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The Tradition of the Lotus Sutra Faith in Japan

本文作者: 11年前 (2008-03-30)

The Tradition of the Lotus Sutra Faith in Japan*Hō…

The Tradition of the Lotus Sutra Faith in Japan*
Hōyō Watanabe
1. Traditions of Chinese translations of the Lotus Sūtra
The Lotus-Sutra-based new religions that developed in Japanese society began to
attract the attention of the Japanese public—and also the attention of Western researchers
on Japan who were asking, “What is the Lotus Sutra?”—around 1945. Japanese people
and Japanese sociologists asked the same question of Japanese Buddhist scholars, but the
scholars were unable to give a definitive answer. At present, although such temporal
enthusiasm has dissipated, the Lotus Sutra’s roots have taken hold and become
widespread, and therefore such fundamental questions are not asked as often. So I believe
that now I may be allowed to offer my humble comments on this topic in my capacity as a
researcher on the Lotus Sutra.
As is known, the Lotus Sutra is thought to have been compiled during the early
stages of the development of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India. It is cited or quoted in 21
different articles in “The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom”
[􀁍􀁡􀁨􀁁􀁰􀁲􀁡􀁪􀁮􀁁􀁰􀁁􀁲􀁡􀁭􀁩􀁴􀁁􀀭􀁓􀁨􀁁􀁳􀁴􀁲􀁡; 大智度論Jpn: Daichido-ron], attributed to
􀁎􀁁􀁧􀁁􀁲􀁪􀁵􀁮􀁡.“The Treatise on the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law”
[􀁓􀁡􀁤􀁤􀁨􀁡􀁲􀁭􀁡􀁰􀁵􀁎􀁄􀁡􀁲􀁉􀁫􀁡􀀭􀁳􀁕􀁴􀁲􀁡􀀭􀁵􀁰􀁡􀁤􀁥􀁓􀁡; 滕華論Jpn: Hokke-ron], by Vasubandhu, an
overall commentary on the Lotus Sutra, is another well known work. As far as translations
from China are concerned, there are three extant versions: 1) the “Lotus Sutra of the
Correct Law” [正滕華經Chin: Cheng-fa-hua-ching; Jpn: Shō-hokke-kyō], translated by
􀁄􀁨􀁡􀁲􀁭􀁡􀁲􀁡􀁫􀁘􀁨􀁡; 竺滕護, a priest from Tun-Huang, in the year 286AD;
2) Kumarajiva’s translation in 406AD, “The Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law
[􀁓􀁡􀁤􀁤􀁨􀁡􀁲􀁭􀁡􀁰􀁵􀁎􀁄􀁡􀁲􀁉􀁫􀁡􀀭􀁳􀁕􀁴􀁲􀁡; 妙滕蓮華經Chin: Miao-fa-lien-hua-ching; Jpn:
Myōhō-renge-kyō] and, 3) the “Supplemented Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law [添品
妙滕蓮華經Chin: T’ien-p’in-fa-hua-ching; Jpn: Tempon-hokke-kyō], translated in
601AD by 􀁊􀁊􀁁􀁮􀁡􀁧􀁵􀁰􀁴􀁡 and Dharmagupta. Three other different Chinese translations are
said to have been made.
Additionally, fifteen or more commentaries were written on the Lotus Sutra in
China, all from differing basic viewpoints.
* This paper was presented at the panel“Meaning of the Lotus Sutra for Contemporary Humanity”
in the XIVth Conference of the International Association of Buddhist Studies held at the S.O.A.S,
London University, in London, U.K. ( Sept. 3, 2005)
この論文は、平成1 7 年9 月3 日ロンドン大学に於ける第1 4 回国際仏教学会学術大会でのパネル
“Meaning of the Lotus Sutra for Contemporary Humanity”で発表されたものである。
Among those, the most influential ones were written by Chih-i (538-597). He
gave lectures on the sutras, and especially on the Lotus Sutra. He left three major works:
1) The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra [滕華玄義Chin: Fa-hua-hsüan-i; Jpn:
Hokke-gengi]; 2) “The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra” [滕華文句Chin:
Fa-hua-wen-chü; Jpn: Hokke-mongu]; and, 3) Great Concentration and Insight [摩訶止
観Chin: Mo-ho-chih-kuan; Jpn: Maka-shikan]. These were written down, compiled, and
preserved by his disciple Chang-an( 章安) . The sixth patriarch of the Chinese T’ien-t’
ai sect, Chan-jan [湛然: Tannen] (711-782), endeavored to revitalize the sect, which had
been in decline, and he wrote commentaries on Chih-i’s lectures called: “The Annotations
on The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra” [滕華玄義釈箋Chin:
Fa-hua-hsüan-i-shi-ch’ien; Jpn: Hokke-gengi-shaku-sen], “The Annotations on The
Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra” [滕華文句記Chin: Fa-hua-wen-chü-chi; Jpn:
Hokke-mongu-ki], and “The Annotations on Great Concentration and Insight” [摩訶止
観輔行伝弘湺Chin: Chih-kuan-fu-shing-chuan-hung-chüeh; Jpn:
Shikan-bugyō-den-guketsu]. With these he tried to emphasize the real meaning of Chih-i’
s teachings; and, with several other writings, he tried to deepen the Buddhistic
understanding of Chih-i’s concept of Kyō-kan ni mon (教観二門) (two pillars: doctrine
and practice), i.e., concentration on the teachings and on the methods and practices
contained in the treatise “Great Concentration and Insight.”
In understanding the Lotus Sutra, Chih-i paid attention to shohō-jissō (諸滕實
相), the “true aspect of all phenomena,” found at the beginning of chapter two, which
was followed by jū-nyoze (十如是), the “ten factors of life,” which is presented to
suggest the outline and significance of shohō-jissō (諸滕實相), true aspect of all
phenomena. In the traditions of the Chinese sects of scholastic Buddhism, Chih-i focused
attention on two factors which he considered to be the foundation upon which the
concept of jū-nyoze (十如是) functions. One of them, described in the
Buddha-avatamsaka Sutra [華嚴經 Jpn: Kegon-kyō], was jikkai (十界), “the ten
potential states (worlds) of life inherent in each living being,” and the other was
san-seken (三世間), the “three realms of existence” (the realm of living beings, the realm
of the five components, and the material, or environmental realm), which was one of the
subjects of “The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom,” mentioned previously.
With regard to jū-nyoze (十如是), the ten factors, he made it clear that three aspects of
existence, appearance (相), nature (性), and entity (体), become actual function that is
accompanied by potential power (力) and actualization of potential power (作). These
five factors operate along with internal cause (因), condition (縁), latent effect (果),
and manifest effect(報). Ultimately, all of the previous nine actors function consistently
and harmoniously as an interrelated whole (本末究竟等).
So, the jū-nyoze (十如是) mentioned in the text of the Lotus Sutra should be
recognized as the operation of existing things within the world of their actual state of
existence—which can range, within the ten potential worlds of the jikkai (十界), from
ignorance to enlightenment. Moreover, it is necessary to recognize that this scheme is not
only operating with regard to living beings. The material realm does not exist
independently from the mind of living beings; rather, it is an object of perception
paralleling the realm of the living. Thus, the material realm and the realm of living beings
cannot be separated. The realm of the five components (form, perception, conception,
volition, and consciousness), links the material realm with the realm of living beings.
Existing things are recognized through a relationship between a perceiver—the function
of the five components through its eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body, and the
corresponding five senses of vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch—and the object of
perception; there is no recognition if one aspect is not present.
Thus from the simple words of shohō-jissō (諸滕實相) and jū-nyoze (十如是)
in chapter two of the Lotus Sutra, Chih-i conceived that the jū-nyoze (十如是) (ten
factors), jikkai (十界) (ten worlds), and san-seken (三世間) (three realms), are
intimately interacting in one’s perception during each moment. This is the basic idea that
underlies the concept of “ichi-nen sanzen”( 一念三千) —embracing three thousand
realms in a single moment.
2. The Succession of the Concept of ichi-nen sanzen( 一念三千)
The foregoing was a brief summary of the main theme detailed in Chih-i’s “Great
Concentration and Insight.” However, there is research which claims that the creation of
the concept of “ichi-nen sanzen”( 一念三千) was done by Chan-jan (湛然), the sixth
patriarch of the T’ien-t’ai sect. This theme is taken up in the work, “Doubt on the Theory
of Ichinen-sanzen (一念三千) in the Maka-shikan (摩訶止観),” by Tetsuei Sato, that
appears in “Indogaku Bukkyogaku Kenkyu,” #13, Volume 7-1, but I will not go into detail
on that subject in this paper.
What I would like to address in this presentation is the fact that the doctrine of
ichi-nen sanzen (一念三千滕門) has been transmitted within the T’ien-t’ai/Tendai
tradition as a very significant and important doctrine until the present day.
In Japan, Dengyō Daishi Saichō (伝教大師最澄) [767-822] founded the Hieizan
Enryaku Ji (比叡幱延暦寺), and proposed the establishment of a comprehensive
Buddhism that included en-gyō (円教)(perfect teachings), mikkyō (密教) (esoteric
teachings), zen-shugyō (襌修行) (meditation practice), and kai-ritsu (戒律) (precepts).
The central philosophy of en-gyō (円教), the perfect teachings, is the above mentioned
doctrine of ichi-nen sanzen (一念三千滕門) . The doctrinal texts of the Japanese Tendai
sect, which were developed mainly on the basis of isshin-sangan”(一心三観) (threefold
contemplation in a single mind), were almost uncountable in number, and they were
lectured on and recorded in various ways. After Dengyō Daishi Saichō (伝教大師最澄),
the Lotus Sutra Buddhism of the Heian Period (平安滕華佛教) focused on parallel study
of the various schools of Buddhist thought.
Hōnen-bō-Genkū (滕然房源空) (1133-1212) wrote the
“Senchaku-hongan-nenbutsu-shū”(選択本願念佛集) and proposed the
ikkō-nenbutsu-senshu (一向念佛市修), which means, “the concentrated practice of
nembutsu (念佛)” (chanting the name of Amida Buddha). Following him, Shinran (親
鸞), Dōgen (道元), and Nichiren (日蓮) appeared. These founders of Kamakura New
Buddhism denounced the kind of Buddhism that had been practiced up until the
Kamakura period as “mixed practice and mixed study,” and they emphasized
concentrated practice based on the doctrines that they had respectively developed.
Within this trend, Nichiren (日蓮) proposed focused practice on daimoku
senshu (題目市修)(chanting the title of the Lotus Sutra). In the Golden Age of the “Pure
Land sects” (浄土教), only Nichiren proposed focusing chanting practice on the title of
the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren’s acceptance of the Lotus Sutra is based on the doctrine of
ichi-nen sanzen (一念三千) discussed in Chih-i’s Great Concentration and Insight (摩
訶止観). Nichiren further developed the various theories of T’ien-t’ai/Tendai and
advocated the “acceptance of the title of the Lotus Sutra.” Nichiren’s practice has now
expanded all over the world.
The Lotus-Sutra based “New Buddhism” that developed in the modern age
differentiated itself from traditional Buddhism in that it aggressively tried to propagate
itself to the general public.
3. English translations of the Lotus Sutra from Sanskrit originals
As one of the projects of the East India Trading Company, the Eastern Sacred
Books series, edited by Max Muller, was published. Within that series, the Lotus Sutra
(􀁓􀁡􀁤􀁤􀁨􀁡􀁲􀁭􀁡􀁰􀁵􀁮􀁤􀁡􀁲􀁉􀁫􀁡􀀭􀁳􀁕􀁴􀁲􀁡), as translated by Kern, was published. Western research
on the Lotus Sutra was introduced by Keisho Tsukamoto in his article “Western View of
Nichiren—research by G. Renondeau and W. Kobler,” which appeared in the work,
Lotus-Sutra Based Buddhism in Modern Japan, edited by Mochizuki Kanko.
Since then, translations and research based on original Sanskrit have been
continuing, piece-by-piece, until today. Regarding the Lotus Sutra, the influence of
Iwanami Bunko’s three-volume series, “The Lotus Sutra,” is very great. In this translation
work, the left pages contain a translation from Sanskrit originals into Japanese by Hiroshi
Iwamoto. The upper half of the facing pages on the right contain the corresponding
translation by Kumarajiva into Chinese, while the lower half of the same page contains
the Japanese reading of Kumarajiva’s Chinese characters. This work was originally
intended to be a comparison of both translations by showing them facing each other. But
there were differences in the original source texts, so it was not necessarily possible to
make an accurate comparison at first glance. In the chapter on Kanzeon Bodhisattva
(Avalokitesvara), for instance, there is a Sanskrit sentence that does not appear in the
Chinese translation.
Among such differences, the most significant ones relate to the shohō-jissō (諸滕
實相) and the jū-nyoze (十如是) in chapter two. The comparison reveals that the
jū-nyoze (十如是) of the Chinese does not appear in such a form in the original Sanskrit.
In fact, scholars of Sanskrit originals share the opinion that there is no such jū-nyoze (十
如是) in the Sanskrit. At the same time, researchers on the Chinese translations consider
that further study should be done to determine whether it is really does not exist in the
Sanskrit; and, furthermore, that when following traditional understandings of the Chinese
translations of the Myō-hōrenge-kyō (妙滕蓮華經), such understandings cannot be
established without the jū-nyoze (十如是), which is why it cannot be eliminated.
4. Traditions within Chinese translations of Myō-hōrenge-kyō (妙滕蓮華經)
Regarding Kumarajiva’s Chinese translation work on the Myō-hōrenge-kyō (妙
滕蓮華經), his disciple and assistant, Sêng-chao [僧肇Jpn: Sōjō], left records;
however, no references to the above discussed jū-nyoze (十如是) could be found in
them. But as Dr. Fuse Kougaku mentioned in his article, “Assuming the Difficulty of
Translations by Kumarajiva” which appeared in Osaki Gakuhō (大崎学報) Volume 100,
the attitude of Kumarajiva’s translation project was not simply to translate Sanskrit into
Chinese, but to try convey the message of the Lotus Sutra as well.
Chih-i quoted seventeen epithets of the Lotus Sutra found in the Vasubandhu’s
“The Treatise on the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law” in his lectures. When we
consider how such a tradition of reverence for the Lotus Sutra has been passed on
continuously until today, it is quite understandable that such reverence for the sutra could
be incorporated into the efforts of the Chinese translations.
The Lotus Sutra does not talk much about specific doctrines. However,
shohō-jissō (諸滕實相) is one prominent theme, and it is quite natural to assume that
there was an intention to reinforce that concept with jū-nyoze (十如是) at the time of the
Chinese translations.
At any rate, I would like to point out here that, rather than employing only a
technique of pure translation, Chinese translations traditionally had an element of
interpretation operating in the background.
5. Contemporary Interest in Research on the Lotus Sutra
Religions are always developing or being revived during any age, and following
the First World War, in the 1930s in particular, there were efforts on a global scale to
revive religions in different forms based on the growing recognition of the existence of
the “self.”
Reviewing the history of the formation of the various sects of Japanese
Buddhism, ancient Buddhism developed in Japan as a national religion; and even
following the “early modern age” (over the last 140 years) it was positioned and used to
strengthen governmental systems and procedures. Within this atmosphere of
governmental influence, it is quite impressive that the sects of the so-called Kamakura
New Buddhism founded by Hōnen (滕然), Shinran (親鸞), Dōgen (道元), and
Nichiren (日蓮) in the middle ages developed outside of such integration into the
national governing structure. Furthermore, a review of the activities of those sects up to
the beginning of the early modern age shows that, among them, the sects of Shinran (親
鸞) and Nichiren (日蓮) particularly maintained their separation from governmental
authorities. That may be the reason why they still maintain popular influence in current
times. Shinran’s sect, however, became associated with governmental policy making from
the late early modern age until the dawn of the modern age. By contrast, Nichiren’s sect
did not have any such relationship with the national government, and because of that, it
was free from any popular conceptions of being under any government control or
influence, and it maintained a potential to develop freely. I believe that this historical
background was one of the foundations for the explosive development of lay movements
from Nichiren’s sect following the Edo period.
The theme of “Lotus Sutra reverence in the modern age” is at the core of these
various popular movements, both new and old, and these movements can be
characteristically described as daimoku shinkō (題目信仰) (organizations expressing
faith in the Lotus Sutra’s name). But it is quite doubtful whether doctrinal understanding
of the above mentioned ichi-nen sanzen (一念三千) is thoroughly transmitted in such
Lotus Sutra reverence movements. Even in traditional sects, ichi-nen sanzen (一念三千)
remains as a statement of doctrine, but it is not fully reflected in the actual practice of the
Nevertheless, reaffirmation of the traditional doctrines will probably happen
sooner or later in the new movements that are non-mainstream. At any rate, doctrine is an
important issue, and it needs to be understood in some practical sense.
Within an environment that was focusing on Indian Buddhism after 1945, it is
quite natural that the bodhisattva way (菩薩道) became prominent in the new trends of
thought. The bodhisattva way is repeatedly emphasized in the Lotus Sutra. According to
traditional doctrinal interpretations, the doctrine of ichi-nen sanzen (一念三千) lies
strongly in the background of bodhisattva practice, but since the phrase ichi-nen sanzen
(一念三千) is not found in the original Lotus Sutra, emphasis on bodhisattva practice did
not have to be taken from that perspective. Thus it became possible for the elucidation of
the concept of one vehicle (一乗思想), which is expounded in the Lotus Sutra, to take
on new forms, and it became effectively presentable as a doctrine of practical value for
some sects.
There is, however, room for traditional doctrines to become integrated into such
new interpretations. This is how both new and old Lotus Sutra reverence movements have
been developing in different forms up to now—creating new faces, fusing old and new, or
reverting to tradition—and we can assume that there will continue to be new
developments in the future.
6) Interest in the Lotus Sutra within Literature and Art
So far, I have briefly looked at the tradition of Lotus Sutra reverence and its
development in the early modern age and the modern age, by considering
Lotus-Sutra-based movements before and after 1945.
Along with this, the history of Lotus Sutra reverence found in Heian Period
literature should not be overlooked. Through the influence of Dengyō Daishi Saichō (伝
教大師最澄), faith in the Lotus Sutra spread among the aristocracy in the Heian period.
Although it was practiced as part of the Pure Land faith, many traces of Lotus Sutra
reverence can be found. In addition to particular literature reflecting Lotus Sutra
reverence, like the Honchō Hokke Genki (本朝滕華験記), the Lotus Sutra often appears
even in narrative literature, like the Konjaku Monogatari (今昔物語). Recently, research
that focused on the Hokekyō Dangi (滕華經談義) of the Tendai sect was published in
the Chūsei Hokekyō chūshakusho no kenkyū (中世滕華經滨釈書の研究), written by
Tetsumichi Hirota. And, exhibitions featuring the “Art of the Lotus Sutra” were held at
the Nara National Museum, and contents of the exhibits were introduced in popular art
books like Art of the Lotus Sutra (滕華経の美術), edited by Bunsaku Kurata and
Yoshio Tamura. Heike-nōkyō (平家納經) is a very famous book that is often quoted. The
Genji Monogatari (源渏物語) is internationally known through its English translation,
and in Japan it is very popular among women. Not only from the viewpoint of literature,
even among the Buddhist researchers, references to the Lotus Sutra in the Genji
Monogatari (源渏物語), and the deep understanding of the sutra that it reflects, is
highly appreciated, and many books and research theses are written about it. Not only
that, research is often done on the way of rituals, discourses, chanting, and particular
ways of recitation it describes.
Because of the appeal of such literature, the number of people who are becoming
attracted to the Lotus Sutra is growing; and through participation in traditional Buddhist
faiths or through involvement in new movements, interest in the Lotus Sutra is increasing.
This increasing interest, the Lotus Sutra related literature, and the Lotus Sutra’s
integration into Japanese culture, are all reflected in the “reverence for the Lotus Sutra”
movements. Western researchers are currently doing very excellent work on this point.


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