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Statue of Saichō in Hōshakuzan Nōfuku-ji ( 宝 積 山 能 福寺 ), Kobe

The Tendai-shū ( Japanese 天台 宗 ) is a school of Buddhism based on the Lotus Sutra in Japan , which dominated the religious landscape of Japan during the Heian period from the two monastery temples Enryaku-ji and Mii-dera, alongside the rival Shingon-shū and laid essential foundations for the later development of Buddhism in the Kamakura period . The Tendai-shū developed at the beginning of the 9th century as a transmission of the teachings of the Tiantai zong of Chinese Buddhism by Dengyō Daishi Saichō (767-822). Like the Tiantai zong, the Tendai-shū belongs to the Mahayana , but counts itself more specifically to the Ekayana because of its integrative claim .


Nara time

Tiantai zong teachings were introduced in Japan as early as the Nara period . This happened mainly through early representatives of the Risshū , such as B. the Chinese Vinaya monk Jianzhen (688–763), the mid-8th century important writings of the Tiantai founder Zhiyi (538–597; Chinese  智 顗 , Pinyin Zhìyǐ , W.-G. Chih-i ; jap. Chigi) brought to Japan.

Another forerunner was Gyōga ( 行 賀 ; 729-803), a monk at the Kōfuku-ji , who traveled to China in 753, studied Tiantai and Faxiang zong there for seven years and brought relevant writings with him on his return to Japan.

Heian period

Established by Saichō

The founding of his own school goes back to the Japanese monk Saichō (767-822), who first came into contact with Tiantai scriptures during his stay in a hermitage on the Hiei-zan . After Saichō had given a speech on the Lotus Sutra in the Takaosan-ji (later: Jingo-ji) in Heian-kyō at a meeting of high Buddhist dignitaries organized by the Kammu -tennō in 802 , he was offered a trip to the Tennō's imperial court promised the Chinese Empire of the Tang period , which he assumed in the seventh month of 804 from the port of Matsuura in the province of Hizen . On one of the other three ships was Saichō contemporary and later rival Kūkai (later founder of the Shingon-shū ), whose ship entered Fujian Province on the tenth day of the eighth month . Saichō's ship arrived in Ningbo later on the first day of the ninth month .

While Kūkai traveled straight to the imperial court in Chang'an , Saichō made his way to Mount Tiantai ( Chinese  天台山 , Pinyin tiāntái shān ), the sanctuary of the Tiantai zong. There he briefly studied with Daosui ( 道 邃 , Dàosuì , Tao-sui ) and Xingman ( 行 满 , Xìngmǎn , Hsing-man ), two students of the Tiantai innovator Zhanran (711–782 / 4; 湛然 , Zhànrán , Chan-jan ), also Jingqi ( 荆溪 , Jīngqī , Ching-ch'i , also 荊溪 ).

From Xiuran ( 修 然 , Xiūrán , Hsiu-jan ), representative of the ox-head school of the Chan , he also received briefings in meditation.

While Saichō was waiting for the ship to leave, he met Shunxiao ( 順 曉 , Shùnxiǎo , Shun-hsia ), tantric master at the Lung-hsing temple and disciple of Śubhākarasiṃha, who introduced him to the esoteric Buddhism Zhenyan ( Chinese  眞 言 , Pinyin zhēnyán ; Japanese Shingon !) instructed.

With such syncretistic influences and several hundred writings, Saichō finally returned to Japan after nine and a half months in 805. There he was invited to the imperial palace , where the Kammu-tennō was seriously ill. Saichō held a penitential rite ( 悔過 , keka ), which is why the Tendai-shū was allowed to send two annual priests ( 年分 度 者 , nembundosha ) to the court in the following year . This is generally regarded as the official recognition of the Tendai-shū as a separate school by the government.

In the following years Saichō expanded the position of the Tendai-shū continuously. Due to the peculiarities of his transmission of the teachings, some essential differences to the Chinese Tiantai zong arose early on.

First of all, this included the eclecticism of his teachings. This was later also called Enmitsuzenkai ( 圓 密 禅 戒 ), alluding to the mixture of "perfect teaching" ( 圓 教 , engyō ), esoteric Buddhism ( 密 教 , mikkyō ), meditation Buddhism ( ; what is meant here is not Zen , but the Tiantai's own principle of “ gathering and understanding ”, 止觀 , zhǐguān ; Japanese shikan ) and rules of the order ( , kai ). So he set up two study centers on the Hieizan: one for (meditative) studies on the Lotus Sutra ( 止觀 業 , shikangō ), one for tantric teachings ( 遮那 業 , shanagō ; literally: “ Vairocana activities”). Monks who wanted to learn there had to receive the Mahayana - śīla beforehand and take a vow not to leave the mountain for twelve years. This strict learning period probably had to do with the fact that Saichō - again in contrast to the Tiantai zong, which was a pure monastic community - provided for a Bosatsu - sōgya , which was also - up to then unique in the history of Buddhism - the admission of lay people into the community included what the school could easily have suspected of negligent discipline.

Furthermore, contrary to the universalistic tendencies of the Tiantai zong, he conceived his teaching as aimed at the salvation of the land, i.e. H. Japan, related. The chanting of the sutras should serve to defend and strengthen Japan as a buddha land. One reason for this may be that Saichō's new school had to compete with the already established schools of Nara Buddhism, which enjoyed important support from the Ritsuryō nobility.

Saichō's written dispute with the Hossō scholar Tokuitsu ( 徳 一 ; approx. 760-835) about the correct conception of Buddha-nature (Tokuitsu distinguished two types of Buddha-nature, Saichō only represented one) became famous in 817 Vehicle (skt. Yāna ) is the ultimate in Buddhism (Tokuitsu represented the Triyana , Saichō the Ekayana ).

In the fifth month of the year 818, Saichō requested imperial permission to set up a separate Mahāyāna ordination platform ( 戒壇 , kaidan ) based on the Bonmōkyō ( 梵網 經 ; skt. Mahāyāna-brahma-jāla-sūtra ; Pali Brahma-jāla-sutta ; 梵網經 , Fànwǎngjīng , Fan-wang ching  - “Sutra of Brahma's Net”) so that the Tendai-shū could ordain their monks themselves in their own “Bodhisattva ordination” ( 菩薩 戒 , bosatsu-kai ). So far, the Tendai monks had still had to go to Nara for the final ordination after the Dharmaguptaka - vinaya ( 四分 律 , Sìfēn lǜ , Ssu-fen lu ; Japanese Shibun ritsu ) from the Vinayapitaka, vilified by Saichō as Hinayana , although a lot many stayed in the city and transferred to the other schools established there (particularly to the Hosso-shu ).

Unsure about how to deal with Saichō's request, the court turned to the Sōgō ( 僧 綱 ), controlled by the monks in Nara , an ancient institution for representing the Japanese monastic community in official religious-political issues. The Sōgō rejected Saichō's request. There followed verbose disputes between Saichō and the Sōgō, which ran indirectly through the imperial court.

Compos-chūdō ( 根本 中堂 ), the main building of the Enryaku-ji

When Saichō died on the fourth day of the sixth month in 822 in Chūdō-in on Hieizan, the court had still not made a final decision. Seven days later, however, it was decided to grant Saichō's request. The first Tendai ordination took place on the 26th day of the first month in 823 in the main temple of Hieizan, which was also officially named Enryaku-ji .

Taimitsu: Enchō, Ennin and Annen

After Saichō, Gishin ( 義 真 ; 781-833), who had accompanied Saichō to China and in 823 was one of the first 14 monks ordained in the rite of the Tendai-shū, took over the leadership of the Tendai-shū and became their first head ( 座 主 , zasu ) in the sixth month of the year 824. In his office he was less concerned with religious questions, but instead tried to get sufficient funding for the school. Gishin did not have a particularly good relationship with Saichō's other immediate students, which is why the successor he wanted, Enshū ( 圓 修 or 円 修 ; 735-843) was rejected by the community at Hieizan as head of the Tendai-shū.

So Enshū was by imperial decision in 833, the year he took office, removed from his post and instead Enchō ( 圓 澄 or 円 澄 ; 771-836) used. This event laid the foundation for the long-running quarrels between two factions within the Tendai-shū, which later led to a schism within the school.

Enchō was particularly distinguished by the fact that he strengthened the Mikkyō, which was popular with the nobility, within the Tendai-shū, which is why he even sent a petition and 26 monks to Kūkai in 831 to be taught tantrism.

Compared to the Shingon-shū , which is dominant in this area, however, the Tendai-shū only caught up under Ennin ( 圓 仁 or 円 仁 ; 794–864), who in the sixth month of the year 838 came from Hakata (now Fukuoka ) with one of the ambassadorial missions at that time ( kentōshi ) broke into the Empire of China of the Tang Dynasty . He was initially banned from entering the country. However, he was able to study at the Kaiyuansi ( 开元 寺 ) Siddham Temple and received copies of the Diamond and Matrix Mandala there .

Finally, in the year 839, he was able to go ashore during a weather-related stopover on his way back to Japan in China and went on an arduous journey to the mountains of Wutai Shan , where he was able to study the esoteric aspects of the Tiantai and also with the meditation technique Changxing sanmei ( 常 行 三昧 , chángxíng sānmèi ; Japanese jōgyō sammai ) was trusted. In the eighth month of the year 840 he finally arrived in Chang'an , where he studied with various masters for several years the concepts of Vajradhātu ( 金剛 界 , jīngāng jiè ; Japanese kongōkai ) and Garbhakośa ( 胎 蔵 界 , tāizàngjiè ; Japanese . taizōkai ) and Soshitchi-kyō ( 蘇 悉 地 經 , Sūxīdì jīng ) operation. He also acquired an in-depth knowledge of Sanskrit .

Because of the rampant persecution of Buddhists under Emperor Wu Zong in the empire of China from 845 onwards , Ennin finally had to leave the country via Silla ( Korea ).

Equipped with all his new knowledge, he returned to Japan in the autumn of 848 and was received with the highest honors at the imperial court. The development of the Japanese Tendai-Mikkyō ( 台 密 , taimitsu ) is due to his activities . During his lifetime he bestowed esoteric orders on Montoku- tennō, the regent Fujiwara no Yoshifusa and various other nobles.

Ennin's successor in this tradition was his rival Enchin ( 圓 珍 or 円 珍 ; 814-89), a student of Gishin and nephew of Kūkai, who became head of Enryaku-ji in 868 and held this office for 23 years. In the year 853 he traveled to China on a merchant ship (the official ambassadorial missions no longer existed). On Mount Tiantai he met the Japanese Tendai monk Ensai ( 圓 載 or 円 載 ), who lived there camouflaged as a layman because of the persecution of Buddhists. In the year 855, Enchin arrived in Chang'an and studied esoteric teachings there. After his return to Japan in 858, he soon played an important role at the court of the Seiwa- tennō and obtained the patronage of the new regent Fujiwara no Yoshifusa (whom he, like the Seiwa-tennō, bestowed esoteric orders) and his son and later Regent Mototsune .

Taimitsu was finally systematized by Annen ( 安然 ; 841–89 / 97), who u. a. direct pupil of Ennin, Enchin, Dōkai ( 道 海 ), Chōi ( 長 意 ), Tenkai ( 湛 契 ; 817-880) and Henjō ( 遍 昭 ; 816-890). Annen wrote a variety of scriptures on Taimitsu. One of his other major works is the Futsū jubosatsukai kōshaku ( 普通 授 菩薩 戒 広 釈 ), written in 882 , in which he argued that it is permissible to disregard Buddhist regulations in the literal sense if there is a clear conscience and Buddhist motivation (especially in the Meaning of the Mahāyāna).

Rise to power and first split

Ryōgen ( 良 源 ; 912–985), from 966 high priest at Enryaku-ji, was an important innovator of the Tendai-shū. Despite (or because of) increasing popularity since the middle of the 10th century (since then even nobles have joined the school as monks for the first time), the school had growing problems with the decline in discipline of the community at Hieizan. The temple complexes were ravaged by series of fires (935, 941 and 966), and several imperial decrees and reprimands went against the misconduct of the monks.

Under Ryōgen, the Tendai-shū had about three thousand students (his direct included such important later scholars as Genshin ( 源 信 ; 942-1017), Kakuun ( 覚 運 ; 953-1007) and Kakuchō ( 覚 超 ; 960-1034)). Since 836 she had even received branch temples ( 別 院 , betsuin ) from the government. Government patronage reached its peak: the Uda -tennō visited the Hieizan five times and donated large sums of money; the Fujiwara maintained close ties, so the regent Fujiwara no Tadahira celebrated his 50th birthday on the Hieizan, a thousand monks were invited to the celebrations.

Ryōgen, himself a student of Ennin, could not control the increasingly powerful warrior monks ( sōhei , mostly monks from the lower rank ( 堂 衆 , dōshū )), who finally played an important role in the openly violent conflict between the followers of Ennin and Enchin through the great battle on Hieizan in 993, the division of the school into the Sanmon branch ( 山門 ; followers of Ennins on Hieizan) and the Jimon branch ( 寺門 ; followers of Gishins and Enchins on Mii-dera ), which had already been sealed by other events had become more and more evident. Temples of both factions were destroyed and over a thousand monks of the Jimon branch fled to the Mii-dera.

In the late phase of the Heian period (end of the 12th century), the Tendai-shū was split up into various factions and schools. One of the last innovators was Shōshin , who with his master Jichin organized a summer retreat ( 安居 , ango ) in 1204 for 270 monk scholars and supposedly had no knowledge of the armed conflicts between the monastic factions . But Shōshin also had to call for help from imperial troops against warring warrior monks from their own school.

Tendai-Shugendō: Honzan-ha

the Kondō - "Golden Hall" - of the Mii-dera

The institutional organization of the mountain ascetic cult Shugendō (originally characterized only by individuals and loose groups) under the influence of the Tendai-shū and the Fujiwara in the Honzan-ha ( 本 山 派 ) began at the end of the 10th century with the complex of shrine temples ( 神宮 寺 , jingūji ) at the Kumano sanzan as the center.

Significant for this development was the year 1090, in which the Shirakawa- tennō made a pilgrimage to the Kumano sanzan together with the Tendai monk Zōyo ( 増 誉 ; 1032–1116). There Shirakawa established the office of overseer for the entire complex and put Zōyo as the first overseer. In 1100, Zōyo was also head of the Mii-dera. Zōyo later built the Shōgo-in ( 聖 護 院 ), later the headquarters of the Honzan-ha, as a branch temple of the Mii-dera. At the Shōgo-in, the Gongen (a title for the Shintōist Kami in Buddhism) of the Kumano sanzan were entrenched and the office of head of the temple was merged with the office of overseer over the Kumano sanzan.

Although the Sanmon branch also had its own Shugendō movement, that of Sō-ō ( 相 応 ; 831-918) around 858 with Fudō Myō-ō as the central deity on Myō-ō-in of Mudō-ji ( 無 動 寺 ) on the Hieizan was founded, this movement, known as Katsuragawa shugen, was much less successful than the Honzan-ha, which, in addition to its geographically less favorable location, is also due to less support from the nobility, because of which Jimon-ha and Honzon-ha flourished. The main activity in the Katsuragawa shugen consisted of pilgrimages in the mountains ( 回 峰 行 , kaihōgyō ).

Tendai-Nembutsu: Early Representatives

Although amidistic ideas and practices (especially the Nembutsu) had been known in Japan since the Nara period (at that time, however, they were almost only used in funeral rites), the first popularization of the Amida belief was through Ennin, the meditation of perpetual chant ( 常 行 三昧 , jōgyō sammai ) with Amida as the center on the Hieizan.

According to Ennin, it was above all Genshin who, as the author of the Ōjōyōshū ( 往生 要 集 ) published in 985, laid the foundations for amidism. In Ōjōyōshū the most important concepts of Japanese amidism ( mappō , jōdo , jiriki & tariki , ōjō ) are already explained. In connection with Genshin's students around the Yokawa at Hieizan, the lay believer Yoshishige no Yasutane ( 慶 滋 保 胤 ) turned out to be the first to put up the first directory of names (called 日本 往生 極 楽 記 , Nippon Ōjō Gokurakuki ) of people who were in good order Land ( jōdo ) Amidas are said to have been reborn ( ōjō ).

Japanese Middle Ages

The Japanese Middle Ages were a period of slow but steady decline for the Tendai-shu. From a religious perspective, the strengthening of the so-called four new Buddhist schools , which laid the foundations for popular Buddhism as early as the Kamakura period , but were also sponsored by the rulers at the imperial court and in the provinces, was particularly significant . It is significant, however, that all the founders or founding figures of these new schools were themselves Tendai priests ( Eisai , Dōgen , Hōnen , Shinran and Nichiren ).

In addition, internal power struggles (of a religious and personal as well as tangible nature) caused the Tendai-shū to become more and more fragmented into a vast number of individual sub-schools and sects.

Probably the worst blow to the position of the Tendai-shū was the complete destruction of the Enryaku-ji by Oda Nobunaga in 1571 towards the end of the Sengoku period .

Period of the warrior monks

Sanmon and Jimon fought each other for centuries in violent clashes, which often ended with the burning of temples and shōen of the opposing faction (the Mii-dera was burned down twice in 1214, for the fifth and sixth time). The Sanmon branch was basically the militarily stronger faction, but the Jimon branch was able to recover again and again because of its good contacts with the court, especially with the Minamoto , and because of temporary alliances with Tōdai-ji and Kōfuku-ji . For a long time, one of the main points of contention remained the attempts by the Jimon branch, which had been repeatedly carried out since 1039, to set up their own ordination platform at Mii-dera (the Tendai-shū continued to have only one at Hieizan, where the Sanmon branch had its headquarters ). In 1260 the government gave the Jimon branch the necessary permission, but soon withdrew it due to massive protests by the Hieizan monks.

But not only belonging to Sanmon or Jimon gave ideological reasons for violent clashes. On the Hieizan, service monks ( 堂 衆 , dōshū ) and monk scholars ( 学徒 , gakuto or gakushō ) also fought each other , the fiercest fights took place here in 1178/79, 1203 and 1226 with the participation of the Tennō Go-Shirakawa (who - unsuccessfully - passed through Taira no Kiyomori and troops had the monk scholars supported) and Go-Toba (who granted the service monks amnesty in order to win them as allies against the Hōjō in Kamakura).

Another source of internal quarrels on the Hieizan was the geographical affiliation to one of the three main parts of the Enryaku-ji temple complex: eastern pagoda (Konpon Chūdō, Kaidan-in, Jōdo-in and Mudō-ji), western pagoda (Hōdō-in with the Shaka-dō, the Jōgyō-dō and the Hokke-dō; as well as the Seiryū-ji) and Yokawa (or northern pagoda: Shuryōgon-in with the Chūdō, the Ruridō, the Shikikōdō and the Eshindō).

Only when the temple complexes on the Hieizan were destroyed by the troops of Oda Nobunaga in 1571 did the feuds, which often lasted for centuries, end. According to eyewitness reports, 25,000 samurai under Oda's command slaughtered around three thousand monks in the ninth month of this year and destroyed all temples on the mountain. After this, the Sōhei ceased to exist as a politically relevant military power, although plans to rebuild the temple complex under the Ōgimachi- tennō and the new shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi as well as the then rather insignificant Tokugawa Ieyasu were drawn up shortly after the murder of Oda Nobunagas in 1582 . However, these plans were not completed until the reign of Tokugawa Iemitsu , that is, in the middle of the 17th century.

Medieval exotericism

The developments of the lotus ( 円 教 , engyō ; literally: “perfect” or “round teaching”) or exoteric ( 顯 教 , kengyō ) lines determined the dominant religious currents of the Tendai-shū during the Middle Ages. They developed from Ryōgens direct students Genshin ( 源 信 ; 942-1017), founder figure of Eshin-ryū ( 恵 心 流 ), and Kakuun ( 覚 運 ; 953-1007), founder figure of Danna-ryū ( 檀那 流 ).

These two lines differed more in their representatives and their places of activity than in their teachings, which is partly due to the fact that in the Tendai-shū in the Japanese Middle Ages the means of (actually esoteric) oral tradition (口 伝, kuden ; see below ) from teacher to student and magical rites enjoyed great popularity among the aristocracy. This is also an essential reason why the distinction between esoteric and exoteric teachings is largely based on personal developments and not questions of content (e.g. in the Tendai-shū, in contrast to the Shingon-shū, Vairocana and Shakyamuni as presented identically).

The Danna-ryū had the Eastern Pagoda on Hieizan as its main center. It split into four sub-schools (Ekōbō-ryū, Bishamondō-ryū, Chikurinbō-ryū and Inokuma-ryū) and became extinct with the destruction of the Hieizan temple complex.

Historically more powerful was the Eshin-ryū, which originated in the Yokawa area on the Hieizan and was brought to the Kantō region under the monks Shinga ( 心 賀 ) and Shinson ( 心 尊 ) . There she was particularly successful in the countryside around Kamakura (hence the names Inaka Eshin ( 田 舎 恵 心 ) or Inaka Tendai ( 田 舎 天台 ); Inaka ( 田 舎 ) = country, in contrast to the city). It also split into four sub-schools (Hōchibō-ryū, Sugiu-ryū, Gyōsenbō-ryū and Tsuchimikado-monzeki-ryū).

In addition to the orthodox view that compared with the Lotus Sutra all other sutras only makeshift character would have (that Upaya are) represented the Eshin-ryu in particular the views that meditation ( shikan ) the two parts ( shakumon , ie chapters 1 to 14, and honmon ) of the Lotos Sutra and should start from a single thought of belief ( Glaub 念 信 解 , ichinen shinge ).

Outstanding representatives of the Eshin-ryū were u. a. Sonshun ( 尊 舜 ; 1451–1514) and Tenkai ( 天 海 ; 1536–1643).

Medieval Taimitsu

Like exotericism, Tendai esotericism in the Japanese Middle Ages was divided into a large number of sub-schools, which differed particularly in terms of their secret-magical rites and prayers. Most of them arose from the Jikaku-daishi-ryū, which in its tradition referred to Ennin as the founder.

The most powerful schools at this time were the Chishō-daishi-ryū or Mii-ryū am Mii-dera, referring to Enchin as the founder figure, with Nichiin ( 日 胤 ) as their most important representative, whose patron was Minamoto no Yoritomo , and after that Destruction of the Hieizan temple complex, the Hōman-ryū, which had previously been able to establish itself in the Kantō region.

In addition to the practical execution of magical rituals for the nobility and the Kamakura rulers, the Taimitsu schools of the Middle Ages were responsible for the development of the Tendai Shinto, particularly through the written down of oral traditions (see below).

Oral tradition: Kuden

The most important instrument with which esoteric and exoteric teachings were imparted within the Tendai-shū was from the beginning the oral tradition ( 口 伝 , kuden ), which both the esoteric and the exoteric schools used.

Towards the end of the Heian period, however, a trend had already started to write down these oral traditions from teacher to student in so-called kudensho ( 口 伝 書 ). Most of this activity was taken over by chroniclers ( 記 家 , kike ) who made notes, studied older works of their predecessors and thus created a tradition of transmission. In the Japanese Middle Ages they developed complex subsystems of the Tendai teachings through their work, study and interpretation of the religious scriptures ( 記録 , kiroku ).

Tendai Shinto

the main eastern shrine of Hie-Taisha

Saichō had already used the term Sannō (山 王; literally "mountain king") in his writings . Enchin recommended belief in this deity, who was already identified with the deity ( Kami ) of Hieizan in his time . A cult developed around this mountain early on, which, in a way that was common for the religious movements in Japan at the time, linked Buddhist and indigenous beliefs in a syncretistic way ( Shinbutsu-Shūgō ) and the popular indigenous deities (such as Ōmiya or Amaterasu ) with the most important Buddhas (like Shaka , Yakushi or Amida ).

As a separate system, however, this current did not develop until the end of the Kamakura period or during the southern and northern court periods , in particular because of the shōen of the Tendai-shū, which up until then had been around the Hieizan and reached their numerical peak during this time The majority of farmers still adhered to the old, indigenous forms of belief.

This Tendai-Shintō ( 天台 神道 ; also Sannō-Ichijitsu-Shintō ( 山 王 一 実 神道 ; dt. About "Shintō of Sannō and the only reality"), in relation to the mountain deity Sannō des Hieizan, who was also identified with Amaterasu; or Hie-Shintō ( 日 吉 神道 ), Hie ( 日 吉 ) were usually the names of the shrines for Sannō) had the Enryaku-ji and its chinjusha ( 鎮守 社 ; these are Shintō shrines on the property of Buddhist temples and are dedicated to the protective deities of the area), the Hie-Taisha (also Hiyoshi-Taisha ).

An early (but late became prominent) representative was Gyōen ( 行 円 ; † 1047). Fundamental writings emerged with the systematically proceeding kike (see above).

Jihen ( 慈 遍 ; life dates unknown, active in the 14th century), who was also very familiar with Ise or Watarai Shintō and the Ryōbu-Shintō of the Shingon-shū, was one of the most important representatives of the Sannō-Shintō.

With Oda Nobunaga's destruction of the Hieizan temple complex, the tradition of Tendai Shinto was almost completely destroyed and only slowly recovered in the following years. Only in the Edo period could it be revived to a greater extent, but never became as popular as the Ryobu Shinto or the Yoshida Shinto . One of his few legacies was the concept of the sanjūbanshin ( 三十 番 神 ), 30 kami , who were understood as the patron deities of the Lotus Sutra. This was one of the foundations of the later Hokke Shinto ( 法 華 神道 ) of Nichiren Buddhism .

Tendai-Nembutsu: Shinzei-ha

The first Japanese schools of amidism of their own ( Yūzū Nembutsu-shū , Jōdo-shū , Jōdo-Shinshū , Ji-shū ) developed largely outside of the Tendai-shū, even if all of their founders were former Tendai monks.

Under the pressure of the popularity of amidism in the Japanese Middle Ages, however, a separate school of amidism was established within the Tendai-shū, the Shinzei-ha ( 真 盛 派 ).

Shinzei ( 真 盛 ; 1443–1495; also Shinsei) studied 20 years at the Western Pagoda of Hieizan before he decided to live as a hermit, during which he studied the Pali Canon and recited the Nembutsu several thousand times a day . He later became a preacher. At the imperial court, where he lectured on the Ōjōyōshū , he was particularly valued for his integrity and bestowed the śīla on many ladies-in-waiting and nobles .

In 1486 Shinzei restored the Saikyō-ji ( 西 教 寺 ) built by Ryōgen in Ōmi Province . This temple was already closely associated with the Nembutsu movement of Genshin and was restored by Echin (? -1356) in 1325 , who wanted to turn it into a center for the practice of Tendai Mahāyāna śila ( 圓頓 戒 , endonkai ). Shinzei made the Saikyō-ji the center of his own movement, in which Nembutsu and the Tendai Mahāyāna śila should be united.

Shinzei's Nembutsu movement was relatively successful, so he won the support of the Ashikaga - Shogun Yoshimasa and awarded the endonkai in 1492 to the Go-Tsuchimikado- tennō and other nobles. At the time of his death, Shinzei had around five hundred students.

Edo period

the pagoda of Kan'ei-ji

The Edo period meant an unusually long period of inner peace for Japan. The Tokugawa - bakufu achieved this with regard to the Buddhist communities - hitherto unpredictable trouble spots - by subjecting them to strict state control. As a result, there were comparatively few innovations within Japanese Buddhism in the Edo period. The central military government now specified the social and thus also essential religious functions. This also applied to the Tendai-shū, although they had not become dangerous to secular powers since the time of the destruction of the Hieizan by Oda Nobunaga.

One of the few outstanding Tendai personalities in Tokugawa Japan was the monk Tenkai ( 天 海 ; 1536? –1643), a favorite of the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and generally considered to be the perfecter of Sannō-Ichijitsu-Shintō. When Ieyasu died in 1616, Tenkai was able to prevail over the advocates of a funeral for Ieyasu in the tradition of Yoshida-Shinto and arrange the funeral according to the rites of Sanno-Ichijitsu-Shinto. In the same year Ieyasu was posthumously given the title Tōshō Daigongen , and his body should be buried in a mausoleum in Nikkō . Tenkai participated in the transfer of the remains and the construction of the Nikkō Tōshō-gū . The Rinnō-ji , which was massively expanded by Tenkai, was responsible for this shrine .

1625 founded Tenkai the Kan'ei-ji ( 寛 永 寺 ; also Tōeizan ( 東 叡 山 )) in Edo as a protective temple for Edo-jō . Shuchōhō-shinnō ( 守澄 法 親王 ; 1634–1680), the 3rd son of Go-Mizunoo -tennō, became head of Kan'ei-ji, Rinnō-ji and Enryaku-ji in 1659. His residence became the Kan'ei-ji, making Edo the center of the Tendai-shu, until this temple was largely destroyed in the Meiji Restoration .

Another noteworthy phenomenon of the Tendai-shū in the Edo period is the Anraku-ryū ( 安 楽 流 ), which was founded by Myōrū ( 妙 立 ; 1637–1690) and Reikū ( 霊 空 ; 1652–1739) and endeavored to establish the to bring the old ordination rules of Shibun ritsu back into effect. The main content of this school related to the Chinese Tiantai monk Zhili ( Chinese  知 礼 , Pinyin Zhīlǐ , W.-G. Chih-li ; 960-1028).


The Meiji period and the policy of the separation of Shinto and Buddhism ( Shinbutsu-Bunri ) pursued by the new government from the beginning was devastating for the Taimitsu schools, which were largely based on syncretistic practices. Of the more than a dozen schools at the height of Taimitsu, only three currently exist: the Sammai-ryū (founder figure: Ryōyū ( 良 祐 )), the Hōman-ryū (founder figure: Sōjitsu ( 相 実 )) and the Anō-ryū ( Founding figure: Shōshō ( 聖 昭 )).

In 1872, the Meiji government began an attempt to unite Shinzei-ha and Jimon-ha under the office of Hieizan chief, but this failed and was finally abandoned in 1878. Both branches then became independent. The Shinzei-ha is currently the third largest Tendai school, it includes over four hundred temples in the area of ​​the former provinces of Ōmi , Ise and Echizen . The Saikyō-ji is their main temple.

With around 2,500 temples, Tendai-shū is still one of the larger schools of Japanese Buddhism. However, outside of her home country she is largely unknown. Their first branch temple outside of Japan was not founded until 1973 (in Hawaii ).



The central script of the Tendai-shū is the Lotus Sutra (Japanese: Hokkekyō or Myōhōrengekyō ), which is generally considered to be the proclamation of absolute Buddhist truth in schools. The translation into Chinese in 7 fascicles made by Kumārajīva ( Chinese  鳩摩羅什 , Pinyin Jiūmóluóshé , W.-G. Chiu-mo-lo-shih ; 344–413) in the year 406 is used, which is called Miaofa lianhua jing ( Chinese  妙法 蓮華 經 , Pinyin Miàofǎ liánhuā jīng , W.-G. Miao-fa lien-hua ching ) is known.

In second place of the sutras is the Dainichikyō ( 大 日 経 ; skt.Mahāvairocana-sūtra), which became more and more important at the time of the increasing Mikkyō influence, until at the time of Annens even the Lotus Sutra for some time in the Tendai shū surpassed.

Other important sutras in the Tendai-shū are the Nirvana Sutra (Japanese j 般 涅槃 経 , Daihatsu nehangyō ; skt. Mahā-parinirvāṇa-sūtra), the Daihonhannyakō ( 大 品ā 般若 ; skt. Mahāpraitj the Bosatsu yōrakuhongōkyō ( Chinese  菩薩 瓔 珞 本 業經 , Pinyin Púsà yīngluò běnyè jīng , W.-G. P'u-sa ying-lo pen-yeh ching ).


Despite Saichō's dictum that sutras are fundamentally more important than commentaries ( śāstra ), there is still a huge number of commentary writings that are also relevant to the Tendai-shū because they are supposed to enable a better understanding of the lotus sutra.

The basis of the explanations of the Lotus Sutra is the so-called "Great Trilogy" ( 三大 部 , sān dà bù ; Japanese. 三大 部 , saindaibu ), the traditional Zhiyi ( 智 顗 , Zhìyǐ , Chih-i ; Japanese. Chigi; 538–597), but were actually written by his student Guanding ( 灌頂 , Guàndǐng , Kuan-ting ; Japanese Kanyō; 561–632):

  • Gengi: 法 華玄義 , Fǎhuā xuányì ; jap. Hokke gengi
  • Mongu: 法 華文 句 , Fǎhuā wénjù ; Japanese Hokke mongu
  • Shikan: 摩訶 止觀 , Móhē zhǐguān , Japanese Maha shikan

In addition, from a philosophical point of view, Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka-śāstra ( 中 論 , Zhōnglùn , Chung-lun ; Japanese Chūron ) and the Mahāprajñāpāramitā-śāstra ( 大智 度 論 , Dà zhìdù lùn ., Taichido ; -tu lùn , Ta chihido; ron ) relevant.


The most outstanding feature of the Tendai teaching is the ideal of Ichidai Engyō Ichijō (" Ekayana of the one great, perfect teaching") already propagated by Saichō , i.e. H. the integration of all possible Buddhist teachings (which are almost always understood here as upaya , skillful but only makeshift means) under the primacy of the mahāyānaistic lotus teachings of the Tiantai zong. This explains on the one hand the strong syncretistic tendencies in the Tendai teachings, which led to very complex theories, and on the other hand also explains why the Tendai-shū could become the starting point for so many different developments that grew into independent schools during the Kamakura period.

Of the highest theoretical importance in the Tendai-shū are various concepts adopted from the Tiantai zong:

  • Threefold truth ( 三諦 , santai ); the doctrine that Śūnyatā (Japanese , ; “emptiness” or “insubstantiality”), Prajñapti ( , ke ; “conventionality” or “impernanence”) and Madhya ( , chū ; “middle”) are identical . Basically, it is a takeover from the Chūron (verse XXIV: 18) of the Madhyamaka , even if this is understood in the Tendai-shū as the essence of the lotus teachings.
  • Ten aspects of being ( 十 如是 , jū nyo ze ); a teaching that essentially goes back to the second chapter of the Lotus Sutra in Kumārajīvas (misleading in this respect!) translation from Sanskrit into Chinese. According to its explication in Hokke gengi , it lists ten aspects ( dharma ) of suchness (skt. Tathatā ; jap. Shinnyo ) of all beings.
  • Three thousand worlds ( 三千 , sanzen or 三千 世 , sansense ); a concept developed by Zhiyi that arises from the following multiplication (10 * 10 * 10 * 3) based on numbers: the ten realms or levels of consciousness ( 十 界 , jikkai ; these are the traditional six realms plus four from the Mahāyāna, these are Śrāvaka, Pratyekabuddha , Bodhisattva and Buddha) from the Kegon-kyō are multiplied by themselves (since they should all contain each other: 十 界 互 具 , jikkai goku ) and thus result in the Hundred Worlds ( 百 界 , hyakkai ), these are in turn multiplied by the ten aspects of beings (see above) and the three divisions ( 三世間 , sanseken or sanzeken ) into the world of sentient beings, the world of non-sentient beings and the skandhas ( 五蘊 , Goun ). The concept of the three thousand worlds is also the basis of the mystical formula "A moment of thought is equal to the three thousand worlds" ( 一念三千 , ichinen sanzen ).
  • Universal Buddha-nature ( 仏 性 , busshō ), original enlightenment ( 本 覺 , hongaku ), soness (skt. Tathatā ; Japanese 眞 如 , shinnyo ) and dharma bodies (skt. Dharma-kāya ; Japanese 法身, hosshin ) are according to the teaching of Huisi (514 / 5–577; 慧思 , Huìsī , Hui-ssu ; Japanese Eshi ) identical with each other. In terms of content, this means that all beings have the disposition to Buddhahood or enlightenment and that this disposition is also sufficient to actually realize the potency. Some of these components became the basis of the religious teachings of the Kamakura schools (as for Zen and Nichiren Buddhism ).
  • Five Periods and Eight Doctrines ( 五 時 八 教 goji hakkyō ); the concept of the five periods goes back to Huiguan ( 慧 觀 , Huìguān , Hui-kuan ), Zhiyi modified this systematics for the Tiantai zong and added the concept of the eight doctrines to it. It is a division of Buddhist teachings according to historical evolution on the one hand and theoretical perfection according to method and content on the other, which culminates in the praise of the Lotos Sutra as the absolute truth of Ekayāna. Saichō was referring to this concept as well as that of the Three Ages when he spoke in several writings that Japan and the Japanese were ripe for becoming a pure Mahāyāna country in the sense of the Lotus Ekayāna.
  1. Five periods
    1. Period of floral decoration, in which the Buddha preached the Avatamsaka Sutra in 21 days immediately after his enlightenment . However, this was a teaching for bodhisattvas and therefore too demanding for his immediate students.
    2. Period of the wildlife park in which the Buddha preached the Nikayas in the wildlife park near Varanasi for twelve years in order to prepare his disciples for the Mahāyāna.
    3. Period of Vapulya (elemental Mahāyāna), during which the Buddha preached the sutras with which the Hīnayānaists were converted to Mahāyānaists (these include Vimalakīrtinirdeśa , Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra and Śrīmālādevī-sūtra ) for eight years .
    4. Period of Prajñāpāramitā in which the Buddha preached the Prajñāpāramitā-sūtras for 22 years in order to clarify the doctrine of Śūnyatā .
    5. Period of lotus and nirvana, in which the Buddha preaches the Lotos Sutra and Nirvana Sutra , the three vehicles ( yāna ) of the Hīnayāna (Śrāvaka, Pratyeka-Buddha and Bodhisattva) united with that of the Mahāyāna for the Ekayana and the presence of the Buddha- Nature confirmed in everything that is.
  2. Eight doctrines
    1. Four types of content of the sermon ( 化 法 四 教 , kehokyū )
      1. Sudden doctrine ( 頓 教 , tongyō ) preaching Buddha without adapting his teaching to the recipient (Avatamsaka Sutra).
      2. Gradual doctrine ( 漸 教 , zengyō ), the Buddha uses various "skillful means" (Upaya; Nikayas, Vaipulas and Prajñāpāramitā) to convey his teaching appropriately.
      3. Esoteric doctrine ( 祕密 教 , himitsukyō ), the students believe that they learn and understand individually and for themselves.
      4. Indefinite doctrine ( 不定 教 , fujōkyō ), all students learn the teaching together and understand it each for himself.
    2. Four methods of preaching ( 化 儀 四 教 , kegishikyō )
      1. Doctrine of the Three Piṭakas ( 三藏 教 , sanzōkyō ), these are the teachings of the Hīnayāna scriptures of the Pali Canon (“three basket”) and the “primitive” Śūnyatā teaching of Satyasiddhi-śāstra
      2. General doctrine ( 通 教 , tsūgyō ), these are the teachings of Faxiang zong and Sanlun zong .
      3. Pronounced doctrine ( 別 教 , bekkyō ), this is the pure Mahāyāna, as it can be found in the teaching of the Huayan zong .
      4. Round doctrine ( 圓 教 , engyō ), the perfect teaching of Ekayāna (i.e. that of the Tiantai zong).


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