Roben (良弁)

Roben (689 - January 10, 774) was a bonze of the Kegon Sect in the Nara period. He was the founder of Todai-ji Temple.
He was commonly known as 'Konshu Gyoja.'

It is said that Roben came from the Nuribe family originated in Sagami Province. A legend goes that Roben was abducted by an eagle when his mother was working on a farm in Omi Province (Shiga Prefecture) and left him unsupervised. Gien (a high-ranking bonze) discovered that Roben was caught in a cedar tree in front of Nigatsu-do Temple in Nara and rescued and raised him as a bonze. It is said that 30 years later, Roben was reunited with his mother, who had searched for him nationwide. At any rate, it is the case that he went to Nara and learned Hosso (state of all the creatures) and Yuishiki (learning of the theory that all existence is subjective and nothing exists outside of the mind) from Gien since his childhood.

In 733, he set up Kensakuin (the official treasure-houses of the Todai-ji Temple) and led the construction of the large statue of Birushana Buddha and called the place Konshu-ji Temple. In 740, Roben invited Shinjo, a bonze in Silla, to Konshu-ji Temple as a lecturer and began to give lectures on "Kegon-kyo" (the Avatamsaka Sutra). Emperor Shomu paid respect to Roben and designated Konshu-ji Temple as a kokubunji (provincial temple) of Yamato Province in 742. He also set up many temples in the southern areas of Omi Province and is said to have been involved in the transfer of the capital to Shigaraki no Miya Palace. Upon the Emperor's initiative to upgrade Konshu-ji Temple to Todai-ji Temple in 746, Roben, together with TACHIBANA no Moroe and Gyoki, rendered great services and became the first Betto (the head priest) of Todai-ji Temple. Due to his contribution to the set-up of the statue of Birushana Buddha at Todai-ji Temple, Roben was appointed as Shosozu (junior secondary prelate) in 751 and promoted to Daisozu (the upper Buddhist priests in the second highest position) in 756 while Ganzin was also appointed as Daisozu in that time. In August 760, Roben, together with Jikun and Hoshin, presented to the Emperor a petition for reforms of bonze ranks to clean up the Buddhism realm.

He held the post of Sojo (the official Buddhist priest in the highest position) in 773 but passed away on January 10, 774.

[Original Japanese]