Sunday, September 8, 2013

India's influence upon Japan in the past.

    There is no doubt that the present national awakening in India is due in a large measure to the influence which the wonderful history of Japan has exercised over the mind and imagination of the educated classes in this country. Young India has set up Japan as its model, and the desire is growing more and more among the people to cultivate acquaintance with the laws and institutions, the customs and tradition of the most wonderful of the Eastern nations of the present day. To most people, however, it does not at once occur, that the history of Japan is but a fragment of Indian history – that Japan is only giving us back today what she has received from us in the past. We are indebted to Mr. J. N. Farquhar, M. A., for an informing lecture which he delivered on this subject at Bangalore, a short time back, and which is reproduced in the April number of the Hindustan Review. Mr. Farquhar is well-known in Calcutta for his evangelistic labors in connection with the Theistic Mission. He went to Japan last April to take part in the All-World Christian Students' Conference which was held in that country, and while there he was fortunate enough to come in contact with many Buddhist and Shinto priests, from whom he acquired a great deal of most valuable information at first hand.

    The first thing which appears to have struck Mr. Farquhar is the vast creative influence which India, through Buddhism, exerted on Japan in the early centuries. The student of history need not be told that Buddhism was introduced into China by the Missionaries whom the Buddhists kings of this country sent there in the first century B. C. China had been a civilized country for many centuries, and when Buddhism went there, the Chinese were already an old and powerful nation. The story of Japan is different. When Buddhism was introduced in Japan in the sixth century after Christ, the Japanese were a barbarous people, with no system of writing, no literature, little agriculture, less industry, no art, and only a very rudimentary form of government. Mr. Farquhar says that it was Buddhism that started Japan on the path of civilization, and that without it, the progress of that country would have been very slow indeed. Very few Indians went to Japan in those days, and very few Japanese came to India. "Yet," says Mr. Farquhar, "though there was scarcely any direct contact, the forces set in motion were so powerful and of such immeasurable importance that no intelligent man can visit Japan today without meeting evidence of the sway of the Indian intellect at many points." The writer found may Buddhist images in Japan which are extremely Hindu in appearance. He says that a considerable number of the gods of Hinduism have found their way to Japan, and that in some temples he actually saw the figures of Indra and Brahma. Yama or the Death-god of the Hindus is also a common god in Japan. The Tantric movement as also the doctrines of Pantheism and Avatars also appear to have considerably influenced Japanese life. Shintoism is an adaptation of the doctrine of Avatars. Architecture and sculpture were introduced into Japan in the same way as Buddhism. The temples and images, all show the characteristics of Indian art and thought; and indeed, says Mr. Farquhar, "no one who knows India can walk through Japan today without being strikingly impressed with the many Indian features which still remain visible after so many centuries." It is an extraordinary fact that in every Buddhist temple in Japan the ritual is still chanted in the Sanskrit language. The religious books are written in the Sanskrit language, but in Chinese characters. During the last fifty years, a number of ancient Sanskrit manuscripts as also Sanskrit inscriptions have been found in the country; and this fact certainly goes to show that Sanskrit was widely studied in Japan in the ancient times. The Japanese owe the introduction of Buddhism, as well as of the various forms of culture attending it, to the Chinese, who in their turn received these gifts from India direct. The Chinese founded schools all over the country, taught the people to cultivate their fields better, and cut out roads and built bridges all along the coast. But the inspiration for this great civilizing work came from India through Buddhism.

    It is not Japan alone that owes her civilization to India. Mr. Farquhar truly observes that what India did for Japan, she did also in varying measure for China, Mongolia, Tibet, Annam, Siam, Java, and Burma, not to mention Ceylon. "All the peoples of the East," he adds, "learned from Hindustan, all were proud to acknowledge her supremacy and to drink from her flowing fountain. For a thousand years, counting from Asoka, India continued to give out of the riches of her storehouse to the nations of the East; but after 750 after Christ, this spontaneity gradually ceased. But though India no longer continued to give forth as before, yet the influence of Buddhism in the East was neither short-lived nor superficial. It moulded the life and character of these peoples to an extraordinary degree; and the results have lasted down into our own days." Having regard to the great part which Buddhism has played in the evolution of civilization, if not for its own unsurpassable merits as a religion of love and service for humanity, it behooves every intelligent man in these days to make the Buddhist religion the subject of devout study. The educated Indian should take pride in the fact that the religion which has done the greatest service to the nations of the East, and has also been a civilizing factor in the Western world, belongs to the country in which he was born. It is a curious irony of fate that India, the teacher, should now have to learn the rudiments of nation-building from her pupils. We are now sending our young men to Japan to learn arts and industries, but time was when India was the teacher of arts and industries to the whole world. Truly does Mr. Farquhar ask: - "Can any Indian realize the meaning of these great facts without the deepest emotion?" – Indian Mirror.


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