Ryōgen | Life


1. Ryōgen

Ryōgen (912 – January 31, 985) , also known as Jie Daishi, was the 18th chief abbot of Enryaku-ji in the 10th century.

He is considered a restorer of the Tendai school of Mahāyāna Buddhism, and credited for reviving Enryaku-ji.

His supposed role as a precursor of the Sōhei or "warrior monks" is questionable and seems to be a later invention.

2. Life

Ryōgen was born in the Omi Province in 912, and he began his practice at Mount Hiei in 923, becoming chief abbot in 966.

He was often ordered by the imperial court to conduct a prayer ritual for the security of the imperial family. He also rebuilt dilapidated temples on Mount Hiei and helped restore the Tendai School.

Over the course of the 10th century, there had been a number of disputes between Enryaku-ji and the other temples and shrines of the Kyoto area, many of which were resolved by force.

In 970, Ryōgen formed a small army to defend Enryaku-ji and to serve its interests in these disputes.

Records are not fully clear on whether this army consisted of hired mercenaries, or, as would be the case later, trained monks:

Most likely, this first temple standing army was a mercenary group, separate from the monks, since Ryōgen forbade monks from carrying weapons.

In addition to the prohibition on carrying weapons, Ryōgen's monks were subject to a list of 26 articles released by Ryōgen in 970:

they were forbidden from covering their faces, inflicting corporal punishment, violently interrupting prayer services, or leaving Mount Hiei during their 12-year training.

In 981 Ryōgen was appointed General Administrator, the most important rank in priesthood.