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Saturday, March 26, 2016

CHURCH AND STATE

My current readings have been a mix of deepening my knowledge of the history of South Eastern Europe, especially Portugal, and a biography of Honen, the Tendai priest who launched the Pure Land School (Jodo-shu) in Japan. Coincidentally, they overlap in time. Honen lived between 1133 and 1212 CE, and the period I am at in my study is the transition from Moorish dominance to the early formation of the state called 'Portu-Cale' which occurred in the late 1100's as well.

What I found curiously coincidental was that both the mainstream Buddhists in Japan (primarily Tendai) and the King, as head of Catholicism in the new Portuguese state sought the same validation. In Japan, the hierarchy on Mt. Hiei, had enjoyed primacy in the emperor's court for centuries. They had established a kind of agreement whereby they were left alone to preach salvation as long as they did not interfere in state matters. In Europe, the new Portuguese king sought similar approval for his realm through the Pope in Rome. 
 
In Japan, the monks of Mt. Hiei stuck by this agreement and, when Honen started to win over more and more converts to his practice style, a style which effectively undercut monastic monopoly of faith, they arranged for Honen to be exiled. The Portuguese king needed to link his feudal tax system to a regular donation scheme to Rome, thus securing approval and support for his kingdom, which existed in a region of a dozen or more other small-scale kingdoms.
 
Its interesting how religious movements have to negotiate this church-state boundary. Contrastingly, many Islamic states and Tibet solved the issue by assigning state power to the clergy. As we well know this can be a mixed solution too. It gives us the Dalai Lama but also the ayatollahs of Iran and figures like those scheming priests in 16th century Europe.

Yours in the Dharma,
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu

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