The Revival Of Buddhism In Japan -- By: Samuel Colcord Bartlett

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 069:273 (Jan 1912)
Article: The Revival Of Buddhism In Japan
Author: Samuel Colcord Bartlett


The Revival Of Buddhism In Japan

Samuel C. Bartlett

“Oh, it is beginning to rain. Please let me out so that you can get in out of the rain.”

“No, Granny, I have taken your money to pull you in my jinrikisha, and I could not let you down.”

“Oh, never mind the money. I’m an old country-woman and used to the rain, but you are a smart city fellow and ought not to get wet.”

The gentle simplicity of this old dame is a fair sample of the large part of the two hundred and fifty thousand visitors who have recently gathered in Kyoto to honor the seven hundredth anniversary of the great new religious movement initiated by Hōnen Shōnin, who may be called the second founder of Buddhism.

There were many, many gaping thousands from the far country-side, with their tickets sewed on their sleeves, and divided into “bumpkin bands,” each with its guide or hotel-runner at the head, and distinguished from innumerable other companies by gaudy badges or scarfs or turbans to match their leaders’ banners. From temple to temple of the lesser lights of the Jōdō sect they trudged, gathered in twos and threes and fives where the evangelistic bands, over a hundred strong of picked men, were preaching the gospel of Amida’s mercy; and with tears of joy, cries of admiration, and sighs of awe climbed up to where Chiōnin’s mighty temple was hung with thousands of yards of rainbow silk in strips a yard wide.

Chiōnin is the temple most intimately connected with the faith. Here, were held the great ceremonies, to which mu-

sicians from Tokyo, and bands of dancers from further away, gave their services, and thousands of priests gave their presence. At Chiōnin was unspeakable bustle of selling amulets, badges, books, and maps, as well as lunches and other food. But the remoter corners of the temple grounds and graveyards were the scene of many a touching burst of emotion and piety. Buddhism seemed most dead where it was most gorgeous, and most alive in these sighs and tears in retirement and secret.

Every fifty years since the seventeenth century the same event has been celebrated with pageant, and ceremony, and the gift of a new posthumous name to the great founder; but railroad, electricity, modern invention, and modern organization have, for the first time, contributed to the greatness of this year’s celebration. Has the religious significance of the occasion advanced in the same degree?

Curious to k...

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