The school believed in the recognition of a ‘harmonious whole of all beings, all interrelated and interdependent’, with the Buddha Vairocana forming the core, permeating everything. It believed that no element has a separate and independent existence apart from the whole but infact any one of them reflects all the others. In other words, the universe is self-creating.
Emperor Shomu was influenced with the ‘totalistic principle’ of the Kegon school.He applied the teachings of the Kegon sect to form the basic government.Shomu is well-known for the co-founding of the great monastery of Todai Temple which formed the head temple of Kegon.He also donated a massaive art treasure to Todaiji.
In the Kegon school doctrines were placed in ascending order of comprehensiveness.The system of ‘partial teachings’ was followed where teachings were given according to the listener’s level of understanding.
2. Heian schools of Buddhism (749-1185) : Tendai and Shingon Schools
Tendai and Shingon schools have few similarities including origin.But in terms of expression and practice the teachings are different
Tendai School:Tendai Buddhism was introduced to Japan by Dengyo Daishi.Teachings from the Lotus Sutra were given high regards in this sect.Besides the thought that ‘ascetic exile is the key to right meditation’ was promoted.Dengyo Daishi gave a new outlook to Lotus Sutra as he concluded ‘all beings had the potential to get enlightened’.
Tendai school was built on top of Mount Hei. Its objective was to train and ordain the Buddhist monks.Daishi believed “the Buddhism in Japan must adhere to the set rites, doctrine and the scriptures”.He also contributed to the spreading of the Zen practices and Bodhisattva Amida which were later on established as different institutions
Shingon school :Shingon school of Buddhism was introduced by Kobo Daishi. As this sect had its root in India,the belief that the mandalas (mystic diagrams) and mantra (mystic syllables) are ‘significant resorts to save the world from misfortune’ was promoted in this school.Here symbolic and ritualistic practice was followed alongwith special emphasis on detailed positioning of the arms to attain enlightenment.
In this esoteric sect it was advocated that the only way to achieve enlightenment is by realizing the ‘Dainichi Buddha’- the primal basis of all the beings and the foundation to all the physical forms within one’s own self.Mysterious rituals were passed from teacher to disciples.This feature makes it quite different from Tendai sect.
3. Medieval Buddhism (1133-1600)