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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Was Kobo Daishi known as Kukai during his lifetime


*Developments

of Japanese Buddhism, by the Rev. A. Lloyd. M. A.

**The doctrines that the Shinto deities were incarnations of the Buddhas of Contemplation (Dhyani) had already been enunciated by Gyogi but its general acceptance dates from the days of Dengyo Daishi. The doctrine was called honchi-suishaku.

ENGRAVING: PRIEST KOKAI, AFTERWARD KNOWN AS KOBO DAISHI

KOBO DAISHI

Contemporary with and even greater in the eyes of his countrymen than Dengyo Daishi, was Kobo Daishi (known as Kukai during his lifetime). He, too, visited China as a student of Buddhism, especially to learn the interpretation of a Sutra which had fallen into his hands in Japan, and on his return he founded the system of the True Word (Shingori), which has been practically identified with the Gnosticism of early Christian days. Kobo Daishi is the most famous of all Japanese Buddhist teachers; famous alike as a saint, as an artist, and as a calligraphist. His influence on the intellectual history of his country was marked, for he not only founded a religious system which to this day has a multitude of disciples, but he is also said to have invented, or at any rate to have materially improved, the Japanese syllabary (hira-gana).

THE SUBSERVIENCE OF SHINTO

That the disciples of the Shinto cult so readily endorsed a doctrine

which relegated their creed to a subordinate place has suggested various explanations, but the simplest is the most convincing, namely, that Shinto possessed no intrinsic power to assert itself in the presence of a religion like Buddhism. At no period has Shinto produced a great propagandist. No Japanese sovereign ever thought of exchanging the tumultuous life of the Throne for the quiet of a Shinto shrine, nor did Shinto ever become a vehicle for the transmission of useful knowledge.

ENGRAVING: OKUNO-IN (Kobo Daishi's shrine) AT MT. KOYASAN

With Buddhism, the record is very different. Many of its followers were inspired by the prospect of using it as a stepping-stone to preferment rather than as a route to Nirvana. Official posts being practically monopolized by the aristocratic classes, those born in lowlier families found little opportunity to win honour and emoluments. But by embracing a religious career, a man might aspire to become an abbot or even a tutor to a prince or sovereign. Thus, learned and clever youths flocked to the portals of the priesthood, and the Emperor Saga is said to have lamented that the Court nobility possessed few great and able men, whereas the cloisters abounded in them. On the other hand, it has been observed with much reason that as troublers of the people the Buddhist priests were not far behind the provincial governors. In fact, it fared with Buddhism as it commonly fares with all human institutions--success begot abuses. The example of Dokyo exercised a demoralizing influence. The tonsure became a means of escaping official exactions in the shape of taxes or forced labour, and the building of temples a device to acquire property and wealth as well as to evade fiscal burdens. Sometimes the Buddhist priests lent themselves to the deception of becoming nominal owners of large estates in order to enable the real owners to escape taxation. Buddhism in Japan ultimately became a great militant power, ready at all times to appeal to force.


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