Ryogen and Mount Hiei

Ryogen and Mount Hiei: Japanese Tendai in the Tenth Century

Paul Groner
Copyright Date: 2002
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  • Book Info
    Ryogen and Mount Hiei
    Book Description:

    Ryôgen and Mount Hieifocuses on the transformation of the Tendai School from a small and impoverished group of monks in the early ninth century to its emergence as the most powerful and influential school in Japanese Buddhism in the last half of the tenth century-a position it would maintain throughout the medieval period. This is the first study in a Western language of the institutional factors that lay behind the school's success. At its core is a biography of a major figure behind this transformation, Ryôgen (912-985). The discussion, however, extends well beyond a simple biography as Ryôgen's activities are placed in their historical and institutional context.

    The study concludes with a discussion of the ordinations and roles of nuns during the early Heian period. An examination of Ryôgen's close relation with his mother helps define the ambiguities of a school that prohibited women from the precincts of its temple yet performed rituals to insure safe childbirth and frequently attracted their patronage. A number of primary sources are translated in the appendices.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6420-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. 1 Ryōgen’s Place in the History of the Tendai School
    (pp. 1-14)

    The Japanese Tendai school is based on T’ien-t’ai teachings systematized by the Chinese meditation master and exegete Chih-i (538-597).¹ However, the institutional base of Chinese T’ien-t’ai was generally not very strong in the T’ang dynasty (618–907); as a result the T’ien-t’ai tradition is closer to a school of thought than a religious institution in Chinese history. In fact, much of Chinese T’ien-t’ai literature was lost during the T’ang dynasty as a result of the 845 persecution of Buddhism in China and later had to be brought back to China from Japan and Korea. However, T’ien-t’ai was revived during the...

  7. 2 The Early History of Factionalism Within the Tendai School: From Saichō through the Mid-tenth Century
    (pp. 15-44)

    The problem of factionalism on Mount Hiei is a constant theme in this study. Ryōgen is constantly motivated by his desire to support monks in his own lineage, often at the expense of monks from other lineages. Any general assessment of his career must take the open fighting between his faction and other factions of the Tendai school into account. In this chapter, the history of factionalism within the Tendai school before Ryōgen’s time is discussed to provide a context for the rest of the studyConsiderable attention is paid to a bitter rivalry that arose among the immediate followers of...

  8. 3 Ryōgen’s Early Years
    (pp. 45-55)

    Ryōgen’s father was from the Kozu clan, descended from naturalized Chinese. His mother was from the Mononobe clan, a family that had been prominent earlier during the Asuka and Nara periods. Ryōgen was born in Azai county in the province of Ōmi, on the northeastern side of Lake Biwa approximately ninety kilometers from the Tendai monastery on Mount Hiei. Later sources contain a few more details about Ryōgen’s parents, but these texts cannot be verified.¹ Ryōgen’s family was probably poor, as is indicated by their inability to offer him any help after he climbed Mount Hiei and was struggling for...

  9. 4 Ryōgen’s Rise to Prominence
    (pp. 56-70)

    Without an important monk to help him advance in the monastic hierarchy, Ryōgen had to depend on his own abilities. He quickly made his presence known on Mount Hiei by participating in debates and lectures.During the middle of the Heian period, lectures at monastic assemblies were important events at a number of the major temples in Japan. Lectures might be performed for a variety of reasons: as part of a prayer service to protect the nation or to help someone recover from illness, as a component of memorial services, or as a way to further scholarship. For example, the Yuima-e...

  10. 5 Ryōgen and the Fujiwaras: Patronage and Esoteric Ritual
    (pp. 71-93)

    With Ryōgen in seclusion at Yokawa, this chapter focuses on how he was chosen by Fujiwara no Tadahira’s son Morosuke to perform rituals to help his branch of the Fujiwara clan prosper. In the first part of this chapter, the relationship between Morosuke and Ryōgen is discussed. Their alliance was not based solely on Ryōgen’s ability as a performer of rituals, but also on similarities between the two men in terms of age, political ability, and deep interest in the ritual performances for their respective spheres of influence. The analysis of their relationship is carried further with an assessment of...

  11. 6 The Ōwa Debates
    (pp. 94-117)

    Ryōgen’s major patron, Morosuke, had begun to sicken by the beginning of 960. Because Morosuke was concerned about the future of his lineage, he had the ranks of five of his sons raised on 1-7-960. Before this time, nobles had raised the ranks of at most three sons at one time. The rank of another son, Takamitsu, was raised shortly afterward. When he had become ill, Morosuke had expressed a desire to be ordained as a monk and live in Yokawa. Work soon began on quarters for Morosuke at Yokawa, and Morosuke was ordained on 5-1-960, even though the emperor...

  12. 7 Ryōgen’s Appointments as Head of the Tendai School and to the Office of Monastic Affairs
    (pp. 118-127)

    The Ōwa debates were a success for Ryōgen, as he drew the court’s attention to both himself and his lineage. During the next few years, he received appointments as both head of the Tendai school and to the Office of Monastic Affairs. Appointments to the latter institution were particularly important because they were symbolic of the emerging Tendai dominance of the monastic world. This chapter concerns the significance of those appointments and the role that his alliance with Morosuke and his son Jinzen played in these appointments.

    Ryōgen’s success was not without difficulties, however, as a disastrous fire destroyed the...

  13. 8 The Significance of Ryōgen’s Revival of the Examination System
    (pp. 128-166)

    When Saichō (767– 822) established the Japanese Tendai school, one of his major concerns was the creation of an educational system on Mount Hiei for Tendai monks. Among the important elements of the system were a twelve-year confinement on Mount Hiei, the division of Tendai students into meditation and Esoteric courses, and the study of Tendai texts as well as those from other traditions. In addition, Saichō set up an examination and ordination system that bypassed the governmental Office of Monastic Affairs, which normally would have overseen such activities. Although certain elements of Saichō’s plan, such as the twelve-year confinement...

  14. 9 Rebuilding the Tendai Establishment on Mount Hiei
    (pp. 167-189)

    Ryōgen used his position aszasuto help his lineage dominate the Tendai school. A major fire shortly after his appointment provided him with both a major challenge and a major opportunity. If Ryōgen had not been able to rebuild the Tendai establishment on Mount Hiei, the Tendai school might have declined and lost much of its influence. No major thinkers had emerged from the school for several decades, and it seemed to have lost much of its vigor. Ryōgen spent much of the rest of his life in rebuilding the Tendai monastery on Mount Hiei, often restoring buildings to...

  15. 10 Ryōgen as Zasu: Financing the Spread of Tendai Influence
    (pp. 190-217)

    Financing for the Tendai school has been a constant underlying theme in much of this study. Ryōgen’s decision to become a monk was based in part on the difficulty commoners had in advancing in the secular realm. When he finally was named a yearly ordinand (nenbundosha), the appointment as an officially recognized monk undoubtedly brought some financial reward. His success in performing Esoteric rituals for the nobility was rewarded with buildings and appointments to the Office of Monastic Affairs, resulting in further support for Ryōgen and his faction. Even his plans for reforming the education system on Mount Hiei...

  16. 11 Factionalism and Ryōgen’s Efforts to Control the Order
    (pp. 218-244)

    In earlier chapters, the history of factionalism in the Tendai school from the time of Saichō onward has been described. Although relations between Tendai factions of monks were sometimes bitter, many of these problems had been ameliorated by the need to present a united front at court and to oppose monastic adversaries such as the Hoss o school at Kōfukuji. In the last half of the ninth century, Enchin’s appointment aszasuhad demonstrated that a member of Gishin’s lineage could rise to the highest office. As a result, the breakaway movement centered on Murōji ended. In the ensuing years,...

  17. 12 Ryōgen and the Role of Nuns in Ninth- and Tenth-century Japan
    (pp. 245-288)

    Nuns figure in Ryōgen’s biography primarily by their conspicuous absence. However, Ryōgen was interested in the salvation of women; he moved the location of theshari-efrom Mount Hiei to Kyoto so that women could witness it. In addition, he periodically conducted elaborate performances in honor of his mother’s birthday. Despite his mother’s interest in Buddhism, Ryōgen never attempted to ordain her as a nun, nor did he recommend that the mothers of his disciples be ordained. In fact, he is mentioned only once or twice in connection with nuns, the most notable being the case of Princess Sonshi, who...

  18. 13 Epilogue: Ryōgen’s Posthumous Career
    (pp. 289-304)

    Saichō, Ennin, and Enchin had all been honored by the court with the posthumous title ofdaishi‘great teacher.’ The tradition of honoring eminent monks with this title had begun in 866 with the award of the title to Saichō and Ennin. In all, only eight monks would receive the courtbestowed title during the Heian period. In Ryōgen’s case, a posthumous title was conferred on him slightly more than two years after his death. The court ordered that he be given the posthumous title Jie (compassionate and wise).¹ However, the court probably never conferred the title ofdaishion him...

  19. Appendix 1. Ennin and Yokawa
    (pp. 305-310)
  20. Appendix 2. A Note on Morosuke’s Interests
    (pp. 311-312)
  21. Appendix 3. Dying Instructions of the Great Archbishop Jie
    (pp. 313-326)
  22. Appendix 4. Takamitsu’s Retreat to Tōnomine
    (pp. 327-330)
  23. Appendix 5. A Record of the Ōwa Debates
    (pp. 331-336)
  24. Appendix 6. Ten Doubts Concerning the Hossō School
    (pp. 337-340)
  25. Appendix 7. Zōga as an Eccentric
    (pp. 341-344)
  26. Appendix 8. Invocation of Tendai Abbot Ryōgen
    (pp. 345-366)
  27. Notes
    (pp. 367-462)
  28. Glossary
    (pp. 463-490)
  29. Bibliography
    (pp. 491-510)
  30. Index
    (pp. 511-525)
  31. Back Matter
    (pp. 526-527)