The diffusion of Buddhism in China and Japan: main teachers, main schools

20 / 11 / 13: Conference The spread of Buddhism in China and Japan: main teachers, main schools by Danielle Elisseeff, EHESS.

Buddhism came from India to China by attracting the interest of rulers, from kingdom to kingdom, and following the trade routes of Central Asia.

A text, the Sutra of the lotus of the good law, translated into Chinese by Dharmaraksha in 286 then by Kumârajivâ in 406, teaches that everyone can reach the state of Buddha by following the "middle path" advocated in the XNUMXnd century. by the Indian Nâgârjuna. The school of the "Pure Land", Jingtu is founded by Huiyuan at Donglin Monastery in 402. In the sixth century appears the "Terrasse du Ciel", Tientai, founded by Zhiyi in Zhejiang, but it loses its influence in China at the end of Tang. In the 7th century, the chan, meditation, is based on the teaching of Bodhidharma and the sutra Lankavatara : you have to touch the consciousness.

Buddhism arrived in Japan from China, via Korea, in the middle of the 710th century. In Nara then capital (794-XNUMX) there are six schools: Kusha et Ritsu who follow Theravada teaching, Jojitsu is in transition between Theravada and Mahayana. Hosso, Sanron et Kegon belong to the Mahayana as it developed in China. But soon Saicho (767-822), introduced the Tiantai School (Tendai in Japanese) and the “Lotus Sutra”. On his return from China, the doctrine is truly recognized in Japan. At about the same time, the monk Kûkai (774-835; he went to China in 804) teaches, within the framework of the Shingon school (the "Right Word"), that one can become Buddha from this life. . Later, the doctrine of the "Pure Land" gained importance under the aegis of Hônen (1133-1212) as the teachings of the Tendai did not satisfy. He advocates as an essential act the invocation of Buddha Amitabha by the formula of nembutsu, opening access to the "Pure Land of Supreme Happiness", Gokuraku. Shinran (1173-1263), disciple of Hoen, emphasizes faith and his followers found the "True School of the Pure Land", Jôdo shinshû. Ippen-shônin (1234-1289) founded "the school of the moment", ji shuwhich is based on the "Amitabha Sutra" in addition to the "Lotus Sutra".

But a new teaching, considered less esoteric and magical than the Tendai and Shingon, is a great success with the Shogunate and the warrior class. Eisai (1141-1215) imports meditation from China chan / zen et founds "the school Rinzai", Organized according to five great temples which cover all the others (the" Five Mountains ", Gozan). Then Dôgen (1200-1253) leaves to educate in China and founds on his return the Zen school Soto. It replaces the ascetic practices with those of introspection to develop the part of Buddha that is in itself. The idea of ​​a past time (past / present / future) is illusory. Only the present moment is real.

Finally the monk Tendai Nichiren (1222-1282) in turn gave all its importance to the “Lotus Sutra”, but giving it political significance. He is violently opposed to other Buddhist schools and to the shôgunal government. He teaches that ordinary men (not just monks) can attain Buddhahood from this life. Later, in the XNUMXth century, a Chinese monk founded the school chan / zen Obaku, reactivating some of the teachings of the "Pure Land" school. The monastic rule is fixed in 1661. Today there is a dust of various Buddhist organizations from ancient currents (more 40 000 in 2005) that are competing with "new religions".


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