Mūlasarvāstivāda School in Japan
Mūlasarvāstivāda School in Japan
Vira Avalokita, Sthera
When Myōzui and Gakunyo realised that their lineage had been ignoring Kūkai’s instructions on monastic discipline for nearly one thousand years, these monks advocated a revival of Kūkai’s monastic curriculum.
The present paper is an attempt to survey the sources for this revival movement, tracing the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition down through the Tokugawa and Meiji periods and beyond, reaching the somewhat unexpected conclusion that this monastic tradition is still alive in present-day Japan.
The rhetoric of Buddhist decline or degeneration first appears in Tokugawa period clerical circles in the form of several monastic reform or restoration movements such as Jizan Myōryū’s 慈山妙立 (1637–1690) Anraku ritsu 安樂律 within Tendai,
There was, however, another movement during this period which seems to have emerged not explicitly as a reaction to degeneration or moral corruption (although this may be to some degree implicit), but from the recognition that for nigh on a thousand years the last words of the school’s founder, Kūkai (774–835), had been ignored.
Vinaya in Japan—and most of East Asia, for that matter—has usually referred to the Vinaya in Four Parts 四分律 (Jp. shibun ritsu, Ch. sifen lü) or Dharmaguptaka Vinaya. Kūkai, however, does not list this monastic code; instead, for reasons which have yet to be satisfactorily addressed, he lists the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya (MSV) (Jp.Konpon-setsuissaiubu binaya, Ch.
This has been noted by, among others, Groner 1990 (285, note 45), and Abé 1999 (54 and note 141; Abé’s yūbu 有部 should be corrected to ubu, and his Sarvāstivāda—variously misspelt—actually refers to the Mūlasarvāstivāda;
I have organized the discussion around the life and works of four central figures: Myōzui 妙瑞 (1696–1764), Gakunyo 學如 (1716–1773), Eigon 榮嚴 (1814–1900), and Shaku Unshō 釋雲照 (1827–1909).7 Myōzui was a Shingon monk and the abbot of Entsūji 圓通寺 on Kōyasan.
Upon his return to Aki 安藝 (modern-day Hiroshima), he officially declared Fukuōji 福王寺 to be a Mūlasarvā-stivāda Vinaya training temple, and seems to have been the first to advocate sole use of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya over the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya.
His most important contribution, at least for our purposes, was the compilation of a monastic ordinance.
Finally, his disciple, Shaku Unshō, was a leading figure in Meiji Buddhism, one whose activities were by no means limited to the religious domain, but also featured prominently in political and educational circles.
On Unshō and education see, among others, Saitō 1968. Note that the literature on Unshō, unlike that on other Japanese Mūlasarvāstivādin monks, is extensive.]; [ A full study of the impact of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya in China is an urgent desideratum.
The colophon provides detailed information on names, titles, countries of origin (including, among others, Middle India 中天竺國, East India 東天竺國, Kaśmīra 迦濕彌羅國, and Tukhāra 吐火羅) and duties performed by those who participated in the translation process.
It is, moreover, a record that sheds light on an often overlooked corner in the history of Japanese Buddhism, and appears to stand in stark contrast to the general view of Tokugawa Buddhism as being degenerate, or morally corrupt.
In addition, however, a number of texts such as local monastic ordinances were also produced, and these point to the implementation of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya in the daily life of these monastic communities.
The appearance in these indigenous texts of modified rules such as those on lending money on interest, and other commercial activities, suggest the possibility that such activities were more than merely textual ideals, that they were in all probability actually realized.11
It is too early to know whether or not our record is verifiable from other historical sources, but—as we will see—the reworking of the massive Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya into a series of manageable handbooks appropriate to the local customs and environs presents the very real possibility that this was at least attempted.
Moreover, a number of the insights offered are pertinent not only to the history of Buddhism in East Asia, but also suggest answers to questions in the field of Indian Buddhism—questions such as the relationship between the Sarvāstivāda and the Mūlasarvāstivāda.
At the age of twelve he received the tonsure and dyed robe from Eryō 慧了 at Itokuin 威徳院, and ascended Mt. Kōya to reside in Hōgon’in 寶嚴院. He later moved to the Shōkyokunanbō at Osaka 大坂生玉南坊, then Nyoirinji 如意輪寺, and various other temples.
He studied Chūin-ryū 中院流 and Saiin-ryū 西院流 under Eidō 英同 at Hōshōin 寶性院, An-ryū 安流 under Ihō 維寶 (1687–1747) at Shakamon’in 釋迦文院, Kojima-ryū 小嶋流 under Kyōei 教榮 at Minami’in 南院, and Kan-ryū 勸流 under Kenga 賢賀 (1684–1769) of Tōji 東寺.
At age fortyeight, in the seventh moon of 1743, he entered Shinbessho 眞別處, and apparently took over the abbotship of Entsūji on the first day of the ninth moon (九月一日辰時進具繼圓通), living there for eighteen years.His passing in his sixtyninth year is recorded on the fifth day of the twelfth moon, 1764. During his lifetime Myōzui composed more than two hundred fascicles of texts.
Since the Kamakura period, Kōyasan was, alongside Kyoto and Nara, one of the most active publishing districts for Buddhist books in Japan (see the Introduction by Wada Mankichi 和田萬吉 in Nakagawa 1981, 4–5).
It would seem that a number of the figures involved in the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya revival, their predecessors, contemporaries and successors, also appear in the history of printing on Kōyasan (see Mizuhara 1932, 400–64; and during the Meiji, 467ff.).
It was apparently composed between 1747 to 1748, the period coinciding with Myōzui’s second diary written during his travels around Sanuki, and, it would seem from the colophons, also around Yamato 大和 (Washū 和州).
These colophons, in fact, also provide further details of Myōzui’s itinerary which would, if we had access to them, presumably be available in the diaries themselves.
The last colophon given by Ueda is also telling. The text listed is the Sarvāstivāda Vinaya *Mātṛkā (10 fasc.) and this text is, according to its title, and according to most modern Vinaya scholarship, not Mūlasarvāstivādin at all but Sarvāstivādin.44
In fact, although by no means conclusive, the addition of this text would at least suggest that Myōzui and the other Japanese Mūlasarvāstivādin monks may have considered it to be Mūlasarvāstivādin, and not Sarvāstivādin.
If it is Mūlasarvāstivādin, and in fact there are other indications that it might well be so, this would have wide implications for the dating of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya, and the relative chronology of the entire Sarvāstivāda and Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya corpora (see Clarke 2004).
In fact, it is beginning to appear that Sapoduobu pini modeleqie 薩婆多部毘尼摩得勒伽 (T 1441) may even be an early translation of parts of the Uttaragrantha, some three hundred years earlier than Yijing’s incomplete translation of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya corpus.
This, however, will have to be addressed at a later date.
This tradition, however, was later discontinued.
(3) The eight patriarchs of the Shingon tradition (starting with Nāgārjuna 龍猛) were ordained as Mūlasarvāstivādins, and thus Kūkai was following the precedent of the other patriarchs (he being the eighth).
(4) The three areas of learning are like a tripod; all three are essential to its stability Furthermore, as the Vinaya is the most subject to lapse, special training centers should be established in order to resurrect and maintain the Vinaya tradition.
- 12a3–4 (cf. 14a9):
Taihin hōgo 對賓法語 (Dharma talk to a guest] takes the form of a catechism and is written not in kanbun 漢文 (or “Classical Chinese”) as one might expect, but in what Miyasaka Yūshō (1958) refers to as kanagaki 仮名書き(a mix of Sino-Japanese closely approximating the colloquial language).
It seems that the move from elitist literary forms such as Classical Chinese was perhaps an attempt to take the dharma to the masses, as opposed to keeping it solely as the purview of learned scholar monks.
Our text begins with a question and Gakunyo’s response:
A pious man came and asked saying, “Recently I have heard that the Master bestows the Bodhisattva precepts regardless of lay or monastic [[[Wikipedia:status|status]]] according to spiritual ability, and also confers (ritual vows for] rebirth in Tuṣita, also exhorts rebirth in Sukhāvatī, sometimes also discusses the doctrine of attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present body, down to mantras, nenbutsu, and daimoku, instructs according to people’s preferences—I consider this to be extremely imprudent.”
The question continues noting that other sects advocate a single practice, and finally concludes by asking for a response.
Gakunyo responds by asking why it is that the Tathāgata expounded 84,000 teachings, and then goes on to explain that the Tathāgata gives medicines in accordance with the illness (應病與藥), and that if there are four hundred and four types of illnesses it is only appropriate that there be an equal number of medicines.
There are a number of points that should be made here, and these may bear fruitful investigation.
The preface of the text includes the following (Kawaguchi 1990, 161–62):
Although we read this, there are many points which we do not understand. Accordingly, I wish to ask the Master about it.”
- 述大乗戒義ト号ス。吾儕読之トイヘドモ通ゼザルコト通多シ。63 因テ師ニ就イ
Note, however, that in this text of 1785 Tainin attacks Mitsumon 密門 (a fellow student of Gakunyo under Myōzui), who had previously refuted Tainin’s interpretation of a passage in the Fanwang jing 梵網經 (Brahmā Net Sūtra) (Kawaguchi 1989, 250, 261–62).
The precedent for this is, of course, found in the works of their founder, Kūkai.
This has been proclaimed by the High Patriarch in 823.
- ハ弘仁十四年高祖奏聞ニ達シ。 (Shingon ritsugyō mondō, 1b4–6)
This is clear from Gakunyo’s answer:
The Vinayas of the Lesser Vehicle are the five Vinayas being the (Mahā-)sāṃghika Vinaya, (Mūla-) sarvāstivāda, Vinaya in Four Parts (= Dharmaguptaka), Vinaya in Five Parts (= Mahīśāsaka), and Vinaya in Ten Recitations (= Sarvāstivāda).
- 律、五分律、十誦律トテ五部律アリ。 (Shingon ritsugyō mondō, 6a6–8)
Gakunyo sums up the problem as follows: Obstinately clinging to the (Vinaya in] Four Parts and not employing the (Mūla-]sarvāstivāda (Vinaya) is not in accordance with the true tenets of the Great Teacher [i.e., Kūkai).
In a text now appended to Gakunyo’s Shingon ritsugyō mondō, the Geishū Fukuōji Gakunyo bandai bukei 藝州福王寺學如畔睇奉啓 [Proclamation by Vandana(Venerable) Gakunyo of Fukuōji, Geishū], addressed to the Chief Abbot (正僧正) of Shinkōin 真光院, and dated the fourth day of the twelfth moon, 1759,
Ryūkai also asks: The various schools rely on the (Vinaya in] Four Parts; why may the Shingon School alone [use the Vinaya of] another sect? Although recent adherents lecture on the (Mūla-sarvāstivāda Vinaya, and discuss the standards of the Esoteric School, what is the textual authority [for this]? 諸宗依四分、獨眞言宗奚得他部。然近世徒講有部律談密宗軌、有何典據。 (Daranishū shogaku ubu ritsugi, 2b6–7; microfilm folio no. 497)
To this Ryūkai’s answer is straightforward: Kūkai’s Catalogue and the petition to the emperor in which the Vinaya of the Mūlasarvāstivādins is declared to be an academic tenet of the Esoteric tradition (答。祕密三學録、及大政官符、明 以有部之調伏、為密宗之學則; Daranishū shogaku ubu ritsugi, 2b7–8; microfilm folio no. 497).
Ryūkai then goes on to enumerate the Vinaya texts given in Kūkai’s Catalogue, and explicitly notes that Kūkai lists only Mūla-sarvāstivādin texts, and does not mention the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya at all (根本説一切有部毘奈耶等十二部者、 皆是薩婆多部律也。 此餘不一載四分律等; Daranishū shogaku ubu ritsugi, 4b3–4; microfilm folio no. 499).
The Vinayas, however, are certainly not the only topic of discussion to be found in Ryūkai’s text. There are also discussions of Buddhist sectarian history in India—Mahādeva’s five points of controversy, and the division into two groups: Mahāsāṃghika and Sthavira (大天五事不同分為兩部一大衆部二上座部; Daranishū shogaku ubu ritsugi, 23a4–5; microfilm folio no. 517).
In fact, in what might be more of a reflection of our lack of progress than anything else, we see Ryūkai and his tradition grappling with problems such as the relationship between Sarvāstivāda and Mūlasarvāstivāda—a sticky problem that we are no closer to solving than was Ryūkai.
The publisher, as is often the case, devotes the last leaf to an advertisement of new publications, and it is here that we also learn of another book, hot off the press (新刻), written by one of Ryūkai’s contemporaries, Vinaya Master Tōkū 等空 (1745–1816): Shingonmon shahyōgi 眞言門遮表義.
Although admittedly most of the other twenty or so titles listed appear to be predominantly Buddhist works, it would certainly seem that our Mūlasarvāstivādin monks were not alone in their emphasis on monastic discipline during the Tokugawa era.
There Jissō signs his manuscript Bhikṣu Sokuzen Jissō, having vowed to accept all rules of training (誓受一切学処苾芻即染実相), but instead of using the standard Dharmaguptaka transcription of bhikṣu (比丘) Jissō uses the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya transcription, perhaps somewhat provocatively in signing his own name.
The title Uburitsuon shingi 有部律園清規 first section of the text deals with rules governing the “Three Ropes” (sankō 三綱; permanent managerial positions in a monastery) and “Six Threads” (rokki 六紀; temporary administrative positions) Misshū shogaku uburitsuon shingi
4a3–6: 所謂三綱一任永定焉。 綱者如網之有綱。 所以總理紀目也。 三綱一任永定、六紀從大次第巡環五日一交替。紀者是所以別理絲數也..]
Rule seven for the Elder of the monastery, for instance, reads:
At meal times [the Elder] must observe the pace of the junior monks.
Rule eight, for instance, states that: If one lends [from] the perpetuity to another he must take goods as a pledge, have a contract made and sealed.
Take a good surety, store its documentation in the monastic strong room and guard it well.
- 八者貸他無盡財須質物令作券契押 印取好敢保其券疏納僧庫能守護毎年
- 兩季規求其息一一記載. Cf. Asai 1987, 36–37; Gernet 1995, 158–61; Schopen 1994. (Note this was also related to a free micro-finance plan for the poor)
The six revolving administrative posts are given as Master of Ceremonies (shōdō 唱導) (ten rules), Official in Charge of Offerings (tenku 典供) (twenty rules), Official in Charge of Cleaning (tensō 典掃) (six rules), Manager of theCanon (chizō 知藏) (six rules), Manager of Guests (chikyaku 知客) (ten rules), and Manager of Storehouses (chiko 知庫) (ten rules).
hese include rules on laughing and talking loudly in front of the Buddha [image], not placing regular books on the ground, not handling scrolls with dirty hands,[ Asai interprets this as the left hand (1989, 49, n. 9)], and not discussing politics.[
- 四者不得於佛前戲笑及大聲言語; 19a4–6:九者…雖尋常書籍不應輙置地 …又不得不淨手執卷及默唾於指翻轉書牒;19b8–20a1: 十五者不可談論國家治亂世間聲利駒隙難繋虚莫消度.]
The twenty-second rule reminds the reader that the fences and walls have ears, another rule states that one must not [clean] sūtras or images by blowing the dust off with one’s mouth, and another dictates the correct procedure for the disposal in rivers or ponds of paper no longer of any use, but containing Sanskrit or other Buddhist writings.
Misshū shogaku uburitsuon shingi 24b3: 垣壁皆有耳; 25a6–7: 不得口經上塵土像浄準同; 25b7–8: 故紙若有梵書及佛寶之文字者皆取聚一處應投河池清淨之處.]
One may not read non-Buddhist texts in the dormitory.
9. Misshū shogaku uburitsuon shingi 36b45: 寮中不可讀外典。 儻爲降伏異道日作三時二分學佛 一分學外.
Note also the text by Mōkai (foreword dated 1801).
(1) various forms of ordinations 諸衆受戒 (forty rules), (2) formation and dissolution of ecclesiastical boundaries 諸界結解 (thirteen rules), (3) acceptance and division of robe and bowl (i.e., property) 衣鉢守分 (fourteen rules), (4) acceptance and purification of medicinal fruits 藥果受淨 (seven rules), (5) weighing of gold and silver 處量金銀 (four rules), (6) touching fire and taking formal possession 觸火守持 (four rules), (7) rules on bathing 洗浴方法 (four rules), (8) mealtime decorum 食事軌儀 (nine rules), (9) confession of the six classes of offences including pārājikas 説悔六聚 (eight rules), (10) rules for the appointment of officials to distribute various goods 分物等差 (four rules), (11) the pośadha and recitation of the precepts 長淨説戒 (five rules), (12) the rains’ retreats for the five types of religious 五衆安居110 The text ends with a list of the five virtues (五徳), which Asai (1991, 76) identifies as being from the Zhude futian jing 諸徳福田經 (Sūtra on virtues as a field of merit) (t 683), and the ten sets of learning for novices (十數) from the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya. (ten rules), (
On pārājika penance, see Clarke 2000 and 2006.]
Our text concludes with a postscript (跋), dated 1883 (Meiji 16), by the Lesser Bhikṣu Raifu 小苾芻雷斧 (薫盥稽首謹識), who is presumably Gonda Raifu 權田雷斧 (1846–1934) the second President of Taishō University. 112
All men are our Fathers, all women are our Mothers.
Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya revival in the Tokugawa period had ramifications stretching at least as far down as the Meiji, and farther. In 1884, at a Shingonshū congress, Tōji 東寺 was declared to be an official training monastery (根本道場), and it was further agreed that the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya was to be used instead of the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya.
This led him to consult Gakunyo’s text of 1759 held at Fukuōji.
Similarly, in the works of Gakunyo we see an attempt to revive the long-forgotten Vinaya component of Kūkai’s curriculum—an attempt which drew harsh criticism, and resulted in a debate which seems to have continued down to the Meiji, and perhaps even as late as 1939.
Gakunyo and his contemporaries produced a richly detailed commentarial tradition on the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya, but their contributions were no means limited to exegetical works from the Indian (and by virtue of Yijing, Chinese) tradition.
These Mūlasarvāstivādin monks also produced handbooks, and local monastic ordinances, all of which would seem to suggest that they were attempting to implement the tradition as an integral part of their monastic community.
Unshō seems to have been actively engaged in the promotion of the Ten Good Precepts, this is still done at Saifukuji today, perhaps an early “engaged Buddhist,” and as such his achievements are of a slightly different nature to the strictly monastic enterprises of his predecessors.
Asai states, with regard to the three Mūlasarvāstivāda training temples, that at Shinbessho the Vinaya tradition and ordinations therein way peripheral, but in fact an integral part of the life of the Shingon monastic communities, whether they identified themselves as Mūlasarvāstivādin or Dharmaguptaka.
Future studies on the role of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya in Japan will not only enrich our knowledge of Japanese Vinaya studies, but will also offer us a much richer and fuller—and perhaps even balanced—understanding of the history of Japanese Buddhism.