Buddhist Thought 5: Absolute Truth - A recommended commentary to learn about the thought of the Lotus Sutra and the Tendai currents in China and Japan!

Buddhist Thought 5 Japanese Buddhism and its History

Yoshiro Tamura and Takeshi Umehara, "Buddhist Thought 5: Absolute Truth " Summary and Comments - A recommended commentary on the thought of the Lotus Sutra and the Tendai stream in China and Japan!

Introduced here is "Buddhist Thought 5: Absolute Truth " by Yoshiro Tamura and Takeshi Umehara, published by Kadokawa Shoten in 1996.

Let's take a quick look at the book.

Tendai is the mother of Buddhism in Japan. The founders of Kamakura Buddhism, including Honen, Dogen, Nichiren, and Shinran, all originated from the Japanese Tendai sect founded by Saicho on Mt. Their ideas based on the "Lotus Sutra" had an immeasurable influence on Japanese literature and art. Without an understanding of Tendai, Japanese Buddhism and Japanese culture would be incomplete. Based on the "Lotus Sutra" created in India, the Tendai Chih-hui of China in the 6th century formulated a unified worldview of the universe. This book clarifies the philosophies of the Tendai Chihki and the Tendai Hongaku philosophy that flourished in Japan.

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Saicho (766 or 767-822)Wikipedia.

When we Japanese think of Tendai, we usually think of the Tendai Sect founded by Saicho of Enryaku-ji Temple on Mount Hiei. The teachings of the Lotus Sutra were transmitted from India to Japan via China.

This book is a recommended work to learn about the history and thought content of the "Lotus Sutra".

The "Preface" to this book states the following

Tendai may be called the mother of Japanese Buddhism. Since Saicho established Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Eizan in 788, it has been the birthplace not only of Japanese Buddhism but also of Japanese culture throughout the long period of ancient and medieval times. Many Buddhas were born and grew up there. The Pure Land teachings, planted by Ennin and nurtured by Genshin, were spread among the people by Honen and Shinran, who left Eizan. Zen, which was included in Tendai Tinkan, was cultivated by Eisai and Dogen, leaving Eizan, and became the most widespread Buddhism in Japan, along with Pure Land Buddhism, during the period of the rise of the Samurai. Nichiren also left Mt. Eizan to spread his own philosophy in Japan. Most of Japanese Buddhism was born there, grew up there, and spread throughout Japan.

How profoundly the influence of Tendai thought, not only on Buddhism, but also on Japanese literature and art, especially on the faith in the Lotus Sutra, must have been. I am not speaking here only of the "Pillow Book" or the "Heike Nokyo Sutra". The influence of Tendai Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra faith on Japanese culture is probably far more far-reaching and far-reaching than one can formally point out.

Tendai thought is the birth mother of much Japanese Buddhism and Japanese culture. But what has become of this Mother? After her great birth, she seems to have aged too much and is now dying. Today, the Tendai sect is considerably less powerful than the Jodo Shin sect, the Zen sect, or even the Shingon sect, which is also known as Heian Buddhism. Reflecting this weakness, research on Tendai doctrine has lagged far behind that of other sects.

What was the mother of this great Japanese Buddhism? Japanese people today know almost nothing about this. For example, there is not a single book that explains in an easy-to-understand manner the life and thought of Saicho, the creator of Tendai Buddhism in Japan. The birth mother of Japanese Buddhism and culture remains completely forgotten today.

We must recover this forgetfulness once again. Without the study of Tendai Buddhism, the mother of Japanese Buddhism and Japanese culture, Japanese Buddhism and culture will not be fully revealed.

Kadokawa Shoten, "Buddhist Thought 5: Absolute Truth " by Yoshiro Tamura and Takeshi Umehara, p. 13-14

Compared to 1996, when this book was published, in 2024, the number of books on Saicho and the Lotus Sutra seems to have increased considerably. The hit manga "A-Un" starring Saicho and Kukai is also a symbolic event.

However, even so, it may be difficult to find a reference book on the Tendai sect itself and its doctrines that is close at hand. In this respect, this book, "Buddhist Thought 5: Absolute Truth ," is still one of the most highly recommended Tendai commentaries available today. For me, too, this book is one of my favorites in the "Buddhist Thought Series.

The wonderful thing about this work is that it allows us to neatly learn the history of the establishment of the Lotus Sutra in India, its reception in China, and its propagation to Japan.

It is very interesting to see how the Lotus Sutra evolved from its birth to its acceptance in Japan.

And it is important to note, as mentioned in the above quote, that the Tendai sect on Mt. Hieizan became the mother of the later Kamakura Buddhists, Honen, Shinran, Eisai, Dogen, and Nichiren. All of these great patriarchs studied Tendai at Hieizan. This book will also look at why they were not satisfied with the teachings of Tendai and tried to open a new Buddhism.

In addition, this book also discusses the historical background of the period, so it is fascinating to look at Tendai Buddhism from a larger perspective. I also believe that it is very important to study Tendai Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra in order to understand the foundations of Japanese Buddhism. This book is an excellent introduction to the Tendai sect and the Lotus Sutra. It is very interesting. I highly recommend this book.

The next volume, "Buddhist Thought 6: The Infinite Worldview (Kegon)," is also recommended along with this book. The Lotus Sutra and the Kegon Sutra were two of the major works that had a decisive influence on the subsequent development of Mahayana Buddhism. Both schools of Buddhism developed in China, stimulating each other and refining their ideas. The Great Buddha of Todaiji Temple in Nara is the very embodiment of the ideas of the Kegon Sutra. The political philosophy of Nara Buddhism is also closely related to the Kegon Sutra. The Kegon Sutra is also very important in understanding the history of the Nara and Heian periods. I highly recommend that you read this book together with "Buddhist Thought 5: Absolute Truth " to learn more about the Buddhism of this period.

This is "Buddhist Thought 5: Absolute Truth " - A recommended commentary to learn about the thought of the Lotus Sutra and the flow of Tendai in China and Japan! That was "Buddhist Thought 5: Absolute Truth ".

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