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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

522 into Japan until the days of Shotoku Taishi 572 621


RELIGION

style="text-align: justify;">The earliest Buddhist sect established in Japan was the Hosso. It crossed from China in A.D. 653, and its principal place of worship was the temple Kofuku-ji at Nara. Then (736) followed the Kegon sect, having its headquarters in the Todai-ji, where stands the colossal Daibutsu of Nara, Next in order was the Tendai, introduced from China by Dengyo in 805, and established at Hiei-zan in the temple Enryaku-ji; while fourth and last in the early group of important sects came the Shingon, brought from China in 809 by Kukai, and having its principal metropolitan place of worship at Gokoku-ji (or To-ji) in Kyoto, and its principal provincial at Kongobo-ji on Koya-san. These four sects and some smaller ones were all introduced during a period of 156 years. Thereafter, for a space of 387 years, there was no addition to the number: things remained stationary until 1196, when Honen began to preach the doctrines of the Jodo sect, and in the space of fifty-six years, between 1196 and 1252, three other sects were established, namely, the Zen, the Shin, and the Nichiren.

THE TWO GROUPS OF SECTS

In what did the teachings of the early groups of sects differ from those of the later groups, and why did such a long interval separate the two? Evidently the answers to these questions must have an important bearing on Japanese moral culture. From the time of its first introduction (A.D. 522) into Japan

until the days of Shotoku Taishi (572-621), Japanese Buddhism followed the lines indicated in the land of its provenance, Korea. Prince Shotoku was the first to appreciate China as the true source of religious learning, and by him priests were sent across the sea to study. But the first sect of any importance--the Hosso--that resulted from this movement does not seem to have risen above the level of idolatry and polytheism. It was a "system built up on the worship of certain perfected human beings converted into personal gods; it affirmed the eternal permanence of such beings in some state or other, and it gave them divine attributes."* Some of these were companions and disciples of Shaka (Sakiya Muni); others, pure creations of fancy, or borrowed from the mythological systems of India. It is unnecessary here to enter into any enumeration of these deities further than to say that, as helpers of persons in trouble, as patrons of little children, as healers of the sick, and as dispensers of mercy, they acted an important part in the life of the people. But they did little or nothing to improve men's moral and spiritual condition, and the same is true of a multitude of arhats, devas, and other supernatural beings that go to make up a numerous pantheon.

*Lloyd's Developments of Japanese Buddhism, "Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan," Vol. XXII; and Shinran and His Work, by the same author.

It was not until the end of the eighth century that Japanese Buddhism rose to a higher level, and the agent of its elevation was Dengyo Daishi, whom the Emperor Kwammu sent to China to study the later developments of the Indian faith. Dengyo and his companions in 802 found their way to the monastery of Tientai (Japanese, Tendai), and acquired there a perception of the true road to Saving Knowledge, a middle route "which includes all and rejects none, and in which alone the soul can be satisfied." Meditation and wisdom were declared to be the stepping-stones to this route, and to reach them various rules had to be followed, namely, "the accomplishment of external means"--such as observing the precepts, regulating raiment and food, freedom from all worldly concerns and influences, promotion of all virtuous desires, and so forth; "chiding of evil desires"--such as the lust after beauty, the lust of sound, of perfumes, of taste, and of touch; "casting away hindrances;" "harmonizing the faculties," and "meditating upon absolute truth."


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