- Published: Tuesday, 26 June 2018 17:49
Buddhism, both Theravada and Mahayana, was introduced into Japan in the middle of the 6th century, first from Korea and then from China. Initially, it was transmitted to the ruling class and attracted little attention from the general population, since it competed with the indigenous Shinto religion. When a temple complex was constructed in Nara, the capital at that time, and the central government promulgated the new religion, seeing in it a means for supporting their idea of a centralized nation-state, it began its popular spread. The government instituted a system for controlling the religion by establishing a state-supported monastery (kokobunji) and nunnery (kokobunniji) in every province and financing the construction of the Todai-ji Temple in Nara with its massive bronze image of Buddha seated in meditation. This time is known as the Nara Period (646-794). As Kazuo Kasahara writes, “Buddhism greatly impressed the Japanese with its beautiful rituals, elegantly inscribed sutras, monumental temples and pagodas, and splendid statues” (A History of Japanese Religion, p. 47). It also conveyed to the Japanese a level of culture which they had not previously known. Since six different schools of Buddhism — Hosso, Sanron, Kegon, Jojitsu, Kusha, and Ritsu — were introduced, the Japanese emphasized the “simultaneous study of all six schools,” seeking to understand their inner spirit as well as their outer form. The Hosso school taught the “consciousness only” (Sk. vijñaptimatrata) philosophy started in India by Arya Asanga and Vasubandhu. Sanron was the Japanese form of Pure Land Buddhism. Kegon was based on the Avatasaka (“Flower Garland”) Sutra (Kegon-kyo in Japanese) which taught that separateness is an illusion and all living things can become a Buddha. Jojitsu and Kusha were Theravada forms of Buddhist realism. Ritsu was based on the Theravada Abhidharmako sa.