The Creed of Half Japan, by Arthur Lloyd, , at sacred-texts.com
The Buddhism of the Tokugawa Period
After Ieyasu's victory at Sekigahara (October 21, 1600) over Ishida Kazushige and the daimyos who supported the claims of the family of Hideyoshi, Japan became, for the first time for many centuries, practically united under one head, and was at last in a position to feel herself a national unit. It is true that the Imperial House still continued, as before, to sit on the throne in Kyōto; but its position was a shadowy one, and the new Dictator made provision for its remaining such; for, in readjusting the finances of the country, an annual income of 150,000 koku of rice was deemed sufficient to meet all the expenses of the Imperial establishments, and even that modest sum came, not from any special appropriation, but out of the liberal income of four million koku, 1 which the Shōgunate appropriated to itself. The Imperial House thus became the pensioner of the Tokugawas, and it is a matter for wonder and admiration how, under most adverse circumstances, the Court at Kyōto contrived to retain for itself even the modicum of power and influence that remained in its hands. Those who believe in a Divine Providence which shapes the destinies of nations, will readily see in
it a gracious Design watching over the line of the lawful Sovereigns until the right moment should arrive for the Imperial House to resume its rightful place as the active head of the nation.
The Pax Tokugawica, which Ieyasu inaugurated, rested on very solid foundations, for it was supported by all the best elements of the Japanese social system.
It rested, of course, mainly on the power of the sword. The Hōjō Regents had demonstrated the potential importance of a comparatively small principality carefully administered on strictly military lines. Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu trod in the footsteps of the Kamakura Regents, and, during the early days of the Shōgunate, the samurai of the Tokugawa clans maintained the superiority of their military traditions. "After a victory," said Ieyasu on the bloody day of Sekigahara, "tighten the strings of your helmet;" and the maxim was acted upon by his descendants. The new capital at Yedo was the symbol of the new power, which could here expand itself, without a rival, as freely as the Hōjō had done at Kamakura. It was the rallying-point for the Tokugawa clansmen and partisans, who were constantly brought together, and taught to appreciate the strength that lay in their unity of obedience and discipline: it was the ruin of the distant daimyos from Kyushu and the South, whose attendance was required for half the year at the Court of the new Dictator. It reduced the Imperial Power to a shadow and a sentiment, for there was no use in raising the standard of loyalist revolt, or in occupying the city of Kyoto, so long as the military forces of the country were centred in and directed from the recently strengthened Castle of Yedo. 1
Again, it is certain that Ieyasu had the support of the merchant classes in the administrative reforms which he established. Even the closing of the country to foreign trade by the Government of his grandson Iemitsu was effected without much protest. The truth is that the closing of the Japanese ports to foreign commerce touched no vested Japanese interests. The volume of trade was very small: the millions of Japan had no use for the articles which Europe had to bring them, and the products of the country, after those long years of anarchy and trouble, were not much greater than what the nation needed for its own private consumption. The Southern Daimyos, crushed and crippled, had no longer any need for the guns and military ammunition which the Portuguese had brought a century before, and whatever was needed in this line was made by the Japanese themselves. The closing of the ports to foreign ships injured no one at the moment; it only prevented the creation of new and artificial wants among the people, and the merchants were quite content to have it so. In the development of the internal commerce, which has always been a great feature in the mercantile life of the country, they could see their profits before them. They wanted peace and a steady market, and Ieyasu's administration assured them both.
And the Buddhists were contented; for Buddhism has always been a merchants' religion, and in the prosperity of the commercial classes there would always be something to spare for the alms-bowl of the mendicant friar. They had good reason to be quite satisfied. Ieyasu did not treat them as Nobunaga or Hideyoshi had done. He summoned them to his councils; he invited them to instruct him in the tenets of their religion; he professed himself a convert to the Tendai sect; he decorated his
new capital with magnificent temples 1; and he gave the Buddhist clergy considerable inquisitorial powers by making them his registrars, charged with the special surveillance of persons suspected of Christianity. 2
Allied with the Buddhists were the Confucianists and the Shintoists. The former of these had, as we have already had more than one occasion to mention, always cultivated good relationships with the Zen priests. These relationships were much strengthened by Chinese refugees, who came over to Japan after the fall of the Ming dynasty, and more especially by Ingen and the priests of the Chinese Zen sect of Obaku, whom I mentioned in my last chapter. Priests of other sects likewise professed themselves followers of the Chinese sages, and many a Confucianist scholar shaved his head and entered a monastery in order that he might thus, in greater quietness, prosecute his favourite studies. But the political wisdom of the Tokugawa Government led to the establishment of schools and colleges, such as the Shōheikō in Yedo (intimately
connected with the Temple of Confucius on Yūshimadai in Hongō), and from the middle of the seventeenth century we get a lay-Confucianism which, in process of time, completely overshadows the priestly Confucianism, to which it becomes almost hostile. 1
The Shintoists were but of little account at the beginning of the Tokugawa age. But Hideyoshi had patronized them, and Hideyoshi remained for Japan a beau ideal of knightly virtues. Very few samurai ever found much to content their souls in the life and teachings of Buddhism; only here and there was there a studious soldier to be found to whom the bookish habits of the Confucianist appealed with anything like the voice of attraction. Shintoism, with a slight flavour of philosophy, a vague but deep-seated religiosity, a good deal of common sense, and a strong appeal to Japanese pride, satisfied most minds, without demanding from them the adoption of any denominational designation. It was destined in the
course of years to become a very potent factor in the development of the country.
Only two factors were excluded from the new national life—the Catholics, and the extreme left wing of the intolerant Nichirenists. Ieyasu found it necessary in 1610 to inflict a most severe punishment 1 on some Nichiren monks who had been speaking too freely against Christians and the inoffensive Jōdō believers, and Iemitsu felt himself obliged to proscribe the Fujūfuze branch of the Nichirenists, exactly as he did the believers in Catholicism.
Every one knows (who has read anything of Japanese history) that the persecutions of Christians were of a most severe and cruel character, and that the Buddhist clergy became the willing instruments of the Shōgunate in the execution of a cruel legislation. No noblemen or persons of any position survived that ordeal, except through apostasy: a few of them were martyred, the rest saved their lives through a timely return to the religion of their fathers. It was reserved for the farmers of Kyūshū to set an example of heroism under persecution worthy of the earliest ages of the Christian Church. Without priests, without sacraments, except the Baptism which they kept up amongst themselves, without any of
the aids that are used for maintaining the Christian life, and obliged to practise their religion in the strictest secrecy, in daily peril of torture and death, these brave men clung tenaciously to the hope of the Gospel, and when, in 1859, the French missionaries discovered them in the neighbourhood of Nagasaki, they were keeping their Lent with simplicity and reverence. 1
But all this was not known to the Shōgunal authorities. Christianity had disappeared from the surface of affairs, and had ceased to be a force to be reckoned with by the statesman. And when the noisy left wing of the Nichirenist extremists had been silenced, the land seemed at peace.
But the peace was only of short duration. The first of the great Confucianists of the Tokugawa age, Fujiwara Seikwa (1561–1619), renounced his Buddhism and left the Temple in which he had been living, on coming across the commentaries of Shushi (Chin. Chu-hi) on Confucius. But he was not a controversialist, and seems to have been gentle towards Buddhist and Shintoist alike. His
successor, Hayashi Razan (1583–1673), who exercised a far greater influence than Seikwa on the development of thought under the Tokugawas, hated Buddhism only less than he hated Christianity. Both were to him anti-social forces, because they preached celibacy and retirement from the world. Kaibara Ekiken (1630–1714) renounced Buddhism at an early age; Tani Jichū (1598–1680) was a life-long foe of the monastic system and of the religion of S’akyamuni. These men were not anti-religious. "What does it mean," asked one of Kinoshita Junnan's (1621–1698) scholars, "when we are told that 'Heaven is Intelligent, Upright, and One'?" "It means," answered Kinoshita, "that Heaven knows what we have in our minds at the very moment our thoughts arise, that It judges with impartiality, that It is always the same." Yamazaki Anzai (1618–1682), who was reproved as a lad by his monastic superiors for laughing in "chapel," excused himself by saying that "that fellow Shaka talks such nonsense!" And yet that same man, whose doctrines had much to do with the ultimate restoration of the Imperial House, had a great deal in him that was worthy of a Christian. The same may be said of Kaibara Ekiken. In the non-Christian world it would be hard to find a judge more fair and impartial than Arai Hakuseki, or a philosophical guide more trustworthy than Kaibara.
It must be admitted that when the Buddhist clergy got things all their own way, as they did once for some few sad years during the eighteenth century, they gave their allies cause enough for grief. The first four Shōguns, Ieyasu (1603–1605), Hidetada (1605–1622), Iemitsu (16221651), and Ietsuna (1651–1680), were men of power and intelligence, and the ministers of the last-mentioned ruler had been trained in the school of Iemitsu according to the traditions of Ieyasu. The Confucianist politicians had
therefore a weighty voice in the management of affairs, and extravagances of all sorts were avoided; for even Catholic writers will admit that, with the one notable exception of the Christian persecutions, Japan was well governed, on the whole, during the early Tokugawa administrations. 1 Yet, even under Iemitsu, the Confucianists had been restive in double harness, and the accession of Ietsuna had brought on an abortive revolt against the Shōgunate. It became necessary to forbid absolutely the translation of European books, and the publication of all criticisms on the Shōgunal Government or the morals of Yedo.
But the fifth Shōgun, Tsunayoshi (1680–1709), was a literary pedant with a superstitious mind. He built schools, reformed the calendar, and spent large sums of money on the encouragement of art. On these undertakings he wasted his substance, and by neglecting the sound political precepts of his Confucianist advisers, 2 got his finances into disorder. To remedy these disorders he applied to men with little experience, 3 and on their advice tampered with the coinage and adopted measures which led to an increase in the prices of all articles of food. This did not make him popular with the common people, and even the submissive Court of Kyōto began to be restless when the state of the Shōgunal exchequer would not permit of the payment of the annual allowance of 150,000 koku of rice. Then, as though this were not enough, Tsunayoshi gave himself up to monkish advisers, and embarked on a series of most remarkable enactments.
[paragraph continues] The taking of animal life was absolutely forbidden, kittens and puppies were saved from the water-butt, and the Yedo police had to keep track of all the litters that were born, and make accurate lists of sex, markings, etc. A samurai of Akita, who had the misfortune to kill a swallow, was put to death for the crime, and all his family sent into exile (1686); the whole legislation being based on the theory that life is sacred—unless it were human life, which in Japan of the Middle Ages was far from being treated with reverence. The good citizens of Yedo were powerless against their master, but they took their revenge in lampoons on the Inu-Kubō, or Dog-Shōgun, as they nicknamed him. Tsunayoshi was murdered by his wife in 1709, and it took the great Arai Hakuseki all his energies and skill, during the next two reigns, to restore the Shōgunate to popular favour. The Tokugawas were nearly always fortunate in the fidelity of their ablest followers. 1
It was under these circumstances that men's minds began to turn once more to the Imperial House in Kyōto, and to dream of a Restoration of that House to its legitimate place. Strangely enough, the first impetus to this movement came from the Tokugawas themselves. Tokugawa Mitsukuni, a grandson of Ieyasu, succeeded in 1656 to the Daimyate of Mito. He at once, being a studious and enlightened man, commenced the compilation of a vast History of his country, for the carrying out of which he gathered in his fief-city a number of prominent scholars. Eminent amongst these was a Chinese scholar, Shu Shunsui, a refugee, who had left his country rather than
bow before the illegitimate Manshu dynasty, and who now, in his Japanese retreat, imbued Mitsukuni's undertaking with a spirit of legitimacy. The whole of this colossal work was not finished until 1908, after a chequered history of one hundred and fifty years. Its volumes, as they appeared, taught the country to appreciate rightly the great wrongs that had been done to the Imperial House by Minamoto, Hōjō, and Ashikaga, to acknowledge the rightful succession of the South at the time of the Rival Dynasties, to feel for Go-daigo, to applaud the loyalty of the brave Masashige. It was but natural for the reader to pass on to the question of the legitimacy of the Tokugawa Dictatorship. One by one, converts were gained for the new Crusade; it was not without danger that such principles were enounced in the face of the hard-handed tyrants of Yedo; many of the bolder spirits fell as martyrs in the good cause; 1 when at last, in 1867, the crisis came, and the Emperor claimed his rightful inheritance, the heir of the Mito Tokugawas was to be found fighting for the principles of legitimacy against his kinsman the Shōgun.
With the loyalists must be also reckoned the men who wished to see, not merely the Restoration of the Imperial power, but also that of the old national Shinto. Kado Azumamaro (1668–1736), Kamo Mabuchi (1697–1769), Moto-ori Norinaga (1730–1801), and Hirata Atsutane (1776–1843), are all names of persons well known among their countrymen for their painstaking boldness in the elucidation of the ancient chronicles, the Kojiki and Nihongi, and in the enunciation of loyalistic principles. The well-known story of the Forty-seven Ronin derives
its interest to the Japanese from its connection with the slow struggle between Emperor and Shōgun, with which it was indirectly connected.
Another group, not to be neglected, was the small band of Dutch scholars. The policy of the Shōgunate had left one little loophole, the Dutch factory at Deshima, for the entrance of Western thought. The books and scientific instruments, which thus came into the country, sufficed to keep alive in many hearts the eager desire for a wider and less restricted intercourse with the wonderful, because unknown, nations of the West.
All these elements combined against the Shōgunate and its allies, the Buddhist congregations. In the course of the two centuries between the accession of Iemitsu and the arrival of Commodore Perry, the Shōgunal Government had lost its predominant military strength, and the Buddhists that chastened meekness which had marked them after Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu had taken them well in hand. Neither was as strong as it had once been, and neither was generally popular. Commodore Perry's arrival was the occasion, but not the cause, of the successful Restoration of the Imperial Power. It would have come in any case, for the simple reason that intelligent Japan was agreed in wanting it.
Shortly after the accomplishment of the Restoration Buddhism was disestablished and disendowed. The Buddhist emblems were removed from the Imperial Palace, the Ryobu Temples purified by the removal of Buddhist Idols and the ejection of the Buddhist clergy, who lost not only most of their special privileges, but a very large proportion of their revenues. The newly established Government, while proclaiming its adhesion to the newly revived Shinto faith, took care to be absolutely neutral in everything that concerned the religious life of
its subjects. It was the only possible course to adopt: the Government could not favour one religion with the same hand with which it pulled down another. In process of time, the prohibitions against Christianity were allowed to drop; the promulgation of the Constitution formally guaranteed to every subject of the Empire the free exercise of his religion.
Nichiren, who may be looked upon as the prophet of Buddhism, called the attention of his hearers to the condition of Japan as he saw it, distracted by many Lords and many Faiths. The subsequent religious development of the country has been, as it were, a commentary on that prophecy. The terrible troubles of the sixteenth century, the wars and the bloodshed, were the necessary instruments in the hands of Providence for the working out of the first step in the elevation of the country. Nobunaga and Hideyoshi hammered on the hot iron, and Ieyasu welded it into a consistent whole, able to stand the test of time.
Japan was united into one body, under one Ruler—but the Ruler was an usurper, and the legitimate House of Sovereigns did not seem to be in a position, at the time, to do what the powerful Tokugawa was able to accomplish. In this chapter I have tried to show the attainment of the second step. The Meiji Era has seen Japan still united, and united under its lawful Sovereign. No one can read the moving history of the Imperial House of this country, with its strange vicissitudes and its long-continued afflictions, without feeling that it has had some Divine mission to perform. Nothing but the special protection of God could have preserved that House through all the troubles of so many centuries, and these special gifts of Divine protection generally imply some very special motive in the Giver.
One more step seems to be before Japan. She is now One Nation, united under One Ruler, who has the legitimate right to rule. When she has taken her next step, and has reached the acknowledgment of the One God, who also has the legitimate right to rule, she will have reached the true apex of her moral greatness. In that consummation, the Mahāyāna, which has for so long had our thoughts, will find its proper place and its proper meed of honour and reward, for it also, like Nobunaga, and like the Jesuits, has been but a piece on the chessboard played by the hand of God, and not one such piece
What agencies shall be employed in the future development, or what other pieces shall be moved in the course of this interesting game, is a matter of secondary importance. The real player in the game is God, and we men, the best of us, are but pawns and knights, and here and there a bishop. Only, when the last move takes place, and the game is about to be finished, I will ask for myself "that I may be there to see."
367:1 This sum did not, of course, exhaust the resources of the Shōgunate. A very large number of fiefs, some of them of considerable value, was in the hands of members of the Tokugawa family, or of adherents on whose absolute fidelity Ieyasu felt that he could rely.
368:1 The ancient Castle of Yedo, on the site of the present Imperial Palace in Tokyo, was built in 1456 by Ōta Dōkwan.
370:1 The Kwan-ei-ji at Uyeno (burned in 1869 and never restored) was one of the Tokugawa temples. Its abbot was always a Prince of the Blood, who was thus practically a hostage. It was probably for this reason, and for its memories of the degradation of the Imperial House, that the temple was never restored. Other temples of this period were the Zōjōji in Shiba Park, the popular Kwannonji at Asakusa, and the Higashi Hongwanji. They are all imposing structures. Nor must we forget the great mausolea at Nikkō.
370:2 Popular education was also in the hands of the Buddhist clergy during this period. The so-called tera koya, or temple-schools, first established under the Ashikaga, continued their activity until the Meiji Restoration. The education was not of a very high order, but it was the best that was generally accessible. The Tokugawa Government, for its own retainers mainly, founded a certain number of schools, of which the best known was the Shōheikō in Yedo, founded in 1630. Hayashi Razan was a professor in this school, the programme of studies becoming in a sense official for the other schools. In most of these, medicine was taught as well as philosophy. But they did not profess to give a popular education.
371:1 Papinot (s.v. Tokugawa-jidai no Keigakuha) divides the Tokugawa School of Confucianism into four: (a) The school of men like Fujiwara Seikwa, Hayashi Razan, etc., who, basing their teaching on the most ancient works of Confucius, placed the Way of Wisdom in the cultivation of human nature, intelligence, heart, and instinct. (b) Nakae Tojū, Kumazawa Ryōkai, who preached Mencius rather than Confucius, and placed the summum bonum in the harmonious co-operation of knowledge and energy. These men were practically independent of the school of Fujiwara. (c) Itō Jinsai, Ogin Sorai, etc., opposed the School of Fujiwara, which was based, they said, on a false interpretation of Confucius. For them, wisdom lay in the imitation of the ancients. (d) Inouye Kinga mediated between (a) and (c). His principles led him to the Han and Tang dynasties for a true interpretation of Confucius. One of the best Japanese expositions of the history and teachings of Confucianism in Japan will be found in the writings of Professor Inouye Tetsujirō, of the Imperial University of Tokyo. See Lloyd, "Development of the Shushi Philosophy in Japan" (Trans. As. Soc. of Japan, xxxiv. 4); papers by Dr. Knox and Mr. Haga, which take up the whole of vol. xx. pt. i.; and Mr. Dening's very valuable contribution in vol. xxxv. pt. iii. of the Transactions of the same Society.
372:1 Murdoch, p. 491: "Iyeyasu gave orders to strip this bonze and all his confrères of the marks of their dignity. He had them ignominiously promenaded in Yedo and in all the places where the bonze had spread his calumnies, and finally he had the ears and most of the nose of the chief bonze cut off. These unfortunates became the talk of the whole people, and were banished from Kyōto, leaving there twenty-one magnificent houses." Murdoch notes that the Nichirenists had almost exterminated Christianity in the former domains of the Catholic daimyo Konishi, beheaded after Sekigahara.
The hostility between Nichiren and Jōdo has always been most marked. The former frequently maintain that the Pure Land Sects, who worship Amida, should openly declare themselves for what they really are—Christians.
373:1 The story is well told by Marnas in "La Réligion de Jésus Christ resuscitée au Japon." See also Wilberforce, "Dominican Martyrs in Japan." One or two attempts were made by the Roman Church to communicate with these isolated Christians, but in vain. See Trans. As. Soc. of Japan, vol. ix. pt. 2, and xxiii. pt. 3; also Mitteilungen d. deutschen Gesellschaft für Natur and Völkerkunde Ostasiens (Tokyo), vol. vi. (54), v (45). Occasional relics of the prosecution are still to be found. The Ven. A. F. King was once shown by a convert an old box which had been in the possession of his family for very many years. It had never been opened, and none of the family knew what it contained; but it had always been the practice for the head of the family to go into the storeroom where it was kept, on certain fixed days, and to spend some time before the box in silent worship. When the box was opened, it was found to contain Christian pictures and other sacred emblems. A few years ago a Catholic priest in Tokyo found the bowl of a chalice said to have belonged to a native Jesuit priest who had been martyred. It still belonged to the family of the martyr.
375:1 The esteem in which Iemitsu was held by his immediate retainers is shown by the fact that ten of his samurai committed suicide at his grave. Ietsuna's Government subsequently forbade the practice.
375:2 E.g. Dazai Junsui. See articles by R. J. Kirby, Trans. As. Soc. Japan, xxxii., xxxiv. 4, xxxv. 2.
375:3 Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu and Ogiwara Shigehide.
376:1 Among these must be reckoned the celebrated O-oka Tadasuke, the judge under Tokugawa Yoshimune (1716–1745), whose wise though eccentric judgments did much to reconcile the people to the Shōgunate. Yoshimune was very popular. His nickname was "Rice-Shōgun."
377:1 We might mention Yamagata Daini and Fujii Umon, executed in 1758, and Takenouchi Shikibu, exiled the same year. See also the "Life of Watanabe Noboru" in Trans, As. Soc. of Japan, vol. xxxii.