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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Ritsu kokuzoku incantations are phantasms


*It

is called also the Monto-shu.

THE ZEN SECT

In the Jodo and the Shin sects an ample spiritual rest was provided for the weary in mind or body, for the illiterate, and for the oppressed. But there was for a time no creed which appealed specially to the military men; no body of doctrine which, while strengthening him for the fight, could bring to him peace of mind. The Zen-shu ultimately satisfied that want. Zen is the Japanese equivalent of the Indian term dhyana, which signifies "meditation." In fact, the Zen is a contemplative sect. Its disciples believe that, "knowledge can be transmitted from heart to heart without the intervention of words." But though purely a contemplative rite at the time of its introduction into Japan, 1168, it was subsequently modified--from 1223--by two teachers, in whose hands it took the form known as the Soto sect. This "joined scholarship and research to contemplation," and taught that, when the highest wisdom and most perfect enlightenment are attained, all the elements of phenomenal existence are seen to be empty, vain, and unreal. "Form does not differ from space or space from form; all things surrounding us are stripped of their qualities, so that in this highest state of enlightenment, there can be no longer birth or death, defilement or purity, addition or destruction. There is, therefore, no such thing as ignorance, and therefore none of the miseries that result from it.

If there is no misery, decay, or death, there is no such thing as wisdom, and no such thing as attaining to happiness or rest. Hence, to arrive at perfect emancipation we must grasp the fact of utter and entire void." Such a creed effectually fortified the heart of a soldier. Death ceased to have any terrors for him or the grave any reality.

ENGRAVING: NICHIREN PREACHING IN THE STREET

THE NICHIREN SECT

This is the only one among Japanese sects of Buddhism that derives its name from that of its founder. And justly so, for Nichiren's personality pervades it. The son of a fisherman, from youth he applied himself to the study of Buddhism, became a bonze of the Shingon sect, and took the name of Nichiren (lotus of the sun). He, too, studied originally at Hiei-zan under Tendai tutors, but he ultimately followed an eclectic path of his own, which led him to the "Scripture of the Lotus of Good Law," and he taught that salvation could be attained merely by chaunting the formula, "namu myo ho renge kyo" ("hail to the Scripture of the Lotus of Good Law") with sufficient fervour and iteration. In fact, Nichiren's methods partook of those of the modern Salvation Army. He was distinguished, also, by the fanatical character of his propagandism. Up to his time, Japanese Buddhism had been nothing if not tolerant. The friars were quick to take up arms for temporal purposes, but sectarian aggressiveness was virtually unknown until Nichiren undertook to denounce everyone differing from his views.* His favourite formula for denouncing other sects was, "nembutsu mugen, Zen temma, Shingon bokoku, Ritsu kokuzoku" ("incantations are phantasms; the Zen is a demon; the Shingon, national ruin; and the Ritsu, a rebel"). Nichiren gained great credit for predicting, on the eve of the Mongol invasion, that a heavy calamity was about to fall upon the country, but owing to an accusation of political intrigues, he was first condemned to be beheaded, and then was banished to the island of Sado. His sentence was soon revoked, however, by the regent Tokimune, who granted him written permission to propagate his doctrines. Thereafter the spread of his sect was very rapid.


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