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The Six Schools of Nara Buddhism, also known as the Rokushū 六宗 (also Rokushuu /Rokushu), were academic Buddhist sects. These schools moved to Japan from Korea and China during the late 6th and early 7th centuries. All of these schools were controlled by the newly formed Japanese government of Nara. These schools were installed to mimic and expand upon already existing mainland Asian Buddhist thought.
They were also installed during Prince Shōtoku Taishi's reign, most likely to increase the power of the expanding government through Buddhist and Confucian doctrine. During the expansion of schools of Buddhism in the area, this era was called the Nara Buddhism Period. Because of the government involvement in religious expansion, government funds were used to construct grand temples, statues, and paintings. Most notably the construction of the Seven Great Southern Temples of Nara. Most of these sects wanted to be the main Buddhist school of the Imperial Family, and high officials. Because of this, many of the sects tried to be appealing to nobility. Many of the themes of these schools studied advanced level, complicated, almost cryptic, Indian philosophies on the mind and existence. Though some of the schools were ideas on the formation and operations of a monastery. Due to the location of the temples constructed for these schools they were also called, The Six Southern Schools of Nara Buddhism. Eventually the increasing power of these schools of Buddhism and their influence in politics started to overwhelm the city of Nara. This forced the current Emperor Kanmmu to move the capital of Japan at the time to Heian (Kyoto). This directly encouraged the creation of the Tendai school founded by Saicho and the Shingon school founded by Kukai.
All six schools shared the Buddha's original teachings of human suffering and his ideas on cause, remedy, and extinction. The six schools differed on expanding on the sub ideas of inter-dependency of phenomena, ultimate enlightenment (nirvana), the non-self (anatman), and the Middle Way. These schools laid the groundwork for the development of Pure Land Buddhism and the emergence of the worship of distinctly Japanese deity Amida.
The Six Schools (六宗)
- Hossō-shū 法相宗 (Mahāyāna) - Also known as the Vijnanavada, the Yogacara, or the Consciousness-only. This sect studied on mastering the consciousness and mind. This is explained as the Indian idea of Fa-hsiang that was intense drills on use of the mind.
- Jōjitsu-shū 成実宗 (Theravāda) - This sect studied of Satyasiddhi doctrines. Thos implied the use of sutras in the Abhidharma-style was the best path.
- Kegon-shū 華厳宗 or 花嚴宗 (Mahāyāna) - Also known as Huayan school. This sect studied the Garland Sutra & Avataṃsaka Sūtra. These sutras theorized the unobstructed interpenetration of all phenomena, or that all ideas and things can be penetrated and collected into one mind.
- Kusha-shū 倶舎宗 (Theravāda) - Also known as the Dharma Analysis Treasury. This sect studied the Abhidharma-kosa. This was the teachings of an Indian Scholar named Vasubandhu. it focused on Abhidharma philosophy. This philosophy centers around the idea of that the "Self" is.
- Ritsu-shū or Risshū 律宗 (Theravāda & Mahāyāna) - This sect studied the teachings of the famous "Blind Monk" Ganjin, who taught his followers to live strict monastic precepts & ordination among monks and nuns. They were not so focused on doctrine as they were on the moral structure of their monks.
- Sanron-shū 三論宗 (Mahāyāna)- Also known as the Three Treatise School. This sect studied the teachings of a Korean Monk named Ekan called San-lun. This thought focused on three treatises that explained emptiness, mystical knowledge, and realities of physical things. This displayed a less strict, rules orientated, path to Buddhism. This school was followed by the famous Prince Shōtoku Taishi.
Seven Great Southern Temples of Nara, Nanto Shichidaiji (南都七大寺)
- Daian-ji (大安寺)
- Gangō-ji (元興寺)
- Hōryū-ji (法隆寺) (located off the border of today Nara, in the town of Ikaruga, Nara)
- Kōfuku-ji (興福寺)
- Saidai-ji (西大寺)
- Tōdai-ji (東大寺)
- Yakushi-ji (薬師寺)
- Schumacher, Mark. "Early Schools & Sects of Japanese Buddhism Japan’s Asuka & Nara Periods + 552 to 794". Onmark Productions. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
- Melton, Gordon. "Early Schools & Sects of Japanese Buddhism Japan’s Asuka & Nara Periods + 552 to 794". ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
- Rhodes, Robert. "The Beginning of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan: From its Introduction through the Nara Period" (PDF). Tokyo University. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
- "Oxford University Press.". Oxford Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
- Melton, Gordon. "Hosso School". ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
- Melton, Gordon. "Jujitsu School". ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
- Melton, Gordon. "Kegon School". ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
- Melton, Gordon. "Kusha School". ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
- Melton, Gordon. "Ritsu School". ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
- Melton, Gordon. "Sanron School". ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 16 February 2013.