Religion in Japan



175 - 248

Sorceress Queen of Wa

First recorded name of Japan
Ruled state of Yamatai (first name of Japan)
Came to power during civil war
Unified country under kami worship using centralized control
People began listening to women
Largest tomb (kofun)

Arrival of Buddhism in Japan


Prince Shotoku

574 - 622

Served under Empress Suiko
Member of Soga family
Avid Buddhist
Overthrew Mononobe, who opposed Buddhism (official kami worshippers; allies: Nakatomi)
Established centralized control over Buddhism

Uji - lineages
Ujigami - deities of lineage
Ujidera - temples for ujigami; Prince Shotoku said to build these

Emperor Tenmu

631 - 686

Not rightful heir to throne (killed his brother)
Started project to collect myths (Kojiki)
Promoted Amaterasu as most important kami
Built Ise Shrine to house Amaterasu

Esoteric Buddhism in China


Esoteric aka Tibetan/Tantric/Vajyrayana

Main tenants:
Mysterious Rites and Rituals
Rejected the idea that enlightenment takes a really long time; work hard now, reach it in this lifetime
Don't suppress senses; use them to attain enlightenment
Manta - word/sound said repeatedly to increase concentration
Tantra - all teachings/scriptures in Esoteric Buddhism (meditation/yoga/ritual/etc)

Tiantai Buddhism
Mt. Tiantai in China
Founded by Zhiyi
Nature of Enlightenment issue
Yogacara - understanding reality comes from one's own mind?
Focus on classifying/organization ALL Buddhist texts
Three Truths - 1) conventional, 2) supreme, 3) emptiness
Four Layers of Truth - 1) ignorance, 2) conventional, 3) supreme, 4) returning to 2 while also knowing can now be a bodhisattva

kami worship


Indigenous religion of Japan
Everything has spirits
Torii - gate - symbolizes presence of kami at shrine
Shintai - kami body - where kami resides
Norito - prayer - name of deity, offerings, petition
Miko - shrine priestess - formerly, shamanistic; now, less so
Bronze mirrors - recognition of China's power; gifts from China

Buddhism in Nara (Early Japanese Buddhism)


Buddhism in Nara Period

Nara modeled after Chang'an (Buddhist city in China)
Nara is the new Japanese capital
Kokubungi - provincial Buddhist temples controlled by state - pray for the state; made control much easier
Soni-ryo - Set of Laws for Monks and Nuns - dictates how they should behave, should pray for state, not preach publicly, must pass test (literate; nobility), numbers limited

6 schools of Nara
1) Hosso - nature of consciousness, letting go of desires, implications for salvation (must be consciousness to achieve it)
2) Kegon - nature of enlightenment - tathagatagarbha/Buddha-nature

Sutra for Humane Kings - be a good ruler and Buddhism will bless you with prosperity and growth (apocryphal...expedient means)



"Record of Old Things"

1 of 3 main sources of early Japanese mythology
Compilation began under Emperor Tenmu
First extant chronicle of Japanese mythology
Ignored for 1,000 years but standard text today
Japanese language; dramatic style



aka Nihon Shoki
"Chronicles of Japan"

1 of 3 main sources of early Japanese mythology
Often contradicted Kojiki and itself
Compilation of creation myths taken from ruler around Japan
Chinese-style language
Studied during 1,000 years Kojiki was ignored

Shomu Tenno

724 - 749

Emperor Shomu
Great-grandson of Emperor Tenmu

Lover of Buddhism
Began dismantling state control of Buddhism
Builds temples all around Japan
Gyoki - a hijiri - a wandering priest who operates outside of state control to help commoners - befriends Shomu, who says he'll permit him to ordain monks if he helps him build Todaiji and Daibutsu (head temple of Kegon School, and the Big Buddha inside)



(713-733 approx.)

1 of 3 main sources of early Japanese mythology
Emperor had list of myths from local places around Japan made
Lots of deities not on official list
Capital wants you to worship their kami; yours are incorrect

Esoteric Buddhism in Japan


Saicho and Kukai...see below


767 - 822

Founder of Tendai Buddhism in Japan - progeny of Tiantai Buddhism
Brought tea back - caffeine to increase concentration during meditation
Mt. Hiei - first Mahayana ordination platform here; took power away from capital by allowing monastic ordinations elsewhere (he can have as many as he wants; no more quota from the capital)


774 - 835

Started out at Bureau of the University; realized Confucianism wasn't enough
Went to China at the same time as Saicho
Established Shingon Buddhism - uniquely Japanese
Goal: Embodying/becoming one with a Buddha/bodhisattva
Ordinary language can delude/trap us; look to Sanskrit sounds
Mandalas - pictures of world - 1) Womb Mandala (initiations), 2) Adamantine World Mandala
Teacher in China: Amoghavajra

Late Tang Suppression

845 - 1100

not sure about dates



"Procedures of the Engi Period"

Set of procedures created by the courts
Dictated proper rituals and practices in shrines
List of officially worshipped kami
Still used today

Mappo/Genpei War/Mongol Invasion

1058 - 1281

Mappo - 1058 - world started ending (3rd stage of Buddhist law)
Genpei War - 1180-1185
Mongol Invasions of Japan - 1274 and 1281

This led to people wanting salvation, which led to Pure Land sects

Beginning of religion focused on commoners

Pure Land Buddhism in Japan


Unique to Japan
Focus on Amida Buddha (Amitahba), who delayed enlightenment till all sentient beings reach it too
ALL people can attain enlightenment (Budda-nature)
The Pure Land - created by Amida as a halfway point between life and nirvana; you can attain enlightenment here
Sukhavatiyyahn Sutras - describes what Pure Land is like
Ojoden - tales of rebirth in the Pure Land
Nenbutsu - repeated words, often Amida's name to keep him in mind


1133 - 1212

Founded Jodo-shu (Pure Land Buddhism)
Was a monk on Mt. Hiei but had conflicts with other monks
Heavily influenced by mappo...create practices that anyone can use to be saved
Exclusive Practice of Nenbutsu - "Nama Amida Butsu" - "I invoke Amida Buddha"

Zen In Japan


Usurped Tiantai as major sect in 9th century in the vacuum left by Tang suppression
Literally means meditation
Meditate however you want; work, sit silently, music etc.
Improper thinking prevents Enlightenment, problem of mind
Koan - puzzling/paradoxical thing to reflect on; force abandonment of dependence on reason
Enlightenment is an internal process
Nature of Enlightenment
Strict monastic codes
Use language against language

Platform Sutra - sacred text used by Zen Buddhists
Stories about the competition for the succession of the next patriarch at the monastery
Key topics of the discourse are the direct perception of one's true nature


1141 - 1215

Founded Rinzai Zen
Sees Buddhism as corrupt; reform or we'll lose it
Focus on textual study


1173 - 1263

Founder of Jodo-shinshu sect (True Pure Land Sect)
Similar to Honen: exclusive practice of Nenbutsu
Deviation from Honen: Amida already said he's going to save us, so say nenbutsu as gratitude, not to achieve enlightenment
Faith in Amida is more important than actions
Self-power - trusting in yourself is a delusion
Other-power - give yourself over to Amida
Tannisho - 13th century book written with quotes attributed to Shinran
Influenced by mappo


1200 - 1253

Founder of Soto Zen
Focus on manual labor; quiet the mind through physical activity
Use koan
"Just sitting" - just sitting, just being; focus on 1 thing (work in the garden)...this will quiet your mind and help you reach enlightenment


1222 - 1282

Founded Nichiren Buddhism
Buddhist reformation - state should get rid of all other forms or Buddhism will end
Intolerance to other forms
Does NOT focus on exclusive practice of nenbutsu
Lotus Sutra is the ultimate
Daimoku - like nenbutsu - "I'll devote myself to Lotus Sutra"
Instead of Buddhism helping out the state, the state should help out Buddhism


1234 - 1289

Founded Ji-shu Sect of Pure Land Buddhism
Wasn't as popular because it was too tied to Ippen
Took the message to the masses
Everything is Nenbutsu; reciting Amida's name is the ultimate
Amida is all that can save you; nenbutsu, actions, faith...they don't help
Just say Buddha's name once and you'll be saved



Japanese Periods

Kofun Period

250 - 538

Kofun - megalithic tombs
Daisen kofun is the largest
Shaped like keyholes
Ritual sites


538 - 710


710 - 794


795 - 1185


1185 - 1333


1333 - 1573

Chinese Dynasties


581 - 618

Tang Dynasty

618 - 907

Capital: Chang'an
Japan is unifying/developing during this period
Golden Age of Chinese Buddhism, especially Tantric/Esoteric


907 - 960

5 Dynasties 10 Kingdoms

Northern Song

960 - 1127

S. Song

1127 - 1279