Shint, Japanese, Buddhism, Buddha, Japan, Holy
K[=o]b[=o] indeed was both the Philo and Euhemerus of Japan, plus a large amount of priestly cunning and what his enemies insist was dishonesty and forgery. Soon after his return from China, he went to the temples of Isé,18 the most holy place of Shint[=o].19 Taking a reverent attitude before the chief shrine, that of Toko Uké Bimé no Kami or Abundant-Food-Lady-God, or the deified Earth as the producer of food and the upholder of all things upon its surface, the suppliant waited patiently while fasting and praying.
In this, K[=o]b[=o] did but follow out the ordinary Shint[=o] plan for securing god-possession and obtaining revelation; that is, by starving both the stomach and the brain.20 After a week's waiting he obtained the vision. The Food-possessing Goddess revealed to him the yoke (or Yoga) by which he could harness the native and the imported gods to the chariot of victorious Buddhism. She manifested herself to him and delivered the revelation on which his system is founded, and which, briefly stated, is as follows:
All the Shint[=o] deities are avatars or incarnations of Buddha. They were manifestations to the Japanese, before Gautama had become the enlightened one, or the jewel in the lotus, and before the holy wheel of the law or the sacred shastras and sutras had reached the island empire. Further more, provision was made for the future gods and deified holy ones, who were to proceed from the loins of the Mikado, or other Japanese fathers, according to the saying of Buddha which is thus recorded in a Japanese popular work:
"Life has a limited span, and naught may avail to extend it. This is manifested by the impermanence of human beings, but yet, whenever necessary, I will hereafter make my appearance from time to time as a god (Kami), a sage (Confucian teacher), or a Buddha (Hotoké)."21
In a word, the Shint[=o] goddess talked as orthodox (Yoga) Buddhism as the ancient characters of the Indian, Persian and pre-Islam-Arabic stories in the Arabian Nights now talk the purest Mohammedanism.22 According to the words put into Gautama's mouth at the time of his death, the Buddha was already to reappear in the particular form and in all the forms, acceptable to Shint[=o]ists, Confucianists, or Buddhists of whatever sect.
Descending from the shrine of vision and revelation, with a complete scheme of reconciliation, with correlated catalogues of Shint[=o] and Buddhist gods, with liturgies, with lists of old popular festivals newly named, with the apparatus of art to captivate the senses, K[=o]b[=o] forthwith baptized each native Shint[=o] deity with a new Chinese-Buddhistic name. For every Shint[=o] festival he arranged a corresponding Buddhist's saints' day or gala time. Then, training up a band of disciples, he sent them forth proclaiming the new irenicon.
The Hindu Yoga Becomes Japanese Riy[=o]bu
It was just the time for this brilliant and able ecclesiastic to succeed. The power and personal influence of the Mikado were weakening, the court swarmed with monks, the rising military classes were already safely under the control of the shavelings, and the pen of learning had everywhere proved itself mightier than the sword and muscle. K[=o]b[=o]'s particular dialectic weapons were those of the Yoga-chara, or in Japanese, the Shingon Shu, or Sect of the True Word.23 He, like his Chinese master, taught that we can attain the state of the Enlightened or Buddha, while in the present physical body which was born of our parents.
This branch of Buddhism is said to have been founded in India about A.D. 200, by a saint who made the discovery of an iron pagoda inhabited by the holy one, Vagrasattva, who communicated the exact doctrine to those who have handed it down through the Hindoo and Chinese patriarchs. The books or scriptures of this sect are in three sutras; yet the essential point in them is the Mandala or the circle of the Two Parts, or in Japanese Riy[=o]bu. Introduced into China, A.D. 720, it is known as the Yoga-chara school.
K[=o]b[=o] finding a Chinese worm, made a Japanese dragon, able to swallow a national religion. In the act of deglutition and the long process of the digestion of Shint[=o], Japanese Buddhism became something different from every other form of the faith in Asia. Noted above all previous developments of Buddhism for its pantheistic tendencies, the Shingon sect could recognize in any Shint[=o] god, demi-god, hero, or being, the avatar in a previous stage of existence of some Buddhist being of corresponding grade.
For example,24 Amatéras[)u] or Ten-Sh[=o]-Dai-Jin, the sun-goddess, becomes Dai Nichi Ni[=o]rai or Amida, whose colossal effigies stand in the bronze images Dai Butsu at Nara, Ki[=o]to and Kamakura. Ojin, the god of war, became Hachiman Dai Bosatsu, or the great Bodhisattva of the Eight Banners. Adopted as their patron by the fighting Genji or Minamoto warriors of mediæval times, the Buddhists could not well afford to have this popular deity outside their pantheon.
For each of the thirty days of the month, a Bodhisattva, or in Japanese pronunciation Bosatsu, was appointed. Each of these Bodhisattvas became a Dai Mi[=o] Jin or Great Enlightened Spirit, and was represented as an avatar in Japan of Buddha in the previous ages, when the Japanese were not yet prepared to receive the holy law of Buddhism.
Where there were not enough Dai Mi[=o] Jin already existing in native traditions to fill out the number required by the new scheme, new titles were invented. One of these was Ten-jin, Heavenly being or spirit. The famous statesman and scholar of the tenth century, Sugawara Michizané, was posthumously named Tenjin, and is even to this day worshipped by many children of Japan as he was formerly for a thousand years by nearly all of them, as the divine patron of letters. Kompira, Benten and other popular deities, often considered as properly belonging to Shint[=o], "are evidently the offspring of Buddhist priestly ingenuity."25 Out of the eight millions or so of native gods, several hundred were catalogued under the general term Gon-gen, or temporary manifestations of Buddha. In this list are to be found not only the heroes of local tradition, but even deified forces of nature, such as wind and fire. The custom of making gods of great men after their death, thus begun on a large scale by K[=o]b[=o], has gone on for centuries. Iyéyas[)u], the political unifier of Japan, shines as a star of the first magnitude in the heavens of the Riy[=o]bu system, under the mime of T[=o]-sh[=o]-g[=u], or Great Light of the East. The common people speak of him as Gon-gen Sama, the latter word being an honorary form of address for all beings from a baby to a Bosatsu.
In this way, K[=o]b[=o] arranged a sort of clearing-house or joint-stock company in which the Bodhisattvas, kami and other miscellaneous beings, in either the native or foreign religion, were mutually interchangeable. In a large sense, this feat of priestly dexterity was but the repetition in history, of that of Asanga with the Brahmanism and Buddhism of India three centuries before. It was this Asanga who wrote the Yoga-chara Bhumi. The succession of syncretists in India, China and Japan is Asanga, Hiuki[=o] and K[=o]b[=o].
|Written By William Elliot Griffis|
|Prev | Next|