Begging for food every day is one of the most important parts of being a Buddhist monk, as it reinforces your humility and is the only way to make it possible to have the tiny number of possessions that you should be limited to. I’ve now forgotten the book the info came from and the period it happened, but a couple of months ago I was very interested to hear that doing alms rounds was banned by the Japanese (Edo-era?) government. As Japanese Buddhist priests generally have the reputation of being as money-grubbing as medieval Catholic monks, I very much doubt they’d be rushing to do so if it became legally possible though…
November 26, 2012 at 8:31 am (Shinto)
Unlike (most?) Buddhist monks, Shinto priests walk around in mufti and get changed just before the ceremony. Given the importance of ritual purity in Shinto, I imagine that is probably to stop their clothes getting impure.
Apparently they are used to communicate in the mountains where these religious hermits usually live.
I’d always assumed it was the discipline of meditation, standing under waterfalls etc that was the main appeal to the militaristic samurai, but this passage on its appeal to the totally unmilitaristic Chinese aristocrats suggests the often idle Tokugawa-era samurai might have had other reasons:
“during the prosperous period of Tang China, the spontaneous, aesthetic spirit of Chan Buddhism appealed to the elite, who had ample leisure time to pursue sudden enlightenment, not necessarily through the monk’s strict regimen of meditation, but through experiencing art and poetry, or merely communing with nature”
Buddhism A History by Noble Ross Reat pg 157
June 19, 2012 at 1:25 am (Japanese Buddhism)
There are several parts to this question. The first is why it had more influence on Japanese art and, arguably, society than Pure Land Buddhist sects such as Nichiren which have always had more adherents. The next question is why that is also true of those sects’ influence abroad.
The main reason Zen had more influence in Japan was that it was the sect of choice of the samurai class who controlled society, whereas Pure Land Buddhism generally appealed more to ordinary people. Aesthetic appreciation was also more a part of Zen than other sects, hence its outsized influence on the arts. Both of those aspects are relevant to its reputation amongst foreigners, many of whom were upper class aesthetes who were naturally attracted to the minimalist, subtle upper class Zen-influenced art.
June 17, 2012 at 12:34 am (Japanese Buddhism)
“The esoteric Zhen Yan (Chen Yen) or Tantric school – better known by the Japanese name Shingon…” and “Chan Buddhism, better known by the Japanese name Zen…” from the chapter on Korea in “Buddhism A History” by Noble Ross Reat (pg 176-177)
I wonder if Buddhism was spread by Americans who were in Japan during the occupation, the same way that (Western) futons were. There is also the fact that both of the two mentioned in those quotes became much more successful than they ever were in China. Might well find out the answer to this is I ever finish the book…
I’d always assumed it was because Confucianism more suited the philosophy and needs of military strongmen, but apparently the reasons were even more directly military:
“‘The Tendai establishment on Mt Hiei was razed to ashes by Nobunaga in 1571 because of its participation in an unsuccessful military alliance against the strongman… After Nobunaga was assassinated in 1582, his ally Hideyoshi took charge of the campaign to unify Japan… In 1584, an army of fifteen thousand Shingon troops unwisely attacked Hideyoshi’s stronghold in Osaka”
Buddhism: A History by Noble Ross Reat pg 213
June 1, 2012 at 7:47 am (Japanese Buddhism)
I’m not asking this as a linguistic question as almost everything exists in one language or another (although if there is a linguistic or historical reason I’d love to know) but more as a philosophical one:
If the animistic Shinto tradition of rocks and trees etc being gods and having souls is so important in Japan, how can they divide things into animate and inanimate when deciding on whether to use iru or aru?
November 29, 2011 at 8:38 pm (Japanese religion and superstition)
The Wikipedia entry on eight as a lucky number has two contradictory explanations:
- It comes from the shape of the kanji for eight broadening at the bottom, signifying prosperity
- The number was used as a general way to say “many”, hence I would imagine also signifying prosperity
It also mentions that in Chinese the sound of the word is the same as the word for prosperity. Although this isn’t true in Japanese, it is quite possible the superstition came from China and then another explanation was made up for it.