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Unformatted text preview: uddha as a transcendent, rather than
earthly, being and by adulation for the bodhisattva, or buddha-to-be,
who would assist others on the path to buddhahood.
The Lotus Sutra is not only the basic text of Tendai, but the principal
writing of all of Mahayana Buddhism. Drawing within its pages the
entire range of Buddhist thought, both Hinayana and Mahayana, the
Lotus is held to be the “one vehicle,” the sole and ultimate source of religious truth. Its influence has been especially great in the countries of
East Asia, where it has been revered not only as a text for religious study,
but also an object of devotion in and of itself. Thus, according to some
Buddhist sects, one need not try to understand the Lotus’s contents but
simply to worship it. And believers have through the ages sought religious
merit by copying the Lotus, a task requiring considerable effort because
of the sutra’s great length.
The Tendai center at the Enryakuji played an extremely prominent
role in premodern Japanese history. It became a vast complex of more
than three thousand buildings, where priests engaged in a wide range of
both spiritual and secular studies. In the best Far Eastern tradition, the
Tendai priests sought to synthesize all known religious truths and practices; and ultimately it was Tendai that, beginning in the late Heian
period, spawned the various popular sects that finally spread Buddhism
to the common people throughout Japan.
Another, and less edifying, way in which the Enryakuji attained distinction in premodern times was as a center for akusò or “rowdy monks.”
During the Nara period, the court had strictly limited the entry of people
other than members of the aristocracy into the Buddhist priesthood. But
after the move of the capital to Kyoto, entry restrictions were relaxed and
the more important Buddhist temples, which were already in the process
of acquiring great wealth in landed estates, hired increasing numbers of
peasants to serve in their private armies. By the tenth and eleventh centuries, these hordes of akusò...
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- Spring '13