Buddhist Studies schools / lineages
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Japanese Buddhist Schools

• Tendai (T'ien Tai, Chinese): Founded in Japan by Saicho (d. 822 C.E.), this lineage quickly rose to prominence as the most important lineage in Japanese Buddhism. The basic doctrine of this lineage and the Chinese T'ien Tai are the same, as in their reverence for the Lotus Sutra, but Tendai differs in its emphasis on the mystical and esoteric aspects of Buddhism. The four primary categories of this lineage are (1) morality, (2) monastic discipline, (3) esoteric practices, and (4) meditation.

• Shingon: Founded by Kukai (d. 835 C.E), this lineage grew to rival the Tendai lineage as early as the late ninth century. The Shingon belief system was tantric and taught that through mantras (short, repetitive incantations), meditation and the performance of hand gesture one can gain access to the power of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

• Jodo or Pure Land: Began at the time of the publication of the treatise of Honen (d. 1212 C.E) entitled Senchaku-shu, this lineage traces its scriptural heritage to the Pure Land Sutra (Sukhavati Vyuha), which prescribes loving devotion to the Buddha Amida as a means of being reborn in the Pure Land, or the paradise over which he presides. Pure Land prayer centres on the repetition on the phrase namu amida butsu ("Homage to Amida Buddha") and became one of the most popular forms of Buddhism in Japan.

• Joho Shinshu or True Pure Land: Founded by Shinran (d. 1262 C.E), this lineage takes Pure Land teaching one step further, claiming that humility and faith in Amida's love are in themselves true signs that the redeeming grace of the Buddha has already been bestowed. Amida Buddha seeks and saves without first requiring faith and good works. These spring up spontaneously from Amida's spiritual presence in the heart.

• Nichiren: Named after its founder Nichiren (d. 1282 C.E), this lineage was founded on the Lotus Sutra and taught that the mere repetition of the title of that sutra Nam-myoho-renge-kyo ("Homage to the Lotus Sutra") was sufficient to gain one access to paradise.

• Zen (Soto and Rinzai Sects): The monk Eisai (d. 1215 C.E) is usually considered the first proponent of Zen in Japan, although Ch'an had existed since the early sixth century and probably existed also in Japan before Eisai's time. The earliest forms of Zen generally avoided intellectualism and de-emphasized scriptures, doctrines and ceremonial. Eisai, whose form of Zen took on the name of Rinzai (Lin-chi, Ch.) affirmed the authority of the traditional Buddhist scriptures and used the koan or meditational riddle as a means of transcending linear thinking. Soto Zen (Ts'ao-tung, Ch.), tracing its roots back to Dogen (d. 1253 C.E), also affirmed the validity of the Buddhist scriptures but de-emphasized the use of koans and focused solely on extended, silent meditation.

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