Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
It is said that the Japanese monk Saicho (767-822), during his nine-month stay in China, was initiated by his chief Chinese Esoteric mentor Shunxiao (n.d.) into an illustrious esoteric lineage starting from a prestigious Indian Esoteric master Subhakarasimha (637-735). It is also believed that Shunxiao, based on three Esoteric texts translated by Subhakarasimha, transmitted to Saicho some particular forms of Esoteric Buddhist teachings, the core of which is preserved in one of the two "dharma-transmission documents" (fuhomon) supposedly written by Shunxiao to certify the esoteric transmission conducted between himself and Saicho. This is the conventional view regarding the roots of Tendai Esoteric Buddhism in Japan. This dissertation subjects this conventional view to a critical examination. It argues that the two fuhomons ascribed to Shunxiao were not written by Shunxiao himself, but were prepared in Japan for re-interpreting the meaning, and strengthening the legitimacy, of the initiation Saicho received from China. The three siddhi texts attributed to Subhakarsimha were also composed in Japan as the scriptural support for Saicho's esoteric transmission. The Tendai form of Esoteric Buddhism in the name of Saicho was for the main part created not by Saicho himself but by his followers. These negative conclusions can be turned into a positive agenda for future research of Japanese Tendai Buddhism. Scholars can turn from a fruitless search for the roots of Tendai Esoteric Buddhism in China to look more closely in Japan. On the other hand, this study might invite more scholarly attention to a host of Buddhist apocrypha which, long regarded as Chinese, might have been actually produced in Japan or Korea.
Chen, Jinhua, "The formation of early Esoteric Buddhism in Japan: A study of the three Japanese Esoteric apocrypha" (1997). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3333.