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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Where the image of Miroku was enshrined


last consideration does not seem to have influenced Soga no Iname at all. He must have been singularly free from the superstitions of his age, for he not only received the image with pleasure but also enshrined it with all solemnity in his Mukuhara residence, which he converted wholly into a temple.

Very shortly afterwards, however, the country was visited by a pestilence, and the calamity being regarded as an expression of the Kami's resentment, the o-muraji of the Mononobe and the muraji of the Nakatomi urged the Emperor to cast out the emblems of a foreign faith. Accordingly, the statue of the Buddha was thrown into the Naniwa canal and the temple was burned to the ground. Necessarily these events sharply accentuated the enmity between the Soga and the Mononobe. Twenty-five years passed, however, without any attempt to restore the worship of the Buddha. Iname, the o-omi of the Soga, died; Okoshi, the o-muraji of the Mononobe, died, and they were succeeded in these high offices by their sons, Umako and Moriya, respectively.

When the Emperor Bidatsu ascended the throne in A.D. 572, the political stage was practically occupied by these two ministers only; they had no competitors of equal rank. In 577, the King of Kudara made a second attempt to introduce Buddhism into Japan. He sent to the Yamato Court two hundred volumes of sacred books; an ascetic; a yogi (meditative monk); a nun; a reciter of mantras (magic

spells); a maker of images, and a temple architect. If any excitement was caused by this event, the annals say nothing of the fact. It is briefly related that ultimately a temple was built for the new-comers in Naniwa (modern Osaka). Two years later, Shiragi also sent a Buddhist eidolon, and in 584--just sixty-two years after the coming of Shiba Tachito from Liang and thirty-two years after Soga no Iname's attempt to popularize the Indian faith--two Japanese high officials returned from Korea, carrying with them a bronze image of Buddha and a stone image of Miroku.* These two images were handed over, at his request, to the o-omi, Umako, who had inherited his father's ideas about Buddhism. He invited Shiba Tachito, then a village mayor, to accompany one Hida on a search throughout the provinces for Buddhist devotees. They found a man called Eben, a Korean who had originally been a priest, and he, having resumed the stole, consecrated the twelve-year-old daughter of Shiba Tachito, together with two other girls, as nuns. The o-omi now built a temple, where the image of Miroku was enshrined, and a pagoda on the top of whose central pillar was deposited a Buddhist relic which had shown miraculous powers.

*The Sanskrit Maitreya, the expected Messiah of the Buddhist.

Thus, once more the creed of Sakiya Muni seemed to have found a footing in Japan. But again the old superstitions prevailed. The plague of small-pox broke out once more. This fell disease had been carried from Cochin China by the troops of General Ma Yuan during the Han dynasty, and it reached Japan almost simultaneously with the importation of Buddhism. The physicians of the East had no skill in treating it, and its ravages were terrible, those that escaped with their lives having generally to lament the loss of their eyes. So soon as the malady made its second appearance in the immediate sequel of the new honours paid to Buddhism, men began to cry out that the Kami were punishing the nation's apostacy, and the o-muraji, Moriya, urged the Emperor (Bidatsu) to authorize the suppression of the alien religion. Bidatsu, who at heart had always been hostile to the innovation, consented readily, and the o-muraji, taking upon himself the duty of directing the work of iconoclasm, caused the pagoda and the temple to be razed and burned, threw the image into the canal, and flogged the nuns. But the pestilence was not stayed. Its ravages grew more unsparing. The Emperor himself, as well as the o-omi, Umako, were attacked, and now the popular outcry took another tone: men ascribed the plague to the wrath of Buddha. Umako, in turn, pleaded with the Emperor, and was permitted to rebuild the temple and reinstate the nuns, on condition that no efforts were made to proselytize.

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