The Philosophies of India, China and Japan

Nara schools of Buddhism (701-794)

The Nara schools of Buddhism were introduced to Japan from Korea and China during late 6th and early 7th centuries.As Nara was to the south of Kyoto these were called six southern schools of Nara Buddhism.

i)Sanron school: It is literally a 3-discourse school. Sanron was initially developed in China as a Madhyamik school based on 2 discourses by Nagarjuna and Aryadeva.It was transmitted to Japan in 7th century.Madhyamik is a very significant teaching of the Mahayana philosophies which re emphasizes that phenomena are neither truly existent or absolutely non-existent, but characterized by impermanence and insubstantiality.

ii)Jojitsu or Satyasiddhi school:This school is believed to be an offshoot of the Sautrantika school,one of the Nikaya schools of Indian Buddhism.The difference in this school of thought was the denial of the Abhidharma as not being the ‘word of the Buddha’.

iii)Hosso school: Also called ‘Dharma Character school’ it was first founded by Xuanzang in China (630 AD) and later introduced in Japan in 654 AD by monk Dosho(629-700). The Discourse on the ‘Theory of Consciousness-Only’ called ‘Jo yuishikiron’ is an important text for the Hosso school.Here a form of idealism was taught according to which ‘all phenomena are phenomena of the mind’.

iv)Kusha school :It was brought into Japan from China during 710-784.The name of the school was derived from its authoritative text, the Abidatsuma-kusha-ron(called Abhidharma-kosa in Sanskrit) created by Vasubandhu.Few people regard the Kusha School to be an offshoot of Indian Sarvastivada school.

v)Ritsu school:It was founded in 650 AD in China by Daoxuan.The person to introduce it in Japan was Ganjin in 753 AD.This school specialized in the monastic rules in the Tripitaka reffered to as ‘Vinaya’.The version used was Dharmagupta, known as Shibunritsu in Japanese.

vi)Kegon School: Kegon was initiated as a field of study in Japanese Buddhism and Kegon-shū came to be known as one of the 6 Nara schools, which played a significant role in the development of Japanese Buddhism.

The literal meaning of ‘Kegon’ is a garland or floral ornament. It is a Mahayana sect of Buddhism that derives its name from the school’s chief text, the ‘Avatamsaka-sutra’. Founded initially in China during 6th-7th century by Tu-shun, it was introduced to Japan by Chinese monks Chen-hsiang, Tao-hsüan and Indian priest Bodhisena.

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