Five Masters in the Kamakura Period

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May be copy of 00137, which was unusable.


It's always nice to see old friends and talk about good old days, and I hope the 13th century is good and old enough for all of us. Kamakura period, which started a little before 13th century and ended a little after 13th century, was the height of Japanese Buddhism, because of the five masters. They are Honen, Shinran, and Ippen. These three masters were in Pure Land belief, Pure Land schools of Buddhism.


Then Nichiren, Nichiren is a lotus school. And Dogen, Dogenic 5. It's awfully ambitious idea to cover all these good masters in one hour. I may forget or skip one or two masters, so if I do, please remind me. And these masters all became founders of schools of Buddhism, whether or not they intended. They have been, anyway, respected as founders of schools. Dogen Zenji never called his school Soto school, but anyway, now he's considered as the founder


of Soto school in Japan. These five masters have something in common. They, none of them, were satisfied with the established schools and teachings of Buddhism. They were honest to themselves, so they had to have their own pursuit regarding what is truth and what is the true practice, what is the real way to save suffering people. They also realized that intellectual studies will not help to solve these questions.


Only studies of scriptures were not enough. And they all realized that magics would not help people. Prayers and ceremonies for secular benefits were not their concern. They were all pure and ethical. So, in Buddhism, of course, there are various beliefs and many types of practice. But every one of them selected one practice, just one practice, and concentrated in that practice, eliminating all other types of practice. And each of their methods was unique.


They all knew that there was no more Buddhism to serve particular classes of people, such as the imperial family or court nobles. Their teaching was open to everyone, regardless of the belief, sex, or education. They established a way to be followed by a huge number of people. As you know, Buddhism was first introduced into Japan in the 6th century. And in the 8th century, Nara period, Buddhism became a state religion.


They built a huge statue of Buddha in Nara, the capital of Japan at that time. And the schools of studies of philosophy flourished at that time. And in Heian period, 9th to 12th century, esoteric Buddhism was introduced. And the complete form of awesome ceremony in esoteric Buddhism was welcomed by the upper class people at that time. The aristocrats in the capital of Kyoto. So, Heian is another name for Kyoto. And during that period, real Japanese culture somehow developed.


Elegant, feminine, and romantic culture, as seen in Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki. These court nobles had their lands, called the manors, in the remote countries. But they gradually lost their control of this land and their financial basis during that period. And major Buddhist temples also had manors. They had huge property, so they had to protect their property. That's what happens when you have too much money and land. And then what happened was that some of the monks started carrying weapons.


And if you carry weapons, you start fighting. And if you start fighting, you may not always win. Sometimes you get killed. Somehow, this happened in the history of Japan. They called, these monk warriors called themselves wicked monks. And they started war and had battles with each other. And they surrounded the imperial palace and gave political pressure. And they were quite wild. So, some of the records in that period say that people thought this was the end of the world. Because the monks of the finest temples in Japan were like that. 11th, 12th century.


Then, a belief called Mapo belief, Mapo means the last teaching, was very strong at that time. The belief was that after, well, 2,000 years after Shakyamuni Buddha passed away, people could not practice anymore. Because people were so remote from Buddha's teaching. So, people cannot either practice or attend enlightenment anymore. The teaching will stay, but only teaching. So, this is called Mapo, M-A-P-P-O. Excuse me, M-O-P-P-O, M-A, Mapo, last teaching. Actually, the time of correct teaching after the Buddha, then the time of imitative teaching, and then the time of last teaching.


And this idea started in China, and you can find that kind of description in sutras. But somehow they figured out that 1052 A.D. was the time the period of Mapo would start. And actually, there were signs of the end of the world. Wars after wars, fires, famines, crimes, and disease. At last, the power of the court nobles fell down. The warriors took power, and they established a new government in Kamakura,


which is quite close to Tokyo, southwest to Tokyo on the coast, a small area called Kamakura. The emperor was still in Kyoto, so the capital was in Kyoto. But the warriors established a government far away from the emperor, so that they didn't have to get signs, signatures of the emperor for anything what they wanted to do. So Kamakura period is named after this Kamakura area. About 10 years ago, a curator of Kamakura Museum of Modern Art went to a small village to borrow a Buddhist statue for an exhibition.


And that shrine was taken care of by some villagers. So the villagers got together and got his name card and said, Oh, curator of Kamakura Museum of Modern Art, was your museum established in Kamakura period? But people in that period, the late Heian period and Kamakura period, wanted to get away from the world of the last teaching and gain rebirth in Pure Land. But the leaders of the established schools of Buddhism could not do anything to meet the demand of people at that time. If you have any questions or any comments, please just let me know.


Thank you. Maybe so, I don't know. Diamond Sutra, really? I'll study about it, thank you. What is esoteric Buddhism? Esoteric Buddhism is a form of... Well, actually in Japan, esoteric Buddhism can be represented by Shingon. And Shingon means mantra, magical chanting. And for Shingon practice, magical practice for the bodies, that is mudra, having mudra.


And mouth, that is chanting mantra. And also mind, mind is visualizing Buddha's figures. These practices are important. It was introduced by Kukai in the 10th century, 9th century from China. Esoteric school started, developed in India quite late, later than any other schools, 6th, 7th, 8th century. So it was brought to Japan rather quickly. And in Kamakura period, the monks of this school were always having ceremonies. Like having daughters, you know, for court nobles. It's very important to have a beautiful daughter because that way you can be the emperor's stepfather.


And that way, yeah, they had really, you know, like chanting for the birth or healing disease and so forth. And court nobles always, almost every day had ceremonies. Always, always, always. Where did the... After this, when the riches were being piled up and the monks started carrying arms, how did they... Who were these monks and what were they? How did that happen? How did they get into becoming fighters? Well, first they, of course, you know, you first don't carry guns. What you would do is to hire some people, right, to protect your property. And that happened in Japan too. And some people were hired. But then they had to train themselves because they were surrounded. And actually, a lot of riots and battles and everything. Somehow, yes, yeah.


So, the master who first started this one practice, which was selected and also concentrated, was Honen. He simplified and purified the pure land belief. And the major practice is called Nembutsu, chanting Buddha's name, Namu Amida Butsu, homage to Amida Buddha. And Nembutsu was not new for Honen. There had been some form of Nembutsu, rather popular. Nem means to have something in mind, and Butsu is Buddha. So, the earlier form of Nembutsu was to visualize Buddha's figure and Buddha's land,


particularly Amida or Amitabha Buddha of the pure land in the West. But Honen's practice was just chanting Buddha's name, just chanting, only chanting. Honen was a great scholar. And in Mount Hiei, the greatest university of Japan, very close to Kyoto. Actually, it's part of Kyoto, where lots of warrior monks were as well. He studied, he was known as Wisdom Honen, and he was the teacher of precepts. But he himself could not discover, that he could not follow the precepts himself.


He was so pure and ethical about it. And he concluded that precepts, meditation, or scholarly studies would not help people of the period of last teaching. And the only way to save people of that kind of period would be Nembutsu practice. And he concluded that Nembutsu would correspond with Amida Buddha's original vow to save all sentient beings. So, the practice is so simple and also very enjoyable, just chanting all the time. That became very popular, by the way, which resented the teachers of all schools.


And he was in trouble, especially when the emperor was out of the capital, and two court ladies, called Matsumushi and Suzumushi, went to the Nembutsu gathering in the capital. And two disciples, Honen, were leading, and it was so enjoyable, pleasing. And these ladies became nuns right away. The emperor came back and became furious, and ordered to punish all these nuns. And these two nuns were executed, and Honen was exiled. Later he was pardoned, and Jodo-shu, or Pure Land School, started from him.


Shinran was one of Honen's students, a very dedicated student of Honen's. And there is a book called Tan-ni-sho. It's a short book, but very popular in Japan. Yes, Tan-ni-sho, T-A-N-N-I, T-A-N-N-I, T-A-N-N-I, Tan-ni-sho, dash, S-H-O. Tanjinsho, yeah, by Yuyuan, Shinran's disciple Yuyuan collected Shinran's words after his death. And probably the most popular Buddhist book in Japan.


Sometimes magazines ask you, people, poets and painters and writers, these people, or businessmen, what was the book to inspire you most, influence you most? So some people say New Testament, Nietzsche, Dale Carnegie. Plato, and Shinran. And Shinran was always leading, all the time, until recently. Now, you say Dogen, Shogo Genzo, gave me a great influence. Some people say that, and almost, or sometimes Dogen is more popular, most popular. Because it's very hard to understand Dogen. What do you think Dogen influenced you?


Recently, lots of modern translations appeared, and also some explanations about Dogen. Lots of books have been published. And I myself was first interested in Dogen. I was more interested in, like, extensionist, yeah, extensionist. And Western philosophy, but then I just opened some pages of Shogo Genzo. I was just amazed. Let me down. And then I started to study. Started to translate translations into modern Japanese. Anyhow, this book, Tannisho, Shinran says, I'm not a bad reader, so.


I will have no regrets, even though I should have been deceived by Honen Shonin, and thus by uttering Nembutsu, I should fall into hell. The reason is that, if I could become Buddha by performing some other practice, and fell into hell by uttering the Nembutsu, then I might feel regret at having been deceived. But, since I am incapable of any practice whatsoever, hell would definitely be my dwelling anyway. He's so concerned with going to hell. It's interesting. But he, all his lifetime was a dedicated student of Shinran's. There is a... Yes, Tim? Well, that's...


Pure land, yes. That's Shinran's. So, enlightenment. To have enlightenment, that's similar to become Buddha. So, enlightenment for pure land believers was to have rebirth in Buddha's land, pure land. There is a famous painting about Honen and Shinran and Honen's disciples. One side, some monks are sitting, and one side, a few monks are sitting. Very nice painting, old painting. And that explains the scene where Honen's disciples had discussion on Nembutsu practice. Which is more important, practice or faith?


Honen-butsu. And many people, many of the disciples among 300, they thought practice was more important. So they sat this side, side of practice. And only three people, including Shinran, sitting this side. And one monk, just stupidly looking. He doesn't know where to go. Like this, you know. And Honen joined the three. And for Honen, practice was important, but not as important as faith. Did Shinran have a separate school? Yes, he probably did not mean to have his own school.


But since his ideas were so unique and different from Honen's, one of his followers established a school called Jodo Shinshu, or sometimes you call it Shinshu, which means true pure land school. Do you feel that having faith in something is superior to pure practice? Excuse me, Shinran wrote a book called Kyogyo Shinshu, which means teaching, practice, faith, and enlightenment. And I'll be discussing the different views and attitudes of these masters on faith and practice. So I think he'll answer your question. All right. Shinran also says, We should know that Amida's original vow does not discriminate whether one is young or old, good or evil,


and that faith alone is of supreme importance. For it is the vow that seeks to save sentient beings burdened with great sins and very fiery passions. Therefore, if we have faith in the original vow, no other good is needed because there is no good surpassing Nembutsu. Nor should evil be feared because there is no evil capable of obstructing Amida's original vow. And for him, a good person is someone who relies on his own power and his own deeds, who is proud, and who does not put so much attention on Buddha's power. Something like a rich person who is difficult to go to paradise, you know, in the New Testament.


Same, a good person. So, and also an evil person for him is someone who realizes how sinful he is. And how helpless he is. And to leave everything to the Buddha. This is an evil person. So his terminology is a little different from ordinary people. Otherwise, we would not understand the following passage of the same book. Initial says, Even a good person is born in the pure land, how much more so is an evil person? However, people in the world usually say, Even an evil person is born in the pure land, how much more so is a good person? At first sight, this view seems to be reasonable. But it is contrary to the purpose of the original vow of the other power.


The reason is that as those who practice good by their self-power lack the mind to rely wholly on the other power. They are not in accordance with the original vow of Amida. So the other power, he always put emphasis on the other power and forgetting self-power. And Shinran was a person who all through his lifetime was troubled with the idea of how sinful he was. Always he was struggling with the idea and pursued the real meaning of faith. For him, the number or quantity of nenbutsu would not count.


So, only important question was whether or not one has faith in Amida Buddha's vow to save all sentient beings. So, he said, when a thought of believing in Amida Buddha arises, the rebirth in pure land will be promised. When a thought arises, already promised. So, for him, even practice chanting was not essential. But only faith was essential. That's the difference between Honen, teacher Honen, and Shinran. For Shinran, practice was still important.


Chanting was important. But for Shinran, practice was no more important. Or most basic. Ippen came later. He is also, he was a person, one of the people who were in lineage of Honen. But Ippen is very interesting. For him, neither practice nor faith was important. Only important thing was enlightenment. Most dramatic.


The historical mission of Ippen was to save people who could not practice or who could not have faith. Very convenient, isn't it? So, his practice, his own practice, of course, he himself was a master, so he did some practice to save people. He can't do it. So, his practice was to hand out a tablet of Nembutsu. Printed, woodcut printed, just a sheet of paper which says Namu Amida Butsu. Homage to Amida Buddha. Just give it away. And he said, please, just chant Nembutsu once, Namu Amida Butsu. And this is the assurance for the river in the film.


Just receive it. And it so happened that he met a monk. Actually, Ippen was traveling all over and passing out these small sheets of paper called tablets. So, maybe that kind of thing happened in the history of Catholicism. I don't think Ippen charged a taxi. Anyway. It so happened that he met a monk who said, well, I don't believe in Pure Land or I don't believe in Amida Buddha. And he refused to receive the tablet. Ippen said, well, but please, anyway, just please, just for me.


Accept it and just say Namu Amida Butsu if you don't believe it. Doesn't matter, just receive it. And the monk received it and went away. But it troubled Ippen a great deal. Was it all right for me? Was it right for me to give the assurance of being reborn in Pure Land? Even to the people who don't believe. Is it all right? It was a real matter for him to solve this question. So he prayed and prayed to actually Shinto God. The avatar of Kumano Mountain. And he asked for the revelation. And Shinto God appeared. And said, well, you don't have to worry about it. Because from the eternal past, it's been decided that everyone will be saved.


Everyone will gain rebirth. And what you give or what you don't give doesn't matter at all. So just don't worry about it. Then he made a vow to pass out some more seeds to 600,000 people in his lifetime. Ippen incidentally means once. Ippen means once. And so his idea was, regardless of the fact you have faith or not, just chanting Namu Amida Butsu. Then you'll be saved. So who was Ippen's teacher, his main teacher?


Oh, I have this. I don't have this. Alright, then Nichiren. Nichiren. He was one of the lineages of Honen, Jodo school. So these three masters were the Jodo school, Jodo belief, Pure Land belief masters. And Ippen, excuse me, became the founder of Ji school. Ji school.


J-I. Ji Shu, Ji school. And Ji means time, which means any time. So any time when you have... Now you've got it. And any place, any place is Pure Land. Any place you chant Namu Amida Butsu once, maybe now this is Pure Land. So that's Ji school. Nichiren was the founder of Nichiren school. He was the only person who had this name on his school. It's wonderful. Namu Amida Butsu. Later, people were not, of course, satisfied to just be enlightened by just chanting once.


So they started chanting a lot. Sometimes a million times. In Kyoto, there's a place called Hyakumaben. That means a million times. Of course, you don't do it by yourself. Maybe 10,000 people get together and chant 100... And Ippen was a person who spread dancing, dancing, chanting and dancing. Now Nichiren was the master who emphasizes practice of chanting the name of Lotus, Lotus Sutra. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Homage to the wondrous Lotus Sutra. He came later than other teachers, including Dogen.


At that time, Jodo schools and Zen schools were rather being established. And it was hard for him to cut in. So what he did was attack all other people. And made some room for himself. So... That, well, the time was still very bad, still the last period of the last teaching. For him, the world was so bad because of false teachings. People believe in false teachings. Which are mainly... Pure land schools and mystic schools. The schools he mainly attacked. And because of these schools, he said that the ultimate teaching of Lotus Sutra was not so emphasized.


For him, Lotus Sutra only was the correct teaching. Because for him it was the direct way of enlightenment for individuals. And also it is the basis of protecting the nation. If people follow the correct teachings, there will be no problems in politics. And the world will be at peace. That's his idea. But if people keep on believing in these schools, then a great disaster will happen. And of course the greatest of the troubles will be foreign invasion. So he was saying that. Which happened, which he realized later. So he was a very extraordinary monk.


Protesting and attacking all the time. And making government suggestions, threatening. That way he was persecuted very severely. He was arrested twice, exiled. At the second time, it was understood that he will be executed on the way of exile. Somehow he survived. And he was pardoned. Because there was a strong sign of Mongolian invasion. Mongolian fleets were coming. After they came to southern Iran. There were some battles. Nichiren did not meet any teacher in his young days to decide to give him a real infant, a lifetime infant.


It was very unfortunate for him. He went to Nonghia, a Buddhist university. He could study various sutras and treatises. Then he discovered the ultimate value of the Lotus Sutra. So for him, teaching, when we say teaching, practice, faith and enlightenment. Teaching was the most important thing, the most basic thing. So his practice was just chanting the name of the sutra, which was teaching. Now Dogen.


Yes. What's the difference between his chanting and the Lotus Sutra? Lotus Sutra was historically always the finest sutra. This was, well, in China, Tendai Daishi, master of Tendai school, founder of Chinese Tendai school, Tendai. He compared all the sutras. He decided that the Lotus Sutra was ultimate because in the Lotus Sutra there is a teaching of the eternal enlightenment of the Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha was enlightened under the Bodhi tree.


Not just at that time, but because he was already enlightened. In the eternal past, he was already enlightened. That's why he got such a great enlightenment. And that's why his enlightenment has meaning to all sentient beings. This way, the Lotus Sutra was considered supreme. And in Japan also, from the time the Lotus Sutra was introduced, it was respected, it was started by Prince Shotoku, who was the greatest patron of Buddhism. Because it has something to do with lay people's enlightenment. So that he could teach this sutra to his empress, female emperor, actually.


And historically, in Japan, the Lotus Sutra was considered the sutra to destroy the sin people. After death, for funerals and so forth. So this kind of practice was important. And also, the sutra to protect the nation. It doesn't say anything about the Lotus Sutra. If you chant this sutra, your nation will be protected. But somehow, this kind of practice, this was believed in Japan, often. All right. I don't think I'll take so much time on Dogen, because you know more about Dogen Zenji. I'm sure you'll have more time to study about him.


Do you see him? Attack. The major mystics, actually, mystic Buddhism, or esoteric Buddhism, was practiced by Shingon school. Shingon school was based on only esoteric Buddhism. And also, Tenrai school. These two schools were introduced to Japan in the 9th century. But in Tenrai school, they practiced four things, four basic things. One is the complete teaching. That means Lotus Sutra. And then, complete precept. That means Mahayana precept. Then, Zen. Then, mystic Buddhism. So they actually practiced these things all together. And when Esai introduced Zen, he wanted to practice only Zen.


But there was great pressure to do that kind of one practice. It's so pure and powerful. So people of the old schools were afraid of that. So they gave pressure not to do that. So Esai actually could not do that. Only Dogen. Dogen was the first one, actually, who started this. But he had to go away from the capital. And he had to hide in the mountains and do it. Did I answer... Have I answered your question? The... Yamaguchi schools were going at that time also. Oh, yes. Different followers of Enryo Gyoza were going around. And they had a kind of... Zen Buddhism also. Probably, yes. This is quite popular, isn't it? Probably, if you're in a city like this. These mountaineering ascetics...


Yeah. They practiced a kind of a combination of mystic Buddhism, Taoism, and Shintoism. And actually, they were controlled by these two schools of mystic Buddhism. Tendai. One school of Yamaguchi was Tendai. And the other, Shingon. Now, Dogen was the only master of these five masters who denied Mappo. Last teaching. In Bendoa, of his life work, Shobo Genzo, he said... Question and answer... Question 15. He said, Even in these times of the evil degenerate latter day,


can one obtain realization if he practices Zazen? That's the question. Then answer says, While doctrinal schools of Buddhism make much of names and forms, authentic Mahayana teaching does not differentiate right, semblance, and final dharma. It preaches that those who practice all attain the way. So he says, There are no such things as periods of correct teaching, imitative teaching, or last teaching. Incidentally, this is Dr. Albert's translation. All other masters' teachings were based on the idea of Mappo.


People cannot practice, and people cannot gain enlightenment. Then what can we do? That was their basic attitude in their practice. But Dogen said, Where's Mappo? Look at the scriptures. And just read them carefully. Where's Mappo? Everyone is practicing. Everyone can practice, and everyone can gain enlightenment. What's wrong about it? And Question 4 says, There are various teachings in Buddhism, such as the Lotus school, Avatamsaka school,


or mystic school. And then, why is your school, Zen school, superior? He says, What are the advantages of the practice you now speak of that you advance it alone, ignoring all others? He says, You should know that for a Buddhist, it is not a matter of debating the superiority or inferiority of one teaching or another. Or of choosing the depths or superficiality of the teaching that matters. All we have to know is whether the practice is authentic or not. So, for Dogen, practice was everything.


Practice was the only thing that would matter. And practice itself is enlightenment. And this is your field, and you know more about it than I do. Thank you very much. Have a good evening.