Tendai (T'ien Tai, Chinese): Founded in Japan by
Saicho (d. 822 C.E.), this lineage quickly rose to prominence
as the most important lineage in Japanese Buddhism. The basic
doctrine of this lineage and the Chinese T'ien Tai are the same,
as in their reverence for the Lotus Sutra, but Tendai
differs in its emphasis on the mystical and esoteric aspects
of Buddhism. The four primary categories of this lineage are
(1) morality, (2) monastic discipline, (3) esoteric practices,
and (4) meditation.
Shingon: Founded by Kukai (d. 835 C.E), this lineage
grew to rival the Tendai lineage as early as the late ninth
century. The Shingon belief system was tantric and taught
that through mantras (short, repetitive incantations), meditation
and the performance of hand gesture one can gain access to
the power of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Jodo or Pure Land: Began at the time of the publication
of the treatise of Honen (d. 1212 C.E) entitled Senchaku-shu,
this lineage traces its scriptural heritage to the Pure
Land Sutra (Sukhavati Vyuha), which prescribes
loving devotion to the Buddha Amida as a means of being reborn
in the Pure Land, or the paradise over which he presides.
Pure Land prayer centres on the repetition on the phrase namu
amida butsu ("Homage to Amida Buddha") and became
one of the most popular forms of Buddhism in Japan.
Joho Shinshu or True Pure Land: Founded by Shinran (d.
1262 C.E), this lineage takes Pure Land teaching one step
further, claiming that humility and faith in Amida's love
are in themselves true signs that the redeeming grace of the
Buddha has already been bestowed. Amida Buddha seeks and saves
without first requiring faith and good works. These spring
up spontaneously from Amida's spiritual presence in the heart.
Nichiren: Named after its founder Nichiren (d. 1282 C.E),
this lineage was founded on the Lotus Sutra and taught
that the mere repetition of the title of that sutra Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
("Homage to the Lotus Sutra") was sufficient to
gain one access to paradise.
Zen (Soto and Rinzai Sects): The monk Eisai
(d. 1215 C.E) is usually considered the first proponent of
Zen in Japan, although Ch'an had existed since the early sixth
century and probably existed also in Japan before Eisai's
time. The earliest forms of Zen generally avoided intellectualism
and de-emphasized scriptures, doctrines and ceremonial. Eisai,
whose form of Zen took on the name of Rinzai (Lin-chi, Ch.)
affirmed the authority of the traditional Buddhist scriptures
and used the koan or meditational riddle as a means of transcending
linear thinking. Soto Zen (Ts'ao-tung, Ch.), tracing
its roots back to Dogen (d. 1253 C.E), also affirmed the validity
of the Buddhist scriptures but de-emphasized the use of koans
and focused solely on extended, silent meditation.