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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Of the apparently radical policy of the Soga chief


Majesty has considered only one aspect of the matter. I am young and ignorant, but I have carefully studied the teachings of Confucius and the doctrine of the Kami. I find that there is a plain distinction. Shinto, since its roots spring from the Kami, came into existence simultaneously with the heaven and the earth, and thus expounds the origin of human beings. Confucianism, being a system of moral principles, is coeval with the people and deals with the middle stage of humanity. Buddhism, the fruit of principles, arose when the human intellect matured. It explains the last stage of man. To like or dislike Buddhism without any reason is simply an individual prejudice. Heaven commands us to obey reason. The individual cannot contend against heaven. Recognizing that impossibility, nevertheless to rely on the individual is not the act of a wise man or an intelligent. Whether the Emperor desire to encourage this creed is a matter within his own will. Should he desire to reject it, let him do so; it will arise one generation later. Should he desire to adopt it, let him do so; it will arise one generation earlier. A generation is as one moment in heaven's eyes. Heaven is eternal. The Emperor's reign is limited to a generation; heaven is boundless and illimitable. How can the Emperor struggle against heaven? How can heaven be concerned about a loss of time?"

The eminent modern Japanese historiographer, Dr. Ariga, is disposed to regard the above as

the composition of some one of later date than the illustrious Shotoku, but he considers that it rightly represents the relation assigned to the three doctrines by the Japanese of the sixth and seventh centuries. "Shinto teaches about the origin of the country but does not deal with the present or the future. Confucianism discusses the present and has no concern with the past or the future. Buddhism, alone, preaches about the future. That life ends with the present cannot be believed by all. Many men think of the future, and it was therefore inevitable that many should embrace Buddhism."

But at the moment when the memorial of King Myong was presented to the Emperor Kimmei, the latter was unprepared to make a definite reply. The image, indeed, he found to be full of dignity, but he left his ministers to decide whether it should be worshipped or not. A division of opinion resulted. The o-omi, Iname, of the Soga family, advised that, as Buddhism had won worship from all the nations on the West, Japan should not be singular. But the o-muraji, Okoshi, of the Mononobe-uji, and Kamako, muraji of the Nakatomi-uji, counselled that to bow down to foreign deities would be to incur the anger of the national gods. In a word, the civil officials advocated the adoption of the Indian creed; the military and ecclesiastical officials opposed it. That the head of the Mononobe-uji should have adopted this attitude was natural: it is always the disposition of soldiers to be conservative, and that is notably true of the Japanese soldier (bushi). In the case of the Nakatomi, also, we have to remember that they were, in a sense, the guardians of the Shinto ceremonials: thus, their aversion to the acceptance of a strange faith is explained.

What is to be said, however, of the apparently radical policy of the Soga chief? Why should he have advocated so readily the introduction of a foreign creed? There are two apparent reasons. One is that the Hata and Aya groups of Korean and Chinese artisans were under the control of the Soga-uji, and that the latter were therefore disposed to welcome all innovations coming from the Asiatic continent. The other is that between the o-muraji of the Kami class (Shimbetsu) and the o-omi of the Imperial class (Kwobetsu) there had existed for some time a political rivalry which began to be acute at about the period of the coming of Buddhism, and which was destined to culminate, forty years later, in a great catastrophe. The Emperor himself steered a middle course. He neither opposed nor approved but entrusted the image to the keeping of the Soga noble. Probably his Majesty was not unwilling to submit the experiment to a practical test vicariously, for it is to be noted that, in those days, the influence of the Kami for good or for evil was believed to be freely exercised in human affairs.

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