Ennin (円仁)

Ennin (794-February 24, 864) was the 3rd head priest of the Tendai Sect. He was also known as Jikaku Daishi. He was the first person in Japan to be given the title Daishi, or Great Teacher. He was one of the eight Nyutohakke priests who travelled to China, the others being Saicho, Kukai, Jogyo, Engyo, Eun, Enchin, and Shuei.

Ennin's Character

The son of the local ruling Mibu clan, he was born in 794, the first year of the Heian period, in Mibu town, Tsuga district, Shimotsuke Province, where Mibu-ji Temple (Mibu-machi, Tochigi Prefecture) now stands. His older brother recommended that he study Confucianism, but he showed an interest in Buddhism from an early age and entered Daiji-ji Temple at the age of nine to start his training. The master of Daiji-ji Temple, Kochi, was an apprentice of Dochu, who had studied under Jianzhem (Ganjin in Japanese), though Dochu showed an early appreciation of Saicho and sent many pupils to study under Saicho.

When Ennin was 15 years old, after hearing that Saicho had returned to Japan from Tang Dynasty China and founded Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hiei, he immediately went to Mt. Hiei to study under Saicho. Through his loyalty and devotion to study and training, Ennin earned the deep affection of Saicho, who was trying to establish the Tendai Sect in the face of a resurgence of Nara Buddhism and the prosperity of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism. Ennin was one of ten pupils who learned about shikan meditation (using an annotated Lotus Sutra) from Saicho, and Ennin was the only disciple who was assigned to conduct lectures in place of his master.

He passed the state oral exam in 814 and left to become a monk the following year, when he was 21 years old. In 816, when he was 23 years old, he was ordained, receiving the 250 Hinayana precepts, or gusokukai, in Todai-ji Temple, one of the Three Kaidan (Seats of Ordination). During the same year, he accompanied his master, Saicho, on a pilgrimage to the Kanto region and visited his childhood home of Shimotsuke Province. Saicho's reason for taking this trip was to spread the newly established Tendai Sect's Hokke ichijo (Single Vehicle of the Lotus) teachings and to pick six locations throughout Japan to build hoto to serve as local religious and national medical service centres, following the One Thousand Edition Eight Thousand Volume Lotus Sutra sutra. Once Ennin began to teach bosatsukai (bodhisattva precepts) and gain pupils, he received daijokai (Mahayana precepts) himself on March 6, 817.

He was said to be an amicable and graceful person with thick eyebrows. Honen, the founder of Jodo Sect (the Pure Land Sect), supposedly died while wearing the clothes of Ennin, whom he adored.

Difficult Sea Voyage of the Kentoshi (Japanese Delegates to China)
His first voyage in 836 was a failure and a second attempted voyage the following year was also unsuccessful. He left Hakatanotsu on June 13, 838. On this day, he started to write "Nitto Guho Junrei Koki" ({The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law}). He travelled from Shikanoshima Island to Dong Liang Village in Yangzhou, arriving safely after eight days sailing, although one of the 'four ships' sank). Although Ennin's vessel was fine, during disembarkation they lost the control of the ship and ran aground, leaving Ennin soaked through and the ship completely destroyed (from "Koki"({The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law}), July 2, 838 entry).

* The day of the landing, July 2nd of the 4th year of Kaicheng era for the Tang Dynasty was same as Japan's July 2nd of the 5th year of Jowa era. This was not surprising since both Japan and the Tang Dynasty used the same calendar, but Ennin was moved by the fact that the date was the same even on foreign soil ("Koki," July 2, 838 entry).

Attempt to reach Mt. Tiantai
He was the last of kentoshi to study in China but, since he was shoyakuso (a monk who stayed in Tang for a short period), he was not given a travel permit to Mt. Tiantai (perhaps because it was considered impossible due to his limited schedule) and he had no choice but to go back to Japan. He asked the Tang emperor for the permission to reside at Tang many times but was always refused. As a result, he decided on the dangerous course of leaving the group of kentoshi to illegally reside in China (Foreign monks were required to have a permit from the Tang emperor). The young Tiantai monk, Keibun (敬文), who as a child had seen Saicho staying at Mt. Tiantai, came all the way from Mt. Tiantai to visit Ennin. He stated that he had come to visit because hearing a high monk from Japan was visiting Yangzhou had rekindled some fond memories. He took care of Ennin during his stay in China. He left the kentoshi group at Donghai in Haeju, but villagers considered him suspicious (he could not understand Chinese and although he claimed that 'I'm a Sillan monk,' he did not seem to speak Korean) and handed over to the government office after one night the village. He was taken back to the kentoshi group ("Koki," April 10, 839 entry).

Help from Sillans residing in Tang China
Back then, Silla sea merchants, including Bogo JANG, prospered in the neighborhoods of the Shandong Peninsula of China and, with the help of Sillans residing in Chishanji, he was able to stay in China (although he remained as an illegal resident, he was able to obtain a travel permit). Ennin left the kentoshi group and, after being told about Mt. Wutai as an alternative to Mt. Tiantai by the Sillan monk, Seirin (聖林), whilst staying at the Chishan Fahua Temple founded by Bogo JANG, decided to head for Mt. Wutai instead of Mt. Tiantai. He walked the 1270 km to Mt. Wutai in spring ("Koki," 58 entries between February 19-April 28, 840). The Sekizanzenin Temple built by Ennin's disciples at the foot of Mt. Hiei worships Sillan deities, following the wishes of Ennin (888).

Pilgrimage to Mt. Wutai
He went on a pilgrimage to Mt. Wutai in 840. He also hiked up Beitai, the highest peak at over 3000m, when he was 47 years old. The elder Zhiyuan warmly welcomed him to Mt. Wutai, saying, 'Thank you for coming all the way to here' ("Koki," April 28, 840 entry). He was told that he was the second Japanese to visit Mt. Wutai, the first one being Ryosen Sanzo, who had accompanied Saicho to China but had died on Mt. Wutai without returning to Japan. He discovered the answer to the problem of integrating the Lotus Sutra and Esoteric Buddhism, known as the 'Thirty Unsolved Issues,' and copied 37 volumes of Buddhist scriptures stored at Mt. Wutai that had not yet been introduced to Japan.
In addition, he witnessed 'Shoto' (a holy light) - possibly a Brocken spectre - in the thick fogged Nantai
("Koki," May 22, June 21, and July 2, 840 entries) and many other good omens that led him to believe it was a manifestation of the Bodhisattva, Manjusri (Monjubosatsu in Japanese) and further deepened his faith.

Seeking Dharma to Chang'an (Xian)
Since Chang'an was the biggest city on Earth and the leading center of culture at the time, he decided to travel 1100 km on foot to Chang'an from Mt. Wutai, taking 53 days. He received his initiation (kanjo) from the high monk, Gensei (元政) of Da Xing Shan Temple and from Gishin of Qinglong Temple, receiving instruction in the basic laws of the Diamond Realm, the Womb Realm, Rushanakyo, and Soshitsuji. He paid the Chang'an illustrator, Okei (王恵), 6,000 mon to draw Diamond Realm Mandala.

On the night that he gained his desired Diamond Realm Mandala, which Tendai esotericism didn't yet posess, he dreamed about the late Saicho. Saicho held the Mandala in his hands and cried with happiness. Ennin tried to worship his master Saicho, but Saicho stopped him and deeply praised his apprentice instead ("Koki," October 29, 840 entry). The illustration of the Mandala was complete ("Koki," December 22, 840 entry).

Later, he asked the Tang imperial court close to a hundred times (the first time was on August 7, 840) for permission to return to Japan but was denied and, during this time, his dear apprentice, Yuigyo, with whom he had spent the five years since entering China, passed away ("Koki,"July 25, 843 entry. He died at 32). Ennin also learned Sanskrit and copied many Buddhist scriptures. By the time he left Chang'an, according to "Nitto Shingu Shogyo Mokuroku"(Catalogue of sacred teachings newly sought in the Tang), he had 423 sections totalling 559 scrolls and, as a result of the October, 842 Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution, was able to go back to Japan in the unexpected form of the expulsion of foreign monks (February 845).

Difficulties of the Return Trip
The political situation in Chang'an was in turmoil, reflecting the declining strength of the Tang Dynasty. Public safety was also deteriorating. There was also a series of arson attacks. In order to safely carry back the enormous amount of scriptures and Mandala, he left Chang'an at night but nevertheless, many Chang'an residents were present to say farewell. People who saw him off consisted mainly of monks and Sillan residents in China who had supported Ennin during his stay at Chang'an, as well as the high Tang Administrator and Buddhist student, Lee. There was even a Sillan who gave him around 30 meters of silk as a parting gift ("Koki," May 15, 845 entry). He walked for 107 days to return to the Sillan city of Chisanji on the Shandong Peninsula.

At this time, the Sillan Tang Administrator, Bogo JANG's subordinate, General Yung CHANG, built a ship with Tang Government public funds, but was secretly informed that Ennin would not be allowed to return with this ship.

The information that 'Ennin is alive' seemed to have reached Japan because his apprentice, Shokai from Mt. Hiei, came to China to meet him. He asked Shun-yin LAU, the Sillan interpreter from Chuzhou (a trilingual who could speak Sillan, Chinese, and Japanese), to find a ship to Japan, and they returned on the ship of Jin KIM, a Sillan merchant. Ennin gave two ryo of powdered gold and a waist cord with osakaite to Shun-yin LAU. The voyage along the coast of the Korean Peninsula took 90 days. He was surprised by the fact that the Sillan ship was small but fast and strong. He arrived at Hakatanotsu and entered Korokan. ("Koki," September 19, 847 entry). The Japanese government gave out daijokanpu (official documents issued by Daijokan, Grand Council of State) to award Jin KIM and the Sillan merchants who had safely brought back Ennin, and the diary, "Nitto Guho Junrei Koki" that had lasted for nine years and six months ended that day ("Koki," December 14, 847 entry, Aged 54).

The diary written during Ennin's nine-and-a-half-year journey to seek Buddhism, "Nitto Guho Junrei Koki," is the first genuine Japanese travelogue and is highly valued as an historical document that vividly depicts the anti-Buddhist activities of the Tang Emperor, Wuzong, during the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution. According to his diary, he travelled around 40 km a day on foot.

He supposedly established Ryusen-ji Temple, also known as Meguro Fudo, Risshaku-ji Temple in Yamagata City, and Zuigan-ji Temple in Matsushima. There are 209 temples in Kanto region and around 331 temples in Tohoku region that were supposedly established or restored by Jikaku Daishi Ennin.

Eventually, Ennin school became known as Sanmon school to distinguish it from Enchin school (Jimon school).

[Original Japanese]