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The Creed of Half Japan, by Arthur Lloyd, [1911], at

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The Buddhism of Kamakura

Kamakura is connected with Yoritomo and the Regents of the Hōjō family. Yoritomo, the first of the Minamoto Shōguns (1147–1199), was the son of that Yoshitomo who, after leaguing himself with the Taira against his own clan, and bearing arms against his own father, ended by breaking with the Taira for their want of gratitude, and perished miserably at the hands of one of his own retainers, who hoped to earn the favour of Kiyomori by sending him the head of his misguided master.

His wife, Tokiwa Gozen, who had once been a consort of the Emperor Konoe, and had escaped with her three children from the massacre in which her husband had perished, sacrificed her own person to the vindictive Kiyomori, in order thereby to save the three children whom she had borne to Yoshitomo. One of these children was Yoritomo; the other was Yoshitsune, the favourite hero of Japanese history and romance.

Yoritomo was about thirteen years old when his father died. His mother's self-sacrifice induced Kiyomori to spare him; but he was banished to Izu, where he did not behave very well; though he managed to secure the affections of his guardian's daughter, the beautiful and capable Masa-ko, who ran away from home to join her lover on the outbreak of his war against the Taira, and who may be said to have laid the foundations of the Hōjō

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family, by procuring for her father the nomination to the office of Regent (Shikken). Yoritomo's arms were successful; he and his associates defeated the Taira partisans at Ichi-no-tani (1184), at Yashima (1184), and finally at Dan-no-ura (1185), after which he found himself practically master of Japan, being invested in 1192 with the title of Sei-i-tai Shōgun, a title which for seven successive centuries continued to designate the personage in whose hands nominally lay the practical administrative and military power in Japan.

But long before that, in the early part of his campaigns, after his defeat at Ishibashiyama in 1181, he had (under Hōjō Tokimasa's advice) made Kamakura his headquarters, and had there organized the samurai who rallied round the Minamoto standard into a compact military body, which assured to him the victory over his rivals throughout Japan. The Kamakura Bakufu—a state within a state—organized by the genius of Hōjō Tokimasa—was to the rest of Japan in those days what Prussia was to the rest of Germany in 1866, better organized, better drilled, better disciplined, and it was thanks to the Hōjō genius that the Minamoto secured the hegemony of the Empire.

When Yoritomo died, in 1199, his widow, Masako, who knew the impetuous stormy character of the Minamoto family, took precautions to preserve from destruction the system which her father at Kamakura had elaborated with so much care and forethought. Yoritomo's son, Yoriie, was indeed put in his father's place, and in 1202 invested with the title of Sei-i-tai-shōgun; but he was restricted in his liberty by a Council of State, appointed to assist him in his functions, and the chairman of that Council was Hōjō Tokimasa, who now received the title of Shikken, or Regent. The Shōgunate soon passed out

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of the feeble hands of Yoritomo's descendants; but the Hōjō Regents still continued to exercise their power in the name of the puppet-Shōguns, whom they themselves nominated. Japan thus beheld the spectacle of an Emperor the whole of whose administrative powers had devolved upon a Shōgun, who, again, was but a puppet, with all his functions usurped by a Regent who ruled in the Shōgun's name. Theoretically, nothing could be conceived more hopeless than this extremely anomalous arrangement of the government. Practically, the system worked with fair smoothness for over a century, from A.D. 1200 to 1333. The Hōjō Regents were on the whole men of ability, power, and uprightness (as uprightness was reckoned in those difficult days), and brought the ship of State to a safe haven through some most dangerous storms. But they had nothing to recommend them except their own personal qualities. Takatoki, the ninth and last of the Regents, was weak and dissolute, and his enemies promptly seized the opportunity to overthrow the Hōjō house. The Emperor Godaigo was a strong man, and powerfully supported by the Tendai monks from Hieizan. For a brief space the Imperial House became the ruling power; the Regency was abolished, the puppet-Shōguns disappeared, and a new succession of actual Shōguns (of the Ashikaga House) was inaugurated in 1338, residing once more in Kyōto. The day of Kamakura was over.

The Hōjō Regents were by no means indifferent to the claims of religion. But theirs was a military organization, supported by all that was best and most practical among the military classes of Japan, and neither Tendai, Shingon, nor Jōdo was robust enough to attract the spirit of a true soldier (for the term "soldier" could scarcely be applied to the fighting men who fattened on the revenues of the Hieizan and similar temples, and fought the battles

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of the worldly priests). The Hōjō found in the Zen sects the particular form of Buddhism that suited them best.

The Zen sects (there are three in Japan) derive their separate existence from a celebrated Indian priest, Bodhidharma, who arrived in China in the year 526 A.D., just two years before the foundation of the Benedictine Order in Europe.

It was in India a period of religious strife and confusion. The Hindus were protesting, vigorously and successfully, against Mahāyāna and Hīnayāna alike, and were gradually absorbing into their own systems all that was good in the Buddhist religion. 1 A great opposition (we might better call it a persecution 2) was being raised against the "sons of S’akyamuni," and many Buddhist priests found it convenient to leave India and seek refuge abroad. Many of them found their way to China, which was then divided into two rival kingdoms, of the north under the Wei, of the south under the Sung, with several minor principalities. Both dynasties favoured the Buddhist religion, partly, it may be presumed, for political reasons, and many embassies came from India and Central Asia to ask for the assistance of China, the leading Buddhist power in Asia. The prince of the Wei, like Shōtoku Taishi, lectured publicly on Buddhism, but his Confucianist subjects observed that his Buddhist principles did not prevent him from waging an active war against the neighbouring principality of the Liang. In the early years of the sixth century it was estimated

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that there were over three thousand refugee Indian missionaries at work in China. It was observed with concern that there was a tremendous multiplication of Mahāyāna books, many of them evidently spurious, and the rapid spread of magical arts among the Buddhists was very rightly viewed as a matter of very ill omen. The early "harmonists" (as they may be called) were trying to bring order out of the chaos by constructing schemes of S’akyamuni's life and ministry which might embrace the whole of this wide cycle of doctrines and scriptures. The predecessors of Chisha Daishi, the founder of the Chinese Tendai, were already hard at work in framing their philosophy of religion. But the temporal authorities of the time had other and more drastic measures. In A.D. 515 the rulers of the Wei put to death a number of Chinese Buddhist priests for practising magical arts; in 518 the Wei Government dispatched two commissioners to India to report on religion and bring back authentic books; and in 526 Bodhidharma arrived to put things in order.

Bodhidharma was no ordinary priest. He was esteemed amongst the Buddhists as the twenty-eighth Patriarch of their Church, as the legitimate successor of the first Apostles of S’akyamuni, the rightful occupant of the chair in which Mahākaśyapa had sat in the first Council immediately after the Master's death. Troubles in India had undoubtedly something to do with Bodhidharma's visit to China; but, apart from that, he had undoubtedly also come to fulfil a mission of reform. His visit to China had very much the same significance as would have that of an Archbishop of Canterbury who should undertake a "mission of help" to the Anglican Missions in Japan.

He was a man of strong will and character. He did

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not stoop to flatter kings. When he first met the Emperor Wu of the Sung Dynasty, the Emperor began to speak of the good works that he had done. "I have built many temples," he said, "and endowed thousands of priests. What merit have I acquired?" 1 "None at all," was the priest's blunt reply. The man who would thus address an Emperor was not likely to spare his own religious household. He sat in the Chair once occupied by As’vaghosha, Nāgārjuna, Vasubandhu, and the great Doctors whose names have come before us so often in the course of this history, but he would not recognize as genuine the many works that claimed to come from their pens. 2 "You cannot get Buddhism from books," was his contention. "If you want Enlightenment you must get it as S’akyamuni did, as the great Kaśyapa did, as Nāgārjuna and Vasubandhu did—by meditation. Books will only tell you about it—meditation and contemplation will procure it for you." And he established a discipline of contemplation which may be compared with the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.

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[paragraph continues] Zazen, as the Japanese call it, is a very difficult course of contemplations, with suggestions from the spiritual director which furnish topics and hints, but no more. When the postulant has got through the course, he may have obtained Enlightenment, or he may not; he has, at any rate, gone through a course of mental discipline which has given him to some extent the mind of a soldier.

Such was the Buddhism which the Hōjō Regents called to their aid when they were engaged in making Kamakura the military centre of a reformed Japan. The Contemplative Teaching had, it is true, been for some time in the country, under the name of the Busshinshū, or Sect of Buddha's Heart, but it had been too Puritanic to find favour with the courtiers of Nara or Kyōto. In the year 1201, when Yoriie, the son of Yoritomo, was Shōgun, with his widowed mother Masako as the power behind the throne, and her father Hōjō Masamune as Regent and Head of the Kamakura Bakufu, Eisai Zenshi, the founder of the Rinzai Sect of the Zen, was invited to establish himself, first in Kyōto at the Kenninji, and afterwards at Kenkōji in Kamakura. A few years later, between 1222 and 1232, Shōyō Daishi, or Dōgen, as he was known to his contemporaries, founded the sister sect of the Sōtō which has its headquarters in the province of Echizen. 1

The Rinzai and the Sōtō, both of which came to Japan from the south of China, differ in this, that the former depends wholly and entirely on contemplation as the sole means of obtaining saving Enlightenment, while the latter adds the use of books as subsidiary aids. A translation of the chief manual used by the Zen will be found in the published transactions of the Oxford Congress of the

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[paragraph continues] History of Religions (1908); when, some twenty-five years ago, I asked a Sōtō priest to give me instruction, he began his lectures by a course of expositions of the Hannya Shingyō, or Parāmita Hridaya Sūtra. Nearly all the Sōtō priests whom I have known have been learned men; I think I may say the same of all the Rinzai priests with whom I have become acquainted. It is difficult to talk with them on purely spiritual issues, because they hold that Truth is not communicated orally from mouth to ear, but, without the intermediary of words, by a kind of wireless telegraphy from heart to heart. Zen wa zeni nashi, Monto mono wo shiradzu. "The Zen priests have no money," says the proverb, "the Monto (Shinshu) priests no understanding."

The Zen sects have always been more or less influenced by Confucianism. Indeed, I have heard them described as being more Confucianist than Buddhist—au obvious exaggeration of facts. But the Zen monks sat loose to the teachings of the Sūtras, which their: first Founder had taught them to look on with suspicion, and in their office as teachers they required some mental food to take the place of the discredited books. 1 Confucianism had never been looked upon in Japan as being antagonistic to Buddhism, and Kōbō Daishi (even if it was not Shōtoku) had spoken of Buddhism, Taoism (Shinto), and Confucianism as the three legs of the tripod on which rested the

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religious and temporary welfare of Japan. Confucianism had from the earliest times in historical Japan been looked upon as the religious philosophy of the man-at-arms or the man of affairs, and the bid which, under the patronage of the Hōjō Regents, the Zenshu teachers made for the suffrages of the samurai was likely to be all the more acceptable if it came strongly seasoned with a Confucianist flavour. The establishment of the Zen corresponded with the entry into China of the improved and refined Confucianism of the Chinese reformer Chūhi, or Shushi (to give him his Japanese name), and the two systems may be said to have made common cause in their attempts to influence the religious thought of the military and governing classes.

Perhaps the most picturesque figure in the Zen world is that of Hōjō Tokiyori, the fifth of the Kamakura Regents, who held office from 1246 to 1256, and then retired into a monastery, being henceforth known as Saimyōji Nyūdō. But his retirement was not in the least like those of the poor Emperors and Shōguns at Kyōtō, who were dropped from the ship for fear they should want to take part in the management of the vessel of State. Tokiyori knew that, as Regent, it was very difficult for him to learn the true state of the country. He could only make State progresses along roads carefully swept and cleaned for his reception, to see just what the local authorities wanted him to see. And the times made it imperative for the men at the helm of State to have accurate and trustworthy knowledge. Tokiyori accordingly resigned his Regency in favour of his young son Tokimune, whom he left in the care of trustworthy ministers, 1 donned

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the priestly habit, and started off on an unofficial tour of inspection. He learned a very great deal, and, returning to Kamakura, placed the information he had gained at the disposal of his son and successor. The information was most valuable, for Japan was about to pass through one of the most severe crises in her national history—a crisis of which I shall speak in a subsequent chapter.


The Zen system touches the philosophic thought of India very closely. It has also many points of contact with Confucianism. It recognizes a supreme Being; but absolutely refuses to personify Him. To personify God, says the Zenshuist, whether as Vairoc’ana, as Amida, as S’akyamuni, or as Jehovah, is to limit Him. He cannot be tied up to any form; He transcends the widest, highest, deepest conceptions of the human mind. Yet the Zen does not blame those who thus personify God and by personifying limit Him. It recognizes that for certain minds personification is a necessity. The Infinite mind must become Finite, in order that the Finite mind may grasp it. But a personified God is nothing but a hōben, an adaptation of the Truth to the weakness of the human intellect. Such personification, it has been observed, always serves to narrow the mind and make it intolerant. The Jew, the Mahometan, the Christian, the worshipper of Amida, of S’akyamuni, of Vairoc’ana—all in turn have become dogmatic, intolerant, uncharitable, and all for the same reason. They start from a personal, and therefore an imperfect, conception of God.

In the same way, the Zen possesses no Canon of Scripture. The Christian has his Bible, the Mahometan his Koran, every sect of Buddhism has formed its own little Canon of Holy Books out of the unwieldy mass of the Tripitaka. The formation of a canon leads to loss of

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charity. Certain books are taken as representing a divine revelation; all other books of religion are judged by this arbitrary standard, and whatever does not agree with it is rejected. The letter of Scripture has always proved to be a fruitful mother of controversy and dissension. The Zen has no special list of Sacred Books. It does not reject any Sūtras or Abhidharmas; it reads and values them for all the truths they contain, but it sets up no books as being infallible or beyond criticism. It criticizes freely all the Sacred Books of Buddhism; and it accepts, with equal freedom and reverence, the good books of all countries.

It has been said already that Zen, whilst rejecting a personal God, accepts with reverence a Something Beyond Knowledge, which lies at the back of phenomenal existence. We can never know that Being in its entirety, but we can reach to Him in three ways—"feeling after Him, and, haply, finding Him." We may look into our own hearts, by introspection and meditation, and there we shall find Him. We may look into the hearts of others by means of the Word, spoken or written, and there we shall find Him. We may look at Nature, in all its manifestations, romantic or commonplace, and there we shall find Him. For my heart is Buddha; and the heart of my brother whose books I read, is Buddha; and Nature in its entirety, the Infinitely Great, the Infinitely Small, every star or comet, every mountain range or ocean, every insect, every leaf, is Buddha.

Such is the faith of the Zenshuist. For his daily conduct he accepts no infallible guide but his own enlightened conscience, which is one with the enlightened conscience of the universe. For the details, however, of his behaviour he will follow Confucius, S’akyamuni, Epictetus, anything that will help him to lead his daily life in a manner worthy of a religious philosopher.

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The Zen, as taught by its Japanese founders, Eisai and Dōgen, and as fostered by the wise counsels of the Hōjō regents, was quite a different religion from the miracle-mongering, worldly, intriguing parody of religion which the Hossō, Kegon, Tendai, and Shingon had been palming off on the country to the obvious disgust of the warrior and the man of action. It was very different, again, from the pietistic solifidianism of Honen and Shinran, with its contempt for this world and its fixed gaze upon the joys of the Western Paradise. The Zen fired the imagination of the warrior, the statesman, the man of letters, and if Japanese art drew its inspiration from the wild fancies of Kegon and Shingon Buddhology, Japanese poetry drew it from the solid quietude of the Zen monasteries, where it was taught to look "within," into the heart and into the innermost shrine of Nature, and there to be comforted by the One, Omnipresent, Heart of Buddha, whom man can feel but not know. 1


278:1 It was this absorption into Hinduism of Buddhistic elements which enabled it to overcome the Faith of S’akyamuni. To the present day a great deal of Buddhism may be found lurking in the popular cults of India, and the Japanese Buddhist finds himself more in sympathy with the Hindu than he does with his brother Buddhist in Ceylon.

278:2 E.g. the one instituted by Mihirakula.

280:1 "Tsūzoku Bukkyo gimon Kaitoshu," vol. iii. p. 254. It is a book containing a vast amount of information, from which I hope in some subsequent volume to give many illustrative extracts. I have never seen but one copy of it, and I have only succeeded in getting vols. i. and iii. It was published in fairly simple Japanese some twenty years ago.

280:2 It is evident that this action on the part of Bodhidharma materially strengthens the view constantly brought forward in this work, viz. that the Mahāyāna books of China must be considered as of late origin, none of them being much earlier (if at all) than the first century of the Christian era.

Bodhidharma evidently held that many of the books were not in any sense Buddhist. Some of them possibly may have been, but it was impossible to distinguish the spurious from the genuine, and therefore during all the nine years of his stay in China ho is said never once to have made a discourse based on a Sūtra.

My authority is a long article on "Kenshō-jōbutsu, by Maruyama, in vol. iii. of "Tsūzoku Bukkyo gimon Kaitōshū," p. 498.

281:1 There is in Japan a third Zen sect, known as the Obaku, which was founded by refugees from China in 1659. It will be mentioned in its proper place (Chapter XXIX.).

282:1 The relations between the Zen sects and the other bodies of Japanese Buddhists is well illustrated by a phrase which I have often heard Zen priests use when speaking of other sects. They call them hōben no shūha, "The sects which employ hōben." Hōben is sometimes translated as a "fraud," sometimes as a "pious device." Both phrases are a little too strong. Hōben is an "accommodation of truth to the intelligence of the hearer," and the Zenshuists declare that the anthropomorphism of e.g. the Amida or Vairoc’ana sects is such an "accommodation of Truth." They profess not to use such accommodations themselves, but they do not blame those that do.

283:1 Hōjō Nagatoki had been the governor of the northern portion (rokuhara) of Kyōtō, but came to Kamakura to assist his young cousin.

286:1 I have drawn the thoughts contained in this description of the Zen from a treatise on Zengaku, "The Zen Philosophy," by Mr. K. Nukariya.

Next: Chapter XXIV. Nichiren and the Earlier Sects