Buddhism, ​founded in India some twenty-five hundred years ago, reached Japan in 538 C.E.
Assimilated into Japanese culture and refashioned as Japanese Buddhism, it became one of the most enduring and far-reaching cultural and intellectual forces in Japans’s history.
The stamp of Japanese Buddhism is unmistikable in the nation’s poetry, literature, and art; and the imprint of Japan’s indigenous culture is clear in such unique facets of Japanese Buddhism as the amalgamation of pre-Buddhist worship and esoteric Buddhism in the practice of the Shugendo ascetics.
Japan’s Buddhism and the nation’s cultural matrix are so inextricably linked that it is impossible to explicate the one without understanding the other. Thus the present book is both a history of Japanese Buddhism and an introduction to Japan’s political, social, and cultural history. It examines Japanese Buddhism in the context of literary and intellectual trends and of other religions, exploring social and intellectual questions that an ordinary history of religion would not address.

YOSHIRO TAMURA (1921-89) was one of Japan’s most outstanding scholars of Buddhism. At the time of his death, he was a professor at Buddhist studies at Tokyo’s Rissho University.

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