The Path – November 1890


In Japan there are twelve principal Buddhist sects, all of them having different names and with different reasons for their inception. The chief priests of these met with Col. Olcott last year in friendly union for the purpose of seeing what could be done in the way of healing the differences which exist between the two great divisions of the church, and a short account of them it is thought will be of interest and value to the American theosophists.

I will name them in order and then tell of their different ideas in small space. They are:

The Ku-sha-shu, the Jo-jitsu-shu, the Ris-shu, the Hosso-shu, the San-ron-shu, the Ke-gon-shu, the Tendai-shu, the Shingon-shu, the Jo-do-shu, the Zen-shu, the Shin-shu, the Nichi-ren-shu. Many of these rely upon a certain book or books which give them their names.

The Ku-sha-shu is so called from the Book of the treasury of metaphysics which was composed by Vasubandhu or Se-shin. They have several other books, among which may be mentioned one which it is said was composed by five hundred Arhats or perfect men and is by name Dai-bi-ba-sha-ron. The various divisions of the inner man are given, and among them is a very peculiar property assigned to him and called Mu-hyo-shikin, which means "unapparent form". Though it is said to be formless, yet it is called form, and it means that when an action is done something relating to it is formed in the actor. The analysis of the faculties and other parts of man is very detailed. They say that all things are brought about by Karma except two, which are Space and Nirvana. It is also said that those who wish to be enlightened fully may be so in three births if they are assiduous, but if not, then it will take them sixty kalpas.

The Jo-jitsu-shu has a book entitled "The perfection of the truth". It has explanations of the Tripitaka as preached by Buddha, and is said to have been written by a Hindu who was a disciple of Kumarila Batta. The book is said to unite the best of many other schools of Buddhism. One peculiar view which deserves notice is that the past and future are unreal, but that as to things the present only is real. By meditation on the unreal character of things, even including the person himself, one obtains enlightenment upon the destruction of passion. They have many books, and of these there is one commentary of 23 volumes and another in two.

The Ris-shu was founded about 617 A.D., it is said, by Do-sen from China. Its basis may be understood from a quotation taken from one of the works of the founder. He says, "If a man does not practise the Dhyana and Samhadi, that is, meditation and contemplation, he cannot understand the truth".

The Hosso-shu divides the whole mass of the doctrines of the Buddha into the following: "existence, emptiness, and the middle path," and they say that the doctrines of the Mahayana school to the number of 80, 000 can be put in these divisions. The sect is said to study as to the real nature of things, and its divisions are so very numerous as not to be admitted here. According to them a man has to live for countless kalpas in the right way before he can become a Buddha.

The San-ron-shu is named from their having three shastras or books which cover the whole teachings of Buddha during his life. They think that, as the object of Buddha was to teach people according to their several and different abilities to take the truth, therefore any shastra that will teach them may be preached from. But of course they only use the Buddhist shastras.

Next comes the Ke-gon-shu, and it like some others takes its name from a book, the Ke-gon-gyo. They think their sutra was preached by Buddha soon after his enlightenment, and that by right thought on perfect enlightenment a man will reach it. Other rules are those common to all Buddhism. The name of the sect may be also Great-square-wide-Buddha-flower-adornment.

Ten-dai-shu, or the sect founded on the mount of TENDAI in China, preaches the doctrine of "completion and suddenness". This of course sounds singular to ears not accustomed to these terms, but it means the completion of enlightenment and the immediacy of that state to all men. They say that if the disciple properly understands the secrets as to form and reason, he will become Buddha in this life even.

Shin-gon-shu sect also teaches that a man may reach to perfect enlightenment even in this life if he follows their doctrine, which is called the secret mantra. This latter is in respect to body, speech, and thought. A very notable method of this sect is this: if the doctrines are read lengthwise from top to bottom as in the writing of that country, then the apparent doctrine is known; but if the table of doctrines be read across the lines of writing, then the secret doctrine becomes known. This seems to be a very peculiar sort of cipher. This hidden doctrine is communicated to the disciples by the teacher. Lengthwise the gradual improvement of thought is explained, and crosswise the circle of the state of things is fully explained, and this is the secret doctrine. Without going into this it may be said to be a method of teaching very like that of Patanjali, in which the several sorts of thought are classified and directed to be got rid of, one by one, until the state of pure thought is reached. Thus the apparent doctrine drives away the dust of outer thought, and the secret one shows the inner truth. The final object is to know the source and bottom of one's thoughts, and thus to be able to reach the state of Buddha. There are many secret and curious things in the doctrine of this sect which it would be impossible to set down here from their great length.

(To be continued.)

The Path