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As one of the ‘Six Schools of Nara Buddhism’, Kegon is one of the oldest schools of Buddhism in Japan. The name represents the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese words Hua-yen.and this school saw itself as the inheritor of the Chinese Hua-yen tradition and its transmitter to future generations of Japanese Buddhists. The Hua-yen teachings were first transmitted to Japan by the Korean monk Shinjō (d. 742), and gained currency in the Japanese court because of the lectures given by his disciple Ryōben (or Rōben, 689–773). Based on the Indian Mahāyāna scripture, the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, this school taught that the Buddha Mahāvairocana (see Vairocana) was himself the centre and ground of the universe, and all phenomena emanated from his own being. The imperial court appreciated the imagery of a central power to which all subsidiary things owed their being, because the emperor saw in this an image that could be used to inculcate an analogous political culture in which the emperor would occupy the place of the Buddha, while all subsidiary political units in the nation would trace the source of their authority back to him. Consequently, the emperor Shōmu Tennō granted the school a headquarters temple called the Tōdaiji in the capital of Nara, in which he installed a monumental statue of Mahāvairocana, completed in 749. Shōmu himself took on the name Roshana, a partial transliteration of the Buddha's name. The Kegon school, never more than a small group of scholar-monks devoted to the study of this very abstruse scripture, found itself in danger of being absorbed into the politically powerful Tendai school during the Heian period (794–1185). Even though it resisted complete assimilation, it never thrived as an independent institution or congregation, but as an area of concentration and study into which those with motivation and aptitude could enter as need and inclination dictated. As in China.Kegon philosophy was regarded by all as the highest and most profound statement of the way in which the enlightened mind sees the world. See also Hua-yen.

Subjects: Buddhism.

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