Great Monks in Japanese History 日本の有名な僧侶
Japan at the time of the monks
Japan began to adopt Buddhism very early in its history, from the 5th century. This religion has deeply permeated the country, to the point of producing a number of monks who have become outstanding figures in history; and not only for their monastic holiness. Here's a short review of these great monks.
Kukai, the holy figure
The monk Kûkai (774-835) is the most famous Japanese monk in Japan for his holiness. Founder of the Shingon ("word of truth") sect, which is still today one of the largest schools of Buddhism in the country, his doctrine was to "become Buddha in this life with this body". He is also the man behind the creation of the monastery of Mount Koya, located 800 meters above sea level, where every year thousands of Japanese come on pilgrimage to follow in the footsteps of the famous monk. He also has several secular achievements to his credit, such as the opening of the
Japan's first popular school of education, the writing of one of the country's first dictionaries, and a considerable body of literature.
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Dokyo lost ambition
Dokyo (700-772) is a monk who, having succeeded in treating the former Empress Koken, acquired a great political position. From this, he was intrigued to put Koken back on the throne and even succeeded in obtaining from him the title of the heir apparent. A figure of intrigue, he falls after an oracle he had commanded and claiming he was to be the next emperor was contradicted by a second, commanded by the Fujiwara. On the Empress's death, he was sent into exile and because of his influence deemed harmful, women have since been considered unfit to occupy the Imperial throne.
Benkei, the monk-soldier
Benkei is the sidekick of one of the most famous samurai in all of Japanese history: Minamoto no Yoshitsune. He was a monk-soldier, a function quite common in medieval Japan where many monks were trained in the arts of war and could form formidable companies.
Dismissed from Mount Hiei for his violence, according to legend, he would have posted himself at a bridge to face all the soldiers who passed by and would have defeated 999 of them before losing to the 1000th, which was none other than Yoshitsune. He will then accompany him in all his military expeditions during the war of Gempei, where they oppose the Taira. After Yoshitsune's brother turns on his brother, he accompanies him into hiding and eventually dies standing, pierced by arrows, in his defense of Yoshitsune. Benkei became a great character in Japanese folklore and a recurring character in kabuki theater as well as in various collections of that time such as the Heike Monogatari.
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Ikkyu-Sojun, the poet
Ikkyu- Sojun (1394-1481) was a monk of the Rinzai school who was also a poet. a dissolute life with women, during which he also devoted himself to poetry. He notably composed the collection "Nuages fous". He marked his time with his humorous and erotic poems as well as his satires. Zen master, eccentric character, garden creator, his personality owed a lot to his impact. It was also used in the following period
- the Edo period (1603-1868) - where the so-called Ikkyubanashi tales recount in about forty stories adventures taken from the childhood or adult life of the whimsical Ikkyu.
Takuan Soho, the indomitable spirit
Takuan Soho (1573-1645) was a monk from the early Edo period. He is known for his acerbic verb, his wit as well as his integrity. He was friends with the great figures of his time, whether the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604-1651) or the swordmaster Yagyu Munemori (1571-1646) and would be at the origin of the recipe for marinated daikon, called "takuan ". He is especially famous for, according to legend, having been the master of the swordsman Musashi Miyamoto (1584-1645). It is this character, both tutelary and sarcastic, who has integrated Japanese folklore, which we find in Eiji Yoshikawa's bestseller The Stone and the Saber.