Mappo Thought and
Pure Land Belief

The Aesthetic World
of the Heian Capital

Mappo (the age of the Final Dharma)--the idea that Buddhism would enter a period of decline two thousand years after the death of the historic Buddha Sakyamuni--largely shaped religious views among the nobility and clergy of the Heian period (794-1185). In Japan, mappo was thought to begin in 1053. The years prior to and after this witnessed the voluminous copying of the Lotus Sutra (J., Hokekyo), which attracted the deep faith because of its promise of Buddhahood to all sentient beings, and the numerous constructions of sutra mounds for the burial of these scriptures. The seminal text by the Tendai priest Genshin (Eshin Sozu, 942-1017), Ojoyoshu (Essential of Birth in the Buddha Amida's Pure Land)--which depicts various terrifying hell realms and discusses in detail the theory of ojo, or birth in Amida's Pure Land, and methods of salvific practices--also shaped religious thought by arousing fear of the hells and aspiration to Pure Land birth, thus contributing to the rise of Pure Land faith in this period.
    Various decorative arts and Buddhist sculpture from a thousand years ago offer glimpses into the world of the Heian capital.

National Treasure
Gilt Bronze Fujiwara no Michinaga Sutra Container
Kinpu Shrine, Nara Prefecture