Skip to main content

Buddhism: Buddhism in Japan

BUDDHISM: BUDDHISM IN JAPAN

Use of the phrase "Buddhism in Japan" suggests in part that, on the one hand, the modern terminology of the nation-state of Japan can be appropriately used throughout discussions of Buddhist belief and practice in the geographic area usually referred to as the "Japanese isles." On the other hand, the use of the language of "Buddhism" might suggest that Buddhist beliefs and practices developed as a singular phenomenon bearing internal consistency. Use of either of these concepts has limitations, since the nation-state of Japan developed only in the late nineteenth century, and Buddhism does not connote a singular institution or way of life followed in the Japanese isles. In particular, while we speak of "Buddhism" in the Japanese case, Buddhistic beliefs and practices did not historically constitute a creedal faith of the kind common to monotheistic religions; neither did it historically feature universally agreed-upon weekly liturgies (a Buddhist "Sabbath") nor, until the last few centuries, did it feature adherence to exclusively defined or otherwise well-defined sectarian organizations.

Early Historical Contexts

The initial introduction of Buddhist images and implements to the Japanese isles is extremely difficult to date. Moreover, we are limited to later representations produced by members of the royal court of Yamato, the first literate and highly organized government in the isles, and those associated with them; and archaeological studies have only marginally helped us to gain access to the very earliest era of Buddhist influence. The mytho-history Nihonshoki (720 ce), produced by the Yamato court, as well as temple legends (e.g., Gangōji garan engi narabi ni ruki shizai chō, probably a Heian era [7941185 ce] compilation, yet based on a no longer extant eighth-century Gangōji engi ) variously depicted the introduction of such figures in the form of gifts from the Korean kingdom of Paekche to the Japanese court in 552 ce or 538 ce.

Continental Asian influences

The Soga family, which drew upon the support of the large number of immigrant families in the capital area (and may have also had immigrant origins), was the most powerful clan of the court and sponsored the introduction of Buddhist clerics and objects, as well Buddhist construction, from the late sixth to mid-seventh centuries. In addition, in this connection the immigrant family of the Hata and, apparently, other immigrant families also constructed Buddhist temples at the time.

Prince Shōtoku

Although some of the other prominent families of the court drew their support from older families of the Japanese isles and argued that worship of Buddhist divinities would antagonize indigenous deities (kami ), the Soga's efforts may have been bolstered through patronage by Prince Taishi Shōtoku (574?622?), who is represented from the early eighth century on as having became an ardent supporter of the faith. The Sogas and Shōtoku seem to have seen buddhas and bodhisattvas as beings who offered a variety of benefits so long as they were approached through appropriate ritual. Moreover, the fact that all of the temples constructed prior to the mid-seventh century were erected in connection with efforts to protect specific clansAsukadera, possessing the character of a "clan temple" of the Sogas, being most prominentillustrates the extent to which the reception varied depending on the group, that there was no consensus in the larger court concerning its relevance, and that the thaumaturgical capacities of Buddhist ritual were central to their concerns more than enlightenment.

The Yamato Court in the late seventh century

Recent excavations have indicated that the government began to establish large temples in the seventh century. It is clear that in the late seventh century the court patronized Buddhist temples at the same time that it began also to promote a notion of the ruler as tennō ("heavenly thearch") and high priest of the court, with the ancestral kami (deity) of his family represented as the highest in the realm. The offering of reverence to kami, on the one hand, and veneration of buddhas/bodhisattvas, on the other, seem to have been accepted and, presumably, openly supported by the larger court. Indeed, it would seem that most in the court saw the buddhas and bodhisattvas as similar to the native kami in their perceived capacity to offer a variety of benefits (riyaku ). Discourses concerning karma, rebirth, and enlightenment seem to have been virtually absent during this early era.

Buddhism in the Nara and Early Heian Periods

It was during the Nara period (710784 ce) that Buddhist institutions began to flourish on a much larger scale and Buddhist practices came to have an impact on the general populace in the isles. Japanese monks' travel to China to study under eminent Buddhist clerics became increasingly prominent in the Nara and Early Heian (7941185) periods, among which the most prominent were Saichō (c. 767822) and Kūkai (774835), who respectively founded the lineages of Tendai and Shingon.

The impact of the ruling family

The reign of the ruler Shōmu (r. 724749) and his wife Kōmyō constituted a clear shift toward ever more visible support of Buddhist temples and clerics. Shōmu began to establish a set of temples and convents in every province of the realm: in this case, a provincial temple that included, among its features, a stūpa of seven stories, in which were to be installed copies of the realm-protecting sūtras, the Golden Light Scripture of Victorious Kings and Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Wonderful Law, together with part of the first sūtra written in the sovereign's own hand; an accompanying nunnery was to be referred to as "convent for the Lotus Sūtra expiation rite," in which nuns would perform regular repentance rites on behalf of the realmevoking memories that the first Japanese Buddhist clerics had been nuns and had obvious ritual and thematic connections with native shamanistic traditions, associated generally with kami worship.

Shōmu and the court were supportive on a personal and broader level of the Nara Buddhist temples and to small Buddhist lineages that were developing in Nara. The well-known six lineages within the larger temples of Nara included: Sanron, Hossō, Ritsu (Skt., Vinaya), Jōjitsu (satyasiddhi ), Kusha (abhidharma ), and Kegon (Skt. Avatamsaka), the last of which seems to have been added only with the ongoing completion of construction of the head temple of the provincial system, Tōdaiji, in the 750s. In actuality, these lineages included only a small percentage of the monks residing in the great temples; for example, in the case of Tōdaiji, they included only roughly 2 percent of the some three thousand monks.

Shōmu's wife, Kōmyō, was an equally fervent patron of Buddhists. Her sponsorship of a sūtra-copying bureau, Tōdaiji administration, and convent construction indicate at least two important points about Buddhism in early Japan. First, it is clear that women of the court, particularly during the Nara period, were powerful sponsors of Buddhist activities. Second, such sponsorship, associated with efforts throughout continental Asia to collect Buddhist scriptures, constituted a forerunner of later efforts of Japanese sovereigns and temples to acquire newly copied or printed versions of the Buddhist canon (daizōkyō ) and, in that connection, to establish large collections of Buddhist and related materials (kyōzō, hōzō ).

The personal interest of Shōmu and the ruling house in Buddhism, while made problematic by his daughter's later relationship as tennō with the monk Dōkyō, also illustrates the close relationship leading families of the court had with Buddhist clerics from the Nara period onwards. Recent scholarship has made it clear that much of the vibrancy of Buddhism in the era was constituted in the employ of monks (or, sometimes, nuns) as family ritual practitioners or teachers. That is, monks were often invited, often for lengthy periods, to take up residence in the homes of leading aristocratic families; it is believed that such clerics spent most of their time engaged in rituals for the purpose of healing, bodily protection, and sometimes the more general avoidance of calamity (sokusai), and that such activities foreshadowed those of the guardian palace monks (gojisō) of the Heian period.

The increasing prominence of Buddhist discourses on karma, rebirth, and enlightenment

During the Nara period, beliefs in karma, rebirth, and occasionally enlightenment became prominent in the court as well as in regional families, especially those close to the capital area. The earliest Japanese didactic story collection, Nihon ryōiki (Anomalous Tales of Japan ) by the Yakushiji monk Kyōkai (fl. 823), indicates that many in the capital as well as regional areas believed in karma and related discourses like rebirth and indebtedness. Such developments may have been related to the activities of figures like Gyōki (668749), who worked among the larger populace and was especially known for his help in the construction of landmarks such as bridges and water projects.

Thus, karma, rebirth, and notions of enlightenment were increasingly prominent among the larger populace, while the court, given its patronage of official Nara Buddhism, was clearly cognizant of such teachings and the Buddhist cosmology, which was distinct from that represented in the court mytho-histories concerning the ancestral kami of the ruling family. Moreover, Chinese Buddhist works depicting the lives of eminent monks commonly featured tensions between buddhas/bodhisattvas and native divinities, which may suggest a general parallel if not knowledge of earlier patterns of assimilation of native religiosity. Given such awareness, there were efforts, evident first through ritual practice and construction, to explain or resolve such ambiguity. First, small Buddhist temples called jingūji were constructed at shrine compounds like Ise and Usa from the eighth century on, in which clerics venerated buddhas/bodhisattvas on behalf of the kami, who were apparently seen as inferior and unenlightened beings in need of aid. Second, the ruling house itself incorporated Buddhist figures into its own ancestral veneration, as the shrine at Usa came to match Ise in its landholdings and prominence during the eighth century as a shrine of the ruling family; in particular, the main kami came, by the late eighth century, to be seen as not merely the spirit of the fifth-century ruler Ōjin but at the same time as the bodhisattva Hachiman (Yahata).

Nara Buddhism and the advent of new Buddhist lineages

A radical break did not actually occur in Japanese Buddhism with the move of the capital from Nara to Nagaoka and, shortly thereafter, Heian (Kyōto). The great Nara temples authorized by the government remained large institutions, and the lineages within them remained the province of a small number of monks.

The ruler Kanmu (r. 781806) moved the capital and made efforts to strengthen the authority of the sovereign. He also sponsored new monastic and other envoys to China and welcomed the related advent of new lineages of Japanese Buddhism. The monks Saichō and Kūkai were the first monks to introduce major new lineages after their respective studies in Tang China in the early ninth century.

Tendai lineages

Saichō, who trained primarily in Tian-tai Buddhism there, with some studies of esoteric Buddhism as well, returned first in 805 and gained the patronage of Kanmu. Saichō succeeded in convincing Kanmu to introduce a new system of ordination the next year; the system based the distribution of annual ordinands granted to temples on their affiliation with specific lineages, which increased the prominence of the lineages while at the same time, insofar as it was limited to males, producing a gendered framework that would continue throughout the history of Buddhism in Japan. In this way, as scholars have recently noted, the novel production of male lineages at the same time seems to have constituted a major source of the precipitous decline that occurred in nuns' ordinations in the Heian periods.

Based on his studies in China, especially at Mount Tian-tai, Saichō created in his Tendai lineage a catholic study program that allowed for four major areas of concentration while promoting the Lotus Sūtra as the greatest scripture in Mahāyāna Buddhism: esoteric Buddhism (Tantra), meditation, precepts, and the "perfect teaching" (Tendai). With the permission of the court, Saichō established a precepts platform at the temple complex he had established at Mount Hiei, not far from the capital of Heian. There, he used the Mahāyāna bodhisattva precepts based on the Fan wang ching scripture in clerical ordinations as an alternative to the traditional precepts, which had been carried over from early Buddhist into Mahāyāna Buddhist ordinations throughout East Asia. Saichō, drawing on Chinese Tian-tai doctrine, divided Buddhist teachings into classifications of scriptures, with the Lotus Sūtra and Mahānīrvāna Sūtra at the apex, and added new classifications conferring priority on scriptures (sūtra ) over clerics' treatises (śāstra ); he especially criticized Hossō and Sanron for their dependence on treatises. His acquisition of a precepts platform, teachings, as well as debates he had with monks of the Nara temples, illustrate that Saichō was not on good terms with the leading Nara Buddhist institutions.

Shingon lineages

Kūkai also went to China in 804 but returned a year later than Saichō, in 806. Kūkai studied esoteric Buddhist (Tantric) discourse and practice in the Chinese imperial capital of Chang-an under the monk Hui-kuo, and given his master's death, he was given a large number of esoteric Buddhist scriptures, ritual implements, and Buddha relics to take with him back to Japan. Kūkai initially found himself in a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis the Heian court, but he emphasized his unique possession of esoteric ritual knowledge and made a sustained effort to demonstrate it through performing esoteric Buddhist consecrations (kanjō; Skt. abhiseka ) on behalf of large numbers of people, including the retired ruler Heizei (r. 806809) and the leading clerics of the Nara Buddhist establishment. Kūkai's teaching emphasized that proper initiation into and practice of three mysteries lead to realization of buddhahood in this very body (sokushin jōbutsu ): body (use of appropriate hand gestures), speech (sacred verbal formulae, mantras ), and mind (use of maalas ).

Given that the court believed his claims to ritual knowledge, Kūkai was often called upon to perform rites such as rain prayer. His increasingly close relationship with the court culminated in its granting him the temple Tōji in 822. From 834, the Shingon lineage received annual ordinands from the government. Although Kūkai introduced esoteric Buddhist precepts, he did so in collaboration with the official system of ordination, centered at Tōdaiji in Nara; thus, Shingon monks' ordinations would always be conducted only at Tōdaiji, guaranteeing an ongoing relationship between Shingon and the Nara lineages, especially Kegon and Sanron. In his later years, Kūkai retired to his remote temple complex at Mount Kōya, where he continued to write major treatises on esoteric Buddhism.

Buddhism in the Mid-Heian and Kamakura (11921333) Periods

From the mid-ninth century on, the royal court and those surrounding it underwent fundamental changes that made the Ritsuryō legal system, developed in the eighth century, increasingly irrelevant to the lives of the aristocrats and Buddhist clerics. The advent in 859 ce of the domination of the court by the northern Fujiwara family in the form of the system of chancellors and regents (sekkan taisei ) governing on behalf of the tennō meant that the latter was increasingly reduced to primarily symbolic, ritual roles.

Annual court ceremonies and temple-shrine patronage

This development was also intimately related to the increasingly prominent series of annual court ceremonies (nenjū gyōji), the fuller outlines of which became apparent by the 840s and that included some major Buddhist rites, including the Latter Seven-Day Rite, the Misai-e Assembly, the Buddha's Birthday Assembly (Kanbutsu-e), the Buddha-Names Assembly (Butsumyō-e), and the Seasonal Sūtra Recitation (of the Greater Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra), the last of which would be performed first in 859 ce, corresponding to the beginning of the regent-chancellor system. Meanwhile, Buddhist ordinands were granted to pray for the salvation of the kami even at great shrines like Kamo and Kasuga, beginning the very same year; on the occasion of the petition, the Hiei monk Eryō (c. 802860) employed, as the very first historical instance, the explanation that the kami were "traces" (suijaku ) of the Buddha (honji, "essence"), a discourse that would become increasingly common from the eleventh century on.

Ritual knowledge, transmission, and the increasing prominence of esoteric Buddhist lineages

From the tenth to twelfth centuries, mid-ranking aristocratic families typically tried to acquire ritual knowledge that would be useful at court, often through trying to gain their sons employ in record keeping on behalf of the government. At the same time, of course, the northern Fujiwaras themselves attempted to gain unparalleled access to knowledge of such ritual, and in the era just after the unrivaled leadership of the great Fujiwara no Michinaga (9661027), established the first of many great treasuries of the era: Uji (no) Hōzō, which included great quantities of documents, objects, and Buddhist scriptures.

Indeed, the introduction of esoteric Buddhist lineages, which emphasized the importance of initiation intoaccess tosecret rituals and the related possession of ritual knowledge, was undoubtedly also related to this trend in the court. The esoteric Buddhist lineages, while partially influenced by earlier examples of temples' amassing of large collections of Buddhist scriptures, especially attempted to increase their collections of not merely Buddhist scriptures but also ritual treatises as well as oral transmissions (kuden ) concerning ritual practice.

Shingon traditions drew upon the charisma associated uniquely with Kūkai's image to emphasize their esoteric lineages. Monks of Shingon lineage produced over time many biographies of Kūkai (Kūkaiden ), though it is apparent that they wrote little along the lines of the treatises that Kūkai had himself produced; indeed, only one major treatise was written about Kūkai's works in the first two centuries after his death. From the late eleventh century on, when the larger aristocracy made increasing efforts to recover the high level of Chinese studies of the early Heian period, Shingon monks began to produce new editions of Kūkai's works and treatises on them, while the court scholar Fujiwara no Atsumitsu (10631144) wrote treatises about Kūkai's esoteric Buddhist writings.

Shingon lineages also increasingly began to splinter into lines of ritual and textual interpretation, particularly demonstrated in varied oral transmissions that usually claimed special access to knowledge of the "original teaching" (honsetsu ) of Kūkaiinterpreted as orthodox Shingon instruction. Partially in an effort to explain the oral transmissions concerning esoteric ritual practice, Shingon monks began to compile copious iconographic commentaries and other works, eventually producing extremely large manuscript treasuries.

The advent of Pure Land Buddhist discourses and practices

From early on, Tendai featured monks interested not only in esoteric Buddhist practice but also in the practice of the nenbutsu, that is, of chanting the name of the Buddha Amida (Sanskrit, Amitābha) in hopes of birth in his Pure Land at the time of deathor to help enable unsettled spirits find peace. Although there were clearly esoteric Buddhist elements in the Hiei monk Genshin's (9421017) Ōjō yōshū (Essentials for Birth in the Pure Land, written in 985 ce), the work featured as its main theme the reasons for and means by which one can be born in the Pure Land of the Buddha Amida, and had a great influence on the aristocracy.

Meanwhile, semi-independent clerics increasingly inhabited areas adjacent to and sometimes distant from the major Buddhist monasteries, and they were referred to most commonly as ascetics or "holy ones" (hijiri ). Perhaps influenced in part by the precedent of Gyōki, such figures typically had much more interaction with those in the general populace than other monks. They were commonly associated with one or the other of the major temple complexes, so they seem most often to have not been completely independent.

Since even the early ninth century veneration of prominent bodhisattvas such as Kannon, Miroku (Skt. Maitreya), and Jizō, and sometimes of resident holy men or mountain ascetics (shugenja ) was increasingly common not only among aristocrats and the populace in the area in or near the capital but also in outlying regions. For many in the aristocracy and in the larger populace, Buddhist practice had little to do with scholastic study or participation in a school of Buddhism but rather with the perceived powers of divinities in specific templessuch as at Kumano, where multiple divinities, identified as local manifestations of buddha figures like the Pure Land Buddha and Kannon, were prominent objects of pilgrimage and veneration throughout premodern times.

Tendai lineages and shifts in Heian Buddhism

The major Tendai temples at Mount Hiei and Onjōji (Miidera) profited from the combination of their locale in the mountains and comparative geographical nearness to the capital and, in that context, especially close relationship with leading aristocrats such as those in the northern Fujiwaras, the family that dominated court politics from the mid-ninth to mid-eleventh centuries.

Ryōgen (912985) was in many ways a paradigmatic and particularly early example of a monk at Hiei who negotiated the difficult path to clerical success through parlaying personal skills and alliances with powerful figures of his era. Following his impressive performance at a debate on the occasion of the Yuima-e Assembly at Kōfukuji in Nara, Ryōgen became known to members of the court and, eventually, Fujiwara no Tadahira (880949) and Fujiwara no Morosuke (908960), the most powerful aristocrats of the day, became his patrons in exchange for a variety of ritual services. Two of the sons of Morosuke were ordained under Ryōgen. One, Jinzen (943990), eventually became head of the complex at Hiei, where he not only engaged in regular rituals on behalf of his family but also received large private donations of estates directed to monastic halls he controlled; in this way, Jinzen amassed many estates and effectively directed their earnings to halls where members of his family would, ideally, continue to reside as monks in perpetuity.

By the late Heian era, in a manner similar to Shingon, Tendai lineages increasingly splintered along lines of distinct ritual and textual transmission. It was, in particular, monks of Tendai lineages who in this connection introduced more and more discourses related to "original enlightenment" (hongaku ), which were originally rooted in Chinese commentarial works that concerned the dichotomy between gradual or ascending approaches to the Buddhist path and those based on initial acknowledgement of the practitioner's inherently awakened status as "buddha."

Buddhist knowledge, proselytization, and the rise of "new Kamakura Buddhisms"

Consideration of this explosion of literatures in the so-called established kenmitsu (exoteric-esoteric) lineages, apparent in Tendai discussions on hongaku and in Shingon efforts to uncover the "original teaching" (honsetsu ) of the twelfth century and thereafter, indicates that what scholars have referred to as the "new Kamakura schools" of Japanese Buddhism did not, in any sense, exclusively demonstrate intellectual and religious vibrancy during the Kamakura and later eras.

For example, in connection with the explosion of literatures in the kenmitsu lineages, it is clear that they established preaching traditions even before the advent of the new Kamakura schools. One occasion for such practice was that of esoteric ritual (shuhō ), in which a ritual pronouncement (hyōbyaku ) would be made, and the texts of such pronouncements came to be commonly assembled in collections by the mid-twelfth century; soon after, liturgical prayers (kōshiki ) also became increasingly common, as they were read on the occasion of Buddhist assemblies. Another series of prominent examples of such traditions included the Agui preaching lines, which began with one of the sons of the illustrious scholar and politician Fujiwara no Michinori (Shinzei; d. 1159), the Tendai monk Chōken (c. 11261203).

Moreover, lay aristocrats were also intimately involved in the "popularization" and intellectual activities of Buddhism in the late Heian period. Such activity was often connected with aristocratic or royal cloisters (monzeki ) following the same general pattern as represented by the halls Jinzen established at Hiei. Lay involvement was registered not merely in the writing by figures like Ōe no Masafusa (10411111) of ritual pronouncements and Fujiwara no Atsumitsu's commentaries on Kūkai's esoteric treatises, but also in figures such as the aristocrat Fujiwara no Yorinaga (11201156), who studied Buddhist logic under the tutelage of masters at the Nara temples Tōdaiji and, especially, Kōfukuji. Moreover, Ōe no Masafusa and other aristocrats continued the practice of compiling hagiographical accounts (ōjōden ) of those thought to have been born in the Pure Land at the times of their deaths.

Meanwhile, warriors who proclaimed themselves Fujiwaras and governed at the autonomous area of Hiraizumi to the northeast in the twelfth century followed patterns established by the northern Fujiwaras and retired emperors, establishing complexes of temples where they were entombed and the objects of Pure Land mortuary practice; thus, even lay believers who were apparently of cultural backgrounds distinct from the population of the capital area appropriated Buddhist practices to embolden their authority and improve their destinies in the afterlife.

The prince-monk Shukaku (11501202) drew upon his privileged access to multiple lineages of Buddhist and court ritual, clerical and general scholarship, and poetry to inaugurate the construction of a vast manuscript collection at the main Omuro cloister of the Shingon temple Ninnaji. Indeed, cultural salons or enclaves such as that at Shukaku's cloister, or those of certain other mountain temples in the area near the capital, brought together monks and aristocrats (sometimes disillusioned with capital politics) to engage in conversations (kōdan, zōtan ), and thus helped give rise over time to a variety of aesthetic lineages. For example, Shingon and Tendai cloisters had a great impact on the development of literary treatises and poetry houses. Meanwhile, the powerful Tendai cleric Jien (11551225), in this connection, was not only a famous poet and rhetorician but also the author of the first treatise on Japanese history, Gukan shō.

The Nara Buddhist community, in fact, was also increasingly active. Although individual figures of Hossō lineage were prominent, such as the important scholar- and preacher-monk Jōkei (11551213), a grandson of Fujiwara no Michinori (Shinzei) who was well known in his day for his ritual pronouncements and liturgical prayers, practice of recitation of the historical Buddha's name (shaka nenbutsu ), criticisms of Hōnen's (11331212) new Pure Land lineage, as well as faith in the bodhisattvas Miroku and Kannon, the lineages associated with Tōdaiji were most active, especially Kegon and Shingon. (Precept lineages also developed, which will be discussed in the next section.) Among the figures especially active were Chōgen (11211206), Myōe (11701232), Sōshō (12021278), and his disciple Gyōnen (12401321). Chōgen, a semi-independent holy man (hijiri ) of Shingon lineage, was appointed the fundraiser for the rebuilding of Tōdaiji following its burning in the 1180s and supported Pure Land Buddhist practice through establishing a series of subsidiary templesin that connection, acquiring buddha relics and promoting their veneration. Myōe attempted to restore Shingon and Kegon lineages to what he saw as their appropriate prominenceand like Jōkei openly opposed Hōnen's lineage; however, he is also known for his preoccupation with revelatory dreams, his establishment of the temple Kōzanji in Kyōto, related amassing of a large manuscript collection, authorship of a treatise on the esoteric kōmyō shingon death rite, and establishment of a convent for female survivors of the Hōjō family following the Jōkyū war.

Sōshō was especially eminent in Kegon studies, although he also had a broad background in the study of Buddhist logic, Yogācāra (J. Yuishiki), and abhidharma (J. Kusha). He was thus associated with the developing eclectic study tradition at Tōdaiji and left a massive corpus of commentaries and other works. Moreover, Sōshō, apparently in connection with the precedent of the recent Jōkei, became devoted to the bodhisattva Miroku, a topic about which he also wrote. His disciple Gyōnen became just as influential in the scholastic tradition at Tōdaiji, writing the famous work Combined Study of the Eight Lineages (Hasshū kōyō ).

Thus, the monastic lineages of Tendai, Shingon, and the major Nara temples featured within their complexes and in their relationships with the court, aristocracy, and the larger population aspects often associated with the "new" Kamakura lineages. Temples of Nara as well as the Tendai complex at Hiei, moreover, sponsored buddha-relic assemblies open to women from the tenth century; in the latter case, such activity was undertaken especially with monks' mothers in mind, yet it also featured large processions in the capital that were attended by great numbers of the local populace. Female members of imperial house, especially retired empresses of the northern Fujiwaras, would be especially involved in relic veneration during the era of retired sovereigns. At the same time, fully ordained nuns became increasingly rare during the Heian period, and the major mountain complexes of the Tendai and Shingon lineages prohibited the presence of women; and while female aristocrats would often take varying levels of tonsure as household nuns, particularly in their old age, such activities were most often taken after the death of a spouse or even in desperation and thus did not suggest that the conditions of female Buddhist practice in any sense matched that achieved in the Nara era.

Kamakura Buddhisms

Given that those involved with "new" movements of the Kamakura period possessed a variety of relationships with their respective groups, it is useful to use the general category of "lineage" rather than "school" to analyze their activities.

The first Pure Land Buddhist lineage was that of Hōnen (11331212), who was trained at Mount Hiei but came to teach that only the chanting of the name of the Buddha Amida was appropriate to the Final Age of the Buddhist dharma (mappō ), an ancient discourse introduced many centuries earlier that taught that the world would enter a darker era with increasing temporal distance from the life of the historical Buddha. The appeal of the Pure Land Buddha Amida was already especially associated with his ability to transform believers to his realm despite the problems of the Final Age, and such discourse was increasingly common not only in Tendai but also Shingon lineages. However, with the virtual absence of social mobility during Fujiwara preeminence as well as the increasing decentralization of power since the ascendance of the retired emperorsincluding the multiple power blocs all the more evident with the rise of the Kamakura shogunatemany in the aristocracy and greater populace realized the remarkably unstable character of their era and associated it all the more with the dire straits of mappō. Hōnen and his promotion of the exclusive practice (senju ) of the nenbutsu chant thus gained a ready audience, especially among the aristocracy. Given that Hōnen called for such exclusive practice, high-ranking Tendai clerics of Hiei and of other kenmitsu temples were incensed, so he not only originally had to leave Hiei but would eventually be exiled and repeatedly denounced. His numerous disciples developed multiple lineages of belief and practice, including that of Shinran (11731262) whose would become, like Hōnen's, one of the main schools delineated by the government among the major Buddhist institutions of the Tokugawa period. Another prominent yet unrelated Pure Land lineage developing from the late thirteenth century on was that of the Jishū, based on the beliefs and practices of the itinerant monk Ippen (12391289).

Among other novel lineages that began to emerge in the early Kamakura period were those focused on sitting meditation (Zen; Chinese, Chan), which particularly drew upon beliefs and practices of contemporary Buddhism in Song Dynasty China. The monk Eisai (alternatively, Yōsai; 11411215) was also initially trained at Mount Hiei and went to China, where he studied Tendai and Zen, the latter of which flourished in the Song. Eisai returned from China and established Zen temples from the 1190s on, and he freely drew upon Tendai and esoteric Buddhist teachings and practices in his exploration of Rinzai Zen practice; though opposed by many in Nara and at Hiei, Eisai was supported by the Kamakura shogunate. Not long after, a Hiei monk named Dōgen (12001253) also traveled to China and studied the strict Zen of a contemporary master of the Cao-dong (J. Sōtō) lineage. Dōgen stressed the importance of "just sitting" (shikan taza ) meditation as itself an endattempting thereby to especially undercut any division between discourses of gradual and sudden attainment of enlightenment. It was, however, only with the developing Five Mountains (gozan ) temple system of the Rinzai lineage, patronized by the Kamakura and then, especially, by the Ashikaga shogunates, that meditation lineages became increasingly prominent; from the late medieval era on, Zen temples would also become extremely prominent among the more general populace and were especially known for their performance of funerals, including the bestowal of posthumous ordinations (kaimyō ). In the case of each of these kinds of temples, contrary to the images that would develop after Rinzai and Sōtō were assigned the designation of distinct schools in the Tokugawa period, it was common for temples to include monks affiliated with both lineages.

The Zen lineages spawned a number of convents. In fact, a system of Five Mountains Rinzai convents developed in Kyōto and Kamakura that complemented the more famous monastic system of the same name. A prominent nunnery was Tōkeiji in Kamakura. The wife of the late military ruler Hōjō Tokimune, who took the name of Kakusan (12521305) after her ordination, had studied with her husband under the Chinese Zen master Wu-xue (12261286), established Tōkeiji with her son in 1282; the convent, as a unique site outside of state restrictions, became prominent as a "divorce" nunnery for women who sought sanctuary from the seventeenth century on. In Sōtō Zen lineages, there were only a few convents, although fairly large groups of nuns were often trained in hermitages outside the gates of monasteries. At the same time, women were the object of the majority of recorded Sōtō Zen funerals in the late medieval era, which may be related to their status as lay patrons and, perhaps, to increasing associations of women with impurity in late medieval society, given the introduction of the Chinese "Blood-bowl" Sūtra (ketsubonkyō ): the work depicted women's assignment to birth in a blood hell due to men-strual blood and the necessity of performing rites for their salvation.

Another series of new lineages that developed were those of Nichiren or Lotus Buddhism, which were based on the teachings and practices associated with the monk Nichiren (12221282), who seems to have believed that he would reform Tendai lineages through returning them to exclusive practice of devotion to the Lotus Sūtra. Nichiren promoted the chanting of the title of the scripture and called for the establishment of a Buddhocracy, whereupon the world would be realized as a Buddha Realm. Nichiren's lineages were also distinct insofar as Nichiren was himself from the eastern region (Kantō ) of the main island rather than the western area, which was where most of the other new lineages initially developed. A series of lineages would develop based on the teachings of his leading disciples; two of these lineages, Nichirenshū and Nichiren Shōshū, would become particularly prominent in later eras.

Over the course of the Kamakura period, Precept lineages also developed within kenmitsu Buddhism. Although the Sennyūji monk Shunjō (11661227), the Kōfukuji monk Kakujō (11941249), and Tōdaiji's Enshō (12211277) were prominent figures, it was Eison (12011290) who had the greatest impact on the development of such lineages.

Eison, trained originally at the Shingon temple Daigoji in Kyōto and at Mount Kōya, inaugurated a Precept lineage (Risshū; later called Shingon Risshū) after developing a conviction concerning the importance of proper observance of the precepts and studying at the Nara Precepts temple Saidaiji in the 1230s. Eison also received instruction, at the time, in the "self-administered precepts" (jisei jukai ) from the monk Kakujō at nearby Kōfukuji, in which one could administer one's own clerical precepts ritein cases where qualified precepts masters were absentthrough taking a vow directly in front of an image of the Buddha. Eison established the Precept lineage at Saidaiji, where he engaged in large-scale ordinations for both lay and monastic believers; in this connection, he was especially devoted to the historical buddha Śākyamuni. Eison also helped revive the convent of Hokkeji in Nara when he administered the Precepts to nuns there in 1245, leading to the nunnery's flourishing and reclassification as a subtemple of Saidaiji. Later, Eison, especially together with his active disciple Ninshō (12171303), came to engage in a variety of charitable activities for groups of so-called non-persons, or hinin, disadvantaged lepers and others at the margins of society (sometimes represented as having sacred powers to dissolve defilement).

In addition, kenmitsu Buddhist lineages spawned the beginnings of literatures and rituals of "Shintō" (originally pronounced Jindō) by giving rise in the late Kamakura period to new lineages that concerned themselves with understanding and appropriating the true character and power of the kami, which were understood in specifically Buddhist terms. It was, particularly, in Shingon Jingi (kami -worship) lineages and Tendai Jingi lineages that esoteric kami initiation developed. In particular, these lineages conducted so-called shintō kanjō consecrations patterned on initiatory denbō kanjō consecration rites. Just as the ruler began to undergo Buddhist consecration at the time of his accession (sokui kanjō ) from the late thirteenth century onand clearly related to its developmentthe Buddhist Jingi lineages developed such consecrations to enable initiates such as mountain ascetics (shugenja ) and monks at shrines to ritually and symbolically acquire rulership in imitation of the tennō. In terms of ceremonial space, such activities ritually activated the trace essence (honji-suijaku ) associations between kami and Buddha.

There were also discourses that cut across a large number of the new lineages that developed. As noted above, hongaku discourses in Tendai lineages and similar discourses in Shingon lineages (honsetsu, etc.) constituted important aspects of the explosion of Buddhist literatures of the era, especially from the twelfth century on. For example, discourses associated with the new lineages, such as attainment of enlightenment in an instant, focus on a single factor as the key to salvation, the universally encompassing character of enlightenment, and the fluidity of the relationship between moral causality and salvation all found expression in hongaku discussions.

Buddhism in the Muromachi and Tokugawa Periods

Buddhist lineages and their temples underwent a series of fundamental changes over the course of the Muromachi (13361573) and Tokugawa (16001867) periods. At the same time, larger trends occurred in Buddhist belief and practice that, when considered with larger societal developments, provide insight into the extent and character of the "popularization" and, eventually, "nationalization" of Buddhism. Insofar as the Muromachi era witnessed the most unstable series of wars and related events in Japanese history, resulting in decentralized rule on an unprecedented level, it is not surprising that Buddhist lineages and their temples experienced varying combinations of growth and instability. Early on, divided imperial lines struggled mutually for political legitimacy. In this and related contexts, theories elaborating the meaning of kami within Buddhist cosmology reached new levels of complexity. The discourse of "origin trace" (honji suijaku ), which had arisen in kenmitsu Buddhist circles from the Heian period on and positioned buddhas/bodhisattvas as essences with kami manifestations, became a linchpin not only for Buddhist Shintō initiations but also for all manner of "Shintō" theories within the kenmitsu temple complexes.

Changes in the Kenmitsu lineages

Meanwhile, institutionally, kenmitsu Buddhist lineages continued to thrive and prosper in a number of regions, while a number of the newer lineages continued to spread their practices, accompanied by their messages. The impetus to create larger and larger manuscript treasuries, increasingly accompanied by interest in continental Asian materials, particularly evident from the twelfth century on, continued throughout the Kamakura period and into the Muromachi period. Printing technology was appropriated to produce canons at Shingon's Mount Kōya, and temples in areas such as Kamakura and Nara printed Buddhist scriptures, Zen literature, and other works from the continent. At the same time, the production and hand copying (shosha ) of vast quantities of works continued especially in the Shingon, Tendai, multiple Nara, and most of the newer Buddhist lineages; although substantially produced even from the twelfth century on, legends of the origins of temples (engimono ), temple documentary or ritual records (monjo, kikigaki, kirigami, etc.), a variety of commentaries (zuzō sho, shō, shōmono ), compilations (shū, ruiju ), and biographies (den ) increased dramatically in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Several of the major monasteries of the kenmitsu lineages, especially Enryakuji (Mount Hiei: Tendai), Onjōji (Tendai), Kōfukuji (Nara: Hossō), Tōdaiji (Nara: Kegon, Shingon), and Kongōbuji (Mount Kōya: Shingon), took advantage of the extremely decentralized conditions to not merely improve their economic conditions through attempting to acquire all manner of new lands and often engage in overseas trade, but to commonly establish fighting forces to serve on behalf of their interests. In connection with offerings of land, branch temples and shrines were often constructed, in which the resident Buddhist divinities or kami were commonly seen by those in the area as arbiters of natural forces and in need of propitiation or veneration. They routinely also established new temples, including sometimes relatively large manuscript collec-tions, to spread ritual knowledge and, sometimes, monastic learning.

Zen and the culture of learning

At the same time, Zen lineages increasingly took unique positions among the newer lineages with their success at winning the patronage of the Ashikaga (Muromachi) shogunate, which came particularly to promote Rinzai Zen lineages and the Five Mountains system from the late fourteenth century on. The Zen traditions, similar to the relationship between the kenmitsu lineages and the larger aristocracy, began in their patronage by the shogunate to influence the production of new cultural practices and, eventually, aesthetic lineages. The leaders of the shogunate were especially interested in cultivating the cultural traits of the aristocracies of Japan as well as China, and certain arts associated with Zen presumably carried such traits (and, in part, Buddhist meaning as well). The development of Japanese landscape artsespecially landscape paintings and rock gardensfrom the late fourteenth century on was especially indebted to those in the cultural enclaves of the Five Mountains Zen temples and convents. This culture of learning, commonly represented in the form of paintings of and literary references to the Zen monk's study (shosai ), included Buddhist contemplation, analysis, and discussion of continental Asian scholarship. Moreover, the shogunate academy Ashikaga Gakkō, which developed by the 1420s, was directly indebted to those in the Five Mountains institutions. In addition, beginning in the fourteenth century, the shogunate supported the inception of tea parties reminiscent of similar events in China. The monk Murata Shukō (14231502), who studied under the unconventional Zen cleric Ikkyū at Daitokuji, developed the first form of the later tea ceremony, which would eventually blend the influence of such aristocratic practice with those of the general populace.

Developments in other newer lineages

Meanwhile, recluses associated with Jishū and Precept lineages were heavily involved in Linked Poetry (renga ) gatherings, which were similar to the cultural enclaves yet were marked by bringing together persons of different status on common ground. These figures were thus connected also with the "non-humans" (hinin )itinerant priests, entertainers, traders, and lepers often living in liminal riverbank areas (kawara ), where cadavers were commonly left. The origins of such gatherings may have also been related to Eison's and Ninshō's activities of the self-administered precepts, which also brought together persons of differing classes in activity marked by equality, and constituted leagues (ikki ) that would transform into groups challenging authorities from the fifteenth century on. Other of the newer lineages of Buddhism variously made inroads into rural areas. Although lineages such as Shinran's and Nichiren's had moved to some degree into the rural areas of the eastern area (Kantō) of the main island as early as the late Kamakura era and the Jishū and Precept lineages were comparatively mobile, most of the newer lineages had little success in rural areas before well into the Muromachi period. It was particularly with the increasing decentralization of power and social mobility from the mid-fifteenth century on that the newer lineages became especially successful in attracting larger numbers of adherents, and such conversions were often made in connection with leagues (ikki ) that these lineages offeredthat is, related to efforts to challenge the authority of local lords, their retainers, and governors. Shinran's True Pure Land lineage (Jōdo shinshū, or Ikkō shū) became especially prominent from the fifteenth century, when the eighth patriarch Rennyo (14151499) led it. Shinran's teaching especially appealed to the general populace through its emphasis on the Final Age of the Buddhist dharma and, in that context, the notion that all, whether monk or lay, are equally incapable of contributing in any way to their own salvation; Shinran had indeed himself said he was "neither monk nor layman" and went so far as to take a wife (based on an instruction in vision from the bodhisattva Kannon)the precedent for True Pure Land priests' marriage from that time forward. Arguing that only one recitation of the nenbutsu with faith was sufficient for birth in Amida's Pure Land, Shinran and his successors gradually developed a willing audience among the population, especially over the course of the Muromachi period, when traditionally accepted class distinctions were increasingly seen by some as fundamentally arbitrary in character. Rennyo, after his persecution by Hiei and move to the Hokuriku region of northern Japan, transformed the lineage by appealing especially to all classes of rural villagers (especially peasants and low-level samurai) and emphasizing the universal and simple character of Amidist beliefs and practices; in doing so, and given the gradual rise in literacy, Rennyo attempted to expand the number of people who could read monks' sermons in the lineage by encouraging use of the syllabary rather Chinese characters in their recording. He also promoted the use of parishes or confraternities (kō ), where villagers met in the local place of practice (dōjō ), located in a temple or in the home of a supporting layman, who was usually a low-level samurai. The ikkō ikki leagues that rebelled against local governors beginning in the 1570s, featuring the low-level samurai and large numbers of peasantsthe latter of which did not want to pay rents to local lordswere often at variance with Rennyo's wishes, but following successes in Hokuriku in 1488 Rennyo went on to take advantage of the new wealth, land, and military strength to establish the Honganji temple in the capital of Kyōto in 1496. The Nichiren lineage (Hokke shū) also became similarly powerful through the development of leagues, although in this case it converted its followers increasingly in urban areas, especially in Kyōto during the 1530s.

The arrival of Europeans and the nationalization of Buddhist "schools"

Following the mid-sixteenth-century appearance of the Europeans and their religion, the leading samurai destroyed the military powers of the Buddhists within decades. The newly formed ruling Tokugawa shogunate (16001867) then decided to incorporate Buddhists into its administrative structure. It first ordered each major "school" of Japanese Buddhism to have a main temple for the training of clerics and a strictly hierarchical system of main and branch temples, as well as possess rules for monks' status, discipline, and clothing within the organization. By order of the shogunate, a national system of main-branch temples (honmatsu seido ) was developed, which forced all temples to affiliate with one or other of the nationally designated schools. The shogunate eventually required that all Japanese households (ie ) register with and become parishioners of their local temple, a system that became universal by roughly the 1660s. The development of this national system of congregations or parishes (danka seido ) meant that Buddhist institutions, which had directly or indirectly affected much of Japanese cultural and social life for a millennium, became even more pervasive. Each household, through its membership, could not easily change its affiliation from one temple or school of Buddhism to another, while it at the same time was required to support the temple, particularly through donating to clerics on the occasions of family funerals or related memorial rites. In this way, the members of most households came increasingly to associate Buddhist temples with death or mortuary rites. At the same time, it is clear that Buddhism thereby became an integral part of ritual life for virtually all Japanese. The traditional kenmitsu and the newer lineages tended to profit financially from the national system set in place by the shogunate. True Pure Land lineages, given the wealth of the Honganji, continued despite early subjugation efforts by the first shogun of the era, Tokugawa Ieyasu (15421616), to enjoy special privileges vis-à-vis the military government, such as the continuing right to marry. Most of the major temples increasingly offered a whole variety of ritual services on behalf of the local populations. Those with famous buddha, bodhisattva, or other images increasingly offered regular displays (kaichō ) of their sacred icons. Buddhist monks typically asked, as had commonly been the case throughout history, for donations when they conducted occasional rituals, though in this case they also enjoyed the increasing benefit of the new series of required funerary and memorial rites. Meanwhile, temples of Shingon and other lineages undertook to reorganize and expand their manuscript collections not so much in connection with record-keeping requirements as an effort to revive their intellectual life, which had particularly suffered with the breakdown of shogunal authority from the late fifteenth century on. Although the shogunate tried to retain control over religious practice, transinstitutional practices such as pilgrimage became more vibrant than ever. Meanwhile, various groups of so-called Kumano nuns traveled the isles and preached, sometimes promoting a physical pilgrimage but more often using "Kumano Ten-Realms Maala " (kumano jikkai mandara ) paintings to endorse a spiritual pilgrimage to salvationavoiding the torments of the blood hell, which they taught awaited most women at death. Moreover, the fact that print had become a virtually universal medium in the burgeoning merchant economy meant that a whole variety of easily accessible publications appeared in connection with practices like pilgrimage. Guidebooks to pilgrimage sites, literary descendants in part of the earlier temple legend collections, flourished as such sites grew more popular than ever before, despite the shogunate's efforts to limit physical movement.

Buddhism in the Meiji Period (18681912) and Modern Japan

Given the increasing intellectual current of "nativism" (kokugaku ), which was not only connected with movement toward the development of a nation-state and modernization but also increasingly with a call for the return to full sovereignty of the tennō and the rejection of foreign influences, it is not surprising that Buddhist institutions, long gateways to continental learning and civilization, came to be subjected to all manner of criticisms.

Following patterns established on a small scale from the mid-seventeenth century on by lords of certain local domains, the new government immediately decided to separate kami -worshipping shrines from Buddhist temples by force, taking a policy of "Separation of Kami and Buddhas" (shinbutsu bunri ) and producing what would come to be called "State Shintō" (kokka shintō). The sharply anti-Buddhist policies and tone of government statements created an atmosphere rife for exploitation, whereupon a virtual cultural revolution occurred in which Buddhist images and temples were purged throughout the Japanese isles. This purge, which came to known as "Expelling Buddhism and Destroying Śākyamuni" (haibutsu kishaku ), began as soon as the new government policy was announced: a kami -worshipping priest led an armed group that stormed the Hie Shrine, part of the larger Enryakuji temple complex at Mount Hiei, and burned several hundred Buddhist images and scriptures. From this point on, violence against Buddhist institutions became rampant.

By 1871, the worst remnants of the purge were over, and Buddhist clerics, sometimes together with and sometimes in opposition to the government, began to make efforts to reconceive of and newly represent the relevance of Buddhist belief and practice to Japanese society. In response to the most prominent ideological attacks on institutional Buddhiststhat monks and temples did not contribute to the nation, that their faith was foreign and counter to that of the nation, and that they held to ahistorical and mythic beliefsthey responded by engaging, increasingly along transsectarian (ecumenical) lines, in working on behalf of the population by constructing hospitals, aiding the poor, helping those in prison, feeding the ill of other lands, and also using their organizations to aid the Japanese military overseas.

For institutional Buddhists, the national and international unity of their faith was mediated by a transnational Asian Buddhism. Speaking of the "Three Realms" (India, China, Japan), a Japanese term originally used prior to nation-states (which also appropriated the same Japanese word, koku/kuni ), they drew upon premodern discourses of the Tōdaiji monk Gyōnen and others who had attempted to legitimate Buddhist belief and practice in the Japanese isles through appealing to the presumed unified transmission of a singular and authentic Buddhist tradition. In the same period, Daisetsu Teitarō ("D.T.") Suzuki's (18701966) translation of The Awakening of Faith attempted to establish a "common ground" for all "true Buddhists" beyond attachment to "sectarian tenets," in this case an essential Mahāyāna doctrine represented as in no way inferior to the presumably more scientific early Buddhism. While Suzuki's work would later find a larger readership in Europe and the United States and come to stress discourses on buddha-nature in the context of Zen belief, The Awakening of Faith would be studied by modern Japanese scholars because of its influence on Tendai and other discourses concerning "original enlightenment" (hongaku ) and interpreted by some as having reached its flowering in Japanese Buddhism. Such interpretations, combined with the emphasis on the Three Nations, are thought to have also contributed conceptually to pan-Asianism, which in the form of the Japanese policy of the "Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere" rhetorically helped to legitimize military aggression on the continent during the Pacific war. Recently, however, some other Japanese scholars would argue that Japanese Buddhism, especially in its emphasis on "original enlightenment," was especially prone to antinomianism.

Another aspect of institutional Buddhism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that should be noted was the universalizing of clerical marriage. While monks sometimes possessed wives and children but did not speak openly of their presence (this was frequent enough that children had rights to a deceased monk's property in the Heian period), it was only with Shinran and the True Pure Land lineages he founded that Buddhist clerics began to openly marry. However, Buddhist clerics as a whole now lost whatever privileges or exceptional aspects that had marked them; as a key part of this process, the government dismantled in 1872 all laws differentiating clergy from others in the populaceincluding official proscriptions against clerical marriage and meat eating (nikujiki saitai )so most monks married. At the same time, almost all nuns, who unlike their male counterparts were not bequeathed family temples by their fathers and did not feel pressure to themselves bequeathinstead "left home" to enter the clergyare unmarried to this day.

While monastic Buddhists were generally supportive of the war effortand on peaceful terms with the militariststhe government was particularly distrustful of those in "new religions," including Buddhist ones like Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai (later called Sōka Gakkai), Reiyūkai, Risshō Kōseikai, Shinnyoen, Gedatsukai, and Honmon Butsuryūshū. Members of many of the new religions were observed on a regular basis and often imprisoned. With the destruction of the major metropolitan centers and the freeing of the leaders of the new religions, the latter enjoyed tremendous successes during the early postwar era. All of the new religions, including those Buddhist in character, offered this-worldly benefits of various sorts (often healing) as well as related resolutions to spiritual/emotional problems.

Sōka Gakkai, a lay organization that began within the Nichiren Shōshū sect, grew from an organization of a few thousand at the beginning of the 1950s to a membership of more than 7 million by the early 1970s. This and other of the new religions were particularly successful in urban areas, where residents were often geographically separated from their larger families; one member of an urban family, often the wife or mother in the household, would commonly enter the movement, attend regular meetings, and eventually bring in other members. Sōka Gakkai featured regular group meetings for Buddhist practice featuring recitation of the title of the Lotus Sūtra, belief in the essential importance of active proselytization, and, in that connection, political action to promote world peace and salvation. Other Buddhist new religions tended to emphasize ancestor veneration as a major component, including Reiyūkai, out of which other new religions, such as Risshō Kōseikai, have developed.

From the 1970s on so-called "new-new religions" (shinshin shūkyō ) have developed, which generally share characteristics different from those of the new religions, and of which those of Buddhist character have also been active. While the growth of most of the earlier new religions slowed, these groups attempted to offer new responses to the changing conditions in contemporary Japan. For the most part, groups like Agonshū and Aum Shinrikyō, like their non-Buddhist counterparts, tended to appeal to youth through not merely this-worldly benefits but also a more critical stance vis-à-vis the current social and political situation.

Recently, institutional Buddhists have faced charges of social-class and gender discrimination. With regard to social discrimination, research during the last decades of the twentieth century clarified that some major sects of Japanese Buddhism, such as Zen, were involved historically in the use of "discriminatory precept names" (sabetsu kaimyō )the application of discriminatory religious titles to those deceased of the outcast class (burakumin ). Finally, the creation and increased use of mizuko kuyō rites, veneration of the bodhisattva Jizō (mizuko jizō ) practiced on behalf of the spirits of aborted fetuses, from the 1970s on in some Buddhist temples had an integral relationship with advertising campaigns and broader temple efforts to increase profits; the motives of the temples have been particularly called into question, and some have argued that such practices target young women by producing fear of the curses (tatari ) of unsettled fetus spiritsthus constituting an unfair and discriminatory practice.

Institutional Buddhists have also been challenged by recent changes in death practices. The image of greedy monks has led some Japanese to prefer to forgo such funerals, choosing options such as common graves and the free scattering of the dead's ashes.

However, alongside the growth of new practices transinstitutional rites of more traditional vintage like the Obon day of the dead as well as pilgrimage have been retained if not reinvigorated. Moreover, the New Year's pilgrimage, while associated with Shintō shrines, is often made instead to Buddhist temples, where Buddhas and bodhisattvas are likewise approached with prayers. In addition, Buddhist pilgrimage circuits vibrant since the Tokugawa period, such as the eighty-eight-temple route undertaken to match the piety of the great Shingon master Kūkai, have become as prominent as ever.

Finally, we should note that the influence of Buddhist discourses on society has accompanied the vast increase in media. The development of the internet as well as the popularity of manga (comics), anime (animation), and films have contributed to a wide diffusion of Buddhist images and ideas. Buddhist temples, new (and "new-new") Buddhist religions, and a variety of other Buddhist groups have taken advantage of the web to explain their teachings and offer other services. From the 1970s on, manga series such as the great Tezuka Osamu's series entitled Buddha and anime series such as Ikkyū-san have enjoyed great popularity. Buddhist themes also figured prominently in novels and other literature. The prominence of Buddhist figures, themes, images, and teachings in these media indicates the extent to which Buddhism continues to have a vibrant and multiple influence on Japanese culture, while its institutional presence perdures despite a variety of challenges.

See Also

Buddhism, Schools of, article on Japanese Buddhism; Japanese Religions, overview article; Missions, article on Buddhist Missions; Pilgrimage, article on Buddhist Pilgrimage in East Asia; Shintō; Shugendō.

Bibliography

Studies in English

The volume of Western-language materials concerning Buddhism in Japan has recently increased dramatically, as has the volume of the research. Prominently, relevant articles appear in Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Japanese Religions, and a series of other journals on religion or Japan. Surprisingly, there is not as yet an up-to-date standard reference on Buddhism in Japan or Japanese religion, whereas specialized studies are numerous. The work edited by Kazuo Kasahara, A History of Japanese Religion (Tokyo, 2001), is a useful set of essays by prominent scholars of Japanese religion, though it remains a translation of a much earlier two-volume set published in Japanese. Comparatively more introductory works include H. Byron Earhart, Japanese Religion: Unity and Diversity, 3rd ed. (Belmont, Calif., 2004) and Ian Reader, Esben Andreasen, and Finn Stefansson, eds., Japanese Religions Past and Present (Honolulu, Hawaii, 1993). Daigan Matsunaga and Alicia Matsunaga, Foundation of Japanese Buddhism, 2 vols. (Los Angeles and Tokyo, 19741976), is a detailed yet dated overview of the historical transmission of the best known lineages of Japanese Buddhism.

Specialized Studies

Most of the promising work on Buddhism in Japan has been conducted in specialized studies or edited volumes. The following discussion constitutes an incomplete list, due to the volume of materials recently published. Early Japanese Buddhism remains little studied, although Ryūichi Abé, The Weaving of Mantra: Kūkai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse (New York, 1999) offers a useful overview of Buddhism in the Nara period. For a discussion of women in Nara period Buddhism, see Hongō Masatsugu, "State Buddhism and Court Buddhism: The Role of Court Women in the Development of Buddhism from the Seventh to the Ninth Centuries," in Enduring Faith: Women and Buddhism in Premodern Japan, edited by Barbara Ruch (Ann Arbor, Mich, 2002); the Ruch work includes a broad array of studies on women's involvement in both lay and monastic Buddhism prior to the modern era. For studies of Saichō and Kūkai, see Paul Groner, Saichō: The Establishment of the Tendai School (Honolulu, Hawaii, 2000), and the Abé work noted above, as well as the older Yoshito Hakeda, Kūkai: Major Works (New York, 1972). There are a number of important studies of Buddhism from the mid-Heian to the Kamakura period. William LaFleur's The Karma of Words: Buddhism and the Literary Arts in Medieval Japan (Princeton, N.J., 1983) examined the introduction of karmic cosmology into Japanese literature. With regard to Buddhist activities or lineages that existed prior to the advent of the new Kamakura period lineages, see Mark L. Blum, The Origins and Development of Pure Land Buddhism: A Study and Translation of Gyōnen's Jōdo Hōmon Genrushō (New York, 2002); Paul Groner, Ryōgen and Mount Hiei: Japanese Tendai in the Tenth Century (Honolulu, Hawaii, 2002); Janet Goodwin, Alms and Vagabonds: Buddhist Temples and Popular Patronage in Medieval Japan (Honolulu, Hawaii, 1994); Brian D. Ruppert, Jewel in the Ashes: Buddha Relics and Power in Early Medieval Japan (Cambridge, U.K., 2000); Jacqueline I. Stone, Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism (Honolulu, Hawaii, 1999); George J. Tanabe, Myōe the Dreamkeeper: Fantasy and Knowledge in Early Kamakura Buddhism (Cambridge, U.K., 1992), and Mimi Hall Yiengpruksawan, Hiraizumi: Buddhist Art and Regional Politics in Twelfth-Century Japan (Cambridge, U.K., 1998). With regard to studies of new Kamakura period lineages, James Dobbins, Jōdo Shinshū: Shin Buddhism in Medieval Japan (Honolulu, Hawaii, 2002) remains the standard work on Shinran's lineage, as does William Bodiford, Sōtō Zen in Medieval Japan (Honolulu, Hawaii, 1993) concerning Sōtō Zen; the Senchakushū English Translation Project, trans. and ed., Hōnen's Senchakushū (Honolulu, Hawaii, 1998), provides the best translation of Hōnen's most famous work while offering a useful introduction. There are also a number of translations of works by Nichiren. Other works increasingly establish the commonalities between the previously existing lineages and those newly developed in the Kamakura period, including relevant Shintō lineages. These include Mikael S. Adolphson, The Gates of Power: Monks, Courtiers, and Warriors in Premodern Japan (Honolulu, Hawaii, 2000); Bernard Faure, Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism (Princeton, N.J., 1996); Richard K. Payne, ed., Re-Visioning "Kamakura" Buddhism (Honolulu, Hawaii, 1998); Mark Teeuwen and Fabio Rambelli, eds., Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm (London, 2003); and Robert H. Sharf and Elizabeth Horton Sharf, eds., Living Images: Japanese Buddhist Icons in Context (Stanford, Calif., 2001). While the last of these works includes studies of Buddhism from the Muromachi and Tokugawa periods, the number of other prominent works remains comparatively few, and typically concern particular figures or institutions of the period or popular religious practices. Studies of figures include Peter Haskel and Ryūichi Abé, Great Fool: Zen Master RyōkanPoems, Letters, and Other Writings (Honolulu, Hawaii, 1996) and James H. Sanford, Zen-man Ikkyū (Chico, Calif., 1981). Prominent works on institutions or popular practices include Helen J. Baroni, Ōbaku Zen: The Emergence of the Third Sect of Zen in Tokugawa Japan (Honolulu, Hawaii, 2000); Martin Collcutt, Five Mountains: The Rinzai Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan (Cambridge, U.K., 1981); Helen Hardacre, Religion and Society in Nineteenth-Century Japan: A Study of the Southern Kanto Region, Using Late Edo and Early Meiji Gazetteers (Ann Arbor, Mich., 2002); Nam-Lin Hur, Prayer and Play in Late Tokugawa Japan: Asakusa Sensōji and Edo Society (Cambridge, U.K., 2000); Neil McMullin, Buddhism and the State in Sixteenth Century Japan (Princeton, N.J., 1984); D. Max Moerman, Localizing Paradise: Kumano Pilgrimage and the Religious Landscape of Premodern Japan (Cambridge, U.K., 2004); Joseph D. Parker, Zen Buddhist Landscape Arts of Early Muromachi Japan (13361573) (Albany, N.Y., 1999); and Duncan Ryūken Williams, The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Soto Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan (Princeton, N.J., 2005). There are numerous studies of Buddhism in the modern era, of which the most prominent are: Paula Kane Robinson Arai, Women Living Zen (New York, 1999); Helen Hardacre, Lay Buddhism in Contemporary Japan: Reiyūkai Kyōdan (Princeton, N.J., 1984); Helen Hardacre, Marketing the Menacing Fetus in Japan (Berkeley, Calif., 1999); Richard M. Jaffe, Neither Monk Nor Layman: Clerical Marriage in Modern Japanese Buddhism (Princeton, N.J., 2001); James Edward Ketelaar, Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution (Princeton, N.J., 1990); William LaFleur, Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan (Princeton, N.J., 1991); Ian Reader and George Tanabe, Practically Religious: Worldly Benefits and the Common Religion of Japan (Honolulu, Hawaii, 1998); Brian Daizen Victoria, Zen at War (New York, 1997); and Judith Snodgrass, Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition (Chapel Hill, N.C., 2003) on the "new" Buddhism of the Meiji period and the interaction with the West and Western Buddhologists. Jamie Hubbard and Paul L. Swanson, eds., Pruning the Bodhi Tree: The Storm over Critical Buddhism (Honolulu, Hawaii, 1997), focuses on the debate concerning contemporary Japanese scholars who have criticized original enlightenment discourses in Japanese Buddhism.

Studies in Japanese

The great bulk of publications in the study of Japanese Buddhism has and remains in Japanese, and the volume of publication has dramatically increased in recent years. The most useful reference with which to consider the broader history of Japanese Buddhism has long been Tsuji Zennosuke, Nihon bukkyōshi, 10 vols. (Tokyo, 19441953), although there have been a large number of recent general works that address developments in theory and research. More recently, a series edited by Nihon Bukkyō Kenkyūkai entitled Nihon no bukkyō, 6 vols. (Kyōto, 19941996) and a volume edited by the same group called Nihon bukkyō no kenkyūhō (Kyōto, 2000) have offered the most rigorous series of general articles by leading contemporary scholars as well as the most up-to-date bibliographical essays on significant research that has been conducted on Japanese Buddhism in recent decades; the topics covered include not only the major historical periods, lineages of Japanese Buddhism, and kami -Buddha amalgamation but also the fields of Buddhist folklore, Buddhist literature, women in Buddhism, Buddhist art, and Buddhist architecture. For verification of the existence or historical validity of Buddhist texts, Ono Genmyō, ed., Bussho kaisetsu daijiten, 13 vols. (Tokyo, Supplementary vols. 1213 ed. Maruyama Takao, rev. ed. 19641967) remains the best resource.

Specialized Studies

All of the major traditional sects of Japanese Buddhism have collected their own textual corpuses. However, careful study of any group or individual in Japanese Buddhism requires consultation of a broad range of both primary and secondary sources in Japanese. In terms of primary sources, initial collections that should be consulted are the sections including Japanese Buddhist works in Taishō shinshū daizōkyō, 100 vols. (Tokyo, 19241932), Dainihon zokuzōkyō, 750 vols. (Kyōto, 19051912), and Dainihon bukkyō zensho, 151 vols. (Tokyo, 19121922). Important sources for the study of early Buddhism include, of course, court chronicles, archaeological records, Shōsō'in monjo records, temple stories, and official temple collection records (shizaichō ). As for major lineages that developed in the early period, only Tendai and Shingon feature large collections, which include: Tendai Shūten Kankōkai, ed., Tendaishū zensho, 25 vols. (Tokyo, 19351937), and Tendai Shūten Hensanjo, ed., Zoku Tendaishū zensho, 15+ vols. (Tokyo: 1987); Shingonshū Zensho Kankōkai, ed., Shingonshu zensho, 44 vols. (Kōyasan, 19331939), and Zoku Shingonshū Zensho Kankōkai, ed., Zoku Shingonshū zensho, 42 vols. (Kōyasan, 19731988). As for the newer Kamakura period lineages, some of the major Pure Land Buddhist collections are Jōdoshū Shūten Kankōkai, ed., Jōdoshū zensho, 21 vols. (Tokyo, 19291931); Shūsho Hozonkai, ed., Zoku Jōdoshū zensho, 20 vols. (Tokyo, 19401942); Tsumaki Naoyoshi, ed., Shinshū zensho, 74 vols. (Tokyo, 19131916); Shinshū Tenseki Kankōkai, ed., Shinshū taikei, 37 vols. (Tokyo, 19741976) and Zoku Shinshū taikei, 24 vols. plus Bekkan, 4 vols. (Tokyo, 19761977). Some major Zen collections include: Sōtōshū Zensho Kankōkai, ed., Sōtōshū zensho (Tokyo, 19291935); Zoku Sōtōshū Zensho Kankōkai, ed., Zoku Sōtōshū zensho (Tokyo, 19741977). Prominent Nichiren lineage collections are Risshō Daigaku Nichiren Kyōgaku Kenkyūjo, ed., Nichirenshū shūgaku zensho (Tokyo, 19681978) and Shōwa teihon Nichiren Shōnin ibun (Minobusan, 1988). In the case of virtually all of the major lineages, collections of works by the founders and other major figures of the traditions have been published and should be consulted; recent research has resulted in the publication of large new collections of works attributed to figures lesser-known to scholarship, like the monk Shukaku of Shingon lineage. Collections of materials of the Tokugawa, Meiji, and modern periods can often be found in those of entire lineages, noted above. However, work of contemporary scholars such as scholars at the Historiographical Institute, University of Tokyo, and Tamamuro Fumio have also made great quantities of previously unpublished materials available for research. Relevant materials such as diaries and various genres of temple records should also be consulted regularly.

Brian O. Ruppert (2005)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Buddhism: Buddhism in Japan." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Jul. 2019 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Buddhism: Buddhism in Japan." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 21, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/buddhism-buddhism-japan

"Buddhism: Buddhism in Japan." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved July 21, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/buddhism-buddhism-japan

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.