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Unformatted text preview: had become regularly engaged not only in
fighting among themselves but also in intimidating Kyoto into meeting
their demands for such things as ecclesiastical positions at court and titles
to desirable pieces of estate land.
The manner in which the Enryakuji monks commonly made their
demands upon the court reveals something of the ties that had evolved
by this time between Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Obtaining the
sacred kami emblems of the Hie Shrine located at the foot of Mount Hiei,
the monks placed them in a portable car and transported the car to the
capital, where they deposited it at a busy intersection near the palace. The Court at Its Zenith 51 Since no one dared touch the car, activities simply ceased in that part of
the city until the monks, their demands met, condescended to remove it
and carry it back to the mountain.
Although the Tendai sect’s Enryakuji Temple became a great national
center for Buddhist studies in Japan, the particular kind of Buddhism
that exerted the strongest influence at court during the early Heian period
was Tantrism. Tantrism was a branch of Mahayana Buddhism established
independently in India about a.d. 600 and subsequently transmitted to
China and Japan. Because of its stress on incantations, spells, and primitive magic, Tantrism has been viewed by many outsiders as a corrupt and
decadent phase of Buddhism after the period of its greatest historical
flourishing. Insofar as one part of Tantrism became associated with
Indian Shakti practices dealing with death, destruction, and living sacrifices, there may be justification for this view. But the form of Tantrism
that spread to the Far East did not embrace such grotesque practices.
Known also as esoteric Buddhism because of its insistence on the secret
transmission of its teachings, Tantrism came to hold a unique appeal for
the aristocracy of the Heian court and provided a powerful stimulus to
the arts in Japan during the ninth and tenth centuries.
Tantrism was introduced to Japan as the Shingon (True Word) sect
by the priest Kûkai (774–835; also familiarly known by his posthumous
canonical name of Kòb...
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- Spring '13