Prince Shotoku Taishi (574-622)
(As seen on the 10000 Yen Note)
Crown Prince Shotoku Taishi is the son of Emperor Yomei during the Asuka period (538-710 AD) in Japan. He is first in my list of Buddhist Monks is because of the great many contributions he made to the advent of Japanese Buddhism. Whenever, anybody talks about Buddhism in Japan, it has to start with Prince Shotoku Taishi. He was a great patron, religious scholar, theologian, preacher of early Japanese Buddhism. Upon his death he is revered as a great Buddhist Monk and reached a near Bodhisattva status.
Prince Shotoku Taishi is also known with the names Umayado no Oji, Toyosatomimi no Oji and Jogu Taishi. The title "Taishi" means "Crown prince". His father Emperor Yomei, was also a great supporter of the new religion, Buddhism (during the Asuka period) and the first Emperor to be officially baptized and converted to Buddhism.
During the early years of Buddhism in Japan, there was fierce resistance from the part of Nobility (led by Momonobe and Nakatomi clans). These clans were supports of Shintoism in Japan and wanted no part of the new religion Buddhism. This led to many battles between the supporters and detractors of Buddhism, costing many lives. Finally Prince Shotoku Taishi, after his father's death, was able to quell the rebellion against the Buddhist believers with the help of the ruling Soga clan. Since then the general population started to take on to the new religion of the land, Buddhism.
Even though, he was the son of Emperor Yomei, he never succeeded to the Throne as an official Emperor. This may be of his own choosing because he wanted to become a Buddhist Monk, rather than an Emperor. In any case, as Emperor Yomei passed away, the Throne was succeeded by Emperor Sujun, who is a younger brother of Emperor Yomei. He too passed away and his elder-half sister Suiko became the Empress of Japan. Prince Shotoku Taishi became her regent and in many ways a de facto Emperor.
Prince Shotoku Taishi was known for many foreign policy and domestic administration achievements under Empress Suiko, but he was most known for his contributions to early Buddhism in Japan. In a way he was compared with the great "King Ashoka" of India. Like King Ashoka, who was a great patron of Buddhism in India, Prince Shotoku took much interest in the Buddhist religion and responsible for it's taking roots within Japanese society.
The initial influences of Buddhism in Japan came from Korea but Prince Shotoku Taishi took much interest in what is going on in China both from a political, administrative perspective and from a Buddhist faith perspective. He sent many young Japanese scholars (mostly of Chinese origin) to China to be trained in Buddhist principles and practices.
Prince Shotoku Taishi's knowledge of Buddhism, has created a Buddhist faith of Asuka period called Shotoku sect. He also built many beautiful temples in Japan, such as Horyuji (current Nara prefecture), Shintennoji (in Osaka) etc. The believers in these temples still follow the Shotoku faith of Buddhism.
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