 1868. But this movement in the Mito school was only a part of a wider movement, namely, a movement to know and restore things Japanese.
A better knowledge of things Japanese showed men that Buddhism, which had dominated Japan so long, was really a foreign importation and that it could be justly blamed for having played a big part in the civil wars which had for centuries devastated these beautiful islands. In fact, it could be shown with a degree of fairness that Buddhism had broken the spirit of the native Shintō, the heart of which was loyalty to the ruler and a deep patriotism. Of course, Confucianism was also a foreign element and for that reason there was some opposition to it on the part of certain Shintōists, but still Confucianism, with its emphasis on filial piety and loyalty, was much nearer to Shintō in spirit than was Buddhism, whose highest ideal was the celibate monk, and which treated human life and the world as evil. As time went on, therefore, this Neo-Shintō gained momentum until finally in the persons of Motoöri Norinaga and Hirata Atsutane it became a fierce opponent of Buddhism and all for which Buddhism stood. "Back to the pure Shintō of the early days!" was the cry of these men. "Back to the religion which is the only real basis for the teaching that the Imperial household descended from the Sun Goddess Amaterasu." Buddhism had made of emperors mere puppets to plotting priests and so destroyed the very foundations of the Japanese state.
Even among Buddhists themselves there was a searching into the facts of the past which helped weaken its hold on Japan and shook men's faith in its authority. Attacked from all sides and on historic grounds, some of the more earnest priests took a more critical attitude towards their own religion, and we have what we might call the birth of higher criticism in Japanese Buddhism. Two learned men, Tominaga Nakamoto and Hattori Tenyū, were elected to make a special study of the Buddhist canon; and particularly the work of the former, though attracting little attention at the time, laid the foundations for future criticisms. We shall speak of his work in the Chapter on the Buddhist Canon, but we wish to state here simply that he came to the general conclusion that Mahāyāna Buddhism was not the pure Buddhism of the founder. It is only natural that such views should have a rather serious effect on the minds of those who placed all the emphasis on external authority.
Now this religio-patriotic movement led by the Shintō- ists and the Confucian scholars of the Mito school not only undermined the authority of Buddhism, branding it as a foreign and undesirable importation, but it also reacted on the Tokugawa shōgunate itself, which had been instrumental in establishing the Shushi school. If Buddhism was a usurper in the spiritual world, then surely was the shōgunate itself a worse criminal, for had it not robbed the emperors at Kyōto of all real authority? Little did Tokugawa Mitsukuni dream that when he founded the "Shōkō Kwan" at Mito and encouraged the scholars to study Japanese history he was helping in the overthrow of his successors. We would not say that this was the only factor in the situation, for the Tokugawa shōgunate, long before it was viewed as a usurper, had degenerated and lost its control over the powerful clans in the south, but still the leaders from these southern clans, which took the lead in the movement that ended in the Restoration of 1868, drew much of their inspiration from the Mito scholars. The Restoration was, of course, hastened by the appearance of Commodore Perry's ships in 1853, but it was not really caused by this as some Westerners fondly imagine. It was really a very minor factor in a very complex movement the core of which was in the religious and philosophic life of the nation during the two centuries preceding.
G. Buddhism in the Meiji Era
With the passing away of the Tokugawa shōgunate and the restoration of the emperor as the real ruler of the empire Buddhism passed into a new world. However much opposition there had been to it during the Tokugawa period and however much it had lost its intellectual and moral leadership to men reared in a Confucian atmosphere, it still occupied a place as a state religion. Even the fierce advocates of the native Shintō could not succeed in dislodging Buddhism from its nominal position as the religion of the land or in breaking the union of Shintō and Buddhism. But a few years after the Restoration, namely, in the year 1870, Buddhism was finally disestablished as the state religion and separated from Shintō. An attempt was even made to make the divorced Shintō the state religion, but this was pressing matters too far and did not succeed. Instead Shintō was separated into two parts, namely, Shintō as a religion and Shintō as a system of rites and ceremonies to be used on state occasions as the official form for such things. This second division (Shinshoku) takes charge of all national shrines and tombs of great statesmen and patriots which are not officially regarded as having any religious significance. Shintō as a religion (Shintō shūkyō), on the other hand, with the granting of the Constitution in 1889, was placed on the same footing with Buddhism as one of the religions of Japan, In fact, the Constitution of Japan recognizes the principle of religious liberty, and so puts all religions on the same footing before the law. The fact, however, that the government takes its ceremonies for state occasions from Shintō and has Shintō priests officiate at such times, and the fact that the great Shintō shrines are made national shrines gives the impression to the people that the government regards Shintō as the state religion. The distinction in Shintō referred to above has no meaning to the average Japanese and all the explanations of government officials as to what they mean by it has not changed matters much. The simple fact is that the people at large regard the great Shintō shrines as having religious significance and as more than simply nurseries for patriotism.
As a result of this disestablishment of Buddhism as a state religion it has found it rather difficult to readjust itself. All through its history in Japan it had depended a good deal upon government patronage, and frequently its interests had been identical with those of the rulers of the nation. Thus to be cast off and thrown upon its own resources naturally led to a good many hardships. A good many temples have found it impossible to continue and have been abandoned, and still more are in a dilapidated condition. What impresses one who visits the numerous beauty spots in Japan so frequently occupied by Buddhist temples is that their glory belongs to a past age rather than to the present. The pilgrims who visit these sequestered spots are not so much the pious believers with their rosaries and much repeated prayers but troops of Middle school students out on an Autumn or Spring excursion with little knowledge or interest in the things for which these decaying temples stood in the past. Of course, there are certain parts of the country where these temples still stand for the authority of the past; especially is this true in some of the non-progressive sections on the west coast of the main island, but no serious student of Buddhist history would hold that Buddhism plays anything like the rôle in Japanese life which it played up to or even through the Tokugawa period.
In certain quarters, however, attempts have been made to reform Buddhism and restore it to its erstwhile place in Japanese life. Two or three of the leading sects seem to have found themselves again and are succeeding fairly well in meeting the stress of economic readjustment that has come over Japan in our day. Some of the more progressive leaders say that the disestablishment of Buddhism as the state religion is really a good thing and will enable it to fulfill its mission as a spiritual force in society. These sects are even trying to extend the field of their activity by carrying on mission work in the newer portions of the empire and by trying to rejuvenate the decadent Buddhism of Korea and China. New methods of propaganda are being adopted, taken over bodily from Christianity. Thus on all sides we see springing up Young Men's Buddhist Associations, Buddhist Sunday Schools, Women's Societies, Orphanages, Homes for Ex-convicts, etc. Even street preaching and special "evangelistic campaigns" are getting quite common, and the content of some of the sermons and hymns is sometimes taken bodily from Christianity, only that the name Buddha takes the place of Christ. It must be added, however, that the recent scandals connected with the headquarters of almost every one of the leading sects go a long way to counteract this forward movement and many earnest Buddhists are wondering what will be the fate of their religion in Japan.
H. The Buddhist Sects and Their Numerical Strength
In the closing chapter we shall discuss more fully the place of Buddhism in the life of present-day Japan and its outlook for the future. At this point, however, it might be of value to give the names of the various sects and subdivisions of Japanese Buddhism as well as the relative strength of these.1. The Twelve Sects . - Following the traditions of Chinese Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism has long since held to the number twelve as the proper number of sects. This has necessitated a readjustment from time to time as old sects died out and new ones came into existence. The old way of enumeration was as follows when given in their chronological order:
|1.||Sanron introduced in 625 A.D.|
|2.||Jōjitsu introduced in 625 A.D.|
|3.||Hossō introduced in 625 or 653 A.D.|
|4.||Kusha introduced in 658 A.D.|
|5.||Kegon introduced in 736 A.D.|
|6.||Ritsu introduced in 754 A.D.|
|7.||Tendai introduced in 805 A.D.|
|8.||Shingon introduced in 805 A.D.|
|9.||Jōdo founded in 1175 A.D.|
|10.||Zen introduced in 1191 A.D.|
|11.||Shin founded in 1224 A.D.|
|12.||Nichiren founded in 1253 A.D.|
Four of these sects have died out, namely, the Sanron, Jōjitsu, Kusha and Ritsu, and their place is made up by regarding the three main divisions of the Zen Sect as independent sects and counting the small Yūdūz Nembutsu and Ji sects, so that the list is as follows:
|1.Hossō||7. Rinzai (Zen)|
|2.Kegon||8. Sōtō (Zen)|
|5.Yūdzū Nembutsu||11. Ji|
|6.Jōdo||12. Ōbaku (Zen)|
2. Subdivisions of the Sects
|1.||Hossō: Hossō-shō. (1)|
|2.||Kegon: Kegon-shū. (1)|
|3.||Tendai: Tendai-shū, Jimon-ha, Shinsei-ha. (3)|
|4.||Shingon: (Old School) Kōya-ha, Ōmuro-ha, Daigo-ha,|
|5.||Daikakuji-ha, Tōji-ha, Senyūji-ha, Yamashina-ha, Ōno-ha. (The last four are sometimes grouped as one.) (New School) Chisan-ha, Hōzan-ha, Ritsu-ha. (11)|
|6.||Yūdzū Nembutsu: Yūdzū Nembutsu-shū. (1)|
|7.||Jōdo: Jōdo-shū, Nishiyama-ha. (2)|
|8.||Rinzai (Zen) : Tenryūji-ha, Sōkokuji-ha, Kenninjiha, Nanzenji-ha, Myōshinji-ha, Kenchōji-ha, Tō- fukuji-ha, Daitokuji-ha, Enkakuji-ha, Eigenji-ha, Hōkōji-ha, Butsuji-ha, Kakutaiji-ha, Kōgakuji-ha. (The last two are sometimes classed as parts of other branches.) (14)|
|9.||Sōtō (Zen): Sōtō-shū. (1)|
|10.||Shin: Hongwanji-ha, Ōtani-ha, Takada-ha, Kōshōjiha, Bukkōji-ha, Kibe-ha, Izumoji-ha, Yamamotoha, Seishōji-ha, Sammonto-ha. (10)|
|11.||Nichiren: Nichiren-shū, Kempon Hokke-shū, Hommon-shū, Hommon Hokke-shū, Hokke-shō, Hommyū Hokke-shū, Nichiren Fuji-ha, Nichiren Fujufuse-ha, Nichiren Fujufuse Kōmon-ha. (9)|
|12.||Ji: Jishū. (1)|
|13.||Obaku (Zen): Ōbaku-shū. (1)|
3. Relative Strength of the Sects
|TEMPLES||PRIESTS||PROPAGANDISTS||MONKS AND NEOPHYTES NOT PROPAGANDISTS|
|5. Yūdzū Nembutsu||363||408||275||135|
|7. Rinzai (Zen)||6142||4410||5068||3410|
|8. Sōtō (Zen)||14,211||9499||13,675||12,770|
|12. Ōbaku (Zen)||569||347||540||-|
It is impossible to say just how many adherents the various sects have. This is due to two things. First is the fact that during the Tokugawa period everybody was required to register in one or another of the temples, and thus many still call themselves Buddhists even though they have practically no connection with any temple or sect now that this registration is no longer required. The other reason why it is impossible to give the number of adherents is the simple fact that nothing special is required to be a Buddhist. Not even the simple confession, "I take refuge in the Buddha, the Law and the Priesthood," once used as a test of discipleship, is required of the general run of people who are claimed as Buddhists. The numerical strength of Buddhists in Japan to-day, therefore, can be measured only by such figures as we have given above, and even this is rather misleading, for the simple fact that practically all those numerous temples are an inheritance of the past and it is exceedingly doubtful whether many of them will be kept up or rebuilt as the economic pressure continues to increase.