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Sutras, Inga, Rinne, The Six Realms, Sohei, and Ikko-Ikki

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PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2006 10:03 pm    Post subject: Sutras, Inga, Rinne, The Six Realms, Sohei, and Ikko-Ikki Reply with quote
The historical Buddha’s teachings are split up into doctrines of truth (the Law Of The Truth, or Dharma) as well as rules needed for a Buddhist Order. These are known as the ‘Teachings’ and ‘The Precepts’. There are also interpretations done by his followers known as the ‘Commentaries’. Together, these three comprise the ‘Three Baskets’ and are collectively known as Sutras.
Some of the better known ones are:
1)the Wisdom Sutra (Hannya-Kyoh)
2)the Lotus Sutra (Hoke-Kyoh, the favorite of Nichiren)
3)the Triple Pure Land Sutra (Jodo-san Bukkyo-The Buddha Of Infinite Life Sutra, The Meditation On The Buddha Of Infinite Life Sutra, and the famous Amida Sutra)
4)the Garland Sutra (Kegon-Kyoh)
5)the Mahavairocana Sutra (Dai-Nichi-Kyoh, the guiding sutra of Shingon and Tendai sects)
6)the Diamond Peak Sutra (another major sutra for the Esoteric sects).
Sutras can be thought of as the Buddhist ‘bible’ and are what you hear Monks chanting when visiting a temple.
Inga is the belief in cause and effect-simply put, that good acts have a beneficial effect on one’s life and evil acts a detrimental effect. The concept of Inga is better known in the west as Karma, and is one of the more misunderstood concepts of Buddhism in the Western world (in fact, the word Karma is now used almost exclusively in the West-usually only religious scholars use it in Asian countries these days). When one builds up a great deal of negative inga, this will affect what happens in the cycle of rebirth. Inga is more than simply fate or luck-it makes each individual directly responsible for their eventual fate.
The cycle of rebirth and reincarnation is known as Rinne. The ultimate goal of a Buddhist is to escape the cycle of Rinne through enlightenment (Bodai) and enter Nehan (better known in the West as Nirvana)-this is known as Gedatsu. Some beings choose not to enter Nehan but rather remain behind in the Earthly realm and aid others achieve enlightenment-these beings are called Bosatsu (Bodhisattva). Some of the better known Bosatsu in Japan include Jizo, Kannon, and Miroku. The historical Buddha is known as Botsu.
Your actions during your lifetime have a direct impact on where you will be reborn in the Six Realms Of Desire (assuming you don’t achieve enlightenment during that time). The enlightened ones dwell in Nehan, but for the rest of us the Six Realms are as follows (listed from highest proximity to enlightenment to least):
1)Realm Of Humans (the Earthly realm)-where all of us currently reside, but also includes many O-Bake-Mono such as Kappa, Kitsune, Tatsu, Tengu, and the like
2)Tengoku (realm of heavenly beings)-divas, deities, Kami-sama, and the like dwell here.
3)Animal Kingdom-our furry, scaly, winged, and insectoid friends
4)Realm Of Asuras-much like Tengoku, except here the spirits are constantly fighting-for example, Yokai inhabit this realm (but are well known to sometimes intrude into the Realm Of Humans-beings like Yuki-Onna, Iso-Onna, Rokuro-Kubi, Ita-Oni, and the oddball haunted second hand items, the Bake-furu-geta).
5)Realm Of Hungry Spirits-the most famous being the Gaki, with the evil Onryo and Yurei here as well
6)Jigoku-home to the Eight Hot Hells and The Eight Cold Hells, each of which has a detailed description I won’t get into here. The being Emma-O is the lord of this realm and has as his servants the large demons known as Oni, famous for their tetsubo (iron studded clubs). Not a good place to be.
Eventually, the dedicated Buddhist will climb the ladder of The Six Realms and enter into Nehan, becoming one with the universe and never returning to the Realms.
Most modern Buddhists do not take the Six Realms literally but rather as metaphors for states of being.
The 'state' of being a Hungry Spirit is linked with greed and materialism.
The 'state' of dwelling in Jigoku is linked with anger and violence, either towards oneself or others.
The 'state' of dwelling in the Asura realm is linked with jealously, envy, and selfishness.
The 'state' of dwelling in Tengoku is linked with arrogance.
The 'state' of being an animal is linked with ignorance.
Obviously, someone could exist in more states than just one. For example, conservative talk show hosts would be checking the 'all of the above' box Just Kidding.
The final state is that which does not exist in the previous five stages. This is the state of being human and is the state from which one can achieve enlightenment.
Interestingly enough, this places the realm of humans above the realm of Tengoku.
After a rocky beginning and some trouble in the late 19th/early 20th century, Buddhism and Shinto have worked well together in Japan. Most temples have at least one Shrine on their grounds. The Kami of Shinto are usually considered to be the Bosatsu of Buddhism (and vice versa, despite an attempt in the late 19th century to force them to be classified as one or the other) and it is not unusual for the same beings to have different names in either religion. The vast majority of Japanese claim to practice both. In many ways the practice of these religions has become more of a philosophy that has become ingrained into the daily life of Japanese rather than a religion based on regular services.
Now we come to the militant factions of Buddhism-the Sohei and Ikko-Ikki. While the two are sometimes confused, they had significant differences. The Sohei were the famous warrior monks, most notably the monks of the Tendai sect on Mt Hiei. There were also large enclaves of warrior monks in Nara and also Negoro-dera, although most every temple complex would have some Sohei on hand. The monks exercised their strength on a regular basis throughout Japanese history. Whether they were carrying their shrines into the streets of Kyoto to protest some perceived slight or giving aid to the Azai and Asakura in their battles against the Oda, the Sohei proved to be a thorn in the side of many a samurai or court member. Many of these so-called ‘monks’ were little more than thugs kept on for their fighting abilities. The military actions of the Sohei came to an abrupt halt in the Sengoku era when Oda Nobunaga finally had enough of their interference and burned the Mt Hiei complex to the ground, slaughtering thousands of monks, women, and children in the process. The last major military action involving Sohei involved the defence of the Negoro-dera complex against Hideyoshi (they were also joined by one of the last sizable Ikko-Ikki forces), where again, the monks were wiped out. Wisely, the Sohei of Nara remained inactive during the Sengoku era. The Sohei felt secure in their beliefs that no samurai or lord would dare risk incurring the wrath of the gods by attacking their enclaves, and therefore rarely did any significant fortifying of their temple complexes (one of the reasons Mt Hiei fell so quickly).
The Ikko-Ikki (single minded league, although Ikki also means ‘riot’ in Japanese) were the forces of the Jodo sects of Buddhism. Unlike the warrior monks, they drew their forces from the entire spectrum of society. An Ikko army might include monks, farmers, merchants, and even many samurai. Notable enclaves of the Ikko-Ikki include Ishiyama Hongan-ji (which later became the site of Osaka Castle), Nagashima, and the entire province of Kaga. They were a much later development than the Sohei and were scattered throughout Japan. In sharp contrast to the Sohei, the Ikko-Ikki elaborately fortified their complexes and put them together with defending against long sieges in mind. They were among the first in Japan to realize the true strength of firearms in building up an army consisting of many untrained peasants. Even a powerful daimyo like Oda Nobunaga found himself hurling wave after wave of troops at the fortified temples of the Ikko with little in the way of results to be shown. However, Oda was nothing if not persistent, and through attrition and good positioning managed to slowly conquer the Ikko complexes one by one. When the Ikko stronghold of Ishiyama Hongan-ji surrendered, it marked the last time the armies of Jodo saw a major battle. Eventually the Jodo sent some of their few remaining forces to harass the armies of Shibata Katsuie during their retreat from Shizugatake. In appreciation, Hideyoshi allowed them to rebuild their temple in Kyoto (unfortified, of course) where it still is today.
In comparing the Sohei and Ikko-Ikki, it is probably helpful to think of the Sohei as a militant religious order (such as the Knights Of St John) and the Ikko-Ikki as a community bound together by a common religious belief (like Puritan or Quaker communities).
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