Friday, December 16, 2005

How to appreciate Japanese temples and shrines. 日本の神社仏閣の楽しみ方(2)

Esoteric Buddhism(密教 or mikkyou
Japanese early Buddhist period coincided with religion’s zenith of Korea and China. Temples, images, and all panoply of continental culture were imported wholesale into Japan. But whether the Japanese possessed a profound understanding of Buddhist teachings remains in doubt. Temples were built for the good of state and common people were drafted by the thousands to become monks or nuns, whether they had interest or not. Japanese Buddhism came to an age in the early ninth century with the arrival of Mikkyo (密教) or Esoteric Buddhism, which were brought from China by Saicho and Kukai(空海). Saicho founded Tendai(天台) sect at Enryaku-ji (延暦寺)on Mt. Hiei(比叡山). Kukai brought a purer form of mikkyo called Shingon(真言宗) sect whose headquarter is Kongobu-ji (金剛峰寺)on Mt.Koya(高野山). It adopted the magical rituals and meditation practices of Indian Tantrism; Tantric influence can be seen in the fierce faces and multiple arms and heads of mikkyo iconography. Its teachings were conveyed to Diamond Mandala and Womb Mandala in which Dainichi nyorai(大日如来), aspects of all other beings, sits and surrounded by four directional nyorai, four Dakini bosatsu, five Kokuzo bosatsu, the five Myo-o (明王)who are fierce manifestations of Dainichi and function as evil and illusion conquerors, and Ten (deva). This placement can be seen at the interior of lecture hall in To-ji(東寺)。

Since prehistoric times, the holiness of mountains has been an integral part of Shinto. As mikkyo became the dominant form of Buddhist during Heian period. Enlightenment became a personal quest, achieved through an intense spiritual ‘climb.’ Mountain, physically elevated and sacred, were the obvious place to build monasteries where aspiring monks would practice rituals and undergo austerities- much likes yamabushi of the syncretic Shugendo cult. Mountain sites made the ordered and symmetric garan impossible. Instead, temples were built to fit the natural terrain, with halls scattered on different levels and joined by basic mountain paths.

The mikkyo sects stresses gradual initiation into secret rites, and, for this reason, the main halls of mikkyo temples have a central barrier dividing the interior into the outer part for an uninitiated and an inner sanctum where there is an altar and, behind it, space for additional images. This style came to be known in Kamakura period as Wayo (和様), or Japanese style. A variant of Wayo, known as Setchuyo(折衷用), or mixed style between the Wayo style’s basic plan and the features of the Zen style.

The mikkyo sects also introduced a new kind of pagoda, the two-storied Taho-to(多宝塔), alluding to the Lotus Sutra and is therefore favored by both Tendai and Nichren sects
The famous temples of these sects are 東寺、金剛峰寺(Kongobu-ji),Kotoku-in, 延暦寺(Enryaku-ji), 醍醐寺(Daigo-ji), 神護寺(Jingo-ji), 恩常時(Onjo-ji), Saidai-ji, 大安寺, and 室生寺(Muro-ji).

Later Heian period, there was pessimism which partly motivated by the belief that the world was entering Mappo(末法) or a degenerate and dark epoch in which the Buddhist law would be in eclipse. During this time the social, political, and religious turmoil was seen as proof that life itself might be coming to an end or at least that impermanence (mujo), karmic retribution (inga), and mappo were seriously jeopardizing the human search for order, purity, and salvation. During the Mappo, even monastic austerities will not save a person who does not place his faith in Amida, the nyorai of Jodo, the Pure Land across the western ocean. The Amidist believes that was a compassionate being who would save earnest believers. Just as Amida will descend from the Pure Land to welcome souls, so the temples began to come down from their mountaintops.

Amida nyorai(阿弥陀如来) is usually portrayed in one of two poses: Amida presiding over Jodo, seated, with hands resting in the lap forming the meditation mudra. The examples are Amida Buddha in Byodo-in or the great Amida Buddha in Kamakura. The other is Amida in Raigo, descending to welcome souls, with one hand raised in the ‘do not fear’ mudra, and one hand extended downward in the giving mudra. Amida mandalas depict Amida in Jodo, seated in a palace surrounded by rejoicing attendants, dancers, and musicians. Before them is a pond representing the Western ocean. Amida often forms a trinity with the bosatsu Seihei and Kannon.

Konnon Bosatsu(観音菩薩) or goddess of mercy is a manifestation of Amida and highly venerated in his own right. Kannon has promised to appear in thirty-three forms to save humankind. The most popular are Sho-kannon, a graceful human-shaped being usually standing and holding a lotus and vial, Juichi-men kannon, with eleven faces, Senju Kannon, whose thousand arms are cast wide to save all beings. The Bato Kannon has a fierce face with a horse’s head in the crown. Whatever the form, a tiny of Amida is embedded in Kannon’s crown as a reminder that Kannon is Amida’s manifestation.

Amida scruptures are housed in Amida hall, which became the main structure in Amidist temples. The halls are three-dimensional Amida mandalas, depicting Amida paradise. The halls face east as Amida faces east from his Western paradise. The famous Amidist temples are Sanzen-ji, Byodo-in, Hokai-ji, Chuson-ji, and Jorori-ji.
In Kamakura period, the severe Gempei war led many people to conclude that the world had indeed entered Mappo, and out of this conviction arose new sects that promised salvation to all, even the common people. Jodo or Pure Land Sect which taught that salvation through Amida’s mercy could be achieved by endlessly reciting ‘Namu Amida Butsu. With this belief, there is a barrier between the ordinary, impure world and the pure land and early Jodo temples were built at the foot of mountains, the symbolic border between the profane and sacred. Jodo Shin or True Pure Land Sect believes that Amida will descend all the way into to world of mortals to save all believers, regardless of their state of degradation. The temples of this sect were built in ordinary communities and characterized by a large worship hall, capable of holding hundred of worshippers. The immense hall of Hongan-ji in Kyoto is a good example.


Post a Comment

<< Home