Japan Religions 2

Amidism was not until now officially represented in the country, although its doctrines had been more or less known, and even covered, by some of these reformers in their propaganda. Indeed, it seems that the statue sent by the king of Kudara to Japan in 552, the year that marks the introduction of Buddhism in the country, was precisely an image of Amida. The first Amidist sect appeared around 1000, when Ryōnin (1072-1132), a seminarian in a convent of the Tendai sect, founded the Yuz ū Nembutsu – sh ū and began to tour the various provinces, even reciting the nenbutsu 60,000 times a day (the prayer of the amidists: Namu Amida Butsu, salve or buddha Amida, corruption of Sanskrit: Namo’mith ā bh ā ya buddh ā ya) and affirming the possibility of saving oneself, that is, of being reborn in the paradise of Amida, with the merits obtained by reciting that prayer sincerely and as many times as possible. This mechanical and superficial procedure could not satisfy the religious sentiment of the masses. A step forward was made by Hōnen Shōnin (1133-1212), who, in 1174, founded the J ō do – sh ū or Pure Land sect, as Amida’s paradise is called. He introduced faith in Amida’s mercy as a necessary element for salvation, while by inducing the faithful to observe certain rules of conduct, capable of creating merits, he gave importance to actions as collaborators in salvation itself. His doctrine found quick and easy acceptance. In the century XIII from it arose 5 subsets: ChinzeiSeizanCh ō raku – JiKuhon – ji and Ichinengi. In 1224, Shinran Shōnin (1174-1268) founded the J ō do Shin – sh ū o Monto – sh ū (sect of the true Pure Land) which perfected, if we can say so, starchism. Indeed, it makes Amida absolute arbiter of the otherworldly destinies of men, who, completely deprived of the possibility of saving themselves with their works, can do nothing but trust him and rest in all peace of heart, since neither works, nor prayer have the virtue of bringing them to salvation, but only the mercy of Amida. With its ten subdivisions (Hongwan – ji, 1224; Otani, 1602; Takada, 1226; Kibe and Sensh ō ji, 13th century; Bukk ō jiK ō sh ō – jiCh ō sei – jiJ ō sh ō – ji and G ō sh ō ji, sec. XIV) it is the most widespread today, being poor in commandments and rites, imposing neither celibacy on the clergy, nor sacrifices, renunciations, or prohibitions of any kind on the faithful, and being, moreover, devoid of metaphysical structure. The last Amidist sect, the Ji – sh ō, founded in 1275 by Ippen Shōnin (1239-1289), is of little importance, despite its 13 subdivisions (HonzanY ū k ōIkk ōOkudaniTaimaShijoRokuj ōKaiiReizanKokuaIchiyaTend ōMikaged ō).

According to justinshoes, a contemplative sect is Zen – sh ō, with 3 subdivisions: Rinzai (1168), S ō d ō (1223) and Obaku (1650). It was preached from 1192 by the bonze Eisai (1141-1215) on his return from a trip to China, where he had studied with the sects who practiced contemplation (dhy ā na). In its original form it preached that the truth is in the heart, which must reveal it to itself with appropriate practices of abstraction and meditative contemplation, without books or words, since it is so profound that it cannot be expressed in words. The subdivisions differ to admit the study. This sect is widespread among intellectuals and its priests are distinguished by erudition and indifference to the things of the world.

The last, important sect, founded on the Saddharma – pundar ī kas ū tra, which contains the last teachings of the Buddha, was preached by Nichiren (1222-1282) and is therefore called Nichiren – sh ū or Hokke – sh ō. Divided into nine subsets (Itchi, 13th century; Sh ō retsu, 14th century; Hokke, 1320; Kempon – hokke, 1381; Hommon – hokke, 1420; Hommy ō – hokke, 1585; Fuju – fuze, 1595; Fuju – fuze – k ō mon, sec. XVI; Hommon, 1280), it admits the existence of only one Buddha, eternal, of which the other buddhas, transient, are nothing but reflections, such as eg. it can be said of the moon and its figure in the water. This sect is the most turbulent and fanatical, and, contrary to the Buddhist spirit, intolerant.

During its flourishing development, Buddhism had moments of great prosperity and power, not only spiritual but also material, which led its clergy to manifestations often at odds with the tolerant spirit and alien to the earthly ambitions of its doctrines. It is known, for example, the over-abundance of the monks of Mount Hiei, crowded with temples, who maintained mercenary militias (s ō hei), whose raids and looting in nearby Kyōto often disturbed the peace of the capital, and this when they they were not busy against the rival temples of Nara. Nor does morality seem to have always been respected by the monks. During the Tokugawa, the protection the shōguns accorded Confucianism and the rise of the wagakusha movement they brought Buddhism to decline. The Restoration found it backward in development and set two formidable rivals before it: Christianity and science; the reaction could not fail, and it began, in fact, after a few decades of numbness. Buddhist propaganda now uses means imitated by Christianity, such as boarding schools, orphanages, Sunday schools, etc. There is also a Buddhist Youth Association, a copy of the Young Men’s Christian Association; some Buddhist hymns and sermons even have their Christian counterparts; the difference lies only in the name of Buddha substituted for that of Christ. Not even the most modern means, such as the cinema, are excluded from propaganda and some more important sect also send missionaries abroad.

The approximate number of faithful of the various religions at the end of 1928 was 17,225,000 Shintoists (with 112,190 temples and 14,804 priests) and 41,148,000 Buddhists (71,329 temples and 54,650 priests). The number of Confucianists is much smaller; they have no organization.

Japan Religions 2