Prince Shotoku (Significant person of Japanese Buddhism)

The first great politician who accepted Buddhism.

Prince Shotoku (573 – 621) was a great ancient Japanese politician and a regent of the Empress Suiko (the first Queen) in Asuka period.
He understood teachings of Buddhism and introduced it to Japan. He had an eye on politics based on Buddhism.
For that reason, his figure is an object of belief.

Especially, Jodo Shinshu school respect him strongly.
And also we can see the statue of Prince Shotoku’s childhood.

He established the world oldest wooden building, HORYU-ji temple at Nara and SHITEN-NOH ji temple at Osaka. In Shiten-Noh-ji temple, the festival and large-scale Buddhism rites are held on every 21st and 22nd.

Horyu-ji temple (Nara, the most world oldest wooden buildings)

Shitennoh-ji temple (Osaka)

Episode about Prince SHOTOKU
At that time, China was the super power, and neighboring countries paid a tribute to Chinese dynasty to continue to exist.
Prince Shotoku, however, he had asked a tie of equal relationship with Chinese Sui dynasty.
He wrote a national official letter to Emperor Yang of Sui.
“The Emperor of rising sun (Japan) writes a letter to the Emperor of sunset (China)…”
Emperor Yang had gotten angry about the letter, but he had forgiven Japanese attitude after that, and established tie between China and Japan.

The portrait of Prince Shotoku had been printed on the bill of 10000 Japanese yen from 1958 till 1986.

Daruma — Important Buddhist monk. A founder of ZEN!

Bodhidharma (Daruma in Japanese) was the Buddhist monk. He was born in India. And he was the 38th chief monk from Buddha. He moved to China, and he became a founder of ZEN.

The most famous episode is “Menpeki Kunen (Zazen facing wall for 9 years as covering cloth). He was also founder of ZAZEN (gazing wall/facing wall).
“Make yourself be a wall and to see ‘a nothing’ (come to nothing)”. I mean “finding a truth in immovable mind like a wall”.

Meditation is different from ZAZEN in a strict sense.
Meditation means “close your eyes and image something”. On the other hand, a goal of Zazen is “come to nothing”..

Talking of Daruma, we’re hitting upon Daruma Doll. The doll is emphasizing his style that he’s covering his whole body with a red clothes.
That’s why, ancient Japanese had made a Daruma doll (Papier-mache) that emphasized (deformed) Bodhidharma.

The birthplace of Daruma doll is Shorin-zan Daruma-ji temple at Takasaki in Japan. This temple was patronized from Tokugawa Mitsukuni (a.k.a. Mito-koumon) in Edo era.
In 1783 A.D., Japan had experienced great famine because of the great eruption of Mt. Asama. Then, the 9th chief monk of this temple, Tougaku carved wood Daruma doll to save people around Kouduke (in what is now Gumma). And Tougaku gave instruction to make Daruma doll of paper (papier-mache) which is based on his wood doll, and sell them.
Gumma area have dry-weather in winter, so this area is fit to make them.

[How to use]
KAIGAN [Opening eye]
If you have any wish, you paint the iris of right eye with ink.
When you reached your goal, or spent a year without accident, you paint the rest (the iris of left eye).
Afterwards, you enshrine the Daruma doll wherever you want.
And you can get next Daruma doll to grant your wish.

1. The right eye is the first.
2. It’s general that the eye is painted with black ink.

Because the color of Japanese eyes are black. But if you have blue eye or brown eye, it’s no problem that you paint with the same color:)

EN-no-OZUNU a.k.a. En-no-GYOJA (Shugen-do)

It’s Japan original Buddhism!
Shugendo is Japanese original religion that have been mixed with Buddhism and Japanese original sacred mountains worship. Shugendo has in it some of the elements of vajrayana.

In Meiji era, the government issued a ban of Shugen (1872). That’s why Shugendo declined temporarily. In 1947, the ban was canceled (the ban is against the constitution), so Shugendo is one of active religion.

The founder is En-no-Ozunu,Japanese ascetic of esoteric Buddhism (a.k.a. En-no-Gyoja). But we don’t know whether he is actual person or?not.

The principal image is Zaou Gongen.

Zaou Gongen has an unique pose like athlete with joy after getting a point.
Of course ZAOU GONGEN has not the root to Indian Buddhism. It’s Japanese original image. ZAOU GONGEN appeared in front of En-no-Ozunu, His character is unity of SHAKA, KANNON and MIROKU.

Ascetic of Shugendo is called Yamabushi. Their costume is also unique.

(Left) En-no-Ozunu
(Right) Yamabushi

Shugendo’s head temple.
Kinpusen-ji at Nara pref. It’s 2nd largest temple.

Other main temples and mountains.
Daigo-ji, Shogo-in, Onjou-ji, Kabusan-ji.
Mt. Dewa Sanzan, Mt. Mitsumine, Mt. Mitake, Mt. Takao, Mt. Fuji, Mt. Togakure & Iizuna, Mt. Akiba, Mt. Hakusan, Mt. Kumano Sanzan and so on…

NICHIREN (Nichiren Buddhism)

Hot-blooded Buddhist monk. A founder of Nichiren Buddhism!
Nichiren was a Buddhist monk who lived during the Kamakura period (1185-1333)?in Japan. He thought that the Lotus Sutra is the best. And he taught devotion?to the Lotus Sutra, Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, as the exclusive means to attain?enlightenment and the chanting of “Nam Myo ho Renge Kyo” as the?essential practice of the teaching. He is famous monk who faced a many?difficulties. After his death, numerous sects espousing diverse doctrines?were also established.

The hallmark of this school is Hokke (Jikkai) Mandala Kanji character version.

Nichiren Buddhism head temple
Nichiren Buddhism head temple is Kuon-ji at Mt. Minobu, Yamanashi Japan.?It’s one of the largest temple.
Mt. Minobu and Mt. Shichimen (next to Minobu) are significant area as Nichiren?Buddhism.

Other main temples.
Tanjou-ji, Seicho-ji, Hokekyo-ji, Honmon-ji, Honkoku-ji, Kyonin-ji, Myohon-ji,?Ryukou-ji, Konpon-ji and so on…

DOUGEN (Soto Zen)

The founder of Soto Zen.
Dougen (1200 – 1253) is the the founder of Soto Zen.
He went to Sung Dynasty to learn advanced Zen and brought it to Japan.
He is the founder of pure Zen in Japan.


What’s Zen?

In Europe and America, talking of Zen, it’s regarded as single system, but actually, Zen have two systems.
One is Rinzai Zen, Another is Soto Zen.

Eisai [founder of Rinzai Zen]
– Myozen [pupil of Eisai]
– Dogen [pupil of Myozen, founder of Soto Zen]

Roughly speaking, idea itself is the same, the way of practice is different.
The hallmark of Soto Zen is “sit singlemindedly (Zazen)” without?thinking. Daily life itself is practice (very hard).

Spiritually awakening is never goal, even if got a spiritually awakening, you should ask for it more.?We should sit singlemindedly like Gautama Siddhartha. That is the best practice, he said.
(Rinzai Zen is “Kouan (Zen Mondou)”. Stop general thinking, and?he can understand it with metaphorical expression only.)

Soto Zen main temple
Soto Zen head temple is Eihei-ji at Fukui, Japan. It’s one of the largest?temple.
In winter, there is a place that get snow and cold. Practice is very hard.


Other main temples.
Soji-ji, Daijou-ji, Koushou-ji, Ankoku-ji and so on…

YOUSAI (a.k.a. EISAI / Rinzai Zen)

The founder of Zen in Japan.

Yousai (a.k.a. Eisai 1141 – 1215) is the the founder of Rinzai Zen.
He went to Sung Dynasty to learn advanced doctrine and reform Japanese Buddhism.
Then he learned ZEN, and he brought it to Japan (He is the founder of ZEN in Japan).
Rinzai Zen had been followed by many Samurai.

What’s Zen?

In Europe and America, talking of Zen, it’s regarded as single system, but actually, Zen have two systems.
One is Rinzai Zen, Another is Soto Zen.

Yousai [founder of Rinzai Zen]
– Myozen [pupil of Yousai]
– Dogen [pupil of Myozen, founder of Soto Zen]

Roughly speaking, idea itself is the same, the way of practice is different.
The hallmark of Rinzai Zen is “Kouan (Zen Mondou)”. Stop general thinking, and he can understand it with metaphorical expression only (Soto Zen is “sit singlemindedly (Zazen)” without thinking. Daily life itself is practice (very hard)).

Rinzai Zen head temple
Rinzai Zen head temple is Kennin-ji at Kyoto, Japan. It’s one of the largest temple.
Nowadays, this temple is central temple of Zen and Zen cultute.

Originally, Kennin-ji had had original Fujin Raijin by Tawaraya Sotatsu (now National musium is having it).

Other main temples.
Tofuku-ji, Kencho-ji, Engaku-ji, Nanzen-ji, Myoshin-ji, Tenryu-ji, Shokoku-ji and so on…

SHINRAN (Jodo Shinshu School)

The high priest who gave a light to people who are not rewarded.
Shinran (May 21, 1173 ? Jan. 16, 1263)was a Japanese Buddhist monk. Shinran was a pupil of Hounen and the founder of what ultimately became the Jodo Shinshu school in 12th century.


The hallmark of his idea is “Akunin Shoki”.
“Every action is based on some desires, this is not along with Buddhism teaching that abandon desires. So, nobody can take things philosophically (can’t become Buddha). Everybody is unenlightened person.
However, Amida Nyorai can save us who can’t be spiritually awakened. Amida are always wishing we go to Jodo.”
This idea had saved people who gave up all hope and Buddhism.

After established, this school had been called Ikko shu (single-minded believer’s group), and they had ever fought against political power (mainly 15th – 16th century).
After 16th century, these characters vanished. Nowadays, Jodo Shinshu is the biggest Buddhism school in Japan now.
Shinran was also proponent of Nenbutsu (repeat the name of Amida) “Namu Amida Butsu”.
Jodo Shinshu deny strongly folk beliefs and superstitions.

Main temples of Jodo Shinshu.
We can’t narrow down to one single head temple on Jodo Shinshu.
Because when they got troubles on successor, they were divided to some groups by political power in Edo era.
The representative temples are;
Nishi Hongan-ji (left) and Higashi Hongan-ji (Right).

Their main temples have tendency to be named Hongan-ji.

Other main temples
Senju-ji, Kosho-ji, Bukkou-ji, Josho-ji, Gosho-ji, Kinshoku-ji, (Tsukiji Hongan-ji and many branch temples) and so on…

HOUNEN (Jodo Pure Land School)

The Founder of Jodo school Buddhism!
Hounen (1133-1212) is the religious reformer and founder of the first independent?branch of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism called Jodo shu. He preached that?believing in Amida Nyorai strongly. Because Mappou Shisou (one of eschatology)?prevailed in the years that he lived.
He was the first proponent of Nenbutsu (repeat the name of Amida) “Namu?Amida Butsu”. And he preached Buddhism to common people (before Hounen made appearance, Buddhism was religion for nobles only)

Head temple of Jodo school!
Chion-in is the head temple of Jodo School (Pure Land Buddhism) at Kyoto, Japan.
It’s one of the largest temple. It’s the place where Hounen lived to disseminate?the teachings at Yoshimizu (in what is now Higashiyama Chion-in). Chion-in is the most famous temple, because Chion-in is reported in a tour guidebooks.

Other main temples
Zoujou-ji, Konkai Komyo-ji, Hyakumanben Chion-ji, ShojouKe-in, Zenkou-ji, Zenrin-ji, Seigan-ji and so on…

SAICHO a.k.a. DENGYO DAISHI (Tendai Buddhism)

The Founder of Tendai Buddhism!
Saicho (a.k.a. Dengyo Daishi, 767 – 822) was a Japanese Buddhist monk credited?with founding the Tendai school in Japan, based around the Chinese Tiantai?tradition he was exposed to during his trip to China beginning in 804.
He founded the temple and headquarters of Tendai at Enryaku-ji on Mt. Hiei?near Kyoto. He is also said to have been the first to bring tea to Japan.
After his death, he was awarded the posthumous title of Dengyo Daishi.
The school that he established produced a lot of number of great historical monks. And especially, Tendai school was completed by his pupils after his death.

Head temple of Tendai Buddhism!
Enryaku-ji is the head temple of Tendai Buddhism at Mt. Hiei in Shiga, Japan.
It’s one of the largest temple. It’s the temple such as Buddhism university.
Because Enryaku-ji produced many famous monks (Ennin, Enchin, Genshin, Hounen,?Shinran, Eisai, Dougen, Nichiren).

Other main temples
Shoren-in, Kanei-ji, Chuson-ji, Rinnoh-ji, Jindai-ji, Onjou-ji, Saikyo-ji and so on…

Pilgrimage is still popular among temples related with Tendai and Shingon Buddhism (followers of any religions can join this pilgrimage).

Saigoku 33 palces, Bando 33 places and Chichibu 34 places (total 100 Kannon) are popular among followers.
Saigoku is the Kansai area (Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Wakayama and Hyogo pref).
Bando is the Kanto area (Tokyo, Chiba, Ibaraki, Saitama and Kanagawa pref).
Chichibu is the northwest of Saitama, Chichibu chain of mountains.
These pilgrimage is mixed with Shingon and Tendai temples.