Is religion necessary in modern times

Religious upheavals in the early modern period

Against the background of the decline of the Ashikaga shogunate (1336-1573) at the end of the 16th century and the subsequent unification of the empire through the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate (1600-1868), early modern Japan underwent various political as well as some religious upheavals . These include the introduction of Christianity towards the middle of the 16th century and the new religious legislation of the Tokugawa that followed its ban.bakufu to count. While Christianity saw its fall in Japan, early modern Zen Buddhism showed signs of change and drive: On the one hand, a new Zen school was introduced from China in the early Tokugawa period and, on the other hand, the ailing Rinzai experienced -School in the 18th century a revival and sustainable reform.


Christianity came to Japan in 1549 with the arrival of the Jesuit Franz Xaver. During his three-year stay in Japan, some daimyo gave him permission to spread his teachings within their lands. (Frederic 2002: 124) After his return to Goa in 1552, he reported that the conditions for proselytizing the Japanese were ideal. He praised her character and suggested sending more missionaries. (Sansom 1961: 291) The next missionaries received the support of some feudal lords, especially in Kyushu, and were allowed to preach and to build churches, hospitals and schools. (Frederic 2002: 124) In 1560 Gaspard Viela received permission from Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru to spread Christian teaching throughout Japan; Xaver had not been able to do this ten years earlier. (Sansom 1961: 291) In 1569 Father Luis Frois was received by Oda Nobunaga and received his support. Nobunga advocated the spread of Christianity, among other things because he saw in the new religion a counterweight to the Buddhist sects he hated. (Sansom 1961: 293-294) It was not religion per se that he hated, but the clergy's interference in political affairs and the military threat it posed. (Sansom 1961: 295) In 1570 the port of Nagasaki was opened to Portuguese ships from Macau. (Frederic 2002: 124) It seems as if many daimyo converted to Christianity, hoping for better trading conditions and larger arms deliveries. (Sansom 1961: 297) From his inspection in 1580, Alessandro Valignano concluded that there were 150,000 Christians in Japan at that time, most of whom lived in the west of the country. This number is even more remarkable when you consider that even 30 years after the arrival of the first missionary, there were only about 20 priests and a handful of assistants in all of Japan. Aside from trading with the Portuguese, there were other reasons why Christianity could spread so quickly in a short period of time. Some feudal lords forced their subjects to accept the new faith. However, the Jesuits generally had no great difficulty in finding new followers among the peasant and artisan classes. Many of them found solace in Christian teaching at a time of war and great uncertainty. They were also able to receive donations, medical care and school education from the Jesuits. The beliefs of these common people were found to be strong in many cases during the following years of persecution. Only among the traders did Christianity find little approval, since the Christian moral concept was not compatible with their frivolous way of life. Furthermore, the Jesuits preached against usury and fraud in business, a thought with which many traders could not get used to. (Sansom 1961: 298) In 1582 the three most important Christian daimyo, Ōtomo Sōrin, Arima Harunobu and Ōmura Sumitada, sent a four-man embassy to Europe. The so-called Tenshō Mission lasted eight years. The ambassadors were received at the court of the King of Spain, Philip II, and received an audience with Pope George XIII. in Rome. When the embassy returned in 1590, however, the situation for Christianity in Japan had turned for the worse. (Sansom 1961: 298-299) At that time, the first persecution of Christians took place under Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi had initially been positive about Christianity, but his attitude changed when he began to perceive the Portuguese and Spanish as a possible threat and he issued orders to expel the missionaries from the country and forbid Christianity. Tokugawa Ieyasu, who came to power after Hideyoshi's death, was also good at talking about Christianity at first. However, in 1613 he enforced the ban on Christianity and expelled the missionaries from the country after being warned by Dutch Protestants of the colonization ambitions of Catholic countries. After the Shimabara rebellion, in which persecuted Christians were also involved, the Tokugawa government decided to seal off the country from all foreign influences. Japanese Christians were punished by death for not renouncing their belief, and measures to persecute Christians, such as the custom of fumi-e (the stepping of images of saints) were introduced. Only in 1868 with the Meiji Restoration was the Christian ban lifted. (Frederic 2002: 125)

Zen Buddhism

The new religious legislation of the Tokugawa Shogunate brought a number of changes to Japanese Zen Buddhism. For the Rinzai, the state religious measures meant an increase in political and financial support, but they were also accompanied by an increase in materialism and a decrease in discipline in the Rinzai temples. The changes that were brought about eventually reached such an extent that a large part of the Rinzai community itself deemed reform necessary (Hershock 2014: 97-98). In the Sōtō school, on the other hand, strict regulations were introduced, such as the requirement that Dharma teachers must have devoted themselves to the practice for at least 30 years (Mohr 1994: 353). In addition to the measures of the bakufu Another external factor had a significant influence on the subsequent development of the two Japanese Zen schools. As a result of his trip to Japan, the Chinese monk Yin-yüan Lung-ch'i (1592-1673), also known as Ingen Ryūki, introduces a new type of Rinzai Zen, mixed with elements of the Pure Land Buddhism of the Ming Dynasty, which developed into the Ōbaku school. (Yampolsky 1971: 10). The shogunate even granted this new Zen school protection and the construction of its own temple near the imperial palace in Kyoto, presumably to counterbalance the Zen temples there, which are close to the imperial court (Mohr 1994: 346,349). For the local Zen schools of the Sōtō and Rinzai at the time, this development meant that they had to adopt an attitude towards Ōbaku-Zen, which seemed to solidify in Japan in this way. The Ōbaku-Zen, which presented itself as true Rinzai-Zen, seemed to breathe new life into the Japanese form in particular, which Yamposlky (1971: 10) described as "almost asleep", since polarizing fractions were now forming within the school (Mohr 1994 : 343). This new movement, striving for internal change, which emerged within the Rinzai school, finally found its climax in Hakuin Ekaku (Mohr 1994: 352). He succeeded in breathing new life into Rinzai Zen, which had lost its meaning and strength, and reformed it sustainably (Yoshizawa / Waddell 2009: 1). Hakuin was just like Ishin Sūden a Rinzai monk, but in contrast to this he only played a marginal political role. His main concern was rather the teaching and practice of Zen (Yampolsky 1971: 11). It should be noted at this point that the introduction of Ōbaku-Zen also resulted in a critical examination of one's own traditions and teachings within the Sōtō school, albeit to a lesser extent (Hershock 2014: 121).


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