Introduction: Buddhism in Japan
Buddhism has played pivotal role in establishing and sovereignty in the world, especially the Asian countries of India, Japan, China and Korea. It has its roots in the early centuries where it spread on to Japan in the middle of the 6th century. However, the source of Buddhism established in Japan is still a matter of debate and is discussed by various scholars even today.
Many have supported the phenomena which states that Buddhism spread to Japan in A.D. 538 through a Korean ruler of the Baekje province, who wanted to develop relationship and gain help from the then Japanese ruler named, Kimmei with Buddhist scriptures, arts and images of Buddha as well as religious writings. After 40 years from this incident, when Prince Shotoku came into reign, following Empress Suiko, Buddhism was declared as the official religion in Japan by him. He developed many policies for the people that would help them in better execution of trade with foreign countries. Thus, this inculcated a feeling of respect for the ruler as well as for the religion in the minds of the people. Shotoku was one of the first Japanese person who converted completely to Buddhism and he carried the treatment of his father through Buddhist practices. This saved the life of his father and he too converted to Buddhism (JAPAN BUDDHIST FEDERATION 2004).
It was found that even after the end of King Shotoku, Buddhism emerged and flourished between the people, the nobles and the court policies and structures. There were many Buddhist temples which were developed by the rulers and they propagated the Buddhist religion and its philosophy among the common people. There was development of six Nara schools of Buddhism in the temples for maintaining the flow of monks and classifying them into different schools for better utilization of their energy and work (LaFleur 1986).
Buddhism has been very helpful in development of the Japanese culture, its economy as well as its style of ruling by the emperors. Its introduction in Japan has two different theories and stories. There were many clashes among the different clans in Japan regarding the introduction and acceptance of Buddhism as a religion and ideology for Japan. However, despite of the above mentioned opposition, Buddhism has emerged as a powerful tool in developing the trade and culture of Japan with other countries since its introduction in 6th century.
The historical argument is regarding the source of introduction of Buddhism in Japan where, it is believed by few researchers and historians that it originated in the proposed that it was introduced in the Kofun period which was from A.D. 250 to A.D. 538. On the other hand, most of the researchers and historians claim that it was introduced in Japan through the Korean ruler of the province, Baekje, in A.D. 538, which is mentioned in the above section. The argument regarding the introduction of Buddhism in Japan has been incorporated in the thesis statement.
The thesis statement tends to be the subject around which the report would be developed. The thesis statement of our report is:
Was Buddhism introduced in A.D. 538, by the Korean ruler or it was introduced in the Kofun period?
Historical Interaction: Economy`
The introduction of Buddhism in Japan heavily influenced its trade with other countries where earlier it used to carry its trade mostly with China and other small Asian countries. It provided a scope for improving the trade relations with other powerful countries of the world. This not only improved the trade, but also raised the Japanese economy to a compatible level with other rich and commercial countries. The effects were found right since the reign of Prince Shotoku in A.D. 562. He had established peace and sovereignty in Japan through introduction of Buddhism and implementing it as the official religion in Japan. The execution of trade with Europe helped in economic up liftment of Japan. This was possible through the message of peace that was given by following Buddhism religion and announcing it as their official religion (Covell 2006).
The economy of japan had to suffer due to the aggressive nature and non-compliance of the Japanese rulers with the rulers of other countries. They always wanted to expand their territorial boundaries to expand their kingdom. However, this situation changed after the adoption of Buddhism. Buddhism made the rulers calm and more peaceful which benefited their relations with rulers of other countries. Many policies were developed to promote trade between the nations. This was the historical interaction of Buddhism with the economic aspects of Japan.
Historical Interaction: Politics
The political influence of Buddhism in Japan is hardly found today, but in the 6th century, it had large impact on the politics of Japan. Buddhism was opposed by the two clans right from its introduction in Japan and since then there was discontent among the people of this clans regarding the acceptance of Buddhism as the official religion of Japan.
The rulers had difference in principles of ruling the public and this led to conflicts among the rulers. There were many rulers who tried to suppress the growth of Buddhism as they considered it as a threat to the traditional Shinto religion. However, they were opposed by their military as well as their subjects who wanted peace and so they favored Buddhist religion. Politically, Buddhism started gaining importance in the next few years where increasing number of people adopted the religion and it became very difficult for other rulers to suppress or restrict it. This was the impact of the historical interaction of Buddhism with the Japanese politics.
Historical Interaction: Culture
The highest influence of Buddhism was on the culture of Japan where the arts, images, scriptures and writings were taken from Buddhism. The art and paintings of Buddhism had a great impact on the Japanese style of painting. There were many Japanese scriptures who derive their source from Buddhist scriptures (Dolan and Worden 1994).
The principles of peace and sovereignty over power were liked by the people and they practiced it in the next years where, they passed its scriptures and learnings from one generation to another. The court had adopted Buddhism religion as the Buddhist principles were based on moral and intellectual thinking which was not observed in the traditional Shinto practices. Hence, though the court had to adopt written literature of the Chinese culture, they started understanding the importance of Buddhism and learned it through a period of years which helped in developing their own Buddhist scriptures and laws (Baker 2005). Thus, the historical interaction of Buddhism and the Japanese culture helped in the overall development and progress of the Japanese culture.
Many sources have established the influence of Buddhism on the peace and progress of Japan. It is observed that the adoption of Buddhism, in A.D. 538, was protested by the two clans of Japan, which were, Nakatomi and Mononobe. However, it was strongly supported by the Sogo clan which played a significant role in the Japanese economy during that time. The earlier mentioned two clans of Nakatomi and Mononobe had orthodox approach and they opposed the inculcation of Buddhism in Japan’s culture and economy.
The leader of the Nakatomi clan believed that Buddhism propagated Buddha to be the most powerful of all the lords and deities and this was not accepted by him as it would reduce their power among the people. As a result of this, they opposed Buddhism. The Sogo clan however, identified the importance of adopting Buddhism to enrich their culture on a global level. There were many controversies and contradiction between these two clans where the heavy influence of the Soga clan on the Japanese economy helped them to emerge as victorious from the argument of adopting Buddhism on national level as one of its own religion.
Then, after the reign of King Shokotu, in the Taika period, which followed Kofun period, from A.D. 645 to A.D. 710, there was increasing adoption of Buddhism and its culture. In the Nara and Heian period from A.D. 710 to A.D. 1185, Buddhism gained the official status of being an official religion in the whole of Japan.
The importance and role of Buddhism in the Japanese economy, culture and politics has increased significantly which is clearly evident from its history.
Baker, Maikeru. 2005. “Cultural Diffusion and Its Effects on Japan.” http://www.samurai-archives.com. Accessed November 3, 2015. http://www.samurai-archives.com/cde.html.
Covell, Stephen G. 2006. “Buddhism in Japan.”.” Buddhism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives (Buddhism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives (2006): 219.) 219.
Dolan, Ronald E., and Robert L. Worden. 1994. Japan: A Country Study. Descriptive , Washington, DC: : Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress.
JAPAN BUDDHIST FEDERATION. 2004. PART I: A BRIEF HISTORY OF BUDDHISM IN JAPAN. Accessed November 3, 2015. http://www.buddhanet.net/nippon/nippon_partI.html.
LaFleur, W. R. 1986. The karma of words: Buddhism and the literary arts in medieval Japan. Univ of California Press.