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Buddhism history of religion

1. Buddhism Introduced to Japan

Presentation of Korean Buddhist Materials

Buddhism is considered to have been officially introduced to Japan in A.D. 538 when the ruler of Baekje, a Korean kingdom, presented a brilliant image of the Buddha along with scripture-scrolls and ornaments to the Japanese Emperor Kimmei. In those days, Emperor Kimmei ruled Japan with his court nobles and immediately controversy started over whether or not such a foreign cult should be accepted. The orthodox Mononobe and Nakatomi clans strongly opposed this new religion on the grounds that Japan already had its traditional and indigenous religion of Shinto. But the influential Soga clan favored Buddhism; they believed that it had much to offer for the enrichment of their culture. Thus in the end, despite the disputes that took place among the court nobles, the emperor deferred the matter to the Soga clan.

About 40 years later, the pious Prince Regent Shotoku (A.D. 574–621) was appointed regent to the Empress Suiko, at which time he declared Buddhism as the official religion. Prince Shotoku was a great statesman and a devout Buddhist. He strongly believed that only with Buddhist teachings could he make Japan a unified and culturally refined country.

Prince Shotoku’s Support of Buddhism

In order to carry out his plans, Prince Shotoku issued the 17–Article Constitution in 604, which emphasized Buddhist and Confucian principles. Article II of this injunction reads, “Fervently respect the Three Treasures.” Prince Shotoku stressed that everyone should faithfully revere the Three Treasures (the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) as the supreme and unmistakable guidance.

He also ordered the government to build many Buddhist temples among which the most famous is Horyu-ji temple, the world’s oldest wooden structure now standing near the former capital of Nara. It was because of his patronage and devotion that Buddhism was firmly established on Japanese soil.

Cultural Benefits of Buddhism

Therefore, we can see that in the beginning the introduction of Buddhism to Japan was highly motivated by political and...

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