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Buddhism in Japan - This can be roughly divided into three periods, namely the Nara period (up to 784), the Heian period (794–1185) and the post-Heian period (1185 onwards). Each period saw the introduction of new doctrines and upheavals in existing schools. See Sōhei (warrior monks).

In modern times, there are three main paths of Buddhism, to which all schools of Japanese Buddhism belong. They are Amidst (Pure Land) schools, Nichiren Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism.

The arrival of Buddhism in Japan is ultimately a consequence the first contacts between China and Central Asia which occurred with the opening of the Silk Road in the 2nd BCE, following the travels of Zhang Qian between 138 and 126 BCE, which culminated with the official introduction of Buddhism in China in 67 CE. Historians generally agree that by the middle of the 1st century, the religion had penetrated to areas north of the Huai River. Buddhism then made its way to Korea from China, and finally to Japan around the 5th century CE.

In 467 CE, according to the Chinese historic treatise Liang Shu, five monks from Gandhara traveled to the country of Fusang (Chinese: 扶桑, Jp: Fusō: "The country of the extreme East" beyond the sea, probably eastern Japan), where they introduced Buddhism:[citation needed]

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 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. However, the Buddhism of this early period – later known as the Nara period – was not a practical religion, being more the domain of learned priests whose official function was to pray for the peace and prosperity of the state and imperial house. 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. Their practice was a combination of Buddhist and Taoist elements, and the incorporation of shamanistic features of the indigenous religion. These figures became immensely popular, and were a source of criticism towards the sophisticated academic and bureaucratic Buddhism of the capital.

The introduction of Buddhism to Japan is securely dated to 552 in Nihon Shoki, when Seong of Baekje sent monks from Korea to Nara to introduce the eight doctrinal schools. Initial uptake of the new faith was slow, and Buddhism only started to spread some years later when Empress Suiko openly encouraged the acceptance of Buddhism among all Japanese people. In 607, in order to obtain copies of Sutras, an imperial envoy was dispatched to Sui dynasty China. As time progressed and the number of Buddhist clergy increased, the offices of Sojo (archbishop) and Sozu (bishop) were created. By 627 there were 46 Buddhist temples, 816 Buddhist priests, and 569 Buddhist nuns in Japan.

There were traditionally six schools of Buddhism in Nara Japan: Ritsu (Vinaya), Jojitsu (Satyasiddhi), Kusha (Abhidharma) Sanron (Madhyamika), Hosso (Yogacara), and Kegon (Hua-yen).[1]However they were not exclusive schools, and temples were apt to have scholars versed in several of the schools. It has been suggested that they can best be thought of as "study groups".

The Late Nara period saw the introduction of Esoteric Buddhism (密教, Jp. mikkyo) to Japan from China, by Kūkai and Saichō, who founded the Shingon and Tendai schools. The later Heian period saw the formation of the first truly Japanese school of Buddhism, that of Nichiren.
The Kamakura period saw the introduction of the two schools that had perhaps the greatest impact on the country: the Amidist Pure Land schools, promulgated by evangelists such as Genshin and articulated by monks such as Hōnen, which emphasize salvation through faith in Amitabha and remain the largest Buddhist sect in Japan (and throughout Asia); and the more philosophical Zen schools, which were equally rapidly adopted by the upper classes and had a profound impact on Japanese culture.

Information source: “Buddhism in Japan.” Article date: 29 Jan. 2008. Retrieved: Wikipedia. 4 Feb. 2008 <Buddhism in Japan>.





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