views updated May 18 2018


ENNIN (794864), posthumous title, Jikaku Daishi; was a Japanese Buddhist monk of the Tendai school. Ennin was born in north-central Japan. At fifteen he entered the monastic center on Mount Hiei, the headquarters of the Tendai school, where he soon became a favorite disciple of Saichō (767822), the Japanese monk who transmitted the Tendai (Chin., Tiantai) teachings to Japan from China. In 814 Ennin became a full-fledged monk, after which he studied the Buddhist precepts at Tōdaiji in Nara for seven years. Eventually, a physical ailment forced him to retire to a hut at Yokawa in the northern part of Mount Hiei, where he waited quietly for death. According to legend, Ennin devoted himself to copying the Lotus Sūtra (Jpn. Hōkekyō; Skt., Saddharmapuarika Sūtra ) for three years, and miraculously regained his health after experiencing a vision of the Buddha in a dream. The next year (835) Ennin petitioned the court for permission to visit China. He left Japan in 838 with the last official Japanese embassy to the Tang court. Unable to gain permission to visit Mount Tiantai, eponymous headquarters of the Chinese Tiantai school, he studied Sanskrit and received initiation into the Vajradhātu Maala and the Garbhakośadhātu Maala and other Esoteric (Mikkyō) doctrines and practices.

The following year he made a pilgrimage to Mount Wutai in northern China, a center of Pure Land practices. Here, Ennin studied Tiantai texts and Mikkyō, and participated in Pure Land practices. In 840 he went to the capital, Chang'an, where for six years he deepened his knowledge and added expertise in the susiddhi, an Esoteric tradition as yet unknown in Japan. Ennin survived the persecution of Buddhism under Emperor Wuzong and finally returned to Japan in 847 with hundreds of Buddhist scriptures from the Tiantai, Esoteric, Chan, and Pure Land traditions, as well as treatises on Sanskrit, Buddhist images, assorted ceremonial objects, and even rocks from Mount Wutai. These are listed in the Nittō shingu shōgyō mokuroku, a catalogue Ennin submitted to the court. Ennin also returned with a diary, the Nittō guhō junrei kōki, a scrupulously accurate account of his travels and of the China of Tang times, and with new knowledge and experience to lead the Japanese Tendai school to social and doctrinal preeminence in Japan.

His busy career after returning to Japan was a combination of hectic activity and prestigious official recognition. On Mount Hiei he founded centers for Pure Land and Lotus Sūtra practices. He presided over an initiation for a thousand people in 849, an initiation for Emperor Montoku and the crown prince in 855, and bestowed the Mahayana precepts on Emperor Seiwa in 859. Incumbency of the office of zasu, or abbot, of the Tendai school was granted him by the court in 853. Ennin died in 864 (some sources have 866). In 866 he was granted the exalted title Jikaku Daishi ("master of compassionate awakening"); Saichō was (posthumously) given the title Dengyō Daishi ("master of the transmission of the teachings") at the same time. This was the first use of the title Daishi in Japan.

The contributions of Ennin to Japanese Buddhism are as follows:

  1. The transmission of Pure Land practices from Mount Wutai. Although Saichō had already introduced a type of Pure Land practice, the verbal Nembutsu introduced by Ennin provided the foundation for the later independent Pure Land schools of the Kamakura period (11851333).
  2. Compilation of his diary of his journey to China, an extremely valuable and unique record of Tang China.
  3. Consolidation of Tendai Mikkyō. Ennin completed Saichō's limited transmission of Mikkyō so that the Tendai Mikkyō tradition, known as Taimitsu, could successfully compete with the Tōmitsu Mikkyō of the Shingon school transmitted and founded by Kūkai (774835).
  4. Introduction of shōmyō, a melodious method of chanting the scriptures, and transmission of new Pure Land, Mikkyō, confessional, and memorial ceremonies; construction of many important buildings on Mount Hiei; and development of the Yokawa area of Mount Hiei.
  5. Strengthening of the position of the Mahāyāna precepts platform on Mount Hiei through his contacts with the imperial court. Ennin's Kenyō daikai ron, an important treatise on the subject, further contributed to the power and influence of the ordination center on Mount Hiei.
  6. Cultivation of many important disciples. Ennin's lineage, called the Sanmon-ha, although in competition with the Jimon-ha of Enchin (814891), dominated the Tendai hierarchy for centuries.

Ennin's legacy thus includes the development of the doctrine, practices, and social prestige of the Japanese Tendai school to the point where it dominated the Japanese Buddhist world of the later Heian period (8661185) and provided the basis for the Pure Land, Zen, and Nichiren schools. Ennin's meticulous diary is also the best source of information on the daily life and times of Tang China.

See Also



The only English-language work on Ennin is Edwin O. Reischauer's pioneering study, Ennin's Travels in Tang China, and his translation of Ennin's diary, Ennin's Diary: The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law (New York, 1955). This work is widely recognized as authoritative, but its approach is historical rather than religious and does not cover Ennin's life and contributions after his return to Japan. The most detailed study and translation of Ennin's diary in Japanese is Ono Katsutoshi's four-volume Nittō guhō junrei kōki no kenkyū (Tokyo, 19641969). There are two volumes of collected essays concerning Ennin, Jikaku Daishi sangōshū, edited by Yamada Etai (Kyoto, 1963), and the more scholarly Jikaku Daishi kenkyū, edited by Fukui Kōjun (1964; reprint, Tokyo 1980), first published on the eleven hundredth anniversary of Ennin's death. There is no single collection of Ennin's works, which are instead scattered throughout various collections of Buddhist texts.

Paul L. Swanson (1987)


views updated Jun 08 2018


Ennin (794–864), posthumously known as Jikaku Daishi, was a leading monk and abbot in the early years of the Tendai (Chinese, Tiantai) school, who, as a favorite disciple of the founder SaichŌ (767–822), led the Tendai monastic establishment at Mount Hiei near Kyoto to become a flourishing center for Buddhist study and practice.

Like Saichō, Ennin traveled to Tang dynasty China to study the dharma and returned with knowledge and texts from various traditions. Unlike Saichō, who stayed only a year, Ennin's journey lasted nine years (838–847), and his travel diary records detailed information about China at the time. Unable to get permission to visit the center of Tiantai studies at Mount Tiantai, Ennin instead devoted himself to learning new forms of tantric and Pure Land Buddhist practice, in addition to Tiantai studies, at Mount Wutai and in the capital of Chang'an. His initiation in the susiddhi tantric doctrine stimulated the development of a rich new form of practice that consolidated the Tendai mikkyō curriculum (Taimitsu) on a par with that of the Shingon school's (Tōmitsu).

Ennin became the third abbot of Enryakuji on Mount Hiei. His dedication to expanding the monastic complex and its courses of study assured the Tendai school a unique prominence in Japan. While his chief contribution was to strengthen the Tendai tantric Buddhist tradition, the Pure Land recitation practices (nenbutsu) that he introduced also helped to lay a foundation for the independent Pure Land movements of the subsequent Kamakura period (1185–1333).

See also:Original Enlightenment (Hongaku); Tantra; Tiantai School


Reischauer, Edwin O. Ennin's Travels in T'ang China. New York: Ronald Press, 1955.

Reischauer, Edwin O., trans. Ennin's Diary: The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law. New York: Ronald Press, 1955.

Saito, Enshi, trans. Jikaku Daishi Den: The Biography of Jikaku Daishi Ennin. Tokyo: Sankibō Busshorin, 1992.

David L. Gardiner


views updated May 18 2018


Ennin (794-864) was a Japanese monk who founded the Sammon branch of the Tendai sect. He studied Esoteric Buddhism in T'ang China.

The family name of Ennin was Mibu, and he was born in the Tsuga district of Shimotsuke Province (modern Tochigi Prefecture). Becoming a disciple of Saicho, the founder of the Tendai sect in Japan, Ennin led a rather colorless life as a monk and teacher at the Enryakuji (another name for this temple was Sammon). He was sent to China for study in 838. His Nyuto Gubo Junreiki (Record of the Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Holy Law) is full of fascinating details of his adventures, from the time he sailed from Japan until his return in 847.

At first unable to obtain the necessary Chinese authorization to visit either of China's two most important Buddhist centers on Mt. Wu-t'ai and Mt. T'ien-t'ai, Ennin later managed to secure the help of an influential general to reach Mt. Wu-t'ai and other holy sites. Ennin returned to Japan after extensive study with the masters of each of the Tendai disciplines.

Upon his return to Mt. Hiei, the Emperor conferred upon Ennin the rank of daihosshi (great monk). Ennin then organized study of the two Mandalas, initiated Esoteric baptism, and promoted other branches of Esoteric learning. He taught the invocation of Buddha's name (nembutsu), which he had heard on Mt. Wu-t'ai and which was to become in some of the popular sects an all-sufficient means of gaining salvation, though for Ennin it appeared to be of less importance than Esoteric learning.

Ennin stayed on Mt. Hiei as zasu (chief abbot) for more than 20 years, and during his ministry he founded the monastery called Onjoji (more usually known as Miidera) at the foot of Mt. Hiei on the shore of Lake Biwa. A measure of Ennin's success is the fact that the bestowal by the court in 866 of the posthumous title of Jikaku Daishi on him and that of Dengyo Daishi on his master Saicho marks the beginning of the custom of posthumous titles in Japan.

Further Reading

There is a brief discussion of Ennin's diary describing the hazards of his trip to T'ang China and the introduction of Esoteric cults to Japan in Edwin O. Reischauer and John K. Fairbank, East Asia: The Great Tradition (1960). A cogent discussion of the spread of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan is in Ryusaku Tsunoda and others, Sources of Japanese Tradition (1958). For a brief discussion of Ennin's role in the development of the Heian Society see George B. Sansom, A History of Japan (3 vols., 1958-1963). □


views updated Jun 27 2018

Ennin (794–864). Third chief abbot (zasu) of the Japanese Tendai school, also known by his posthumous title, Jikaku Daishi. He became a disciple of Saichō (767–822), the founder of Tendai, at the age of 15, and in 838 he went to China for further study of Tʾien-tʾai and Esoteric Buddhism (Mikkyō). His foremost contribution to history is the establishment of Tendai esotericism (Taimitsu) in contrast to the Shingon esotericism (Tomitsu) of Kūkai (774–835), Saichō's great rival. No less important is his introduction of the Pure Land practice of Wu-tʾai-shan which initiated the Tendai Pure Land tradition. The bestowal of posthumous titles begins with Ennin, who preceded both Saichō (Dengyō Daishi) and Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi) in receiving the honour.