Sokuikanjo (即位灌頂)

Sokuikanjo is a ritual of Esoteric Buddhism conducted in an enthronement ceremony for the emperor from the 11th or 13th century up to the Edo period and its contents were treated as a secret ceremony. Generally, sokuikanjo referred to the acts combining an act of initiation called 'inmyodenju' and the practice of the teaching; the former was what a person from Sekkan-ke (families that produced the regent and chief adviser to the emperor), usually from the Nijo family, taught the emperor the mudra (Hand Gestures) and the mantra before the enthronement ceremony, and the latter was what the emperor made the initiated mudra and chanted the initiated mantra; but some researchers clearly distinguish between the inmyodenju and the practice of sokuikanjo. Inmyodenju and sokuikanjo are described collectively here.

Background of the birth of sokuikanjo

Kanjo was originally a ritual carried out for the enthronement of a king or official investiture of the Crown Prince in Ancient India in which water called kanjosui was poured onto the head of the king being enthroned. Later, the ritual of kanjo was adopted as a ritual of Buddhism and, especially in Esoteric Buddhism, it became an important ritual such as denpokanjo (consecration for the Transmission of the Dharma).

In the ninth century, when Esoteric Buddhism was brought into Japan, the ritual of kanjo commenced and the ceremony of kanjo of Esoteric Buddhism was used for the enthronement ceremony for the emperor and sokuikanjo was formed.

In China from where Esoteric Buddhism was brought into Japan, there is no trace of a kanjo ceremony as an enthronement ceremony for the emperor. It is considered to be a difference in concept of the monarch in Japan and China. While the enthronement ceremony for the emperor in China had a strong tinge of mutual acknowledgment between the emperor and subjects, it seems that there was room for a religious concept concerning the enthronement ceremony for the emperor in Japan which is based upon the myth of the descent to earth by the grandson of the sun goddess. Although kanjo originated from the ritual of enthronement of the king in Ancient India, sokuikanjo consisting of inmyodenju and practice based upon the creed of Esoteric Buddhism is different from the ritual in Ancient India with regard to philosophy and content.

In the period of the government by the retired emperor during the Heian period, a view of the state based on Buddhism that the rise of Buddhism was directly connected to the rise of the influence sovereignty earned awareness. There is a view that, as a result, certain names based on Buddhism such as Konrin Joo (gold-wheel-turning king) and Juzen no kimi (literally, man with the ten good acts) became synonyms for the emperor and rituals such as sokuikanjo were introduced into the enthronement ceremony. Some researchers call this situation a theory of the Buddhist right of kings.

Shinto rituals emperors carried out since ancient times declined since the medieval period. For example, the Yasoshima Festival (Festival of the Eighty Islands) held the following year of Daijoe (banquet on the occasion of the first ceremonial offering of rice by the newly-enthroned emperor) was discontinued during the beginning of the Kamakura period. Daijoe itself and Niinamesai (ceremonial offering by the Emperor of newly-harvested rice to the deities) were interrupted in the 15th century. Under such situations, sokuikanjo was born and developed as a new ritual to maintain religious authority of the emperor.

Way of conducting sokuikanjo

In sokuikanjo, the emperor about to be enthroned received the initiation of mudra and mantra from a person from Sekkan-ke, usually from the Nijo family (inmyodenju), and executed them during the enthronement ceremony. But in the nature of the secret ceremony, there remained little record and it was difficult to know about the details. In recent years, however, documents kept in the Nijo family, including some relating to sokuikanjo, were opened to the public to promote research on conducting sokuikanjo.

The initiation of the mudra was basically conducted on the day of the enthronement ceremony, however, it could be on the day before because a person conducting it was taking on mourning, and so on.

The mudra which the emperor performs at the time of sokuikanjo was Chiken-in (the knowledge-fist mudra) which represented Kongokai Dainichi Nyorai (Dainichi Nyorai as a physical principle). Performing Chiken-in representing Kongokai Dainichi Nyorai is said to have a meaning that to perform the mudra of Dainichi Nyorai who was identical with Amaterasu Omikami (the Sun Goddess) in Honji-suijaku (theory of original reality and manifested traces), the emperor to be enthroned was identified with Dainichi Nyorai and becomes a supreme existence.

It is said that mantra of Dainichi Nyorai of the spiritual principle or mantra of Dakiniten, was chanted. Although we say "to chant," it is not expressed aloud but chanted in the mind. Mantra of Dakiniten is used in Toji-kata sokuiho described below handed down by temples in the Shingon sect, and, for which a close relationship with sokuikanjo has been pointed out. With respect to the fact that Dakiniten who is closely connected to sex has a relationship with sokuikanjo, there is a view that seeks the root to the relationship between sex and the emperor, as Yoshihiko AMINO claimed.

It was thought that the emperor's practice to perform the mudra and chant the mantra was conducted while the emperor walked to the Takamikura (the imperial throne) during the enthronement ceremony, but by recent researches, it became to be thought it was conducted after the emperor sat down on the Takamikura. As sokuikanjo was a secret ceremony, it is understood that it was conducted, immediately after the emperor sat down on Takamikura, while court ladies covered the emperor's face with a fans.

The above descriptions are findings from an analysis of documents for sokuikanjo by the Nijo family during the Edo period. During the Muromachi period, according to the Diary of Emperor Gonara for example, the emperor was initiated in saninsanmyo (namely, three mudra gestures and three mantra chants), performed the first mudra before reaching the Takamikura, and then did the second and third mudra chants after sitting on the Takamikura. Therefore, it is inferred that the way of conducting sokuikanjo had changed remarkably depending upon the era.

Commencement of sokuikanjo

There are several views concerning when sokuikanjo began. According to the view which that mentions the earliest time, it started with Emperor Gosanjo. This is based upon a description in 'Gosanjoin Gosokuiki' (record of the enthronement of Emperor Gosanjo) written by OE no Masafusa that, after his enthronement, Emperor Gosanjo did not hold shaku (a mace) and showed mudra of Dainichi Nyorai. There is a view, however, that it is questionable to conclude from this description that sokuikanjo was conducted.

From an analysis of sentences regarding sokuikanjo recently opened by the Nijo family to the public, a view that sokuikanjo started with the Emperor Gofukakusa was revealed.
According to a genealogical chart of the Imperial Family prepared by Yasumichi NIJO in which persons who conducted inmyodenju at the time of sokuikanjo are shown, Emperor Gofukakusa was initiated into sokuikanjo by Sanetsune ICHIJO who was sessho (regent) at the time of enthronement.,

With respect to Emperor Kameyama and the Emperor Gouda, following Emperor Gofukakusa, there is no material showing that they conducted sokuikanjo. It is quite clear from the description in the Fushimi tenno shinki (The Diary of Emperor Fushimi), however, that the Emperor Fushimi conducted sokuikanjo and certain researchers believe that sokuikanjo began with Emperor Fushimi. Because it is assured that Emperor Fushimi conducted sokuikanjo, we know that sokuikanjo started in the latter half of the 13th century at the latest.

The Nijo family and the commencement of sokuikanjo

In many cases, persons from the Nijo family conducted inmyodenju in sokuikanjo, and there is a view that the Nijo family had been involved since the birth of sokuikanjo.

Yoshizane NIJO, who was the founder of the Nijo family was on bad terms with his father, Michiie KUJO, and could not inherit any documents concerning yusokukojitsu (knowledge of court rules, ceremony, decorum and records of the past). Therefore, he was handicapped politically during the Kamakura period where weight was attached to yusokukojitsu.

In those days, in the ritual of shinzengushin (literally, offering god's tray) carried out in Daijoe after the enthronement ceremony, the emperor progressed the ritual based on the manner which was told by Sekkan (regent or adviser). However, Morotada NIJO, who was kanpaku (chief adviser to the emperor) at the time of enthronement of the Emperor Fushimi, could not reply to questions on procedures of the ritual from the emperor, and found himself in dire straits. This was because the Nijo family did not have any notable documents concerning yusokukojitsu.

Therefore, Morotada NIJO asked his older brother Dogen, who had experience as tendai-zasu (head priest of the Tendai sect), for help and introduced sokuikanjo, a new ritual, on the occasion of the enthronement of the Emperor Fushimi intending to escape from difficult situation which the Nijo Family was forced to suffer and to compete with other members of Gosekke (the five families of the Fujiwara clan whose members were eligible for the positions of Sessho and kanpaku). In addition, taking the fact that it became large significance of existence for Sekkan to teach the emperor how to proceed the ceremony at the shinzengushin ritual in Daijoe as a hint, Sekkan incorporated a new ritual of Esoteric Buddhism that he taught the manner of a ceremony to the newly enthroned emperor, and sokuikanjo became one of significant existence of Sekkan.

According to this view, as sokuikanjo was introduced due to wishes of the Nijo family, it is inferred that sokuikanjo was not usually conducted if sekkan were not from the Nijo family on the occasion of enthronement of the emperor. As the Nijo family was close to samurai governments as seen in the fact that the heads of the Nijo family were granted use of a portion of the real name of seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") of Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and the Edo bakufu, however, the time period in which members of the Nijo family were in a position of Sekkan during the Muromachi period was longer than that of other members of gosekke. Naturally, the number of occasion that sokuikanjo was conducted in the enthronement of the emperor was increased and the Imperial Family was welcomed it as a mean to make the authority firm, then sokuikanjo came to stay in the enthronement ceremony.

The above-mentioned is a convincing view of establishing the sokuikanjo firmly as the family business of Nijo family, based on the historical fact that the Nijo family had many opportunities to conduct sokuikanjo. However, it is difficult to explain about Emperor Gosanjo and Emperor Gofukakusa who might have conducted sokuikanjo before Emperor Fushimi and, according to the records by Yasumichi NIJO introduced above, the records of the Nijo family described cases where persons from families other than the Nijo family conducted sokuikanjo from Kamakura to Muromachi periods, such as Sanetsune ICHIJO for Emperor Gofukakusa and Kanetada TAKATSUKASA for Emperor Gofushimi.

Sokuikanjo and sokuiho

Along with sokuikanjo actually performed by the emperor during the enthronement ceremony, mudra and mantra to practice at the enthronement ceremony called sokuiho have been handed down by the Tendai and Shingon sects. Generally speaking, sokuiho of Tendai sect is called tendai-kata (天台方, literally, the manner of Tendai sect) and sokuiho of Shingon sect toji-kata (東寺方, literally, the manner of To-ji Temple of Shingon sect). Both for tendai-kata and toji-kata, multiple sokuiho have been handed down and mudra and mantra are different for each sokuiho. Tendai-kata sokuiho is based on setsuwa (anecdotes), such as setsuwa of King Mu, in which King Mu of Zhou was vested by Dainichi Nyorai the verse of Hokke-kyo Sutra (the Lotus Sutra). It is said that, at first, inmyodenju was supposed to be conducted by a notable Buddhist priest for the emperor, but it is changed to inmyodenju by Sekkan. On the other hand, toji-kata sokuiho is said to have influenced of Ryobu Shinto (a fusion of Shinto and Shingon sect of Buddhism), and, from the beginning, Sekkan should conduct the initiation for the emperor.

Sokuiho has never been used in real sokuikanjo as it was. It is understood, however, that they gave quite a bit of influence on the formation of sokuikanjo and, in particular, the similarity between to toji-kata sokuiho and sokuikanjo has been pointed out.

It seems that in the late Kamakura period and the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan), Sekkan-ke and temples for both of whom existence of the emperor was indispensable, brought jointly sokuikanjo into the enthronement ceremony for their own survival. From the late Kamakura period and onward, struggle between Jimyointo (imperial lineage from Emperor Gofukakusa to Emperor Gokomatsu) and Daikakujito (imperial lineage starting with Emperor Kameyama) developed into a confrontation of the Northern and Southern Courts and the two emperors were opposed to each other. Influenced by disintegration of the royal lineage, disintegration among temples was developed. Each fraction devised its own sokuiho and such multiple sokuiho had not been unified even after the struggle between the Northern and Southern Courts ended and this continues even today.

Activities of Yoshimoto NIJO and change of family business for the Nijo family

In the process in which sokuikanjo became a family business for the Nijo family, various opinions agree that the power of Yoshimoto NIJO who had a close connection to Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA and had great power assuming the position of Sekkan four times during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan) played an important role.

Yoshimoto NIJO endeavored to restructure the Northern Court (Japan) in the Kanno Disturbance. And without Sanshu no Jingi (three sacred imperial treasures) and Chiten no Kimi (literally, supreme ruler) who should issue Jokoku no Mikotonori (imperial decree to assign the reign), Emperor Gokogen finally realized his enthronement by making Kogimonin Chiten (ruler).
While the legitimacy of the emperor was ruined, the Northern Court from Emperor Gokogen made every effort to improve the situation
Yoshimoto NIJO promoted the establishment of sokuikanjo as a ritual to make it a new source of authority of the emperors of the Northern Court. Yoshimoto NIJO, who assumed the position of Sekkan four times, conducted inmyodenju for the emperors of several generations and contributed to the settlement of sokuikanjo as a ritual. As a result, he opened the way to make sokuikanjo a family business of the Nijo family.

Yoshimoto NIJO initiated Emperor Goenyu with mudra and mantra in the shinzengushin ritual of Daijoe for Emperor Goenyu and the Emperor made the mudra and chanted the mantra during the ceremony. No other record showing that mudra was made and mantra was chanted in Daijoe, which was a ceremony of Shintoism has been found, and, therefore, it is an interesting record that shows that sokuikanjo had a relationship not only with the enthronement ceremony for the emperor, but also Daijoe. As Daijoe was once discontinued after Emperor Gokashiwabara, this could be the reason why there were no other records. Anyhow, we can know that Yoshimoto NIJO was involved deeply in the enthronement ceremony and Daijoe, both important ceremonies of the Imperial Court.

Disputes among Gosekke concerning sokuikanjo

As sokuikanjo settled as an indispensable ritual for the enthronement ceremony for the emperor, other gosekke members made requests to the Nijo family, who mainly carried out inmyodenju, and disputes occurred rather often between them. In 1414, at the enthronement of Emperor Shoko, there was a dispute between Tsunetsugu ICHIJO, who was kanpaku, and Mochimoto NIJO, who was Gon Dainagon (provisional chief councilor of state). Disputes concerning inmyodenju became serious during the Edo period in which inmyodenju settled in Nijo family.

At first in 1611, at the enthronement of Emperor Gomizunoo, there was a dispute between Akizane NIJO and Nobutada KONOE, and according to the judgment of Hidetada TOKUGAWA, who was seii taishogun at that time, Akizane NIJO should conduct inmyodenju.

Then, in 1687, at the enthronement of Emperor Higashiyama, a large dispute arose because Tsunahira NIJO, the head of the Nijo family at that time, was Gon Dainagon at the age of 16, and he was only three years old when his father Mitsuhira JIJO died, so it was doubted whether he was taught details of inmyodenju from his father. What made the situation worse for the Nijo family was that the library of the Nijo family was totally burnt down in 1675 and almost all their ancestral documents had been lost. Fuyutsune ICHIJO, the Sessho, and Motohiro KONOE, the Sadaijin (minister of the left), insisted that inmyodenju should have been done not by Tsunahira NIJO, who had never assumed the position of minister and whose initiation by his father was doubtful, but by them because their families had also handed down the tradition. Finally, it was determined that after Emperor Reigen checked the traditional theory of each family, he initiated with inmyodenju which he had been initiated in the past to Tsunahira NIJO who would conduct inmyodenju.

At the enthronement of Emperor Nakamikado in 1710, a conflict occurred between Iehiro KONOE, the Sessho, and Tsunahira NIJO, the Udaijin (minister of the right)
At the time, Tsunahira NIJO was in mourning and it was uncertain whether or not he could conduct inmyodenju and the Konoe family desired to conduct inmyodenju partly because of strong wish by Motohiro KONOE who was Taiko (retired imperial regent). In this case also, according to the judgment of Retired Emperor Reigen, it was determined that the Nijo family should conduct inmyodenju, not Tsunahira NIJO in mourning but Yoshitada NIJO did.

At the enthronement of Emperor Sakuramachi in 1735, also Iehisa KONOE, the kanpaku, wanted to conduct inmyodenju. In the end, in this case also, Emperor Nakamikado ordered Yoshitada NIJO, the sadaijin, to conduct initiation, but Emperor Nakamikado agreed to pay regard to the tradition handed down in Konoe family, too.

In 1739, Emperor Sakuramachi ordered Munemoto NIJO to have the Nijo family continue to conduct inmyodenju. After that, it was fixed that inmyodenju should be conducted by the Nijo family and conflicts ceased.

End of sokuikanjo

During the late Edo period, in line with social movements such as rising of kokugaku (study of Japanese literature and culture), critical views against shinbutsushugo (syncretization of Shinto with Buddhism) in which Buddhism and Shintoism were united came up. Under such circumstances, blame started to be concentrated on sokuikanjo which was a Buddhist ritual performed during the enthronement ceremony. In sokuikanjo which was conducted at the enthronement of Emperor Komei in 1847, many court nobles showed a negative attitude against performing sokuikanjo at the enthronement ceremony.

At the enthronement of Emperor Meiji in 1868, as a result of the pursuit of making the enthronement ceremony follow Shinto, the color of Buddhism was excluded totally and sokuikanjo was discontinued.

Characteristics of sokuikanjo

During the Edo period when sokuikanjo was completed as a ritual, it was treated as an important matter for the Imperial Court. Repeated conflicts concerning inmyodenju at the time of enthronement were a sign of its importance. The importance had been attached weight repeatedly by emperors and retired emperors and members of Sekkan-ke who were involved in such conflicts.

During the Edo period, the Nijo family, who were mainly responsible for maintaining sokuikanjo, prayed for a satisfactory completion of the ritual to Chinju (local Shinto deity) and Tenjin (literally, heavenly gods) before sokuikanjo and, immediately before inmyodenju, the whole family conducted Shinto ritual of purification. Sokuikanjo was the ceremony based on Buddhism, however, the Nijo family prayed for a satisfactory completion of sokuikanjo in Shinto ritual showed that the pre-modern court noble society had an element of shinbutsushugo.

Sokuikanjo may be comparable to the ceremony of unction which was conducted during the enthronement of kings in Western Europe, for example. In sokuikanjo, a person from Sekkan-ke centering on the Nijo family initiated mudra and mantra and the emperor to be enthroned carried them out. The act to initiate mudra and mantra by a person from Sekkan-ke has the color of the family business of Sekkan-ke rather than being a religious ritual. Clergymen had been excluded from initiation and practice of sokuikanjo. This point illustrates the difference from unction which was a ritual a clergyman carried out on the king about to be enthroned.

By conducting sojuikanjo, the emperor was identified with Dainichi Nyorai and obtained extremely high religious authority. The fact that there was no intervention by clergymen such as notable Buddhist priests meant that, although the emperor could have high religious authority under situation in which influence from the religious world was excluded, there was remoteness in the emperor's authority.

From the Kamakura period through the Muromachi period, however, it has been pointed out that there is a case in which a priest conducted inmyodenju. It is seen in the clarification of the process from formation of sokuikanjo to its completion.