Re: Buddhism Thesis


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I have a report that I am going to do on Matsuo Basho, and I wanted to tie in how Buddhism affected his writing. Please check this over and make sure its correct, list corrections if any.

Buddhism first was introduced to Japan by the friendly South Korean kingdom of Paekche, which sent over a number of expeditions and books regarding the Buddhism (as well as a picture of the Buddhha) to the Yamato Court and the Japanese Emperor in Nara, the capital. Since the Kingdom thought that Buddhism was too hard to understand for the Japanese people, it was kept at court, and the traditional Shinto was the officially regarded religion.

However, thanks to Emperor Shotoku who reigned from 764 to 770, Buddhism was spread among the common people. The Buddhist sect that originated in Japan was not the Therevada Buddhist sect, which was common in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, and Southern Vietnam, but it was the Mahayana Buddhist sect, which had spread to Northern Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Korea, and finally Japan.

However, as Mahayana Buddhism expanded throughout Japan, especially in the capital of Japan at that time, Nara, sects and branches arose. The first Mahayana Buddhist sects were given the ambigous name of Nara Buddhism, which was made of six sects. Today, many of these sects are praticed by a small minority, and some of them have completely dissapeared from the Japanese Buddhist scene, but they are given attention too because they were the first Japanese Buddhist sects. However, these sects did not have an impact on the common people, because of their hard to understand sutras and were popular at the court.

Even though they did not earn success among the majority, the Nara Buddhist sects were the common place in Nara until Emperor Kammu, the grandson of Emperor Shotoku, moved the capital from Nara to Nagaoka in 784, and eleven years later to the city of Heian-kyo, now the seventh largest city in Japan, Kyoto.

About the time of this, the Nara sects started to fall apart, and as Japan started to increase trade with China and Korea, a new sect of Buddhism that had been spread from Northern Vietnam to China arose. This was the Shingon sect of Buddhism, or the True Word sect. The Shingon sect was taken in by the courtiers of Kyoto, but was too hard to understand for the common people.

At this time, there was no real "largest sect". It was pretty much equally distributed. Though the Nara sects had lost influence after the coming of Shingon, they still had much influence. But Shingon had a slight majority.

Soon, by the 800's, another form of Buddhism was introduced from China, Tien'tai, or Tendai, as it was called by the Japanese. By the mid-Heian Period, Tendai had surpassed the Nara and Shingon sects and had itself become the largest Mahayana Buddhist sect in Japan. The emperor and his family practiced Tendai, and the Buddhist temples in the area were also strictly Tendai. Likewise, the Tendai monks started to gain superior power, and Kyoto had become the capital of Tendai Buddhism.

In 1185, however, the Kamakura Shogunate overthrew the Emperor (though he was on the throne, he was powerless) and moved the capital to coastal Kamakura, which was south of Tokyo. Though the shogunate resided in Kamakura, the official capital was still in Kyoto, where the courtiers were stripped of power. Tendai Buddhism, however, was still the most influential form of Buddhism.

In the 12th century, a new form of Buddhism was introduced to Japan from China, the Pure Land teaching, or Jodo-kyo. This preached that the use of the nembutsu and the chanting of "Nama Amida Butsu" would mean sure Enlightenment. This made it much easier for the common people to reach Enlightenment and thus was the first Buddhist sect to be popular among the common people. This teaching was spread by Honen, who established Jodo-shu, or the Pure Land sect of the Pure Land teaching. Honen was a Tendai monk.

His disciple Shinran, even though meaning to reform Jodo-shu, managed to create another sect of Jodo-kyo, Jodo Shin-shu, or True Pure Land. This taught that no use of the nembutsu was neccessary, just one chant of "Nama Amida Butsu" would mean Enlightenment.

As the Pure Land teachings grew, however, the Tendai monks became enraged that there was a teaching that may surpass Tendai and both Honen and Shinran were exiled to Eastern Japan. However, Tendai Buddhism would soon be surpassed by other sects. Jodo-shu and Jodo Shin-shu established temples in Kyoto, on Tendai land, of course.

Zen Buddhism was introduced from China, where it was known as Ch'an Buddhism. This appealed to the new samurai class, where it stressed enlightenment through meditation. Thus, it was not embraced by the poor, who found it to be too hard to achieve enlightenment, and most stayed with Jodo Shin-shu.

By the 13th century, Jodo-kyo and Tendai-kyo were competing for power. The nobles (including the emperor and the shogunate) embraced Tendai, and the common people Pure Land, and the samurai's Zen.

However, with the Age of Civil Strife, and the fall of the Kamakura shogunate in the 13th century, a new form of Buddhism that was native to Japan developed, Nichiren. Nichiren stressed that the Lotus Sutra and not the Amida Buddha would be a path to enligthenment. Nichiren was thus embraced by the poor, and thus, the Nichiren and Pure Land teachings competed for the poor and farmers. However, the Tendai sect still exiled many Nichiren and Pure Land monks, even though Tendai itself was loosing influence.

By the time of the 15th century, Tendai had lost its influence. The Shingon and Tendai sects still were practiced by many, but their influence over Japanese Buddhism had ceased. Pure Land was largely become the largest. Pure Land had already had 9 sects, the most influential of which was Hongwanji, which had a head temple (named after it) in Kyoto.

Christianity did leave a mark on Buddhism, many Buddhists and Shintoists coverted to Christianity, but when Japan was isolated from Europe, this all changed, and Christianity was booted out.

By the time of the Tokugawa shogunate and the Edo Period, however, the Hongwanji sub-sect broke up in two. Supporters of Hideyori stayed with the head temple and the denomination, which was called Nishi Hongwanji-ha, and supporters of Ieyasu created the Higashi Hongwanji-ha denomination of Hongwanji, which built a head temple east of the Nishi Hongwanji-ha in Kyoto.

When Japan was opened to the West again in 1854, and the Tokugawa Shogunte yielded to the Emperor Meiji in 1868, a lot of change occured. The capital moved from Kyoto to Tokyo, the samurai class was destroyed, and Buddhism was not encouraged. State Shinto was the only Shinto sect that was practiced, and it was the official religion. Many Buddhists were persecuted, and after Japan's horrible defeat iN World War II in 1945, Buddhism was again allowed into the Japanese scene.

Today, Nishi Hongwanji-ha is the largest denomination of Jodo Shin-shu. Of course, one must not forget that Nishi Hongwanji-ha is itself a sub-sect of Hongwanji, which is a denomination of Jodo Shin-shu, but since the Nishi and Higashi Hongwanji's are not very different, many people who belong to one of the sects just call themselves Hongwanji. Many people also mistakenly say that Hongwanji is a synonym for Jodo Shin-shu, but this is also incorrect.

Hongwanji-ha is a sect of Jodo Shin-shu, and it is broken up into Nishi hongwanji-ha and Higashi Hongwanji-ha. Nishi Hongwanji-ha is not broken up into any other branches, sects, types, sub-sects, or denomiantions. Shinran-kai, a reform movement within Jodo Shin-shu is not affiliated with Nishi.

Today, the Soka Gakkai, a sub-sect of Nichiren Buddhism is also a large sect, it owns the Komeito ruling coalition political party, and Shingon, Tendai, and Zen are relatively large too. Nara Buddhism has risen again, and is practiced by many monks and residents in the ancient city of Nara.

So, it can be said that Nishi Hongwanji-ha is the largest sub-sect of Hongwanji and Jodo Shin-shu, and it cannot be broken down any longer.

Thanks, please read and reply with corrections or comments

thank you for the post.

i found it very informative. i wonder... would inclusion of Dogen be of any value to your work given his rectifying influence upon the entire Japanese Buddhist landscape?

no :) Dogen was a person.

After training for nine years under the Rinzai teacher Myozen, Dogen Zenji made the difficult journey to China, where he studied with and became the Dharma successor (14th Patriarch in lineage to Dong Shan Liang Chieh (Tozan); 24th in lineage in "Transmission of the Light") to Master Tendo Nyojo (Ju-Ching, 13th Patriarch) in the Soto Zen lineage. Considered the founder of the Japanese Soto School, Dogen Zenji established Eiheiji, the principal Soto training monastery, and is best known for his collection of Dharma essays, Shobogenzo.

Dogen was the founder of the Soto (T'sao Dong Ch'an) Lineage of Buddhism in Japan. He came from a noble family, but his life was unhappy and difficult, because his parents died when he was a very young boy. Their deaths lead him to contemplate the impermanence of life, and at the age of thirteen, he became a Buddhist monk.

Dogen didn't realize the truth of Zen for a long time. The difficulty of Zen meditation is not the training, but the letting go of preconceived ideas. The experience of the true self is a state of awareness that cannot be defined; words cannot express living reality. In the experience of the true self, there is no "I" no reference point whatsoever.

Dogen was troubled by one particular question: if all human beings are born with Buddha Nature, why is it so difficult to realize it? Dogen finally studied with Eisai, a Rinzai master, who told him it was a delusion to think in such dualistic terms as Buddha Nature. With this answer Dogen experienced Satori. Eisai lived for a few more months; Dogen became his disciple and stayed with him. After Eisai's death, Dogen remained with Myozen, Eisai's successor, for eight years, and received the seal of a master.
Thanks! I am stupid, Dogen, I know, he founded the Soto sect of Zen Mahayana Buddhism. Zen doesn't appeal to me, I prefer the Pure Land sects and maybe even the esoteric Shingon and Tendai. Nichiren and Zen are beyond me.
HanadaTattsu said:
Thanks! I am stupid, Dogen, I know, he founded the Soto sect of Zen Mahayana Buddhism. Zen doesn't appeal to me, I prefer the Pure Land sects and maybe even the esoteric Shingon and Tendai. Nichiren and Zen are beyond me.


thanks for the post.

any particular reason that you like Pure Land more than Zen? you know... the Shingon sect is actually a school of the Vajrayana tradition.. which is what i practice :)

to be honest, i've not studied their particular Sutras since i'm involved with the Vajrayana as it's known in Tibet... if you have some links or other information about their Sutras, i would be happy to read them.
Shingon is a sect of Vajryana? Are you sure? 'Cause I heard it was a school of Mahayana, but I'm sure you're right.

In Pure Land, its easy to achieve Enlightenment; Zen is hard.
HanadaTattsu said:
Shingon is a sect of Vajryana? Are you sure? 'Cause I heard it was a school of Mahayana, but I'm sure you're right.

In Pure Land, its easy to achieve Enlightenment; Zen is hard.

Namaste Hanada,

the Vajrayana is, by and large, Mahayana Buddhism. the main difference is not in the doctrines that they both uphold, rather, in the time it takes to complete the journey. that is the main difference between them.

i wouldn't go so far as to say "easy"... instead, i would use the term "more quickly" or "sure". provided of course that one does take rebirth in the Pure Land.

personally, i find the two systems to be equally easy... it really just depends on ones capacities and aptitudes. 84,000 Dharma doors really give us a lot of choices :)
Yeah; well, I'm not Buddhist, I'm a Christian, but I do respect Buddhist and Shinto philosphy and studying both in general.