The Main Religion of the Heian Period Essay

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The Main Religion of the Heian Period

Two Buddhist sects, Tendai and Shingon, dominated religion in the Heian period.
The word tendai means heavenly platform, and the word shingon means true word. Both of them belonged to the Mahayana, Great Vehicle, branch of Buddhism originating in
India, and both of them were imported from China by the Japanese court at the beginning of the ninth century. In their new surroundings, the sects came to terms with the change from the centralized monarchy of early Heian times to aristocratic familism. Together the spread throughout the countryside, absorbing Shinto in the process, and became a fruitful source of artistic inspiration. In those years, two prominent scholar-monks, Saicho and
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The mood of the Nara sects was scholastic rather than devotional, and the major
Nara practices were magical rites to improve memory or to expand the mind for study, and on occasion to impress the aristocracy. These were far from the daily devotional exercises found in the writings of Chih-i, the founder of Chinese Ti'en-t'ai. In 802, in favoring monks like Saicho, Emperor Kammu doubtless intended to strengthen the State’s control over ecclesiastical affairs. Apart from any immediate checks to the political power of the Nara Monks, the move to a new capital marked a fresh start in religion as well as politics. In Nara, the monks had taught the higher arts of civilization and government to the dynasty and its ruling elite. In Kyoto, the imperial house and bureaucracy were to be the sponsors rather than pupils of Buddhism. Saicho himself enthusiastically argued that religion should not only submit to the political authorities but also actively help them in their task of administration. A patriot at heart, he held that monks should be ready to put their learning and special skills at the disposal of the national community. Partly to enable them to do this, he insisted that his followers study, as he himself had done, all the variously teaching of Buddhism. As a result, Tendai came to be the most scholarly of the sects and Hieizan the seat of Japanese higher learning. These two
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