Buddhism in Japan – Wikipedia

Posted: December 23, 2017 at 2:45 pm


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Buddhism in Japan has been practiced since its official introduction in 552 CE according to the Nihon Shoki[1] from Baekje, Korea, by Buddhist monks.[2][3]Buddhism has had a major influence on the development of Japanese society and remains an influential aspect of the culture to this day.[4]

In modern times, Japan's most popular schools of Buddhism are Pure Land Buddhism, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon Buddhism and Zen. As of 2008, approximately 34% of the Japanese identify as Buddhists and the number has been growing since the 1980s, in terms of membership in organized religion. However, in terms of practice, 75% practice some form of Buddhism (compared with 90% practicing Shinto, thus most Japanese practice both religion to some extent (Shinbutsu-shg)).[5] About 60% of the Japanese have a Butsudan (Buddhist shrine) in their homes.[6]

The arrival of Buddhism in China is ultimately a consequence of the first contacts between China and Central Asia, where Buddhism had spread from the Indian subcontinent. These contacts occurred with the opening of the Silk Road in the 2nd century BCE, following the travels of Zhang Qian between 138 and 126 BCE. These contacts culminated with the official introduction of Buddhism in China in 67 CE. Historians generally agree that by the middle of the 1st century, the religion had penetrated to areas north of the Huai River in China.[7]

According to the Book of Liang, which was written in 635, five Buddhist monks from Gandhara traveled to Japan in 467. At the time, they referred to Japan as Fusang (Chinese: ; Japanese pronunciation: Fus), the name of a mythological country to the extreme east beyond the sea:[8]

Fusang is located to the east of China, 20,000 li (1,500 kilometers) east of the state of Da Han [, "China"] (itself east of the state of Wa in modern Kansai region, Japan). (...) In former times, the people of Fusang knew nothing of the Buddhist religion, but in the second year of Da Ming of the Song Dynasty (467), five monks from Kipin [Kabul region of Gandhara] travelled by ship to Fusang. They propagated Buddhist doctrine, circulated scriptures and drawings, and advised the people to relinquish worldly attachments. As a result the customs of Fusang changed.

Although there are records of Buddhist monks from China coming to Japan before the Asuka Period, the "official" introduction of Buddhism to Japan is dated to 552 in Nihon Shoki[9] when King Seong of Baekje (, now western Korea) sent a mission to the Emperor Kinmei that included Buddhist monks or nuns together with an image of Buddha and a number of sutras to introduce Buddhism.[3][10] The powerful Soga clan played a key role in the early spread of Buddhism in the country. Initial uptake of the new faith was slow, and Buddhism only started to spread some years later when Empress Suiko openly encouraged the acceptance of Buddhism among all Japanese people.

According to legend, in Japan in 552, there was an attempt to destroy a tooth relic, one of the first of Buddhas to arrive in the country; it was hit by a hammer into an anvil; the hammer and anvil were destroyed but the tooth was not.[11] On January 15, 593, Soga no Umako ordered relics of Buddha deposited inside the foundation stone under the pillar of a pagoda at Asuka-dera.[12]

In 607, in order to obtain copies of sutras, an imperial envoy was dispatched to Sui China. As time progressed and the number of Buddhist clergy increased, the offices of Sj (archbishop) and Szu (bishop) were created. By 627, there were 46 Buddhist temples, 816 Buddhist priests, and 569 Buddhist nuns in Japan.

The initial period saw the six great Chinese schools, called Nanto Rokush (, lit. the Six Nara Sects) in Japanese, introduced to the Japanese archipelago:

These schools centered around the ancient capitals of Asuka and Nara, where great temples such as the Asuka-dera and Tdai-ji were erected respectively. These were not exclusive schools, and temples were apt to have scholars versed in several of the schools. It has been suggested that they can best be thought of as "study groups". The Buddhism of these periods, known as the Asuka period and Nara period was not a practical religion, being more the domain of learned priests whose official function was to pray for the peace and prosperity of the state and imperial house. This kind of Buddhism had little to offer the illiterate and uneducated masses, and led to the growth of "peoples priests" who were not ordained and had no formal Buddhist training. Their practice was a combination of Buddhist and Daoist elements and the incorporation of shamanistic features of indigenous practices. Some of these figures became immensely popular, and were a source of criticism towards the sophisticated academic and bureaucratic Buddhism of the capital.

The Late Nara period saw the introduction of Tangmi (Esoteric Buddhism, Japanese mikky) to Japan from China by Kkai and Saich, who founded Shingon Buddhism and the Tendai school, respectively.

During the Heian period the capital was shifted from Nara to Kyoto. Monasteries became centers of powers, even establishing armies of Shei, warrior-monks.

Shinto and Buddhism became the dominant religions, maintaining a balance until the Meiji-restoration.

The Kamakura period was a period of crises in which the control of the country moved from the imperial aristocracy to the samurai. In 1185 the Kamakura shogunate was established at Kamakura.

This period saw the introduction of the two schools that had perhaps the greatest impact on the country: the schools of Pure Land Buddhism, promulgated by evangelists such as Genshin and articulated by monks such as Hnen, which emphasize salvation through faith in Amitbha and remain the largest Buddhist sect in Japan (and throughout Asia); and Zen, promulgated by monks such as Eisai and Dgen, which emphasize liberation through the insight of meditation, which were equally rapidly adopted by the upper classes and had a profound impact on the culture of Japan.

Additionally, it was during the Kamakura period that the influential monk Nichiren began teaching devotion to the Lotus Sutra. Eventually, his disciples formed their own school of Nichiren Buddhism, which includes various sects that have their own interpretations of Nichiren's teachings. Nichiren Buddhism established the foundation of Japanese Buddhism in the thirteenth century. The school is known for its sociopolitical activism and looks to reform society through faith.[16]

In the Muromachi period, Zen, particularly the Rinzai school, obtained the help of the Ashikaga shogunate and the Emperor of Japan, and accomplished considerable development.

After the Sengoku period of war, Japan was re-united in the AzuchiMomoyama period. This decreased the power of Buddhism, which had become a strong political and military force in Japan. Neo-Confucianism and Shinto gained influence at the expense of Buddhism, which came under strict state control.[17] Japan closed itself off to the rest of the world. The only traders to be allowed were Dutchmen admitted to the island of Dejima.

New doctrines and methods were not to be introduced, nor were new temples and schools. The only exception was the baku lineage, which was introduced in the 17th century during the Edo period by Ingen, a Chinese monk. Ingen had been a member of the Linji school, the Chinese equivalent of Rinzai, which had developed separately from the Japanese branch for hundreds of years. Thus, when Ingen journeyed to Japan following the fall of the Ming dynasty to the Manchu people, his teachings were seen as a separate school. The baku school was named after Mount Huangbo (Chinese: ; pinyin: Hungb shn; Japanese pronunciation: baku shan), which had been Ingen's home in China. Also notable during the period was the publication of an exceptionally high quality reprint of the Ming-era Tripiaka by Tetsugen Doko, a renowned master of the baku school.[17]

With the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the new government adopted a strong anti-Buddhist attitude, and a movement to eradicate Buddhism and bring Shinto to ascendancy arose throughout the country due to the strong connections of Buddhism to the Shoguns.

During the Meiji period (18681912), after a coup in 1868, Japan abandoned its feudal system and opened up to Western modernism. Shinto became the state religion. Within the Buddhist establishment the Western world was seen as a threat as well as a challenge to stand up to.[19][20] Buddhist institutions had a simple choice: adapt or perish. Rinzai and Soto Zen chose to adapt, trying to modernize Zen in accord with Western insights, while simultaneously maintaining a Japanese identity. Other schools, and Buddhism in general, simply saw their influence wane. The edict of April 1872 ended the status of the buddhist precepts as state law and allowed monks to marry and to eat meat.[21] This "codification of a secularized lifestyle for the monk coupled with the revival of the emperor system and development of State Shinto were fundamental in desacralizing Buddhism and pushing it to the margins of society".[22]

Japanese identity was being articulated in Nihonjinron, the "Japanese uniqueness theory". A broad range of subjects was taken as typical of Japanese culture. D. T. Suzuki contributed to the Nihonjinron by taking Zen as the distinctive token of Asian spirituality, showing its unique character in the Japanese culture.[23]Nichirenism was one particular expression of Japanese Buddhist nationalism.

During World War II, almost all Buddhists temples strongly supported Japan's militarization.[24][25][26][27][28][29] In contrast, a few individuals such as Ichikawa Haku,[30] and Gir Senoo were targeted, and the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, a Nichiren lay believers' organization, was ultimately banned by military authorities. During the 1940s, "leaders of both Honmon Hokkeshu and Sokka Gakkai were imprisoned for their defiance of wartime government religious policy, which mandated display of reverence for state Shinto."[31][32][33]

Post World War II, there was a high demand for Buddhist priests who glorified fallen soldiers, and gave funerals and posthumous names, causing a strong revival.[34][citation needed] However, due to secularization and materialism, Buddhism and religion in general, continued to decline.[need quotation to verify]

Japan has seen a growth in post war movements of lay believers of Buddhism[citation needed] and a decline in traditional Buddhism in the 20th century, with roughly 100 Buddhist organizations disappearing every year.[35][36] As of 2008 approximately 34% of the Japanese identify as "Buddhists" and the number has been growing since the 1980s, as Buddhists were 27% in 1984.

Still, around 90% of Japanese funerals are conducted according to Buddhist rites.[37] "In 1963 Tamamuro Taijo coined the term Funeral Buddhism that came to be used to describe traditional Buddhism in Japan as the religion engaged in funerary rites and removed from the spiritual needs of people".[38]

Contrary to the ritualistic practice of traditional Buddhism, a revived modern form of Nichiren Buddhism led by lay believers Soka Gakkai grew rapidly in the chaos of post war Japan [33] from about 3000 members in 1951 to over 8 million members in 2000,[39] and has established schools, colleges and a university, as well as cultural institutions.[40] A study about the reason for the growth in lay believers and increased engagement in society attributes the cause to Nichiren teachings of social responsibility: In the tradition of Nichiren Buddhism, however, we find the Lotus Sutra linked to a view of social responsibility that is distinctive.[41] According to an academic study, lay believers of Buddhism offer an alternative view of Japan where their form of Buddhism would form the religious foundation of a peaceful and psychologically and materially enriched society [42]

In the post-Meiji, pre-WWII period, there were officially 13 schools and 56 branches (ja:) of traditional Buddhism (i.e., those not established in modern times). The official schools included three from the Nara period, two from the Heian period (Tendai and Shingon), four Pure Land schools, three Zen schools (Rinzai, St and Obaku), and Nichiren. During the war, this was halved to 28 branches, but the law enforcing this was repealed following the end of the war, allowing former branches to return. Further, since then, many groups have split off from existing branches.[citation needed]

625: Introduced into Japan. The Tattvasiddhi school (, Jjitsu-sh) (formerly known as the *Styasiddhi) is considered to be an offshoot of the Bahurutya, an Indian Sautrntika school of Nikaya Buddhism; however, the Tattvasiddhi's position was also close to that of the Sthavira nikya. They were distinguished by a rejection of abhidharma as not being the words of the Buddha. It was introduced to Japan as Jjitsu in 625 by the monk Ekwan of Goryeo. In Japan, it was classified as one of the three approaches of East Asian Mdhyamaka instead of a separate lineage. East Asian Mdhyamaka (, Sanron-sh) was one of the six Nara sects (, Nanto Rokush).

654: Dsh introduces East Asian Yogcra (, Hoss). Yogcra is based on an early Indian philosophy by masters such as Vasubandhu. Practices of this lineage are also known as "consciousness-only" since they teach that all phenomena are phenomena of the mind. The East Asian Yogcra school of Buddhism was founded by Xuanzang (, Jp. Genj) in China c. 630 and introduced to Japan in 654 by Dsh, who had travelled to China to study under him.[45] The Discourse on the Theory of Consciousness-Only (, Jyuishiki-ron) is an important text for the Hoss school.

This school was transmitted to Japan in the 7th century. Literally: Three-Discourse School; a Madhyamaka school which developed in China based on two discourses by Nagarjuna and one by Aryadeva. Madhyamaka is one of the two most important Mahayana philosophies, and reemphasizes the original Buddhist teachings that phenomena are neither truly existent or absolutely non-existent, but are characterized by impermanence and insubstantiality.

736: Bodhisena introduces the Kegon (Huayan or Avatasaka) school to Japan. The Kegon school was founded by Dushun (, Dojun) c. 600 and was introduced to Japan by the Indian monk Bodhisena in 736. The Avatamsaka Sutra (Kegon-ky ) is the central text for the Kegon school. The Shin'yaku Kegonky Ongi Shiki is an early Japanese annotation of this stra.

753: Jianzhen (Chinese: ) introduces the Rissh (Ritsu or vinaya school) to Japan. Founded by Doxun (, Jp. Dosen), China, c. 650First Introduction to Japan: Jianzhen, 753. The Ritsu school specialized in the Vinaya (the monastic rules in the Tripitaka). They used the Dharmagupta version of the vinaya which is known in Japanese as Shibunritsu ()

The Kusha-sh () was one of the six schools of Buddhism introduced to Japan during the Asuka and Nara periods. Along with the Tattvasiddhi school (Jjitsu-sh) and the Rissh, it is a school of Nikaya Buddhism, which is sometimes derisively known to Mahayana Buddhism as "the Hinayana".

A Sarvastivada school,[47] Kusha-sh focussed on abhidharma analysis based on the "Commentary on the Abhidharmakoabhaya" () by the fourth-century Gandharan philosopher Vasubandhu. The school takes its name from that authoritative text.

807: Saich introduces the Tendai (Tiantai) school to Japan. Known as Tiantai () in China, the Tendai school was founded by Zhiyi (, Jp Chigi) in China, c. 550. In 804 Saich () traveled to China to study at the Tiantai teachings, at Mount Tiantai. However, before his return he also studied, and was initiated into, the practice of the Vajrayana, with emphasis on the Mahavairocana Sutra. The primary text of Tiantai is Lotus Sutra (Hokke-ky ), but when Saich established his school in Japan he incorporated the study and practice of Vajrayana as well.

816: Kkai founds Shingon Buddhism (, Shingon-sh). One of the major schools of Buddhism in Japan today and one of the few surviving Vajrayana lineages in East Asia, it originally spread from India to China through traveling monks such as Vajrabodhi and Amoghavajra. Known in Chinese as the Tangmi, these esoteric teachings would flourish in Japan under the auspices of a Buddhist monk named Kkai (), who traveled to Tang China in 804 as part of the same expedition as Saich. In the capital he studied Tangmi and Sanskrit and received initiation from Huiguo. On returning to Japan, Kkai eventually managed to establish Shingon as a school in its own right. Kkai received two lineages of teachingone based on the Mahavairocana Tantra (, Dainichiky) and the other based on the Vajrasekhara Sutra (, Kongchky).

The word "Shingon" is the Japanese pronunciation of Zhnyn "True Words",[48] which in turn is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit word "mantra".[49]

1175: Hnen introduces Pure Land Buddhism to Japan.

Jdo-sh was founded by Hnen (), 1175Japanese name: , "Pure Land"Major Influences: Chinese Jingtu Zong ( "Pure Land school"), TendaiDoctrine: NianfoPrimary Text: Longer Sukhvatvyha Stra (Muryju-ky )

Jdo Shinsh was founded by Shinran (), 1224Japanese name: , "True Pure Land"Major Influences: Jdo-sh, TendaiDoctrine: nembutsu no shinjin ("nianfo of true entrusting", that is, saying nianfo is a declaration of faith in Amida's salvation plan for the individual rather than a plan for salvation.)Primary Text: Longer Sukhvatvyha Stra (Muryju-ky )

Ji-sh was founded by Ippen (), 1270Japanese name: or , "Time"Major Influences: Jdo-shDoctrine: NembutsuPrimary Text:

The Yz-Nembutsu school was founded by Rynin (), 1117Japanese name: Doctrine: sokushitsu j (,)Primary Text: Avatamsaka Sutra (Kegon-ky )Lotus Sutra (Hokke-ky )

Several variants of Zen's practice and experiential wisdom () were separately brought to Japan. Note that Zen influences are identifiable earlier in Japanese Buddhism, esp. cross-fertilization with Hosso and Kegon, but the independent schools were formed quite late.

1191: Eisai introduces the Rinzai school to Japan. Founder: Linji Yixuan (), China, c. 850Chinese name: Linji school (), named after founderFirst Introduction to Japan: Eisai (), 1191Major Influences: East Asian Yogcra, KegonDoctrine: zazen (, "sitting meditation"), especially kan (, "public matter") practicePrimary Texts: Transcendental Wisdom Sutras aka Prajnaparamita (), incl. Heart Sutra

1227: Dgen introduces the St (Caodong school) to Japan. Founders: Caoshan (, Jp. Sosan) and Dongshan Liangjie (, Jp. Tosan), China, c. 850Chinese name: Caodong (), named after its foundersFirst Introduction to Japan: Dgen (), 1227Major Influences: Tendai, East Asian Yogcra, KegonDoctrine: zazen (, "sitting meditation"), especially shikantazaPrimary Texts: Transcendental Wisdom Sutras aka Prajnaparamita (), incl. Heart Sutra

1654: Ingen introduces the baku (Huangbo) school to Japan.Founder: Ingen (), Japan, 1654Japanese name: , named for the mountain where the founder had lived in ChinaMajor Influences: Rinzai schoolDoctrine: kyzen-itchi (, "Unity of Sutras and Zen")Primary Texts: Transcendental Wisdom Sutras aka Prajnaparamita (), incl. Heart Sutra

The Fuke-sh was founded by Puhua ()First introduction to Japan: Shinchin Kakushin (), 1254Major Influences: Rinzai schoolAbolished: 1871

1253: Nichiren (: "Sun-Lotus") expounds his teachings. Nichiren Buddhism split into several denominations after the death of Nichiren in 1282. The Nichiren Fuju-fuse-ha sub-sect of Nichiren Buddhism was abolished in 1669 and legalised again in 1876.Today's Nichiren Buddhism is represented by traditional-oriented schools such as Honmon Butsury-sh, Nichiren-sh and Nichiren Shsh and more recent movements like the Soka Gakkai, Rissh Ksei Kai, Reiykai and Nipponzan-Myhji-Daisanga. See Nichiren Buddhism for a more complete list.

Major Influences: TendaiPrimary Texts: Lotus Sutra (: Myh Renge Ky; abbrev. : Hokke-ky), treatises and letters by Nichiren.Mantra: Nam(u) Myh Renge Ky ()

Japanese culture maintained an uneasy relation to Buddhist culture. While the Chinese culture was admired, Buddhism was also regarded as a strange influence.

During the Kamakura (11851333) and Muromachi (13361573) Buddhism, or the Buddhist institutions, had a great influence on Japanese society. Buddhist institutions were used by the shogunate to control the country. During the Edo (16001868) this power was constricted, to be followed by persecutions at the beginning of the Meiji-restoration (18681912). Buddhist temples played a major administrative role during the Edo period, through the Danka or terauke system. In this, Japanese citizens were required to register at their local Buddhist temples and obtain a certification (terauke), which became necessary to function in society. At first, this system was put into place to suppress Christianity, but over time it took on the larger role of census and population control.

In Japan, Buddhist art started to develop as the country converted to Buddhism in 548. Some tiles from the Asuka period (shown above), the first period following the conversion of the country to Buddhism, display a strikingly classical style, with ample Hellenistic dress and realistically rendered body shape characteristic of Greco-Buddhist art.

Buddhist art became extremely varied in its expression. Many elements of Greco-Buddhist art remain to this day however, such as the Hercules inspiration behind the Nio guardian deities in front of Japanese Buddhist temples, or representations of the Buddha reminiscent of Greek art such as the Buddha in Kamakura.[b]

Various other Greco-Buddhist artistic influences can be found in the Japanese Buddhist pantheon, the most striking being that of the Japanese wind god Fjin. In consistency with Greek iconography for the wind god Boreas, the Japanese wind god holds above his head with his two hands a draping or "wind bag" in the same general attitude.[c] The abundance of hair has been kept in the Japanese rendering, as well as exaggerated facial features.

Another Buddhist deity, Shukongshin, one of the wrath-filled protector deities of Buddhist temples in Japan, is also an interesting case of transmission of the image of the famous Greek god Heracles to East Asia along the Silk Road. Heracles was used in Greco-Buddhist art to represent Vajrapani, the protector of the Buddha, and his representation was then used in China and Japan to depict the protector gods of Buddhist temples.[d]

The artistic inspiration from Greek floral scrolls is found quite literally in the decoration of Japanese roof tiles, one of the only remaining element of wooden architecture throughout centuries. The clearest ones are from the 7th century Nara temple building tiles, some of them exactly depicting vines and grapes. These motifs have evolved towards more symbolic representations, but essentially remain to this day in many Japanese traditional buildings.[e]

Soga no Umako built Hk-ji, the first temple in Japan, between 588 to 596. It was later renamed as Asuka-dera for Asuka, the name of the capital where it was located. Unlike early Shinto shrines, early Buddhist temples were highly ornamental and strictly symmetrical. The early Heian period (9th10th century) saw an evolution of style based on the mikky sects Tendai and Shingon Buddhism. The Daibutsuy style and the Zenshy style emerged in the late 12th or early 13th century.

Although its date and practices vary region to region, the Bon Festival is celebrated primarily in Japan and in communities with large Japanese diaspora communities. It is believed that the spirits of the dead return to earth for three days and visit the family shrines or graves. It is customary to clean the graves and to hold family reunions.

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December 23rd, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Buddhist Concepts