Kenkei (賢憬)

Kenkei (714 - December 15, 793) was a Buddhist priest of Hosso sect of Buddhism (Japanese equivalent of the Chinese Faxiang sect or Dharma-character school), who lived in the Nara period. His secular surname was Aratai. He was born in Owari Province. He also went by the name Kenkyo. He was called Owari Sozu (literally, high priest of Owari) or Owari Daisozu (literally, head priest of Owari).

Under Senkyo, master of the Hosso sect at Kofuku-ji Temple, Kenkei studied vijnapti-matrata or Consciousness-only school (aka Yuishiki or wei shih, i.e. a theory that all existence is subjective and nothing exists outside of the mind) and dharmalaksana or Dharma-character school (aka Hosso or faxiang, i.e. the specific characteristics of all manifest phenomena), and also practiced a kind of asceticism called kugo-rengyo, and in the new year of 743, as Shishu (Master) Kenkei of Kofuku-ji Temple he nominated Komaro, who was his relative, for becoming an ubasoku (aka upasaka, referring to a lay servant). In 754, the Tang priest named Ganjin (aka Janzen) was welcomed to Naniwa, and in the following year of 755, Kenkei abandoned the former Buddhist precepts and received gusokukai (i.e. full precepts) from Ganjin. In 758, he dedicated a full set of 420 scrolls of Buddhist sutras to Toshodai-ji Temple. In 774, he served as Risshi (literally, preceptor, referring to the third rank of priest following Sojo and Sozu). Circa 778, he mastered enju-ho (literally, prayers for life prolonging) at Mt. Murou in Yamato Province and cured a chronic disease Crown Prince Yamabe (the future Emperor Kammu) was suffering from, thereby earning the profound trust of the prince. In 780, Kenkei built a three-storied pagoda at Jingu-ji Temple at Tado-taisha Shrine, and during the Hoki era (770-780) he established Murou-ji Temple. In 784, he was given the Buddhist priest rank of Daisozu. In Saicho's kaicho (Certificates of Reception of Buddhist Commandments) of May 785, and in "Tado-jinguji garan engi narabini shizai cho" (literally, directory of Tado Jingu-ji Temple origins and property), he signed his name as a member of Sogo (ancient Buddhist ecclesiastical authority). When a location was selected for the shift of the capital in 793, he was dispatched to a site in Yamashiro (in Yamashiro Province). On that occasion, he served as doshi (officiating Buddhist priest) at a memorial service at Monju-do Hall of Mt. Hiei. Kenkei passed away at the age of 80 in December 15, 793.

Known for his prodigious scholarship he delved into the text 'Shakumakaenron' (annotated 10 volume translated Mahayana Buddhism text brought back from Tang China by Buddhist priest Kaimyo of Daian-ji Temple during his Nitto Guho [a pilgrimage to China in search of the Law]) coming to the conclusion it was a fake, which influenced the dispute between Saicho and Tokuitsu of Aizu. Among his many acolytes, Shuen and Myofuku are famous.

[Original Japanese]