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Saichō and Kūkai: A Conflict of Interpretations

Ryūichi Abé and 安 部 龍 一
Japanese Journal of Religious Studies
Vol. 22, No. 1/2 (Spring, 1995), pp. 103-137
Published by: Nanzan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30233539
Page Count: 35
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Saichō and Kūkai: A Conflict of Interpretations
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Abstract

This article reappraises the interaction between Saichō (767-822) and Kūkai (774-835), founders, respectively, of the Japanese Tendai and Shingon schools of Buddhism. This new appraisal is based on the historical conditions in which these two men sought to introduce new types of Buddhism at the close of the age of Nara Buddhism, rather than on the conventional, idealized characterizations of the two figures as the founding fathers of their respective schools. What emerges is the unbridgeable difference between Saichō and Kūkai in their interpretive strategies for delineating the role of esoteric Buddhism (Mikkyō) in establishing a new order in the early Heian Buddhist community, a difference that presented itself as a persistent tension that underlay Saichō's alliance with Kūkai from the very outset of their relationship.

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