Buddhism was imported to Japan via China and Korea in the form of a present from the friendly Korean kingdom of Kudara (Paikche) in the 6th century.
During the Nara Period, the great Buddhist monasteries in the capital Nara, such as Todaiji, gained strong political influence and were one of the reasons for the government to move the capital to Nagaoka in 784 and then to Kyoto in 794. During the early Heian Period, two new Buddhist sects were introduced from China: the Tendai sect in 805 by Saicho and the Shingon sect in 806 by Kukai. Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi fought the militant Buddhist monasteries (especially the Jodo sects) at the end of the 16th century and practically extinguished Buddhist influence on the political sector. Buddhist institutions were attacked again in the early years of the Meiji Period, when the new Meiji government favored Shinto as the state religion and tried to separate and emancipate it from Buddhism. We strive to keep Japan Guide up-to-date and accurate, and we're always looking for ways to improve. The art form basically followed the believers of the dharma who were growing in number and spreading around in Asia. The art scene in Japan prior to the advent of Buddhism had been influenced by a variety of art movements and cultures.
Following the advent of the religion into the country Buddhist art began to flourish in a number of ways. The period ranging from the 8th century through to the 13th century saw Buddhist art flourish to a great extent. The time period after the thirteenth century saw a transition from the orthodox Buddhist art towards Zen art.
Some conservationists and experts on philosophy and ethics reckon that whales and dolphins are so intelligent that they should be given rights to life like humans.
My young son and I were heading into Catholic church on Sunday in Tokyo when we noticed something odd: There was no holy water at the entrance. Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, a member of Japan’s tiny Roman Catholic minority, had a chance toenjoy some time away from political trouble at home when he met with Pope Benedict on Tuesday. Pope Benedict has been criticised for his handling of relationships with the world’s other religions. The chairman of the Yad Vashem council, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, was underwhelmed by Pope Benedict’s effort at the memorial this afternoon. As Religion Editor based in Paris, I cover main religion developments, coordinate religion news coverage and run the FaithWorld blog. During the course of the development of Buddhism in Japan, the prevailing tendency is to search for fulfillment and ultimate truth, not in any transcendental sphere, but within the structure of secular life, neither denying nor repressing man’s natural feelings, desires or customs. The official story of the arrival of Buddhism to Japan states that a political delegation arrived from Korea in 538 C.E. Nevertheless, during the course of the next half century, Japan witnessed the firm establishment of Buddhism as a religion officially recognized and actively supported by the imperial court, thus overcoming doubts about its efficacy as a means of preventing disease, and also overcoming the fear of the national kami.
Firstly, it did not come to Japan on a popular level, but was only accepted by the imperial court and then disseminated in the country from the top. Secondly, Buddhism was often associated with magic powers, and was used by the court as a means of preventing or curing disease, bringing rain and abundant crops etc. Thirdly, Buddhism did not replace the indigenous kami, but always recognized their existence and power. The initial period saw the introduction onto Japanese soil of the six great Chinese schools, including the Hua-Yen and Lu, that became respectively the Kegon and Ritsu in Japanese.
In 794, the imperial palace of Japan moved to Kyoto, and it is from this date that important changes and developments take place which result in the emergence of a more characteristically Japanese form of Buddhism. Two monks, Saicho (767 – 822) and Kukai (774 – 835), effected this change which so decisively affected the future of Japanese Buddhism. Kukai and his secret doctrine, known as the True Word, Shingon, had a mysterious radiance, which encouraged the formation of legends about him. Esoteric practicesEsoteric practices were very influential to the point that they dominated the Heian period, and had a decisive influence on the subsequent Kamakura period.
Towards the end of the Heian, the dissemination of more popular devotional forms of Buddhism began, which were mainly derived from the Pure Land cult of Amitabha (Amida in Japanese). From the end of the 11th century, a new military aristocracy in the provinces increasingly evaded the control of the central government, culminating in war between the Taira and Minamoto families. This new climate did not favour the study of abstruse philosophy or the performance of elaborate rituals, so more robust and generally accessible teachings became the order of the day.
The doctrine of the Pure LandThe first of the three great traditions of Kamakura Buddhism, the doctrine of the Pure Land, continued the development which had begun in the Heian period. Honen’s successor, Shinran-Shonin (1173-1262) founded the True Sect of the Pure Land, Jodo-shinshu, which is the largest Buddhist sect in Japan today. While belief in Amida proceeds from the “strength of the other” (tariki), Zen Buddhism teaches that man can come to deliverance and Enlightenment only from his own strength (jiriki). Eisai established firm relations with the new military government in Kamakura and the military caste that held sway there.
In general, the monks involved in the transmission of Zen from China to Japan also transmitted Neo-Confucian values and ideas, which were themselves strongly influenced by Ch’an Buddhism and Hua-yen philosophy.
A second Chinese school of Zen, the Ts’ao-tung (Soto in Japanese), introduced to Japan by Dogen (1200-1253). After Pure Land and Zen, the final great reformer and sect-founder of the Kamakura period was Nichiren (1222-82). Two issues isolated Nichiren: the militant style of his presentation, and his insistence that the Lotus Sutra should inform the practice of government.
The demise of the Kamakura regime inaugurated a new era of internal strife and fighting in Japan, which was to last into the seventeenth century. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the privileged relations of the Rinzai Zen sect with the military government permitted it to gain tremendous wealth.
The Tokugawa Shogunate was to rule Japan from its bastion in Edo (Tokyo) for over two and a half centuries. The Shogunate encouraged the Buddhist clergy of the sects in scholarly pursuits, hoping thereby to divert them from politics.
From the Zen school during this period, a few influential figures did emerge, the poet Basho and the Rinzai Zen masters Bankei and Hakuin being chief among them. During the last 50 years, the evolution of Buddhism has been closely linked to Japan’s history.
While Buddhism was welcomed by the ruling nobles as Japan's new state religion, it did not initially spread among the common people due to its complex theories.
Nevertheless, the problem of politically ambitious and militant monasteries remained a main issue for the governments over many centuries of Japanese history.
It found followers among all different social classes since its theories were simple and based on the principle that everybody can achieve salvation by strongly believing in the Buddha Amida.
Its complicated theories were popular particularly among the members of the military class. However, the religion does not directly affect the everyday life of the average Japanese very strongly. Find out about the Japanese Buddhist art legacy that came about as a direct influence of the dharma.Buddhist art actually originated in the Indian subcontinent.
From the north through to Central Asia and then into Eastern Asia Buddhism was spreading like wild fire. The Yayoi and Kofun periods had just come to pass leaving their mark on the Japanese art culture. Missionary monks made their way to the nation with their scriptures and art work hoping to attract the unaware masses.

The government was involved in sponsoring a host of artists in order to create numerous paintings and sculptures. This was the philosophy introduced into Japan through the Eisai and Dogen on their return trip from China. The majority of these temples have been made from wood and have undergone massive restoration for the purpose of preservation.
Right, so now she, and dozens of singles in Japan where marriage has recently gone out of fashion, are turning to the gods for help.
On Monday Tuesday, he is due to receive at the Vatican Japan’s Prime Minister Taro Aso, who has little difficulty with mixing and matching various faiths. Since joining Reuters in 1977 in London, I've worked in Vienna, Geneva, Islamabad, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Bonn and Paris.
Si vous preferez une ligne de separation, placez une bordure sur le cote droit de l'element div #mainContent si vous savez qu'il possedera toujours plus de contenu que l'element div #sidebar2. Among the gifts it brought for the Emperor were a bronze Buddha image, some sutras, a few religious objects and a letter warmly praising the most excellent Dharma.
In these early days, the most important aspect with regard to the flow of Chinese culture into Japan was the introduction of the Chinese script.
Often, Buddhist faith in Japan is connected with absolute devotion to a leader with emphasis on veneration of the founders of sects, and the majority of sects keep close relations to the central governmental authority of their times.
This led to numerous varieties of Shinto-Buddhist amalgamation, in which often the kami were considered manifestations of the Buddhas.
This perhaps explains why many Japanese arts and skills are pervaded by Buddhist spirituality. In terms of geography, the six sects were centered around the capital city of Nara, where great temples such as the Todaiji and Hokkeji were erected. Two schools – the Tendai and the Shingon – particularly came to the fore, in time supplanting the other established schools, and laying the foundations for future developments. By their comprehensive syntheses of the Chinese doctrine, two systems of teaching and practice were created, which effectively furnished all the essentials for the entire further development of Japanese Buddhism .
After years of study and practice, he became especially partial to the teachings of the Chinese grand master Chih-I and the T’ien-t’ai School, which were based on the Lotus Sutra. All this helped to make a decisive step away from the academic Buddhism of the early period, to a revived active kind of religion based on belief. During his early studies in Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism he came to know one of the principal texts of the esoteric canon, the Mahavairocana Sutra, but did not reach a deeper understanding of it.
Even the more philosophical Tendai school adopted esoteric rituals in order to make it more popular with the general population, whilst figures such as Kukai succeeded by means of esoteric rites in making rain after a time of drought, giving Buddhist esotericism a magical attraction. This was connected with the somewhat pessimistic philosophy of a deteriorating “final period of the dharma”, which became widespread during this time. The latter were victorious and thereby acquired absolute power of the country, setting up a military government in Kamakura in the vicinity of present-day Tokyo.
The Tendai and Shingon schools declined, and more earthy democratic movements such as Zen and the devotional schools advanced. There was the founding of an independent Japanese sect of the Pure Land known as Jodo-shu by Genku (1133-1212), better known as Honen. In his chief work written in 1224, he explains that the doctrine, practice, belief and realization are all given by Amida Buddha and that nothing depends on man’s “own power” (jiriki). Zen (Chinese Ch’an, from Pali, jhana and Sanskrit, dhyana) places supreme emphasis on self-power: on the active mobilization of all one’s energies towards the realization of the ideal of enlightenment. They found the simple, hard and manly discipline of Zen more to their taste than the ritual and dogma of the old schools.
The Zen masters added a Confucian moral to Buddhist spirituality, which appealed to the new warrior-class of the Kamakura. After four years of training in China under Master Ju-ching, Dogen returned to Japan in 1227, and eventually established the Eihei-ji temple in a remote province, which to this day remains one of the two main temples of the Japanese Soto Zen school.
After studying in Kamakura and training in Tendai doctrine and practice, he came to the conclusion that the highest, all-embracing truth lay in the Lotus Sutra, known in Japan as the Myoho-renge-kyo, the fundamental canonical text of the Tendai sect. He constantly made his views public, and the hot worded language which he used spared neither secular or Buddhist establishments, and led to his eventual banishment to the island of Izu. This led to the creation of what is known as the “Culture of the Five Mountains” which constitutes the summit of Japanese Zen culture. It was to be the longest period of peace, and for the most part, prosperity in the history of the country.
Therefore a huge amount of learned literature was produced, and by the second half of the seventeenth century, editions of the Buddhist canon appeared, the most influential being that by Tetsugen of the new Obaku-shu sect. It added a new flavour to Japanese Zen, not only by its syncretism (it contained elements of Pure Land Buddhism), but also by the introduction of rituals, customs and a new architectural style imported from Ming China. Matsuo Basho (1644-94) was a poet who consciously transformed the practice of poetry into an authentic religious way; many of his finest poems (seventeen syllable haiku form) are thought to succinctly catch the elusive, often melancholy magic of the passing moment, and thereby express the true spirit of Zen. He revived the use of the koan, statements of Zen masters that are used as problems set to novices in Zen monasteries. The grip of the government during the Second World War over Buddhist institutions was rigid, and any writings in which Buddhism was placed above the authority of the state or the emperor were suppressed. Of the main branches of Buddhism, it is the Mahayana or "Greater Vehicle" Buddhism which found its way to Japan. According to Zen teachings, one can achieve self enlightenment through meditation and discipline. Nichiren Buddhism still has many millions of followers today, and several "new religions" are based on Nichiren's teachings. Funerals are usually carried out in a Buddhist way, and many households keep a small house altar in order to pay respect to their ancestors.
With the passage of time and contact with other cultures throughout Asia the religion and the art form spread to other places including Japan. Some of the most prominent buildings inspired by Buddhism are the Golden Hall of the Horyuki, the five story pagoda and the Kofuku-ji temple in the city of Nara.
The Japanese artists developed rich figurative art that was used in order to depict their deities. A host of original pottery and paintings reflecting their desire to uncover the true meaning of life can be found belonging to this time period. And this month, Japan’s famed hip-hop loving monk, better known as MC Happiness, will tap dance on stage, in the name of Buddhism. At the same time however, as the religion developed in Japan, it often did so along paths not followed on the mainland.
After initial opposition, the gifts were accepted, and a temple was built to house the objects. This provided the means for the Japanese (who did not possess an indigenous writing system of their own) to assimilate the vast tradition of Chinese classics, and the Chinese version of the Buddhist canon. This is typical of how Buddhism favours harmonious coexistence with indigenous beliefs, and it was to be a similar story when Buddhism subjugated local gods and spirits in Tibet a few centuries later. Well known examples being the tea ceremony, the arts of gardening, calligraphy and the No play. However, the Buddhism of this early period – later known as the Nara period – was not a practical religion, being more the domain of learned preists whose official function was to pray for the peace and prosperity of the state and imperial house. In 804, he went to China, and returned with an improved knowledge of various teachings and practices, along with many sutras.
An essential element in the doctrine of the Tendai was the teaching in the Lotus Sutra that the possibility of salvation is given to all.

In 804, he traveled to China where all his doubts and questions with regard to the sutra were resolved; he returned to Japan with many new skills and instructions to impart.
The devotional cults basically propounded the notion that salvation was only possible through the intercession of buddhas and bodhisattvas, for example through the recitation and repetition of simple formula such as the Namu-Amida-butsu (the Nembutsu – “thinking on the Buddha”).
Minamoto-no Yoritomo received the title of Shogun with supreme military and police power, thus transferring rule from the court aristocracy to those of the warrior class (samurai). He decided that Enlightenment was no longer achievable by the strength man alone, and that the only possible way was to surrender to Buddha Amida and rebirth into the Western Paradise Pure Land. Instead, everything depends on the “power of the other” (tariki), namely that of the Buddha Amida. In contrast to this, Zen Buddhism was greeted with less enthusiasm by the intellectual elite of cities such as Kyoto. For many centuries, the big Rinzai temples in Japan were centres of Chinese learning in general, and Neo-Confucianism in particular. The foundation of Dogen’s Zen is the constantly emphasized principle that practice does not lead to Enlightenment, but is carried out in the state of being Enlightened; otherwise it is not practice.
However, Nichiren thought that for the simple ordinary person, Tendai dogma and the reading of the Lotus Sutra were too difficult. He was soon pardoned, but his continued attacks on institutions so provoked government and clergy that he was sentenced to be executed. A slide into stagnation occurred, which was to broadly last until the end of the nineteenth century. It included all the arts, such as architecture, painting, calligraphy and sculpture, as well as printing, gardening and medicine. This was basically achieved by closing the country to the outside world, and establishing a regime of inflexible authoritarian control that created stability and order, but stifled all creative change and innovation. They cannot be solved by rational thinking, and are designed to help open the mind to Enlightenment. There followed a temporary persecution of Buddhism when Shinto was made a state cult, however Buddhism was too firmly established in the affections of the Japanese people for this to last for long, and its religious freedom was effectively soon regained. The only opposition to this came from the Soka-gakkai, founded in 1930 as a non-religious society of teachers, and they were severely persecuted. This was the result of Korean, Chinese and Hellenistic influences that had come together to form a unique style. In 2006, I received the European Religion Writer of the Year award and FaithWorld was awarded the RNA 2012 Best Online Section prize.
However, an epidemic which ravaged the land was interpreted as bringing the wrath of the indigenous kami (Japanese Shinto deities) down on the nation. Only very few imported Chinese texts were translated into Japanese; most have continued throughout their history to be used in their original version.
This kind of Buddhism had little to offer the illiterate and uneducated masses, and led to the growth of “people’s priests” who were not ordained and had no formal Buddhist training.
He established his base on Mount Hiei, and received permission to ordain two novices every year. There were other faith-based doctrines during this time, the most noteworthy being the belief in the bodhisattva Jizo, who dispenses help to beings on all levels of existence and it is still alive today. New in Honen’s philosophy was that, while he recognized the scholastic apparatus of Mahayana philosophy, he concentrated on an intensified religious feeling which found expression in the simple invocation of the name Namu-Amida-Butsu, stamped by unshakeable faith in rebirth into Amida’s paradise.
Shinran emphasized that the recitation of the Namu-Amida-butsu was simply the expression of thankfu joy for having received everything from Amida. However, a lasting tradition that concentrated on Zen practice and led to the formation of a separate sect, was first created by the Tendai monk Eisai (1141-1215). There, established practice was represented by Tendai, Shingon and Pure Land with their beautiful rituals. Furthermore, the Rinzai school is closely associated with Japanese arts and the “ways” – the aforementioned "tea way", the "flower way", the "way of archery" and others. In a logically constructed picture of the world, he equates all being – the believer, his practice and the world – with the present moment, the moment of enlightenment. He proclaimed that the title, Myoho-renge-kyo, was the essence of the whole sutra, and that it was in fact identical with the state of Enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha. Ikkyu (1394-1481), a priest of the Rinzai sect, was particularly known for his unconventional character, and he was an accomplished poet, calligrapher and painter. The Buddhist clergy was under the strict control of the government, and it was forbidden to found a new sect or build a new temple without special permission.
He spent many years intensively pursuing Enlightenment, and then at last he realized that he had been in possession of what he had been seeking all along, and decided that the term Un-born best described it. Hakuin invented many new koans himself, adapted to the need of the times, in that they do not presuppose any scholarly knowledge of the Chinese Zen classics.
For the first time in centuries, contact was made with other Buddhist countries, along with Western ones as well, and this served to encourage Buddhist scholarship, and various Buddhist universities were established by the first half of the twentieth century. Since the end of the war, Buddhism in Japan has once again revived, and there has been the foundation of many new sects, along with an ongoing reinvigoration as a result from sustained contacts with other peoples and cultures.
In general Buddhist art appeared to be extremely varied but at the same time very creative and bold.
Their practice was a combination of Buddhist and Taoist elements, and the incorporation of shamanistic features of the indigenous religion. Official recognition of his Tendai sect soon followed, and it became one of the two dominating schools of Japanese Buddhism during the Heian period. His career was successful to the extent that he was allowed to build a Shingon temple in the emperor’s palace, where he performed esoteric rituals and ceremonies.
It is worth noting that Shinran was a monk who decided to take a wife, with which he had five children, and thus he symbolizes a decisive turn in Japan towards lay Buddhism.
During his studies in China, he had been introduced to the practice and doctrine of a branch of Zen which went back to Lin-chi (called Rinzai in Japanese), and on his return to Japan he started to disseminate the new doctrine. The fierce demands of Zen, with its emphasis on personal effort and the promise of enlightenment rather than heaven, seemed rebarbative and disturbing to the elite. It was therefore sufficient to utter the title and find oneself in the state of highest enlightenment.
He thereafter advocated that people simply awaken to the unborn in the midst of everyday affairs, and he won himself a large audience which did not go down well with the Zen establishment. Japanese Zen has also been successfully exported to many Western countries, in particular North America.
These figures became immensely popular, and were a source of criticism towards the sophisticated academic and bureaucratic Buddhism of the capital.
He stressed that obedience to the Buddhist commandments and the performance of good deeds were not necessary to obtain deliverance; in fact it is precisely the bad man who can be assured of rebirth in Amida’s paradise if he wholeheartedly appeals to Amida. Eisai is also linked to the introduction of tea drinking in Japan, which in time was to lead to the creation of the “tea-way” which, though non-religious, was strongly influenced by the spirit of Zen and the Tea Ceremony. When he finally returned to the mainland, he devoted himself to his missionary activity and to the training of monks on Mount Minobu, until today the main temple of the Nichiren sect. In the eyes of his devotees he is not dead, but still sits in timeless meditation on Mount Koya. In recent times, certain branches of Nichiren have been connected to nationalistic tendencies within Japan.

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