The Heian period of Japanese history set the stage for many of the events and ideas in Japanese religion which have carried through even into the present day. Beginning in the prehistoric period, Buddhism had begun to be transmitted from Korea and China into Japan, though the exact date of the transmittance is an issue debated frequently among scholars. Buddhism, through this period of history was practiced primarily in the court and is referred to as State Buddhism accordingly. This reaction to Buddhism resulted in the Japanese court putting policies into place which promoted Buddhism to a very great degree. Even at this early stage in history, the syncretic nature of Japanese religiousness is in place, as “Religions policy called for a dual religious foundation for a newly reborn Japanese state based on both jingi/kami rituals and Buddhism” (Kazuhiko 149).
Religious practice for the masses was largely based around the activities of local clans, as through this political structure, the infrastructure for the practice of Japanese Buddhism was created. Stories abound among the common people at this time which detail how men and women of the masses had miraculous events occur in which their lives were saved through the new Buddhist faith (Kazuhiko, 152).
Finally, during the classical period, the beginnings of sectarianism took form in Japanese Buddhism. This process was encouraged by the religious establishment at the time, and began to create the ground from which further sectarian divisions would arise in the course of later history. This process was encouraged by the establishment's decisions to limit the numbers of ordinands into various traditions of Buddhism, thus enforcing the differences between them on a legalistic level (Kazuhiko 155).
Written by: Ryan Murphy Edited by: Katie Parish & Tayln Cox
Bibliography: Kazuhiko, Yoshida 2006. "Religion in the Classical Period." In Nanzan Guide to Japanese Religions. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. 144-159.