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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Doji was the great propagandist of the Sanron sect

*Generally spoken of as "Kibi no Mabi," and credited by tradition with the invention of the katakana syllabary.

Such incidents speak eloquently of the respect paid in Japan to mental attainments and of the enlightened hospitality of China. In the realm of Buddhism perhaps even more than in that of secular science, this close intercourse made its influence felt. Priests went from Japan to study in China, and priests came from China to preach in Japan. During the Nara era, three of these men attained to special eminence. They were Doji, Gembo, and Kanshin. Doji was the great propagandist of the Sanron sect, whose tenets he had studied in China for sixteen years (701-717). From plans prepared by him and taken from the monastery of Hsi-ming in China, the temple Daian-ji was built under the auspices of the Emperor Shomu, and having been richly endowed, was placed in Doji's charge as lord-abbot. Gembo, during a sojourn of two years at the Tang Court, studied the tenets of the Hosso sect, which, like the Sanron, constituted one of the five sects originally introduced into Japan. Returning in 736, he presented to the Emperor Shomu five thousand volumes of the Sutras, together with a number of Buddhist images, and he was appointed abbot of the celebrated temple, Kofuku-ji. The third of the above three religious celebrities was a Chinese missionary named Kanshin. He went to Japan accompanied by fourteen priests, three nuns, and twenty-four laymen, and the mission carried with it many Buddhist relics, images, and Sutras. Summoned to Nara in 754, he was treated with profound reverence, and on a platform specially erected before the temple Todai-ji, where stood the colossal image of Buddha--to be presently spoken of--the sovereign and many illustrious personages performed the most solemn rite of Buddhism under the ministration of Kanshin. He established a further claim on the gratitude of the Empress by curing her of an obstinate malady, and her Majesty would fain have raised him to the highest rank (dai-sojo) of the Buddhist priesthood. But he declined the honour. Subsequently, the former palace of Prince Nittabe was given to him as a residence and he built there the temple of Shodai-ji, which still exists.


The great Confucianist, Makibi, and the Buddhist prelate, Gembo, met with misfortune and became the victims of an unjust accusation because they attempted to assert the Imperial authority as superior to the growing influence of the Fujiwara. Makibi held the post of chamberlain of the Empress' household, and Gembo officiated at the "Interior monastery" (Nai-dojo) where the members of the Imperial family worshipped Buddha. The Emperor's mother, Higami, who on her son's accession had received the title of "Imperial Great Lady" (vide sup.), fell into a state of melancholia and invited Gembo to prescribe for her, which he did successfully. Thus, his influence in the palace became very great, and was augmented by the piety of the Empress, who frequently listened to discourses by the learned prelate. Makibi naturally worked in union with Gembo in consideration of their similar antecedents. Fujiwara Hirotsugu was then governor of Yamato. Witnessing this state of affairs with uneasiness, he impeached Gembo. But the Emperor credited the priest's assertions, and removed Hirotsugu to the remote post of Dazai-fu in Chikuzen. There he raised the standard of revolt and was with some difficulty captured and executed. The Fujiwara did not tamely endure this check. They exerted their influence to procure the removal of Makibi and Gembo from the capital, both being sent to Tsukushi (Kyushu), Makibi in the capacity of governor, and Gembo to build the temple Kwannon-ji. Gembo died a year later, and it was commonly reported that the spirit of Hirotsugu had compassed his destruction, while more than one book, professing to be historical, alleged that his prime offence was immoral relations with the "Imperial Great Lady," who was then some sixty years of age! There can be little doubt that the two illustrious scholars suffered for their fame rather than for their faults, and that their chief offences were overshadowing renown and independence of Fujiwara patronage.

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