Dokyo (道鏡)

Dokyo (circa 700 - May 13, 772) was a Buddhist monk of the Hossoshu sect of Buddhism (Japanese equivalent of the Chinese Faxiang sect), who lived in the Nara Period. He came from the Yuge clan, a branch clan of the Mononobe clan, and his father was YUGE no Kushimaro. As Dokyo's secular family name was YUGE no Muraji (one of the ancient Japanese titles), he was also called UGE no Dokyo. His siblings included YUGE no Kiyohito. A different opinion is that Dokyo was allegedly a son of the prince, Shiki no Miko, whose father was Emperor Tenchi. With his powerful incantation and prayer, Dokyo sought to ingratiate himself with the imperial house, seized power and interfered in politics, thereby often being compared to 'Mad Monk' Grigori Rasputin who lived in the last years of the Russian Empire.

Promotion at Imperial Court

Dokyo was born in Wakae-gun County, Kawachi Province (present-day Yao City, Osaka Prefecture). In his youth he became a disciple of Gien, who was a high priest of the Hossoshu sect of Buddhism, and learned Sanskrit from Roben. In addition, Dokyo is believed to have learned and acquired a secret method of Sukuyo (an astrology based on the Sutra of constellations and planets) of Esoteric Buddhism during his retreat in Mt. Katsuragi in Yamato Province (present-day Nara Prefecture).

Attending the naidojo (palace chapel, the space of which was reserved particularly for esoteric rituals) as a Zenji (Master of Zen Buddhism) in medical nursing, he successfully healed the illness of Empress Koken (the future Empress Shotoku) at Horanomiya (detached palace) in 761, and therefore, was highly respected after that. Around the Rebellion of FUJIWARA no Nakamaro in 764, Dokyo was appointed Shosozu (Lesser Secondary Prelate) in 763, and Daijo Daijin Zenji (the First Minister and Master of Meditation) in 765, and was granted the title of Ho-o (Dharma King) in 766, thereby pursuing political policies based on Buddhist philosophy.

He was supposedly involved in political policies centering around those related to Buddhism, and the fact is that with his backing, his younger brother Kiyohito was raised to the position of Dainagon (chief councilor of state) in the manner of accelerated promotion, thus actively promoting his relatives and disciples. Dokyo's nepotism as noted above, together with his religious appearance when being involved in politics, evoked a sense of aversion among the Fujiwara clansmen who heaped blame on Dokyo.

An Oracle of Usa-jingu Shrine and Demotion Transfer

SUGE no Asomaro who was a Dazai no Kanzukasa (Head Shinto Priest of Kyushu, stationed in Dazaifu) deceitfully informed Dokyo that there was an oracle message from Usa-jingu Shrine of Buzen Province (present-day Oita Prefecture) that Dokyo be made emperor, which led Dokyo, who believed the oracle, to laying claim to the imperial throne. However, WAKE no Kiyomaro who was sent as an imperial envoy reported to the superiors that the oracle had been fabricated, thereby preventing Dokyo from being enthroned. After the funeral of Empress Shotoku who died of illness in 770, Dokyo continued protecting the late Empress' mausoleum in the hope of a sheer chance, but on September 14, 770, Dokyo was appointed Zo Shimotsuke Yakushi-ji Betto (the chief of the constructing department of Shimotsuke Yakushi-ji Temple) and therefore sent to Shimotsuke Province, where he died and was buried as a commoner. On May 13, 772, his death was reported from Shimotsuke Province to Emperor Konin. Dokyo escaped penalty in recognition of his years of service, but four of his close relatives (YUGE no Kiyohito and his sons Hirokata, Hirota and Hirotsu) were arrested and banished to Tosa Province.
(The above statement is based on "Shoku Nihongi" [Chronicle of Japan Continued].)

Dokyo, reportedly buried as a commoner, is believed to be resting in his tomb in the form of a tumulus within the precincts of Ryuko-ji Temple (Shimotsuke City, Tochigi Prefecture).

Adultery Theory

As Dokyo was in Empress Koken's favor, it has widely been believed by scholars of the Heian Period onward that Dokyo fornicated with the Empress or that he had a macropenis, being fondly used as material of folktales as seen in "Nihon Genho Zenaku Ryoiki" (which is a set of three books of Buddhist stories, written in the late 8th and early 9th century, usually referred to as the Nihon Ryoiki) and "Kojidan" (Talks of the Past). Such an adultery theory remained until the prewar period based on Confucian misogyny whereby the femininity of Empress Koken was disdained, albeit lacking specific historical sources.

The adultery theory was thus spread based on the fact that, as pointed out by some researchers, the extinguishment of the imperial line of Emperor Tenmu, caused by the death of Empress Shotoku, enabled the revival of the imperial line of Emperor Tenchi, and therefore it is likely that people on Emperor Tenchi's side needed to deliberately and unfairly insult the Empress and Dokyo so as to justify the succession of the imperial throne by the imperial line of Emperor Tenchi. Furthermore, there remains little specific evidence for a view that Dokyo had actually sought the imperial throne, which was however, quoted as being proved at the time of his demotion transfer, and the plot of the oracle of Usa-jingu Shrine (also known as Usa-hachiman Shrine) was not adopted as a specific evidence. Also, the demotion transfer merely caused him to quit as a politician and return to the normal priesthood, and should it be true that he had fornicated with a woman, who was not necessarily the Empress, he would have been deprived of his priesthood on the grounds of violating the precepts. Accordingly, some doubt whether the oracle of Usa-jingu Shrine really was about imperial succession, and the others speculate that it may be the Empress Shotoku herself who wished Dokyo's succession of the imperial throne.

Thus, there is an opinion that Dokyo should not be criticized without careful consideration based on only very limited extant historical sources, the neutrality of which is left open to question.

Vulgar Belief

Yuge-jinja Shrine in Kumamoto City is the source of a folktale which relates that 'Dokyo who had already lost his position visited this place and fell in love with a seductive, gorgeous lady called Princess Fujiko at first sight, so that he married her and enjoyed her devotion to hospitality and good copulation, which made that wild, debauchee monk Dokyo live peacefully as a good husband.'

The legend of his macropenis has been so persistent that a kind of ground beetles, which can be found in the mountains of Osaka and Nara and have an extremely big penis compared to the length of body, were therefore named 'Dokyo Osamushi.'

[Original Japanese]