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He sought to use the
foreign faith as a link to bind Japan to his country, so that he
might count on his oversea neighbour's powerful aid against the
attacks of Koma and Shiragi.

*That is to say, the Kinai, or five provinces, of which Yamato is the
centre.

**The memorial is held by some critics to be of doubtful
authenticity, though the compilers of the Chronicles may have
inserted it in good faith.

A more interesting question, however, is the aspect under which the
new faith presented itself to the Japanese when it first arrived
among them as a rival of Shinto and Confucianism. There can be no
doubt that the form in which it became known at the outset was the
Hinayana, or Exoteric, as distinguished from the Mahayana, or
Esoteric. But how did the Japanese converts reconcile its acceptance
with their allegiance to the traditional faith, Shinto? The clearest
available answer to this question is contained in a book called
Taishiden Hochu, where, in reply to a query from his father, Yomei,
who professed inability to believe foreign doctrines at variance with
those handed down from the age of the Kami, Prince Shotoku is
recorded to have replied:

"Your Majesty has considered only one aspect of the matter. I am
young and ignorant, but I have carefully studied the teachings of
Confucius and the doctrine of the Kami. I find that there is a plain
distinction. Shinto, since its roots spring from the Kami, came into
existence simultaneously with the heaven and the earth, and thus
expounds the origin of human beings. Confucianism, being a system of
moral principles, is coeval with the people and deals with the middle
stage of humanity. Buddhism, the fruit of principles, arose when the
human intellect matured. It explains the last stage of man. To like
or dislike Buddhism without any reason is simply an individual
prejudice. Heaven commands us to obey reason. The individual cannot
contend against heaven. Recognizing that impossibility, nevertheless
to rely on the individual is not the act of a wise man or an
intelligent. Whether the Emperor desire to encourage this creed is a
matter within his own will. Should he desire to reject it, let him do
so; it will arise one generation later. Should he desire to adopt it,
let him do so; it will arise one generation earlier. A generation is
as one moment in heaven's eyes. Heaven is eternal. The Emperor's
reign is limited to a generation; heaven is boundless and
illimitable. How can the Emperor struggle against heaven? How can
heaven be concerned about a loss of time?"

The eminent modern Japanese historiographer, Dr. Ariga, is disposed
to regard the above as the composition of some one of later date than
the illustrious Shotoku, but he considers that it rightly represents
the relation assigned to the three doctrines by the Japanese of the
sixth and seventh centuries. "Shinto teaches about the origin of the
country but does not deal with the present or the future.
Confucianism discusses the present and has no concern with the past
or the future. Buddhism, alone, preaches about the future. That life
ends with the present cannot be believed by all. Many men think of
the future, and it was therefore inevitable that many should embrace
Buddhism."

But at the moment when the memorial of King Myong was presented to
the Emperor Kimmei, the latter was unprepared to make a definite
reply. The image, indeed, he found to be full of dignity, but he left
his ministers to decide whether it should be worshipped or not. A
division of opinion resulted. The o-omi, Iname, of the Soga family,
advised that, as Buddhism had won worship from all the nations on the
West, Japan should not be singular. But the o-muraji, Okoshi, of the
Mononobe-uji, and Kamako, muraji of the Nakatomi-uji, counselled that
to bow down to foreign deities would be to incur the anger of the
national gods. In a word, the civil officials advocated the adoption
of the Indian creed; the military and ecclesiastical officials
opposed it. That the head of the Mononobe-uji should have adopted
this attitude was natural: it is always the disposition of soldiers
to be conservative, and that is notably true of the Japanese soldier
(bushi). In the case of the Nakatomi, also, we have to remember that
they were, in a sense, the guardians of the Shinto ceremonials: thus,
their aversion to the acceptance of a strange faith is explained.

What is to be said, however, of the apparently radical policy of the
Soga chief? Why should he have advocated so readily the introduction
of a foreign creed? There are two apparent reasons. One is that the
Hata and Aya groups of Korean and Chinese artisans were under the
control of the Soga-uji, and that the latter were therefore disposed
to welcome all innovations coming from the Asiatic continent. The
other is that between the o-muraji of the Kami class (Shimbetsu) and
the o-omi of the Imperial class (Kwobetsu) there had existed for some
time a political rivalry which began to be acute at about the period
of the coming of Buddhism, and which was destined to culminate, forty
years later, in a great catastrophe. The Emperor himself steered a
middle course. He neither opposed nor approved but entrusted the
image to the keeping of the Soga noble. Probably his Majesty was not
unwilling to submit the experiment to a practical test vicariously,
for it is to be noted that, in those days, the influence of the Kami
for good or for evil was believed to be freely exercised in human
affairs.

This last consideration does not seem to have influenced Soga no
Iname at all. He must have been singularly free from the
superstitions of his age, for he not only received the image with
pleasure but also enshrined it with all solemnity in his Mukuhara
residence, which he converted wholly into a temple.

Very shortly afterwards, however, the country was visited by a
pestilence, and the calamity being regarded as an expression of the
Kami's resentment, the o-muraji of the Mononobe and the muraji of the
Nakatomi urged the Emperor to cast out the emblems of a foreign
faith. Accordingly, the statue of the Buddha was thrown into the
Naniwa canal and the temple was burned to the ground. Necessarily
these events sharply accentuated the enmity between the Soga and the
Mononobe. Twenty-five years passed, however, without any attempt to
restore the worship of the Buddha. Iname, the o-omi of the Soga,
died; Okoshi, the o-muraji of the Mononobe, died, and they were
succeeded in these high offices by their sons, Umako and Moriya,
respectively.

When the Emperor Bidatsu ascended the throne in A.D. 572, the
political stage was practically occupied by these two ministers only;
they had no competitors of equal rank. In 577, the King of Kudara
made a second attempt to introduce Buddhism into Japan. He sent to
the Yamato Court two hundred volumes of sacred books; an ascetic; a
yogi (meditative monk); a nun; a reciter of mantras (magic spells); a
maker of images, and a temple architect. If any excitement was caused
by this event, the annals say nothing of the fact. It is briefly
related that ultimately a temple was built for the new-comers in
Naniwa (modern Osaka). Two years later, Shiragi also sent a Buddhist
eidolon, and in 584--just sixty-two years after the coming of Shiba
Tachito from Liang and thirty-two years after Soga no Iname's attempt
to popularize the Indian faith--two Japanese high officials returned
from Korea, carrying with them a bronze image of Buddha and a stone
image of Miroku.* These two images were handed over, at his request,
to the o-omi, Umako, who had inherited his father's ideas about
Buddhism. He invited Shiba Tachito, then a village mayor, to
accompany one Hida on a search throughout the provinces for Buddhist
devotees. They found a man called Eben, a Korean who had originally
been a priest, and he, having resumed the stole, consecrated the
twelve-year-old daughter of Shiba Tachito, together with two other
girls, as nuns. The o-omi now built a temple, where the image of
Miroku was enshrined, and a pagoda on the top of whose central pillar
was deposited a Buddhist relic which had shown miraculous powers.

*The Sanskrit Maitreya, the expected Messiah of the Buddhist.

Thus, once more the creed of Sakiya Muni seemed to have found a
footing in Japan. But again the old superstitions prevailed. The
plague of small-pox broke out once more. This fell disease had been
carried from Cochin China by the troops of General Ma Yuan during the
Han dynasty, and it reached Japan almost simultaneously with the
importation of Buddhism. The physicians of the East had no skill in
treating it, and its ravages were terrible, those that escaped with
their lives having generally to lament the loss of their eyes. So
soon as the malady made its second appearance in the immediate sequel
of the new honours paid to Buddhism, men began to cry out that the
Kami were punishing the nation's apostacy, and the o-muraji, Moriya,
urged the Emperor (Bidatsu) to authorize the suppression of the alien
religion. Bidatsu, who at heart had always been hostile to the
innovation, consented readily, and the o-muraji, taking upon himself
the duty of directing the work of iconoclasm, caused the pagoda and
the temple to be razed and burned, threw the image into the canal,
and flogged the nuns. But the pestilence was not stayed. Its ravages
grew more unsparing. The Emperor himself, as well as the o-omi,
Umako, were attacked, and now the popular outcry took another tone:
men ascribed the plague to the wrath of Buddha. Umako, in turn,
pleaded with the Emperor, and was permitted to rebuild the temple and
reinstate the nuns, on condition that no efforts were made to
proselytize.

Thus Buddhism recovered its footing, but the enmity between the
o-muraji and the o-omi grew more implacable than ever. They insulted
each other, even at the obsequies of the sovereign, and an occasion
alone was needed to convert their anger into an appeal to arms.

DISPUTES ABOUT THE ACCESSION

When the Emperor Bidatsu died (A.D. 585) no nomination of a Prince
Imperial had taken place, and the feud known to exist between the
o-omi and the o-muraji increased the danger of the situation.



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