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THE HEIAN PERIOD
800 TO 900 A.D.
THE idea of the union of mind and matter was destined to grow still stronger in Japanese thought, till the complete fusion of the two conceptions should be reached. It is remarkable to find that this fusion rather centres in the material, and the symbol is regarded as realisation, the common act as if it were beatitude, the world itself as the ideal world. There is no Maya after all. In India, while it may be that this feeling of the physical and concrete as a luminous sacrament of spirituality, leads on the one side to Tantrikism and phallic worship, it forms on the other, as we must remember, the living poetry of the home and of experience.
From such conceptions, the sannyasin life is a sequestration, and so it comes that when the Japanese monk of the Shingon sect attempts to express in his worship this notion that the everyday life is not like but is the true life, he adopts for the moment the symbolic marks of the householder.
In this fusion of spirit and form, popular superstitions are raised to the same dignity and seriousness as the authentic sciences. There is no activity that may not receive the attention of the highest intellect. In this way fine thought and special emotions become democratised; the people lay up immense stores of latent energy, and we accomplish the preparation for some outburst of dynamic faculty at a later era.
In that epoch in Japanese history which is known from the fact that the capital was then again removed in 794 A.D. from Nara to Heian, or Kyoto as the Heian period, we find a new wave of Buddhist development, called the Mikkio or Esoteric doctrine, whose philosophic basis is such as to make it capable of including the two extremes, of asetic self-torture and the worship of physical rapture.
This movement was first represented in China by Vajrabodhi and his nephew Amoghavajra, of Southern India, the latter having gone back to India in quest of such ideas in 741 A.D. This may be considered as the point at which Buddhism merges itself in the larger influx of Hinduism, so that Indian influence at the period is overwhelming, in art as in religion.
The origin of the school in India itself is obscure. There are apparent traces of its existence even in very early days, but its systematisation seems only to be completed in the seventh and eighth centuries, when a need arose for combining the Brahminical and Buddhist doctrines. This was the moment at which the Ramayana received its final form, as a protest against the over-monasticising of life. In Japan the new philosophical standpoint was an advance upon the Hosso and Kegon schools which had taught the union of mind and matter, and the realisation of the Supreme Spirit, in concrete forms, for these thinkers went further than their predecessors, in the effort to demonstrate the idea in practice, claiming their own descent from direct communion with Vairochana, the Supreme Godhead, of which the Sakya-Buddha was only one manifestation. They aimed at finding truth in all religions and all teachings, each of them being its own method of attaining to the highest.
The union of mind, body, and word in meditation was considered essential, though any one of the three, by itself, carried to its utmost possibility, was productive of the highest results. Thus they made the Word, or the pronouncing of sacred charms, which they considered as lying on the borderland between mind and body, the most important way of attaining the result, so that this sect was sometimes called the True Word, or Shingon.
Art and Nature were now regarded in a new light, for in every object alike was contained Vairochana, the Impersonal-Universal, a supreme realisation of which was to be the quest of the believer. crime, from this point of view of transcendent oneness, becomes as sacred as self-sacrifice, the lowest demon as naturally the centre of the pantheon as the highest god. The minutest details must be guarded and conserved, the object being to see the whole of life as an embodiment of Godhead. And mythology comes to be treated as a shimmering iridescence, of which any point may at any moment be made the centre, throwing all others into relative subordination.
The idea is one of many possible issues of the great Indian aspiration towards Same-Sightedness (Samadarsana). At the same time, curiously enough, in spite of the profoundly intellectual analysis inherent in Buddhism, the scientific ideas of this period are expressed as magic, or the study of the supernatural. This was perhaps because the philosophy which divided the Existent into five elements earth, air, fire, water, and ether understood as Mind, declaring that without the last, no one of the other four could be, and that into it all were alike resolvable was too subtle for the understanding of the untrained masses. Under this school of thought every act of life became loaded with ritual, like Indian architecture, as regulated by Varahamihira in his Vrihat Samhita, and sculpture in the Manasara. In erecting a temple, for instance, the acharya, or master, would lay out the ground with a cosmic design, in which every stone had its place, and even the rubbish found within the outline represented the imperfections and shortcomings of his own development. Architecture, sculpture, and the whole arrangement of the temple, were all made expressive of this idea of the universe.
It was under this influence that Buddhism acquired its great masses of gods and goddesses, alien to the faith itself, but made possible by the new teaching as manifestations of the supreme original Divinity. We find now a systematised pantheon, grouped around the idea of Vairochana, in four main subdivisions first Fudo, second Hosho, third Amida, and fourth Sakya, as representations (1) of Power, which is knowledge; (2) of Wealth, which is creative force; (3) of Mercy, which is Divine intelligence descending upon man; and (4) of Work, or Karma, the realisation of the first three in actual life on earth, that is, Sakya-Muni.
Such is the abstract significance of the symbols. on their concrete side, Fudo, the immovable, the God of Samadhi, stands for the terrible form of Siva, the grand vision of the eternal blue, rising out of fire. Corresponding to the Indian idea of the period, he has the gleaming third eye, the trident sword, and the lasso of snakes. In another form, as Kojin, the Fierce God (Rudra?), or Makeisura (Maha-Iswara), he wears a garland of skulls, armlets of snakes, and the tiger-skin of meditation.
His feminine counterpart appears as Aizen, of the mighty bow, lion-crowned and awful, the God of Love but love in its strong form, whose fire of purity is death, who slays the beloved that he may attain the highest. Vairochana becomes a trinity with Fudo and Aizen, by means of the symbol of the Chintamani jewel, whose mystic form is that of a circle striving to make itself a triangle for life, it is said, never completes itself, but is for ever breaking through perfection, in its struggle upwards to the higher rounds of realisation.
The Indian idea of Kali is also represented by Kariteimo, the Mother-Queen of Heaven, to whom is made offering daily of the pomegranate, under a strange interpretation that points to the transformation of an ancient sacrifice of blood into this form under Buddhistic influences. Saraswati, as Benten, with her vina, which quells the waves; Kompira, or the Gandharva, the Eagle-headed, sacred to mariners; Kichijoten, or Lakshmi, who confers fortune and love; Taigensui, the Commander-in-chief (Kartikeya), who bestows the banner of victory; Shoden, the elephant-headed Ganesh, Breaker of the Path, to whom the first salutations are offered in all village-worship, and whose dread power is held in check by the counsels of the eleven-headed Kwannon, now attaining the female form, in expression of the Indian thought of motherhood all these suggest the direct adoption of Hindu deities.
This new conception of the divinities is different from the distant attitude of earlier Buddhists, inasmuch as they are now real, concrete, and actual in the forms represented.
The artistic works of the period are full of this intense fervour and nearness to the gods, such as is unknown in any other era. We have seen that the introduction of the Mikkio doctrine into China dates from Vajrabodhi, who came to that land in 719, translated a sϋtra on the Yoga, and was followed by Amoghavajra, bringing further knowledge on his return from India in 746. Its introduction into Japan dates similarly from Kukai, who was taught by Keika, the disciple of Amoghavajra. These teachers were considered to have magical powers, and were held in great reverence, and Kukai, one of the greatest figures in Japanese Buddhism, is supposed to be still sitting in meditation on Mount Koya, where he entered into Samadhi in 833, as a yogi. Kukai's works are numerous, "The Seven Patriarchs of the Sect of the True Word," painted by him, are now handed down in the Toji temple of Kyoto, amongst its priceless treasures, and are deeply suggestive of the great virility and grandeur of this master-mind. His immediate disciples, Jitte, Jikaku, and Chisho, all of whom studied the doctrine in China, carried the movement still further. The creed and temples of the early Nara period succumbed in the main to this new influence, inasmuch as its comprehensive view engendered no conflict with any earlier tenets.
One of the best specimens of the sculpture of this period is the Yakshi Buddha, the Great Healer, carved under the orders of Kukai, now extant in the Zhingoji temple near Kyoto. Another, the eleven-headed Kwannon of Toganji in Omi, is attributed to Saicho, Kukai's great rival. We may also mention the Nioirin Kwannon of Kansinji, and the graceful Kwannon of Hokkiji in Nara.
In painting, the twelve devas by Kukai, preserved at present in Saidaiji in Nara, with the Riokaimandara of Senjuin, of the same province, are the foremost examples of the strong brushwork of the period.
Heian art is thus a synonym for work that is strong and vital, because concrete. It is full of a certain vigour of assurance. But it is not free, lacking the spontaneity and detachment of great idealism. It is at the same time representative of an essential stage in the appropriation of Buddhist conceptions. Up to this point they have been regarded and treated as something apart from the believer himself. Now, in their slightly common-place energising of the Heian consciousness, this separatedness is lost, and the succeeding era shows their absorption and re-expression in the national life as emotion.
Fudo. The Immovable. One of the Indian names of Siva, similarly, is Achala, the Unmoving.
The Twelve Devas. The twelve devas are: Bonten (Brahma), attended by the white bird Ha Kuga, or Swan; Khaten (Agni); Ishanna; Thaishak (Indra); Futen; Vishamon, whose consort is Kichjoten (Goddess of Fortune); Em-ma (Yama), riding on a buffalo, and bearing the great staff of death, surmounted by two heads; Nitten, the Sun-God; Getten, the Moon-God; Suiten, the God of Waters on a tortoise; and Shoden (Ganesh).
At the time of a monk's initiation the acharya, or master, represented Vairochana; the postulant, the potential Vairochana; pictures of the twelve devas were hung about the hall as guardian witnesses, and at the back was placed the screen, bearing the representation of mountains and waters, behind which the secret text was spoken in the ear.
Samadhi, or realisation through concentration. In Japan we distinguish three stages, beginning with the trance of super-consciousness, produced by meditation, and culminating in a perfect union with the Absolute, which is compatible with work in the world, and is the same as Buddhahood. This last phase is that known in India as jivan-mukti.