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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Who established the Tendai sect on Mount Hiei near Kyoto


first we meet with the Buddhas of Contemplation, and with a creed which seems to embody a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit. Such, in briefest outline, was the doctrine taught at the close of the sixth century by a Chinese bonze at the monastery of Tientai, and carried thence to Japan two hundred years later by Dengyo, who established the Tendai sect on Mount Hiei near Kyoto. Dengyo did not borrow blindly; he adapted, and thus the Tendai creed, as taught at Hiei-zan, became in reality "a system of Japanese education, fitting the disciplinary and meditative methods of the Chinese propagandist on the pre-existing foundations of earlier sects."

"The comprehensiveness of the Tendai system caused it to be the parent of many schisms. Out of it came all the large sects, with the exception of the Shingon," to be presently spoken of. "On the other hand, this comprehensiveness ensured the success of the Tendai sect. With the conception of the Buddhas of Contemplation came the idea that these personages had frequently been incarnated for the welfare of mankind; that the ancient gods whom the Japanese worshipped were but manifestations of these same mystical beings, and that the Buddhist faith had come, not to destroy the native Shinto, but to embody it into a higher and more universal system."*

*"The Buddhists recognized that the Shinto gods were incarnations of some of the many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas brought from India

and China, and then the two faiths amalgamated and for centuries comfortably shared the same places of worship."--Every-Day Japan, by Lloyd.


It was not to Dengyo, however, that Japan owed her most mysterious form of Buddhism, but to his contemporary, Kukai, remembered by posterity as Kobo Daishi. The traditions that have been handed down with reference to this great teacher's life and personality reveal one of those saints whose preaching and ministration have bestowed a perpetual blessing on humanity. Here, it must suffice to say that he found no peace of mind until a visit to China brought comprehension of a Sutra which he had vainly studied in Japan. On his return, in 806, he appeared before the emperor and many bonzes, and astonished all by his eloquence and his knowledge.

There are three "vehicles" in Buddhism, but only two of them need be mentioned here--the Hina-yana, or Small Vehicle, and the Maha-yana, or Great Vehicle. The term "vehicle" signifies a body of doctrine on which "a believer may ride to the perfect consummation of his humanity." The difference between these two requires many words to explain fully, whereas only a few can be devoted to the purpose here. "The Hina-yana Sutra is intended for beginners; the Maha-yana for those more advanced in the path of the law." The teaching in the former is negative; in the latter, positive. In the Hina-yana the perfect path is to abstain from four things--women, palaces, beautiful objects, and riches. In the Maha-yana perfect virtue is the presence of four things--the spirit of wisdom, the love of virtue, patience and firmness, and the retired life. By the "spirit of wisdom" is meant the constant desire for the truth; by the "love of virtue" is signified the abhorrence of evil; by "patience and firmness" are indicated perfect manliness as exhibited towards the weak; by "the retired life" is designated humility and self-effacement.

"There is nothing in the world like the Chinese scriptures of the Maha-yana. The canon in China is seven hundred times the amount of the New Testament," and, of course, this vast extent means that there is a correspondingly wide field for eclecticism. "The Hina-yana did not trouble itself with metaphysical speculation; that was reserved for the Maha-yana, and Kukai was the greatest Japanese teacher of the arcana of Buddhism. How much of his system he owed to studies conducted in China, how much to his own inspiration, research has not yet determined. An essentially esoteric system, it conceived a world of ideas," grouped logically and systematically according to genera and species, forming a planetary cosmos, the members of which, with their satellites, revolved not only on their own axes but also round a central sun.

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