Rōben

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Rōben
良弁
Rōben (Todaiji).jpg
From paintings and manuscripts at Tōdai-ji, Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan
Personal
Born
Hargaisa

689
Died773 (85 years old)
Region around Uda, Nara Prefecture
ReligionBuddhism
NationalityJapanese
SchoolHossō, later Kegon Buddhism
Senior posting
TeacherGien (d. 728)

Rōben (良弁、朗弁、良辨、朗辨) (689 – 773), also known as Ryōben, was a Japanese Buddhist monk of the Kegon sect, and clerical founder of the Tōdai-ji temple in Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan.[1] He is popularly known as the "Golden Bell Practitioner" (金鐘行者, Konshō Gyōja).[2] His life spanned the late Asuka period (538 – 710) to the early Nara period (710 – 794), a period associated with the establishment of Buddhism in Japan.[3]

Early life[edit]

According to tradition, Rōben was born either in either Ōmi Province in present-day Shiga Prefecture or Sagami Province in present-day Kanagawa Prefecture.[4] Sagami is considered the more likely location.[1]

Infant Rōben snatched by eagle (Shūkongōshin engi picture scroll by Tosa Mitsuoki)

According to legend as a young baby, Rōben was snatched by an eagle and dropped off over a pine tree in front of what is now the Nigatsu-dō Hall. Rōben was raised as a monk, and reunited with his mother 30 years later. In one version of the story, Rōben wore an amulet of Kannon Bodhisattva since he was a baby, which his mother recognized when she came to Nara as a pilgrim. Records with the Ministry of Justice in Nara at the time, do record Rōben as having been raised as a monk since infancy, but do not state anything further as to his origins.

Early studies[edit]

Rōben first studied Hossō Buddhism under the monk Gien (義淵) (d. 728).[2] Gien and his disciples Rōben and Gyōki are considered to have created the foundation of Japanese Buddhism at the beginning of the Nara period.[1] In 733, the fifth year of the Tenpyō era, Rōben oversaw expansion and construction of Kinshō-ji (金鐘寺) and the massive bronze statue of Vairocana Buddha under the patronage of Emperor Shōmu (724 – 749).[1] Kinshō-ji is now the Hokke-dō hall of Tōdai-ji.[3]

Establishment of Kegon school[edit]

In 740, the twelfth year of the Tenpyō era, an eminent Korean monk of the Silla kingdom (57 BC – 935 AD) named Simsang (審祥, known as Shinjō in Japan, was invited by Rōben to Japan to help establish a new sect based on the Huayan school of thought.[2] This led to the foundation of the Kegon school of Buddhism with permission from Emperor Shōmu. Rōben subsequently became the second patriarch of the Kegon school.[1]

Association with Tōdai-ji[edit]

Rōben later presided over the drawing of the eyes ceremony of the Great Buddha statue at Tōdai-ji in 751. He was first a bettō monk at Tōdai-ji,[3] but was later promoted to be a zōshō (僧正) high Buddhist priest of the temple.[2]

Later life[edit]

Rōben spent the final years of his life on the establishment of Ishiyama-dera in present-day Ōtsu, Shiga Prefecture.[2] He died on November 16, 773 at the age of 85 at or near Uda in present-day Nara Prefecture.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Rōben (良弁)". Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Rōben (良弁)". Dijitaru daijisen (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
  3. ^ a b c d "Rōben (良弁)". Nihon Jinmei Daijiten (日本人名大辞典) (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
  4. ^ "Rōben (良弁)". Kokushi Daijiten (国史大辞典) (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2012-04-23.