The Creed of Half Japan, by Arthur Lloyd, , at sacred-texts.com
Buddhism reaches Japan
Buddhism reached Japan from Korea, and not at first from China.
Korea, in the age which we have been considering, was not as large a country as it is now. The whole of the district, from the Yalu river, which forms the present boundary of the Korean Empire, to the Tatong river, halfway between Wiju and Seoul, belonged to China. The rest of the peninsula was divided into three independent kingdoms: Koma, which occupied the eastern slopes, from the Tumen in the north down almost to the extreme south of the peninsula; Kudara, which occupied the whole of the western slopes from the Chinese frontier to the extreme south; and the small kingdom of Shiragi in the south-eastern corner of the peninsula, on the side nearest to Japan. The southernmost province of Shiragi was the province of Mimana, which may be said to have been at one time practically a Japanese colony.
Buddhism had reached the kingdom of Koma in A.D. 372, the missionary having been sent from Singanfu by the ruler of the Former Thsin (A.D. 350–394). A ruler of the Eastern Tsin (317 to 420) had sent an Indian priest, Marananda, to preach the Gospel of Buddha in Kudara in the year 384. Shiragi had received the doctrine from the neighbouring kingdom of Koma in
[paragraph continues] A.D. 424. The well-known propensity of the Buddhist priesthood for political intrigue and amateur statecraft makes it highly probable that the rival rulers of the Thsin and the Tsin, casting about for any straw with which to support their tottering dynasties, made use of the Buddhist missionaries for political purposes to gain allies for themselves in Koma and Kudara, both of which kingdoms touched the Chinese frontiers. As to the exact nature of the Korean Buddhism we have no accurate information. The division into sects in China was still new, and sectarian lines were not very clearly defined. The doctrine still wore its Indian and predominantly Hīnayānistic character; Vasubandhu, Asangha, and other great teachers of Mahāyāna had possibly not been born when Buddhism reached Korea. 1 There are indications to show that much attention was paid to the Vinaya discipline, and that whatever speculation there was ran along the lines laid down by the Kusha, Sanron, and Jōjitsu sects (see Chapter XVI.).
Korea and Japan were by no means strangers to one another. As early as B.C. 32 (if there is any confidence to be put in the early records of Japan) the little province of Mimāna or Kara, oppressed by Shiragi, had appealed to Japan for aid. The reigning emperor, Sujin Tennō, became its protector, and the prestige of the Japanese name was so great that Japan was able not only to turn Mimana into a Japanese dependency, but to keep it as such for several centuries. Korean influence upon Japan may have begun even then, for in the reign of the next emperor, Suinin, about the dawn of the Christian era, we find the beginnings of rice culture in Japan, and an attempt to elevate and ennoble the native worship of the Kami, which may have been due to the influence
of a foreign religion. 1 In A.D. 2 Suinin is said to have abolished the custom of burying alive the wives, concubines, and retainers of deceased rulers and nobles, and to have substituted the burial of clay figures, a practice which led to the Japanese pottery industry.
In the year A.D. 202 the great Japanese heroine, Jingu Kōgō, made her famous expedition to Korea, and established the Japanese ascendency not only over Shiragi, but likewise over the sister kingdoms of Koma and Kudara, an ascendency which it would probably have been impossible to establish had it not been for the fact that the great dynasty of the Han was at that period tottering to its fall. In the confusions which followed that catastrophe (A.D. 220), none of the transient Chinese kingdoms was powerful enough to be able to pay much attention to Korea.
Jingu Kōgō's son and successor, Ōjin Tennō, subsequently deified by his countrymen as Hachiman, the God of War, and at a still later period adopted into the Buddhist Pantheon as an incarnation of one of the great Buddhas, made great use of his suzerainty over Korea by importing from that country horses and arms, tailors and sempstresses, smiths and artisans. His successor, Nintoku (311–399), who was obliged to fit out an expedition to Shiragi in order to maintain his rights, followed in the footsteps of his father. He had been instructed in the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius by the Chinese sage Wani, whom his father had engaged as a tutor to the Imperial family, and Japanese historians always speak
of Nintoku with deep respect as a man of singular virtue and nobility. Nintoku introduced silkworm breeding into Japan, and it is a significant fact as showing a possibly earlier existence of Buddhism in this country that in the silk districts the patron deity of sericulture is the Buddhist saint As’vaghosha. 1
In the year A.D. 522, a Chinese priest named Shiba Tatsu, a subject of the Liang (502–557), made an attempt to establish a mission in Yamato, which failed. The Liang ruled in the south of China. Their first emperor, Wu-ti, was a powerful ruler who extended the dominions of his house to the sea-coast on tile east, and did much to foster trade and commerce. In his reign the Chinese began to be a seafaring people, and Chinese ships visited the Bay of Bengal, Ceylon, the west coast of India, and even penetrated as far as the Persian Gulf. 3 Wu-ti, during the earlier years of his reign (502–549), was a great patron of Confucianism; in his later years he alienated his Confucian subjects by his zeal for Buddhism, which he adopted with all the ardour of a convert. In the north of China, his most powerful rival was the kingdom of the Wei, ruled over by a queen, Hushi, who, like Wu-ti, was a zealous Buddhist, much to the disgust of her Confucianist subjects, who objected to the worship of S’akyamuni on the ground that he was only a deified man, and not a god like Tientei, the ruler of Heaven. In the end they dethroned their queen and threw her into the Hoangho. 2
The Wei 3 influence (386–584) would naturally be great in the Korean states which touched their boundaries.
[paragraph continues] Shiba Tatsu passed through Korea on his way to Japan. It is highly probable that he came on a semi-political mission which failed. Neither Korea nor Japan cared for an alliance with the distant Liang, whose fortunes were apparently bound up with the personality of one man. Wu-ti's death in 549 was practically the end of his house and dynasty.
But Shiba Tatsu's mission may very possibly have suggested a reason why the Korean kingdoms should seek to strengthen themselves by an alliance with Japan. Korea was practically a Buddhist realm. Both Wei and Liang, though ruled over by sovereigns with Buddhist propensities, had powerful aristocracies which were strongly anti-Buddhist. Had either of these kingdoms gained the ascendency in the Peninsula a grievous persecution would have followed, ending perhaps in the overthrow of Korean dynasties. 1 Japan was as yet neither Buddhist nor Confucian. If she could be won over to the faith, the immediate future at least would be secured from danger.
Accordingly, in 545, and again in 552, 2 King Seimei of Kudara sent presents to the Emperor of Japan—images of Buddha and Sacred Books—together with a recommendatory letter in which he pointed out the excellences of the Buddhist religion, as well as its evident destiny to travel constantly eastward from the land of its origin. The presents received but a doubtful welcome. One
noble family, that of Soga no Iname, whose household had possibly been already converted to Buddhism, advised the sovereign to accept the gift. Another section of the nobility, headed by Mononobe no Okoshi and Nakatomi no Kanako, was furiously opposed to having any dealings with a new religion which could not be brought into the country without offence to the national gods. The Emperor temporized. He entrusted the care of the images and books to Soga no Iname, as though to allow those who would to adopt the new religion, 1 without committing himself to any definite line of action in this respect. Soga housed the idols in his own villa, which he converted into a place of worship. Soon after this a pestilence broke out, which was taken to denote the anger of the native gods. Soga's temple was destroyed by a mob, and the great statue of the Buddha thrown into the canal at Naniwa. Then followed another portent—a flash of lightning from a cloudless sky, which set fire to the Imperial Palace. This was clearly a token of the anger of the Hotoke. 2 The offending statue was fished out of the river, and reverently placed in a suitable abode, and the Emperor, as a further act of reparation, caused two images to be carved in wood and set up at Hoshino. This was the first beginning of the glyptic arts in Japan. At the same time he sent a prudent message to the King of Kudara, asking him to send no more Buddhist bonzes or images, but requesting to be supplied with physicians, apothecaries, soothsayers, almanack-makers, and artisans, and promising in return to supply him with munitions of
war. 1 This last clause looks very much as though an offensive and defensive alliance had been really the aim of the King of Kudara.
The bonzes and images, however, continued to come. It cost a civil war and many a riot before Buddhism became a permanent institution. It possibly cost even more, for there was something suspicious about the death of the Emperor Sujun (592), if not about those of his predecessors, Bidatsu (586) and Yomei (587); but the proselytizing zeal of the Korean Court and their supporters in Japan (whose numbers may have increased with the opposition raised by the Kami-worshippers) knew no discouragement. Architects, wood-carvers, and almanack-makers came. Books on geography and astronomy, which the Buddhists, from their wide-reaching connections, were most fitted to teach, books on magic, and almanacks, of which they had almost a monopoly, came, and were eagerly received by the Japanese, who have always had a desire to know. But priests came too, and nuns, and in their hands were books, relics, and sacred images of Maitreya, of Amitābha with his two companions, 2 of Kwannon the Deity of Mercy, so that by the death of Shōtoku Taishi there were 46 temples and nearly 1400 monks and nuns composing the staff of Buddhist missions. Many sacred books came also, for
we find Shōtoku Taishi lecturing on the "Hokekyō, Yuima Kyō," and "Shomangyo" (the last two, books of the Vinaya), and there must have been many others.
During the whole of this period of Korean influence the cause of Buddhism in Japan found a doughty champion in the Crown Prince, Shōtoku Taishi (572–621), a rare personage, who united in himself the qualities of a general, a statesman, a theologian, and a mission-preacher. A more important factor in the progress made by the religion was the fact that Buddhism in Japan soon attracted the enthusiastic adherence of the women. In 577 the King of Kudara sent over a nun, who must have been a very good mission worker. In 584 several Japanese women were admitted to the Order. In 588 a band of Japanese nuns went over to Korea to study. In 590 they returned, bringing with them the disciplinary rules of the Vinaya, and were well received by the people of Naniwa (Ōsaka), who built them a convent and allowed them to receive many postulants. It is probable that these pious women, teaching the comparatively simple doctrines contained in the Vinaya books, did much more to recommend the faith of Buddha to their countrymen than did the Mantra priest with his incantations and magic, or the ordinary bonze with his Kusha, Sanron, or Jōjitsu speculations.
The Vinaya books are divided into four sets. They represent the disciplinary books of the four Hīnayāna sects, Sarvāstivādins, Dharmaguptas, Vibhās’ikas, and Mahis’akas—which alone had any connection with Chinese missions. What the precise differences between these traditions were we know not, and which tradition found its way through Korea to Japan, we cannot tell. Possibly there was not much to choose between them; but the lesson to be learned from the four divisions is worth
remembering. For, if the Discipline might be altered a little, it might also be altered much, and if it might be altered much, it might also be abolished entirely. In later years, Shinran Shōnin's reforms practically swept away the whole discipline, and we may presume that it was by arguments such as these that he justified his action. But be that as it may. The pious women of Japan took kindly to the definite rules of Vinaya Buddhism, and their adherence to the new religion was of immense importance. There were not wanting signs of the need of discipline amongst religious communities, even in those early days. 1
The fashionable form of religious metaphysics was that adopted by the Sanron sect, which commenced its Japanese existence in the year 624, three years after the death of Shōtoku. This sect professed to accept the whole of the Buddhist Canon so far as it existed in China in those days. 2 The diseases of the human mind were many and various, so they said, and the prescriptions for so many diseases must be many also. The object of Buddha's teaching was to destroy error and establish the truth: the one implied the other, for the destruction of error left truth in its place, and when all errors were destroyed truth would have the field all to itself. But to set to work to establish positive truth would of necessity involve the establishment of error. [There can, therefore, never be such a thing as a positive and infallible Revelation of Truth.] Truth was of two kinds, absolute ( ) and apparent ( ), and error, though infinite in its possibilities, might all be summed up under eight great heads. There
were errors connected with positive views of Life and Death, about Oneness and Multiplicity, about the Determinate and the Indeterminate, about Going and Coming. 1 Place the word "No" ( ) in front of each of these eight notions, and the Truth would be clear. "No Life and No Death, No Oneness and No Multiplicity, No Determinate and No Indeterminate, No Going and No Coming." The Universe and the Microcosm, Man, are nothing but negations.
Speculations such as these, the products of the hairsplitting Indian mind, had no charm for the practical Japanese intellect, and the Sanron sect 2 was never more than a shadow among the Buddhist denominations in Japan. If it had not been for the simple faith of the Japanese women, who took the Buddha of the Vinaya books as their model, with his plain, straightforward directions as to the religious life of the believer, it is possible that Buddhism might have had to wait some years longer before gaining the ear of the Japanese people. The lesson is one not to be thrown away.
169:1 Takakusu gives for Vasubandhu's date A.D. 445.
170:1 It is not impossible that this may have been Buddhism. A.D. 64 marks the official recognition of Buddhism in China, not its popular acceptance, and there is an early Japanese tradition that at a very early period certain Ratai no hito brought an image of Kwannon to Japan, which they set up at Kumano-ura for worship ("Bukkyo Seiten," App., p. 12).
171:1 See "Bukkyō Mondō Shū," pp. 14–24.
171:2 Kaeuffer, "Geschichte Ostasiens," vol. ii. p. 397.
171:3 There were three Wei dynasties, all in the north of China: (1) Northern Wei, 386–534; (2) Western Wei, 534–557; (3) Eastern Wei, 534–550.
172:1 The straits to which Buddhism in China was at this time reduced may be seen in the fact, noticed by Kaeuffer, that about 555 an attempt was made forcibly to unite Buddhism and Taoism, in a common enterprise against the powerful Confucianists—a foreshadowing of Ryōbu Shinto. The attempt failed because the Taoist priests objected to having their heads shaved, and the failure only made things worse.
172:2 This must be considered as the date of the official introduction of Buddhism.
173:1 The Emperor would scarcely have adopted this course had not Iname been backed by a considerable number of influential sympathizers.
173:2 Hotoke, the Japanese term for a Buddha.
174:1 In preparing this chapter I have largely consulted the historical sections of Rein's "Japan," which remains a standard work. For the Buddhist part I am much indebted to the painstaking chronology published by my friend, Dr. Hans Haas, of Heidelberg, in Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Natur and Völkerkunde Ostasiens, vol. xi. 3 (Berlin: Behrend & Co., Unter den Linden 16).
174:2 The statue of Amitābha, with Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthamaprāpta, sent over by the King of Kudara, in 552, is said to be now at the Zenkōji Temple at Nagano. See Satow and Hawes, "Handbook of Japan," p. 289.
176:1 See Haas, "Chronology of Buddhism, A.D. 623 and 628," in Mitteilungen der deutschen Gesellschaft far Natur and Völkerkunde Ostasiens.
176:2 See Nanjo, "Cat. Trip.," Introd., p. xviii.
177:1 "Murakami," p. 446. The words are Shō-metsu-ichi-i-dan-jō-ko-rai ( ).
177:2 For the meaning of Sanron see previous chapter.