Buddhism in Japan from Prehistoric to Kamakura Period

Buddhism in Japan might have been brought by early merchants traveling the Silk Road from India, to China, to Korea and to Japan. Because of the constant interaction between these countries, many Buddhist teachings and practices, particularly the Mahayana Buddhism, together with some Chinese cultural traditions became integrated with Japan’s own cultural development.

At first, conflicts with Shinto belief caused delay in the spread of the Buddhist religion. Ancient Japanese people regarded Buddha as one of the kamis yet many were attracted to the beauty of its arts and the promises of concrete benefits such as “wealth and longevity”. As time went on, more and more people recognized that Buddhism has its own belief that was thought to be complementary with the existing Shinto religion, Japan’s native religion.

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During the Nara period, some Buddhist monasteries built around the capital Nara gained political influence in the ruling government. Because of this ambitious and militant movement of monasteries, the government was forced to move the capital from Nara to Nagaoka (784AD) and then to Kyoto (794AD). This issue remained a problem for many centuries in the Japanese history. During the Heian Period (794-1185), many sects were grabbing popular attention over the Japanese population.
These sects presented Buddhism in a way that best suited the ancient Japanese culture and tradition as seen from these three sects: Shingon sect (774-835AD) by Kukai; True Pure Land Sect (1173-1262) by Shinran; and, Lotus Hokke or Nichiren Sect (1222-1282) founded by Nichiren. The acceptance of Buddhism can be attributed from the works of these sects, which still have millions of followers as of today. In conclusion, Buddhism in Japan became popular since its core practices and teachings were complementary with Shinto religion as shown by popular Buddhist sects named above.
References (“Buddhism in Japan”; , “Japanese Buddhism”, 2004; , “A View on Buddhism: History of Japanese Buddhism”) Buddhism in Japan. (n. d. ). Retrieved April 6, 2007, from http://afe. easia. columbia. edu/japan/japanworkbook/religion/jbuddhis. html Japanese Buddhism. (2004). Retrieved April 6, 2007, from http://www. japan-guide. com/e/e2055. html A View on Buddhism: History of Japanese Buddhism. (November 30, 2006). Retrieved April 6, 2007, from http://buddhism. kalachakranet. org/history_japanese_buddhism. html

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