The Creed of Half Japan, by Arthur Lloyd, , at sacred-texts.com
One of the most important services that S’akyamuni rendered to his immediate disciples, as well as to posterity, was to supply them with a set of disciplinary rules of life. This discipline, known as the Vinaya, was not given in any formal manner. As the occasion arose the Master spoke his mind, and thus, little by little, during the long years of his ministry, there was formed as it were a corpus of miscellaneous rulings delivered without any definite plan or system. Yet there was no contradiction among these rulings, for it was one mind that gave them all, and that mind a singularly consistent and clear-seeing one.
What the Vinaya rulings lacked in system was, furthermore, more than compensated by the definiteness which came to them from the fact that in every case they were based on some real fact or some concrete difficulty. If the Sūtras—those I mean, such as most of the Agamas, which can be distinctly traced back to the life of the Master—give us a true picture of S’akyamuni's life, we cannot but conclude that his mind vacillated at times between two or more alternative sets of speculative doctrines. Is there a god? Is there such
a thing as a soul? Does the physical universe really exist, or is it all a mere illusion? On these points he spoke in such a way as to leave his followers the largest room for speculative differences, and if we are disposed (not being metaphysicians) impatiently to throw aside the speculations of Sarvāstivādins, Sautrāntikas, and all the babble of Hīnayāna sectarianism, if we find it difficult to see how the term "Buddhism" can be stretched wide enough to cover all the variations of the so-called Mahāyāna, we must remember that it was the studied vagueness of the Master's own teaching that gave his followers the boldness to wander so far afield in the wide daring of their later speculations.
From all this vagueness of the Sūtra pitaka the Vinaya pitaka was saved. When the Master gave rules to his communities for the sabbath meetings, for the confession of sins, for the admission of women, for the regulation of dress, etc., he was obliged to be terse, clear, and definite. The Vinaya rules, therefore, give us a more trustworthy picture of the Master's mind than do any of the Sūtras. They make us feel that we are dealing with the real Buddha, with the real community of monks.
It fell to the lot of Upali, the barber, to record, from his memory, at the orthodox Council at Rājagṛiha, the disciplinary decisions of his Master, and to form them into a connected whole. His collection met with favour, was adopted, and for more than a century was the authorized canon of discipline enforced by the successive Patriarchs—Kaśyapa, Ananda, Madhyantika, S’ānavaśas, and Upagupta. Upagupta was a contemporary of As’oka's, and we know from some of As’oka's monuments that many corruptions had come into Buddhism by then, and that the monks were beginning to form cliques and
schisms and to withdraw from communion with their brethren. Dharmagupta, Upagupta's successor, whom we place, therefore, somewhere about B.C. 240 or a little later, reformed the Vinaya by a new recitation, 1 and thus withdrew his followers formally from communion with the others. This, says Gyōnen (p. 343), was the first schism.
After this the process of sect-forming went on very rapidly, and each sect feeling itself justified in drawing up a modified discipline of its own, it was not long before there were twenty disciplines where originally there had been but one.
We need not stay to inquire what these twenty disciplines were. Only four of them reached China, and these four were ultimately merged into one, the survivor being a reformed edition of Dharmagupta's reformed code. 2
According to the Dharmagupta system of discipline, a system which is still largely in vogue in Japan, though the old Vinaya or Ritsu sect has long ceased to have a separate corporate existence of its own, 3 the faithful here on earth are divided into seven classes. At the bottom of the scale come (i) the Ubasoku, and (ii) the Ubai, laymen and laywomen, who, without leaving their homes, desire to lead a life of religion. Of these persons it was required that they should keep the five precepts—not to kill, not to steal, not to be guilty of any form of
lewdness, not to lie, to abstain from intoxicants. Further, on the sabbath day, 1 the prohibition of lewdness became the prohibition of even lawful sexual intercourse, and there were added a prohibition of the use of perfumes and oils, of dances and spectacular shows, of luxurious couches—of all things, in short, that might prove an incitement to the passions. To these was added as a counsel of perfection, not to eat at odd hours.
Above the Ubasoku and Ubai came (iii) the Shami, and (iv) Shamini, whom we may call the Buddhist Endeavourers. 2 These persons undertook to keep all the above rules permanently. They further added a rule which forbade them to receive gold, silver, or precious objects of any kind; they made a vow, that is, of Perpetual Poverty. Higher up in the scale came (v) the Shiki Shamana, a higher grade of ascetics, who added what are known as the Six Doctrines. They would not kill even a mosquito; they undertook to be scrupulously honest, even in regard to the smallest sums of money; they would not touch a woman; they would not tell even a white lie; they never drank fermented liquors; and they never took meals out of hours.
Finally came the full-fledged monks and nuns, (vi) the Biku, and (vii) the Bikuni. These, as the Vinaya carne to be influenced more and more by Mahāyānistic ideas, were looked upon as candidates for the rank of Bodhisattva, and were consequently called upon to undertake the Bosatsu Kai or Gusoku Kai, the rules of the Bodhisattva, or the Complete Rules.
The Bodhisattva, in the Mahāyāna Conception, is the
man who has arrived at the "jumping-off place" of life, if we may so call it. He might enter into Nirvana if he chose, but he does not choose. He is freed from the necessity of life and death; there is nothing to force him back to the monotonous wheel of life; but of his own free will, and moved by compassion for the ignorance and misery of his fellow-creatures, he deliberately chooses a continuance of his earthly existence in order that he may live for others and not for himself. Such is the by no means unworthy aim that is set before the Buddhist follower of the Mahāyāna Discipline. 1
In order to reach to that end the candidate for Bodhisattvaship must observe a multitude of rules (250 for a man, 348 for a woman), 2 of which we may give the following summary account, taken, however, from sources posterior to the Wei period, and representing the system in its fuller developments.
There are four deadly sins for which there is no forgiveness in this life: sexual intercourse, theft, murder,
falsehood. He who commits these sins forfeits all hope of the Bodhisattvaship for the present. These sins are known as harai (Sans. Parājikā).
Another set of sins, thirteen in number, are considered as very grave, though they do not altogether destroy the spiritual character of the sinner. They are (i) self-defilement; (ii) coming into contact with a woman; (iii) slander; (iv) self-praise, with a view to getting an increase of alms; (v) acting as a go-between in arranging a marriage; (vi) speaking evil to the clergy; (vii) calumnies against the clergy; (viii) disobedience to the orders of a religious superior; (ix) exciting another monk to such disobedience; (x) going to the house of a layman to cause quarrels; (xi) to disregard the wishes of the community and to cause divisions. Two more rules (xii and xiii) concerned the building of a house, with one's own money, or with the contributions of the faithful.
Another set of offences against the law of Poverty could only be removed by purificatory ceremonies. These concerned the prohibition of two coats, the one garment that is always to be worn even at home, unnecessary dishes, importunity in asking for alms, etc.
Again, others would necessitate a sojourn in Purgatory (Jigoku) before emancipation could be accomplished: white lies, duplicity, digging the earth, cruelty to animals, intoxicants, meals at unseasonable hours, etc.
Then followed minute rules for the deportment of the monks and nuns. The Vinaya sects laid great stress on the observation of these rules, for they said, again with a certain amount of truth, that if a man would follow the discipline of Buddha he would come to know of his doctrine. 1
The Han translators had spoken only on Sila, or
[paragraph continues] Morality. Anshikao had translated a Sūtra, said to have been spoken by the Buddha himself, on "the lightness and heaviness of the sin of transgressing the Sila;" 1 and Ch’ Huen had translated another which illustrated the Mahāyāna conception of the Sila by showing how the Bodhisattva (i.e. S’akyamuni in his earthly ministry) had kept the Six Parāmitās, or Cardinal Virtues of the Mahāyāna. 2 He, whose life was a pattern for the Buddhist monk, had shown (i) liberality and generosity; (ii) the morality of self-restraint and chastity; (iii) patience; (iv) steadfastness of purpose and energy in the pursuit of Truth; (v) self-collectedness and the power of meditative concentration of self; (vi) the power of applying to daily life the lessons acquired by the steadfast and thoughtful pursuit of the truth by a generous and pure mind.
But the Han translators had apparently been contented with a mere sowing of Buddhistic seed—another indication of the fact that they were truly the pioneers of Buddhism. They said nothing about discipline, and they had made no attempt to introduce into China the order of monks.
The great Han dynasty came to an end in A.D. 214, having held China in one way or another under its continuous sway ever since B.C. 206. 3 The assassination of the last Han ruler led to a prolonged civil war, at the conclusion of which we find China divided into the kingdoms of the Wei, the Wu, and the Shū. Buddhism had been before the people for several years now—fully seventy, if we reckon only from the time of Anshikao's
mission. Several important events had taken place in China during that time. Perhaps the most significant was the arrival in China of a Roman mission which reached Lôyang by way of the sea, in A.D. 166, thus opening another route to China of which the Indians and Arabs soon learned to avail themselves.
The gradual desiccation of Central Asia, the process of the drying up of the waters, which laid waste the fertile plains of Khotan, Ferghana, Bokhara, and Transoxiana, and which drove forth to more happy lands the hosts of the barbarians, was in full swing. The Hans in China, the Kushans in India, were equally concerned in defending their territories against these dreaded invaders, and many embassies passed between them during the last half of the second era. It was the age which saw Pao Chao's noble sacrifice and his victory over his barbarous foes. 1
After the fall of the Han dynasty and the division of China into three hostile camps, the Kushans sent no more embassies. It was useless to appeal for help to the helpless kingdoms of China. The Kushans themselves had suffered from the inroads of their enemies. In spite of temporary successes during the first decade of the third century, they lost ground rapidly and steadily; by 221 A.D. they were confined to Sind, Punjaub, Kabulistan, and Kashmir. Several of their fairest Buddhist provinces had been lost, and the hegemony of Hindustan was passing into other hands. The Andhras were in possession for the time being; the rise of the Imperial Gupta Dynasty was already a "coming event."
The short-lived Chinese kingdom of Shū has no
importance for the Buddhist historian. It contained within its boundaries no already established centre of Buddhist teaching, and apparently attracted no missionaries. The southern kingdom of Wu will require a special note; 1 to the translators of the Wei dynasty (A.D. 220–265) I will devote a few words as a fitting conclusion to this chapter.
There are only five names, responsible for seven Sūtras, and there are, besides, two Sūtras by unknown hands. Of the five men, two (Thân-ti and Ân-fah-hien, A.D. 254) come from the country of the Ânsi, i.e. Parthia, one (Po-Yen) from the Western Regions (Khotan), one (Dharmakâla) from Central India, and a fifth (Sanghavarman) from India viâ Thibet, or vice versâ. Three of these men brought with them the Vinaya of the Dharmagupta School, which I have been explaining in this chapter, and thus laid the foundation on which in later years the Chinese and Japanese orders of monks were erected.
Of other subjects, outside of the Vinaya, they give us two volumes of the dialogues of which Buddhists are so fond, the Questions of Ugra (No. 23) and those of Surata (No. 43), a translation of the Sūtra of the Great Decease (No. 5, now lost); one on the Names and Surnames of the Seven Buddhas (No. 626); a treatise on Immortality as contained in the Abhidharma (No. 1278), and three translations of the Sukhāvatī Vyūha, of which only Sanghavarman's (No. 27) has survived.
It says much for the opinion that the Doctrine of Faith in Amitābha is the true representative of the
[paragraph continues] Japanese Mahāyāna. 1 We have already seen it dimly in As’vaghosha; we have seen Nāgārjuna learning it from the Nāga chieftain. In A.D. 147 the book containing that doctrine is taken to China; before A.D. 250 five versions of that book had been made. It looks as though the Han and Wei missionaries were using the historical S’akyamuni as a means whereby to point men to the unhistorical Amitābha and his spiritual son, in whose story there lies enshrined the essence of the story of man's redemption as preached by St. Paul. The story of Amitābha was needed by those early missionaries of the faith of S’akyamuni to give life to the otherwise dead rules of the Dharmagupta Vinaya. Its historical counterpart is now changing and quickening the dead bones of Japanese Buddhism and preparing the way for what will be one of the most remarkable conversions in the religious history of the world.
From the fall of Han in A.D. 220 to the rise of the Tang in A.D. 618, China was rarely united. For the greater part of this period of four centuries, two, three, four, even five or more dynasties ruled side by side, as rivals and competitors, within the empire. It is almost impossible to write a history of the China of the fourth and fifth centuries; it is still more difficult to give anything like an adequate description of the religious policy of the conflicting states, or to trace, step by step, the gradual growth or decline of Buddhist doctrines in the whole empire during this period.
Some of the dynasties were influenced mainly by the
literati, who were, to a man, the followers of Confucius, and the enemies of everything that called itself a religion of the supernatural. Others, again, were Taoists from conviction, and others Buddhists or Taoists from conviction or policy. Occasionally attempts were made to unite these conflicting faiths. Thus we have, about A.D. 240, an attempt at unifying Confucianism and the Mahāyāna, by introducing the images of the Wuti, or Five Rulers (i.e. the five Dhyāni Buddhas), into the Temples of Confucius, made without success. An equally unsuccessful attempt forcibly to effect an amalgamation of Buddhism with the religion of Tao, in A.D. 555, was probably the measure which gave to the Japanese a few years later the idea of the Ryobu-Shinto, or amalgamation of Buddhism with Shinto, which lasted until the restoration of Meiji.
India, in the meanwhile, was undergoing many a political and religious convulsion, and the monks, persecuted by the Brahmans at home, took refuge in China, bringing with them each the books that had affected him in his native land, and translating them into Chinese for the benefit of the native peoples. It is interesting to turn over the leaves of the Appendix to Nanjo's Catalogue and analyse the lists of translators by dynasties, by books, and by the countries from which they came. Thus the translators of the Wei dynasty, which ruled at Lôyang from 220 to 265, come either from Central India or Parthia, but all bring with them the Vinaya books of the Dharmagupta sect of the Hīnayāna. Under the Wu (222–280) at Nankin, we get none but Central Indian monks, and scarcely any but Hīnayāna books, or at least books which, like the Dharmapada, belong equally to both Vehicles. The Western Tsin at Lôyang (265–316), with Dharmaraksha, as facile princeps of the band, give
us mostly theological treatises of the Mahāyāna, from the pens of translators who come from Ansi, Khotan, and the western provinces of China proper. The former Lian, with capital at Kutsan (302–376), furnish but one book, translated by a man from the Yuetchi country. The Eastern Tsin (at Nankin, 317–420) give us a long list of translators from Kabul, Kharachar, Central Asia—one of them a descendant of S’akyamuni's uncle—and some translate works of a practical rather than a religious character: spells for relieving toothache, bad eyes, crying babies, and people suffering from summer sickness. 1 The Lian (502–557) at Nanking have translators who come by sea from Siam. It would be unprofitable to continue this list any further. Suffice it to say that books came in by the thousand, representing all the conflicting schools of Buddhist thought, and hailing from every country, north, west or south, in which Buddhism was represented. Buddhism itself almost died under the weight of its own books, and of the institutions which it had brought with it from India.
Several practical reforms ought to be noticed. In A.D. 335 a monk named Buddhoganga persuaded King She-hu of the Posterior Chow dynasty to institute ordinations and allow Chinese natives to take monastic vows. 2 This permission greatly changed the nature of Chinese Buddhism. In India it had been the custom for kings to support the Order by their royal bounty, and the custom obtained at first in China also, thus keeping the Order as an exotic and aristocratic institution. But when Chinese natives took the vows, the Order increased very rapidly, and Buddhism became a thing belonging to the people rather than to the sovereign.
In A.D. 401, Kumarajīva was brought to China, and was welcomed at Chang-an by the sovereign of the Latter Tsin Dynasty. Kumarajīva suggested, and carried out, a revision and retranslation of the older works, some of which had been but roughly translated by the earlier missionaries. This secured a large measure of popularity for the revised versions of the Tripitaka. In 520, Bodhidharma, the then patriarch of Mahāyānism, left India and came to China to avoid the persecution of the Brahmanists, where, finding the block of literature, he swept the whole of the Tripitaka aside, declaring that the essence of Buddhism is to find the "heart of Buddha" by meditation, as Buddha himself had done. In 399, Fahian started on a journey to India, to investigate Buddhism at its fountain-head.
It is noteworthy, says M. Ch. Pithon, in an article in the China Review (vol. xi.), on the History of China under the Tsin Dynasty, that the Posterior Chow and the Tsin, who did so much for Chinese Buddhism, were really Huns, and ruled over a large proportion of Hiungnu subjects. The Huns all over the world stood by one another, and the chief of all the Huns was Attila (A.D. 445), whose word was law from the frontiers of Gaul to those of China. How much of Buddhist teaching came into Christian folklore and superstition through Hunnish soldiers in the regiments of Attila, it would require a large treatise to investigate. 1
In 372 a Chinese monk preached Buddhism in the
[paragraph continues] Korean kingdom of Koma, or Kaoli, and thus at length, after a long and eventful history, the Way was brought to Japan in the year 545 A.D.
131:1 I take this chapter mainly from Gyōnen's sketch of the Eight Buddhist Sects in Japan ("Revue de l’Histoire des Religions," vol. xxv. p. 341).
133:1 The Sacred Books had possibly not yet been committed to writing; they were orally recited, and the oral recitation must have been a frequent cause of inadvertent error.
133:2 These four were: (a) Jūbunritsu, the Vinaya (in Ten Recitations) of the Sarvāstivadins; (b) Shibunritsu (Four Recitations), of the Dharmaguptas: (c) Gobunritsu (Five Recitations), of the Mahis’akas; and (d) Sōritsu, the Vinaya of the clergy.
133:3 Early in the Meiji era the Government forced the Ritsu sect to amalgamate itself with the Shingon.
134:1 The observance of the weekly sabbath was one of the primitive features of Buddhism. The Buddhists of Japan are beginning to observe the day; perhaps in time to come they will do so still more.
134:2 The Sanskrit word S’ramana has the idea of "endeavouring."
135:1 It must be remembered that there are two kinds of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas—human and superhuman. Ningen no uchi ni mo Hotoke ga ari, Bosatsu ga aru. Ningen igwai ni ni mo Hotoke ga ari, Bosatsu ga arimasu. The superhuman Bodhisattvas, such as Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta, have no human history; they are essentially extra-human and unborn, and, though they may from time to time assume human or other forms, are incapable of death. But S’akyamuni is the example par excellence of a human Buddha or Bodhisattva. After his Enlightenment he might have passed at once into his Nirvana of Rest; but for the sake of suffering humanity he remained where he was. During the whole of his ministry he was a Bodhisattva, with power to lay down his life and to take it again whenever he chose. At his Nirvana he became a Buddha. The Japanese use the phrase sokushinjōbutsu, "'attainment of Buddhahood in the present body," to describe the state of the Bodhisattva who "need not return again" (fu tai ten).
135:2 The 250 Bosatsu Kai are explained in the Bommūkyō (Brahmajālasutra).
136:1 See Nanjo, "Twelve Buddhist Sects," p. 20.
137:1 Nanjo, "Cat. Trip.," No. 1112.
137:2 Ibid., No. 435.
137:3 The Former or Western Han were in power from B.C. 206 to A.D. 25; the Latter or Eastern Han from A.D. 25 to A.D. 214.
138:1 Pao Chao's wife and mother fell into the hands of the barbarians, who placed them in the van of their army, and threatened to put them cruelly to death unless Pao Chao withdrew his forces. Pao Chao was in great distress, but the exhortations of his wife and mother prevailed, and he resolved to do his duty by his country.
139:1 It was from the kingdom of Wu that Japan obtained its first acquaintance with Chinese letters, and especially with Confucianism. To this day the ordinary pronunciation of Chinese words in Japan is called Go-on, the Wu pronunciation. The Buddhists have a pronunciation of their own, known as Kan-on, "the pronunciation of Han," i.e. Northern China. The numbers are from Nanjo's Catalogue.
140:1 The Japanese and Chinese Vinaya sects afterwards adopted Vairoc’ana as their central deity, and it was for this reason that they were forced to join themselves with the Shingon. But Vairoc’ana and Amitābha are in idea identical. They both represent, in idea at least, the "Son of Righteousness with healing in His wings," preached to the Far East by Gnostics who used Buddhist terminology.
142:1 In the popular Buukkyōgimon Kaitōshū, vol. iii., there is an exposition of several of these short "spell-sūtras."
142:2 This I touch on again in my chapter on Heian Buddhism.
143:1 The annexed quotation may possibly throw some light on these Buddhist ordinations. The reader will remember that the period with which we are now dealing was the period when Europe was being overrun by barbarian hordes from Central Asia. Eunapius, "Historia," pp. 82–83 (in "Scriptores Historiæ Byzantinæ"), has an interesting paragraph relating to this subject. It deals with the year 376, and speaks about the Goths. If these are to be identified with the Yuetchi, they may (must?) have been Buddhists before entering Europe. (See Flinders Petrie on "Migrations" in Journal of Anthropological Inst.)
In the above extract, note (i) that the religion is τὰ πάτρια ἱερά, a faith brought with them from Central Asia; (ii) that the institution of quasi-bishops seems to be spoken of as a recent innovation, and that it corresponds in point of time with what we know of Chinese ordinations'; (iii) that black (φαιός) suits what we know of Shinshū and Jōdo monks; (iv) that it corresponds with what we know from other sources about the confusion between Buddhist arhats and Christian "saints." The object of the ruse was to deceive the Romans into believing that the barbarians were already Christians. The work of Ulfilas came later, at any rate in its influence, and his institutions could not be described as being "ancestral rites" of the Goths.