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Saturday, July 14th, 2012

The Tendai or Tendai-shu religion is a revisional model of the Chinese form of Tiantai. It is known as an eclectical movement that holds to the syncretistic values of uniting all Buddhism under a common religious banner in taking in the belief systems of other buddhist groups such as Chan or Zen, Esoteric/ Tantric/Mikkyo ritual known as Taimitsu,  Pure Land beliefs which share some common values with this movement especially as it relates to nembutsu and the teaching of the Vinaya school for monastic discipline.

This amalgam of pluralistic beliefs was a means of bringing Buddhism under one vehicle of salvation as the ultimate truth, Haigon Ryujitsu, but contrary to the vision of its Chinese founder Tientai Chihi and Saicho it has had limited success. Not only has it failed its mission in having a world wide impact especially in the West but these other buddhist groups have maintained their exclusive identity or started new groups of their own. Nevertheless Tendai has attempted this universalization beyond their parent movement by the inclusion and accommodation of non-buddhist traditions such as mountain ascetics or Shamanism and Shintoism. Tendai went as far to recognize these polytheistic and animistic beliefs of Shinto by associating the Kami with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,Suijaku, who descend in the world to help mankind yet ironically there are certain Kami who are antagonistic as being bent on doing evil and violence. It appears that this diversification to adapt to new cultures by evolving new practices is more preoccupied with the goal of uniting Buddhism then it is to establish any sort of absolute truth.

Saicho or Dengyo Daishi who is the main founder of the Tendai sect in Japan pushed his agenda out of self interest which I believe is not complimentary with an authentic seeker who is submitted to finding truth wherever it will lead them but rather was on a quest to meet his personal goals and objectives as evidenced by his political maneuvering and influence with the court of Japan. For instance when he returned to Japan from China with his Tientai/Tiantai teachings Saicho was caught off guard because the court had more of an interest in esoteric beliefs which wasn’t as significant to this Chinese movement. He then revised his approach to include more of an esoteric emphasis to his teachings which over time continued to evolve with this sect in order to satisfy the whims of nobility in retaining power and influence even to the point  that there was a competition for patronage through power struggles among the Shingon Tomitsu and Hosso schools to gain affluency in controlling the secrecy of these rituals and  doctrines. Also the nobles sought to control these ritual lineages as well by limiting commoners and women from obtaining positions of authority which seems counter intuitive to the prospect of everyone obtaining enlightenment or buddhahood in this present age and body. Anyway this dual was ongoing as Ennin and Enchin were persistent on finding the most and best rituals by traversing to China to secure more information but latter others like  Ryogen would change or adopt them based on their own stipulations and needs for developing other rituals. Consequently this brawl continued until Enchin’s school of Jimon and Ennin’s school of Sanmon were fighting amongst themselves leading to bloodshed and the burning of their temples. Even today this movement which teaches a universal buddhahood is segregated between ritual and doctrine being subdivided into at least 20 different Tendai sects. In the final analysis what was meant to unite has only divided.

Furthermore this adaptation shifted again when Dengyo began to lose about half of his disciples who defected to other religious orders or returned home. Therefore he tried to use his political influence with the court to retain his followers in a cultish form of isolation by the reformation of the educational system of monastic discipline and the ordination procedure in which they were to remain secluded within the monastery boundaries on Mount Hiei for a 12 year period. Moreover, he resorted to writing some of his major works in defense of Tendai and argued that everyone can obtain buddhahood in this lifetime through Tendai and esoteric practices. Mostly Saicho’s work was polemical in trying to prove Tendai doctrine and practice as superior to other Japanese buddhist schools in a pick and choose sort of fashion which was inclusive in many things while rejecting other doctrines such as the Hosso school and Nara buddhism. These teachings and practices were further altered as Japanese monks, who  like Saicho, revised maters through their commentaries according to their own personal concerns and views by sometimes taking the sutras out of context to suit their own purposes by pushing this movement in a new direction.

Thus this whole paradigm shift was not due to the pursuit of truth or enlightenment but was rather concerned with appealing to the royal court in attracting the nobles and imperial family along with their personal interests.

Another discrepancy with this movement is the violation to the basic values of buddhist philosophy as following the soft way in keeping harmony and peace with others through compassion, tolerance, passiveness and gentleness which is oxymoronic to the historical records of this bloody and violent movement in which there was even warrior monks who were not given over to just mediation but rather to protect and fight in the temples interest.

Contrarily the Buddha taught the middle way by avoiding extremes in reference to the four noble truths of ceasing worldly attachment and desire and yet their actions have violated and transgressed these principles by being politically minded and motivated through their participation in the unethical practices of gaining privileges, power, prestige, financial gain and domains which caused them to mercilessly fight among their buddhist brethren.

In retrospect to all of this, Saicho taught that all believers should seek self perfection and act for the benefits of others which is the manifestation of the “bodhisattva ideal” in their outward life. Yet I see no evidence of this based upon the historical background of this movement. You might say well it isn’t that way now and that was the past but what good is the present  structure if it has a faulty foundation as being built on the bedrock of immorality? Does this radical departure from orthodox Buddhism signify the essence of truth? Also if the original founders were unable to obtain these standards of morality then what hope is there for the common practitioner? In summary I find a lack of evidence and consistency between their actions and doctrinal statements.

In conclusion Saicho believed that the religious faculties in Japan had matured among buddhists and that they were ready to advance to the perfect teaching, Engyo, of the Tendai school. Yet based on my research I find their own claims internally inconsistent. Also he thought that he was living at the end of the period of the counterfeit dharma, Zomatsu, described as an era in which many monks would be corrupt and covetous yet within his own movement this would be prophetically descriptive and self fulfilled according to this philosophical position. Lastly does Saicho’s appeal for perfection coincide with the reality of your own personal life? Especially as it relates to your present state of achieving enlightenment or buddhahood in this life, Sokushin Jobutsu?

Also as a side note what I find irreconcilable is the folklore and superstition of pantheistic beliefs as teaching that buddhahood is intrinsic to all things which includes animate and inanimate objects such as ants, crickets, mountains, rivers, grass, trees and that the Buddha of the sutras is just a provisional sign as the real Buddha is the worldling or the phenomenal world. Yet going back to my previous question if you are an enlightened being then what is the evidence of your obtaining buddhahood as being indicative of your life? Perhaps this whole concept is as mythological as the fictional storyline of Saicho’s stating that the chinese Bodhidharma would be mysteriously reborn in Japan or perhaps  as erroneous as Saicho’s disciple Kojo who claimed Shotoku was a reincarnation of Nanyue Huisi when Shotoku was born before Huisi died.

In closing this religion lacks coherency as borrowing a hodge podge of ideas from other groups and so how can you be confident that this movement has really assimilated every essential doctrine? Also if Tendai is the present standard then based on its previous tendency to change over time then what would protect or guarantee this sect from mutating and devolving in transforming it’s appearance for the philosophical appeal of future generations as adapting to the changing landscape of the next horizon of religious beliefs? If doctrine and practice can be modified and obsolete then it seems inconsistent that you can both say that presently it is a perfect teaching and then latter revise it and still hold to it as being the quintessential component of truth. This would be to say that the essential aspects of truth are variable and are subjective but our needs do not dictate the reality of truth as we conform to it not vice versa. Adaptability may be seen as a survivalist strategy to cultural changes but this does not necessitate the essence of truth which is beyond the temporary confines of time and space as being eternally set. We don’t see some of the laws of nature changing or being manipulated this way as they are typically the same now as they have been in the distant past or future and just because we find methods of dealing with their effects does not remove their imposing presence and influence upon reality. This movement has used pragmatism or that “which works” as a measuring rod for what is necessarily true and yet truth isn’t dependent upon us but is outside of our control as being a fixed constant. Our concern as a genuine prospector of truth is not trying to make dirt into gold but rather looking for this rare element in areas which may lay  beyond our immediate search area of experience and culture. Also we essentially should not need our concept of truth to be correct merely to satisfy our desire to be right about our spiritual experiences as truth is not dependent upon our emotional state or personal needs which could lead us astray by  betraying and deceiving our hearts. Therefore I would encourage you to look at an alternative movement that has had a world wide and universal impact regardless of socio-political boundaries as incorporating all of mankind.

Based on the evidence of the Christian worldview it is Jesus not the  Lotus Sutra which is unifying every tribe, tongue and nation under the banner of one direct path, Jikido, of salvation in that Jesus is the only way. One of the many ways this confidence can be verified is as we see this reality from more of a global perspective as millions of lives have been changed including my own.

Finally the history of this movement and its leadership is controversial and are you willing  to base your life of trusting in this organization as being potentially detrimental towards your  spiritual well being? Additionally at the end of the day what do you do with your guilt? Its presence should be  a wake up call that there is something definitely wrong in your heart of which reciting the Lotus Sutra in the morning and the Buddha’s name at night can never relieve.

To bring this to a close I must apologize if it seems I gave an unbalanced or harsh assessment of this movement as I would do nothing to purposely harm or hurt the precious person who has read the content of this post. My intent is to simply make you aware of the underlying issues of this movement by exposing its falsehoods and give you other opportunities to seek spiritual fulfillment. My friend in my appeal I can assure you that my motives are altruistic and all I would simply ask of you is to be open and receptive to other possibilities and to pray to God to reveal to you this Jesus in such a way so as to entrust your life to Him. God bless.



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Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.13, pgs.9074-9080, Paul Groner

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.2, pgs.993-996, Bernard Faure

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.4, pgs.2781-2782, Allan G. Grapard

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.7, pgs.4779-4794, Joseph M. Kitagawa, Gary L. Ebersole

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.12, pgs.8029-8031, Paul Groner

Religions of the world: a comprehensive encyclopedia of beliefs and practices/ J. Gordon Melton, Martin Baumann, editors; Todd M. Johnson, World Religious Statistics; Donald Wiebe, Introduction-2nd ed., Copyright 2010 by ABC-CLIO, LLC. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA.