Japanese Buddhism



The religious history of Japan has been a long process of mutual influence between different religions. Japanese Buddhism was introduced in 584 B.C. when the monarch of the Korean empire of Paekche sent a Buddha statue and copies of sutras to the court of the Japanese emperor. During that time Japanese Buddhism had a deep effect on the Shinto beliefs and vice-versa. The introduction of Buddhism in Japan was partially responsible for the Shinto religion to be more organized. It did not take much time for Buddhism to spread throughout Japan in spite of the existence of different native religions in each Japanese community. The arrival of Buddhism in Japan can also be categorized in the following way: firstly Japanese Buddhism was only accepted by the royal court and then disseminated in the country from the top, secondly Japanese Buddhism was often associated with magical powers and was used as a means of preventing or curing various diseases and lastly Japanese Buddhism did not replace the indigenous kami, rather recognized their power and existence.

During the Karnakura period two major developments occurred in Japanese Buddhism.

Yakushi, the healing Buddha, was widely worshiped in early Japanese Buddhism. The first was the establishment of the Zen School of Buddhism by the founder of the Rinzai Sect, Eisai which was later modified by the founder of the Soto sect, Dogen.

The second major development which occurred in Japanese Buddhism was the rapid growth of popular Buddhist sects among the common masses. One of the sect known as the Pure Land sect was ruled by Amitabha Buddha. The Yakushi cult attracted many followers in later ages as well, and was particularly popular in the Aizu region in the Heian and Kamakura periods.

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