The Essentials of the Eight Traditions / The Candle of the Latter Dharma
- About the Book
This volume includes two titles.
The Essentials of the Eight Schools gives a concise account of the history and doctrines of the eight principal Buddhist schools in existence in Japan at the time of the author, i.e. the six schools which were introduced to Japan during the Nara Period and the two schools introduced by Saichō and Kūkai during the Heian Period. This work may thus be described as an introduction to Japanese Buddhism. Fascicle 1 contains a preface and accounts of the Kusha, Jōjitsu and Discipline Schools, and Fascicle 2 deals with the Hossō, Sanron, Tendai, Kegon and Shingon Schools, followed by brief comments on the Zen and Pure Land Schools. The work takes the format of questions and answers, discussing such subjects as the name, basic scriptures, lines of transmission, and doctrines of each school. Since a brief history of the transmission of Buddhism from India via China to Japan is also included, it serves in fact as a very handy exposition of Japanese Buddhism.
The Candle of the Latter Dharma is a criticism of the strict adherence by the Buddhist schools based in Nara to the rules of the Hīnayāna tradition regulating monastic ordination. There is within Buddhism the idea that following Śākyamuni’s death the practice of his true teachings will gradually be neglected, passing through the three periods of ‘True Law,’ ‘Imitative Law’ and ‘Last Law.’ In the present “Treatise on the Lamp for the Latter Days of the Law” the author asserts that, since the latter days of the Law are fast approaching, non-observance of the monastic precepts does not necessarily result in disqualification as a monk.
This way of thinking won ready favor within the new Buddhist schools of the Kamakura Period, and many religious leaders of the period quoted this work in their own writings in order to justify the state of monks in the latter days of the Law. Thus one can say that this work exerted considerable influence upon the attitude towards monastic discipline in later Japanese Buddhism. However, it is still a matter of dispute whether it was in fact composed by Saichō, and the question still awaits a conclusive answer.
- About the Authors
Robert F. Rhodes is professor of Buddhist studies at Otani University in Kyoto.
- Subject Areas