Beyond Zen: Japanese Buddhism Revealed

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Map of Buddhist sites in Japan


Glossary Adi-Buddhas: First or Primordial Buddhas, spiritual founts of particular teachings. Arakan: Japanese term for Arhat. Arhat: Sanskrit term for a disciple of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. Bodhisattva: Sanskrit term meaning “enlightened being” or “awakened being.” Bodhisattvas are believed to have the perfection needed to attain nirvana (the ultimate realization), but have chosen to stay in samsara (this world of suffering) until all sentient beings are able to attain nirvana. Bosatsu: Japanese term for Bodhisattva. Buddha: Sanskrit term meaning “enlightened” or “awakened;” a being who embodies enlightenment. Cha-do: Literally, “the way of tea,” signifying tea ceremony. Cha-no-yu: Literally, “hot water tea,” signifying tea ceremony. Cintamani: Sanskrit term for a wish-granting jewel. Dharma: Sanskrit term for Buddhist teachings, sometimes called Buddhist law. Dhyana-Buddhas: Meditational Buddhas, the focus of particular meditation practices. Hagiography: Biography of a saint. Ji-Shū Buddhism: Established in 1270, branch of Pure Land Buddhism that includes scheduled chanting sessions. Jōdo-Shinshū Buddhism: Established in 1224, also known as Shin Buddhism, promotes voluntary and charismatic surrender to the power of Amida through the repetition of nenbutsu. Jōdo-Shū Buddhism: Established in 1175, promotes devotion to Amida through repetition of nenbutsu in order to be reborn in Amida’s Pure Land. Karma: Sanskrit term encompassing one’s intentions and actions not only in this current lifetime, but also in all one’s previous lifetimes.

Koan: Japanese term for a riddle posed so that the intuited solution leads to a moment of enlightenment. Kongō: Japanese term meaning vajra.

Samsara: Sanskrit term signifying the world we live in, the world of suffering. Sangha: Sanskrit term for a community of Buddhists.

Mandala: Sanskrit term meaning “circle” or “cycle,” as in sphere of influence, circle of friends, entourage of retainers, cycle of time, or a geometric configuration of a celestial palace (to house central deities and divine retinue).

Sanskrit: The sacred language of Buddhism, like Latin for the Roman Catholic Church.

Mandara: Japanese transliteration of mandala.

Shingon Buddhism: Esoteric form of Mantrayana Buddhism that holds tantra as central to its practices.

Mandorla: Aureola or frame, surrounding a representation of a sacred figure or figures. Mantra: Sanskrit-based combination of syllables that invoke specific deities. Mudra: Sanskrit term indicating ritual hand gestures that contain spiritual power. Nenbutsu: Incantation of the six-character mantra of Amida: “Namu Amida Butsu.” Nichiren Buddhism: Established in 1253, promotes that people possess Buddha-nature and thus have the potential to attain enlightenment in their present lifetime through activities such as repetitive chanting of the Lotus Sutra (often marked by counting prayer beads during recitation). Nirvana: Sanskrit term signifying an abstract “place” or “state of existence” beyond the world of suffering (samsara), which breaks the cycle of rebirth. Sometimes defined as “somethingness”, other times defined as “nothingness”, it is also a “place” where duality ceases; e.g. where there is no separation between light and dark. Ōbaku Zen: Established in 1654, this Sinified form of Rinzai Zen emphasizes monastic rules. Rakan: Japanese term for Arhat. Rinzai Zen: Japanese religious school (est. 1191) based on a Chinese form that employs the use of koan to attain insights. It was favored by Samurai, ascendant during the Muromachi Period (1392–1573), and later revived by Hakuin Ekaku (1685–1768).

Satori: A moment of sudden enlightenment. Sencha: Chinese-style steeped tea.

Sōtō Zen: Japanese religious school (est. 1227) based on a Chinese form, both of which emphasize serene reflection meditation, emptying the mind to be present in evershifting transience. Tantra: Teachings that aim to concentrate and manipulate external forces with internal practices to attain spiritual powers. Tathagatha Buddhas: Forefather Buddhas that head the five Buddha-families. Tendai Buddhism: Esoteric form of Japanese Buddhism (est. 807) that holds the Lotus Sutra as central to practice; it traditionally held great political influence. Triratna: Sanskrit term for triple-gem, signifying the Buddha, the Dharma (Buddhist teachings), and the Sangha (Buddhist community). Vajra: Sanskrit term sometimes translated as “thunderbolt” or “diamond.” Important in esoteric Buddhism, the term vajra in art usually refers to a ritual scepter. Symbolically, this implement represents a vast number of things, including, but not limited to, the following: 1) male energy; 2) compassion; 3) the simultaneous creation/collapsing of duality. Zen: Japanese term for the Chinese “Chan,” both indicating forms of Mahayana Buddhism that emphasize meditation as paramount in religious practice.

Kesa: Japanese term for a monastic cape.


Figure 9 A,B The simple clothing and lack of jewelry, joined with the distinctive hand gestures (mudra) of grasping his robe with his left hand and turning the palm of his right hand upward, identify this particular Buddha (fig. 9A) as Ashuku Nyorai Buddha (Akshobyha, literally “The Imperturbable”). Typically he is worshipped as part of a larger set—evident in the obvious similarities of this sculpture to another work in the collection (see fig. 10A). The identical dimensions and style of these two sculptures demonstrate that they were both part of a larger grouping. Note their simple ring halos. The pericarps of their lotuses are also encased in upward-turned, single-lotus petals that emerge from a band decorated with a rice-grain pattern, from which emerges downward-turned, double-petal lotuses supported above a meandering key interspersed on the bottom edge. This pair of sculptures were financed by two different donors—so named in their respective inscriptions brushed in ink on their undersides (figs. 9B, 10B). This standard fundraising strategy has been documented in Buddhist temples (in Japan and elsewhere) throughout history. Donors may select images for which they donate some funds, then their names are inscribed upon them.

Ashuku Nyorai Buddha

Thus the spiritual merit of their

Edo Period (1615–1868)

financial donation is amplified by the continued presence of the activated

Wood, lacquer, glass

constantly re-activated by all who

H: 8½ x W: 5 x D: 4 in. (21.5 x 12.5 x 10 cm)

see them, generating spiritual

Inscribed: 施主 衛藤傳左衛門

divine image. These images are

merit not only for the viewer, but also cumulatively accrued to the inscribed donors (to benefit them to eventually attain enlightenment).


Purchase 1909 George T. Rockwell Collection  9.897 Donor: Eto Denzaemon

Figure 10 A,B If the inscription is to be believed, this is a form of Kannon (Avalokiteshvara). The empty hands might once have held a lotus stalk. Both the crown and potentially held lotus indicate this might be Sho Kannon (Padmapani Avalokiteshvara). Alternatively, if the hands once held a ritual scepter and bell, then (along with the crown) the iconography would suggest Kongō Satta (see fig. 8).

Seated Crowned Buddha or Bodhisattva Edo Period (1615–1868) Wood, lacquer, glass H: 8½ x W: 5 x D: 4 in. (21.5 x 12.5 x 10 cm) Inscribed: 施主 加藤市右衛門 為胸池妙蓮 Purchase 1909 George T. Rockwell Collection 9.896 Donor: Kato Ichiemon for Kannon (Avalokiteshvara)

Buddha, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas  29

Kannon Bosatsu, Bodhisattva of Compassion The following four paintings (figs. 13–16) were commissioned as a suite for the Shinzenji temple in Nishio, Aichi Prefecture, Chūba region. The artists took great pains to individualize the clothing and jewelry of each, while harmonizing between them. Inscriptions retained on their mountings indicate where in the upper and lower right and left of the temple each was hung. Each painting depicts a different form of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, called Kannon in Japanese and Avalokiteshvara in Sanskrit. The patrons who commissioned the paintings invested significant funds, indicated not only by the rich pigments and gold work, but also by the silk mountings shot with gold threads.

Figure 13 This form of the Bodhisattva of Compassion is distinct to East Asia, and is thought to have its roots in a legend about the Buddha disguising himself as a fishmonger to spread the teaching of Buddhism. The painting is unusual in the depiction of the Bodhisattva standing on a water jar. The water spouting from the jar supports

Fish-Basket Gyoran Kannon Bosatsu

a small boy who is poised to dive. Several forms of

Meiji Period (1868–1912)

Kannon are worshipped in the hopes of having a healthy baby boy, including this fish-basket form. Fish— particularly carp, shown here—represent abundance and success. Gyoran Kannon is viewed as protector of fish and mariners.


Colors, gold, silk Image: H: 50 x W: 28 in. (127 x 71 cm) Mount: H: 96 x W: 36½ in. (244 x 93 cm) Purchase 1921  TR3.1921.1

Figure 14 Waters poured from the vessel in Kannon’s hand support a child. Sometimes called Hibo Kannon, this form of Kannon was popularized in the nineteenth century. Some scholars credit Kanō Hogai (1828–1888) with creating this image for display in international expositions held in Europe and the Americas in the mid- to late nineteenth century.3 The directional inscription on this painting demonstrates that the image was employed in veneration, as well as being admired for its aesthetics.

Child-Blessing Kannon Bosatsu Meiji Period (1868–1912) Colors, gold, silk Image: H: 50 x W: 28 in. (127 x 71 cm) Mount: H: 96 x W: 36½ in. (244 x 93 cm) Purchase 1921  TR3.1921.2

Buddha, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas  33


Figure 22 Red sun and white moon disks are nestled into the clouds at the top of this diminutive, palm-sized shrine—signifying a sacred time and space. Inside are three figures: thousand-armed Senju Kannon flanked by two of Senju Kannon’s twenty-eight Bushū messengers. At left is Gobujō, who has a boar’s head helmet and brandishes a sword. At right is Bishamon Tennō (Vaishravana), Chief of the Four Directional Protectors and Guardian of the North. His hands are raised, holding a stupa and poised to grasp the long pole of a halberd or trident. He tramples a red-skinned demon, while the other two figures stand on lotuses. Note the ornate woven key pattern on the interior of the folding doors.

Senju Kannon with Zenshin Protectors Edo Period (1615–1868) Wood, gold, colors, lacquer, wires, metal fastenings H: 2 x W: 1½ x D: ¾ in. (5 x 4 x 2 cm) Purchase 1909 George T. Rockwell Collection  9.884

Endnotes 1 This artist has many sobriquets and is also known as Matsudono, Okada Tamechika, Okada Tametaka, Okada Tameyasu, Saburō, and Tamechika. For a similar work, see Okura Art Museum’s Mandala of Buddhist and Shinto Deities, in Graham 2007, Plate 17. 2 Dleitlein 2002, pp. 70–71, 75, 110–11. 3 Foxwell 2010. 4 Graham 2007, pp. 125–49.

Buddha, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas  43

Figure 27 Amida, Buddha of Limitless Light, here descends with his choir of celestial attendants to welcome a dying individual to Sukhavati (Western Paradise)— a Pure Land, where all will eventually attain enlightenment. In the lower right, Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, kneels to offer the dying a lotus throne as transport to paradise. Seishi Bodhisattva holds a ceremonial rank canopy above to honor the deceased. The majority of Bodhisattvas are making music to celebrate the soul’s entrance to paradise. A range of musical instruments—the pear-shaped biwa, stringed koto, flutes, drums, and so on— includes forms that traveled along the Silk Route between west and east Asia. Many of these instruments were adopted in the regions they touched, both for Buddhist ritual music and for other music. In the upper left, dressed in the robes of a monk, is Jizo (Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha) holding his flaming jewel to light the way (see fig. 32). The painting’s dynamic composition brings the full power of loving welcome to console the dying. This format became so popular that it has its own name, raigo, indicating a descent of welcome.

Amida Buddha Raigo Edo Period (1615–1868) Ink, colors, gold, silk Image: H: 47 x W: 51¾ in. (119.5 x 131.5 cm) Frame: H: 58½ x W: 58½ in. (148.5 x 148.5 cm) Gift of Herman A. E. Jaehne and Paul C. Jaehne, 1941  41.1456


Life and Death  53

Figure 28 The posture of this exquisite statue—knees slightly bent, leaning forward, with hands pressed in a gesture of reverence (namaskara-mudra or anjali-mudra)—indicates that this Bodhisattva (Mahasthamaprapta) is descending to welcome the dying to paradise. Originally, it would have been part of a larger grouping—at a minimum with Amida Buddha and Kannon Bosatsu (see fig. 24). It might also have been part of an assembly of twenty-five Bodhisattvas, most of whom play music (see fig. 27). The style of the exquisite cut gold work on this wood and lacquer statue, along with the serene flat face and treatment of the drapery, are hallmarks of Kamakura Period sculpture, a style that was revered and revived in later periods.

Seishi Bosatsu Raigo Kamakura Period (1185–1333) Wood, gold, lacquer, colors H: 18 x W: 4½ x D: 7½ in. (46 x 11.5 x 19 cm) Purchase 1967 The Members’ Fund  67.107


Figure 29 The inscription on this work signifies spiritual merit intended for the named deceased to promote their rebirth in the Western Paradise of Amida. The individuals who commissioned the shrine, and the artists who made it, would also accrue spiritual merit. Inside, Amida is flanked by a flaming jewel (here intended to light the path for the deceased in the afterlife), as well as an inscribed tablet (a legacy of Confucianism and ancestor worship). Incised into the mandorla are small golden Buddhas. The choice of materials for this shrine— silver and gold—is unusual, and speaks to the nineteenth-century flooding of the global market with relatively inexpensive silver mined from the Americas and China.

Amida Buddha Zushi Shrine Commissioned and created by Hoshimori Unno and Eizawa Kingoro 1897, Meiji Period (1868–1912) Silver, gold, diamond, ruby H: 6 x W: 2 /87 x D: 3 /81 in. (15 x 7.5 x 8 cm) Inscribed: Made in memory of Niwa Keiko who died August 18, 1894 Gift of Herman A. E. Jaehne and Paul C. Jaehne, 1937  37.59A–H

Life and Death  55

6. Being driven in a burning cart (above). Freezing in Icy Hell (top).

5. Weighing one’s negative karma.

4. Witnessing one’s misdeeds in the karma mirror.

3. Being judged by Emma-o, King of Hell.

11. Burning in Fire Hell and being tormented by demons.

Figure 30 Playing upon universals of human nature, Buddhist visions of the afterlife include the potential horrors of hell as well as the promise of paradise. This

Scenes of Hell Hand-scroll Edo Period (1615–1868) Ink, colors, paper

to left, souls cross the Sanzu River, where the Hag Onibaba strips them bare of

H: 10½ x W: 139 in. (26.5 x 353 cm)

their death clothing. A King of Hell sits in judgment, while a red-skinned demon

Purchase 1915  15.1106

hand-scroll illustrates what awaits those who are found wanting. Reading right

forces a soul to look at his transgressions in a magical mirror. A disembodied head breathes fire. Red- and blue-skinned demons torture others, whose karma (the accumulated actions of all their past lives) determined their rebirth in hell.


2. Being stripped of death clothing by the Hag Onibaba, who hangs the clothing on the thorny tree above.

10. Being crushed in Mortar Hell.

9. Dissection and Boiling Hells.

1. Crossing the Sanzu River wearing death clothes.

8. Being tempted by a hell courtesan.

7. Being forced to run through the Needle Mountain Hell.

In the Buddhist tradition, however, hell is a transient state. After a prescribed amount of time, one may be born into another realm and may eventually attain enlightenment. Hand-scrolls of hell imagery like this one were used as illustrations for lively etoki performances, with trained storytellers (usually nuns and monks) explaining the meaning of the pictures reading from right to left, as described in Chapter 7 (see p. 127).2 Note the style of death clothing the souls wear. This death fashion became standard during the Edo Period, when some temples monopolized production to their financial benefit.

Life and Death  57

Figure 46 Dressed with a distinct hat and robe, his gem-producing mallet laid at his side, Daikokuten counts out coins brought by his wealth boat perched at his shoulder. His rat assistant shakes more money into the box. A variety of precious materials were used to render this scene, including mother-of-pearl, tortoise shell, ivory and colors. Both the luxury materials and the subject of this

Daikokuten (Mahakala) Counting His Riches

sculpture were intended to garner wealth to the owner.

Edo Period (1615–1868) Ivory, mother-of-pearl, tortoise shell, colors H: 3¼ x W: 3¼ x D: 3¼ in. (8 x 8 x 8 cm) Purchase 1909 George T. Rockwell Collection  9.905A–C


Wealth Gods Ebisu and Daikokuten (Mahakala)

Figure 47 A,B

Meiji Period (1868–1912) Silver A: H: 2¾ x W: 1¼ x D: 2 in. (7 x 3 x 5 cm) B: H: 2½ x W: 1¾ x D: 1¾ in. (6.5 x 4.5 x 4.5 cm) Gift of Herman A. E. Jaehne and Paul C. Jaehne, 1941 41.1409A,B

Typically depicted with a fish and seated on a rocky outcrop, the wealth god Ebisu is distinct to Japan and his worship pre-dates Buddhism. Usually shown holding either a red sea bream or a sea bass, he is revered as a god of prosperity for business and bringing abundant crops. He became affiliated with the Seven Gods of Good Fortune (Shichi Fukujin) and especially with Daikokuten. Daikokuten is portrayed with a bag of riches, a gem-producing mallet, and bales of rice upon which he stands. Here each bale is adorned with three gems, signifying the three gems of Buddhism (triratna). He is affiliated with both the Buddhist deity Mahakala and the pre-Buddhist Shinto deity Okuninushi, and is worshipped as a demon-hunter as well as a god of commerce. These luxurious silver examples would have been placed on a domestic altar to attract wealth to the devotee.

Health and Wealth  81

Figure 110

Figure 111

Mizusashi Water Container with Lotus Motif

Mizusashi Water Container with Mount Fuji, Pine, and Dragon Motif

Kyoto, Edo Period (1615–1868) Glazed earthenware H: 6 /83 x Dia: 5 in. (16 x 12.5 cm) Gift of Judith and Gerson Leiber, 1992 92.497A,B

Meiji Period (1868–1912) Glazed earthenware H: 5¼ x Dia: 5¼ in. (13.5 x 13.5 cm) Gift of Herman A. E. Jaehne and Paul C. Jaehne, 1941 41.1053A,B


Figure 112

Figure 113

Mizusashi Water Container with Crane Motif

Takashi Tanaka (b. 1970)

Gyoan Kiln, before 1914, Taisho Period (1912–1926)

Mizusashi Water Container called “Strength of Mind”

Glazed porcelain

before 2012, Heisei Period (1989–present)

H: 7 x Dia: 6 in. (18 x 15 cm)

Stoneware with salt glaze

Purchase 1914 14.109A,B

H: 8 /81 x W: 7¾ x D: 6½ in. (20.5 x 19.5 x 16.5 cm) Gift of Makiko and Noritaka Maki, 2012 2012.52.2.1A,B

Endnotes 1 For a more detailed treatment of sencha, see Graham 1998. 2 For all eight treatments, see Hayashiya 1979, p. 109. 3 For this and other famous examples of named tea scoops, see Hayashiya 1979, pp. 137–9.



Beyond Zen Japanese Buddhism Revealed Edited by Katherine Anne Paul Contributions by Katherine Anne Paul and Ikumi Kaminishi Preface by Linda C. Harrison, The Newark Museum of Art’s Director & CEO Beyond Zen showcases over 130 ornate and gold leafed paintings, textiles, ceramics, and sculptures from the Newark Museum’s extensive collections of Japanese religious art, and provides access to hitherto unpublished masterpieces. This work includes three essays by Katherine Paul and Ikumi Kaminishi as well as fully illustrated sections. The publication is divided into seven parts: Buddha, Buddhas, and Boddhisattvas; Life and Death; Health and Wealth; Extending Enlightenment; Teachers and Students; From Ascetic to Saint; and Tea Aesthetics and Implements. The work additionally includes a map of the Buddhist sites in Japan, a glossary, and a timeline.

Beyond Zen Japanese Buddhism Revealed

Paul Kaminishi

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