History of healing in Japan

Early shamanic-magical practices

Until the tradition of Buddhism, the history of healing in Japan is referred to as pre-Buddhist healing, which concerned itself with every form of demonological medicine. This means that the causes of diseases were assumed to be supernatural. Therefore, prevention and healing consists of magical practices such as the Japanese cure by incantation and rituals of exorcism. The latter are, in particular, rituals of purification, with which the causes of occupations and obsessions of evil spirits can be removed and the causes of diseases such as the effect of harmful fluids from blood and corpses can be resolved.

In terms of content, such rituals deal with the use of herbs by taking or baths in hot springs. Since the Japanese islands are almost a volcanic landscape, the Japanese island chain has numerous hot springs with the most different consistencies, such as metals or sulfur, which have a transmitted influence on body and spirit. By bathing and drinking you should have sweating, laxative and refractional effects.

To this day, there are places like the mountain of fears Osorezan 山 山, where hot fumes of sulfur are rising, and very hot swampy mud springs form, bubbling in front of them. Right there the old shaman women are at home, who speak to the dead to convey information from the dead and carry out healing rituals..

It can be concluded that the old practices are still being used. This is a phenomenon that is ongoing throughout all of Japanese history. Old knowledge, which has proved to be useful, is never replaced by new methods, but continues to be practiced and combined with new knowledge.

Introduction of Buddhist healing to Japan

With the introduction of the Buddhism in the sixth century the history of the healing in Japan takes a change of pace. Beside Buddhist Sutras and sculptures in the year 552 (538) emperor Kinnmei Tennô 欽明天皇 let studied persons in medicine, Divination and astrology come from Korea to Japan, which brought writings about Divination, astrological time lines and herbal medicine with them. Besides, is to be noted that Korea had also taken over medicine, astrology and Buddhism from China. Later, in year 630, started the transition to step into direct contact with China for the cultural exchange.

The upto now unfamiliar Buddhist forms of salvation, such as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, were regarded from the beginning as beings with outstanding healing powers, and that these would surpass the healments of the native healers. With them, Buddhist rituals for the protection against evil forces and to avert disaster and diseases rituals of healing were carried out. In year 608, Empress Suiko Tennô 古 天皇 天皇 sent young medical healers to China to let them study traditional Chinese medicine kanpô 方 方 there. On their return in year 622 they were accompanied by Buddhist monks. From then on, in the history of healing with japanese medicine and healing by Buddhist monks, it could be systematically studied in Japan, so that it came to an optimisation of the Japanese healing techniques.

The main focus was placed in Buddhist Healing on the healing powers of Medicine Buddha Yakushi Nyorai 薬師如来.  In the year 680, Emperor Tenmu Tennô 天武天皇 had built the Temple of Medicine Buddha Yakushiji 薬師寺.  With Buddhist rituals harmful forces should be averted now and diseases as well as their causes can be cured.

Systematization of healing in Japan

In the eighth century Japan began to build a centralized state using the Tang-China model (618-907). In the Yôrô Codex 律令 律令, the regulations for the healing of diseases and the Japanese health care system with medical offices, areas and the study of the disciplines were organized.

Thus, medicine includes: 醫 internal medicine, surgery for the treatment of wounds and ulcers, pediatrics, healing for ears, eyes, teeth, mouth and throat, acupuncture, moxibustion, massage, spells and herbalism..

The medical care for the people was largely carried out by Buddhist monks, because the monasteries were spread over the whole country and there were numerous wandering monks. However, the Buddhist monks and nuns were largely forbidden to practice shamanic practices unless they were rituals of healing through mantras, incantation and banishment formulas, and healing meditations.

Tantric Buddhism in the history of healing in Japan

With the introduction of Tantric Buddhism (also called esoteric Buddhism), the healing history of Japan has led to an expansion of Buddhist healing wisdom that eventually led to Buddhist spiritual healing.



With the return of the monk Kûkai 海 海 (774-835), posthumous Kôbô Daishi 大師 大師 from his educational stay in China at the beginning of the ninth century, the healing arts in the history of healing in Japan were increasingly shaped by the secret teachings of mikkyô 教 教 of the Shingon school. The most important type of ritual for Buddhist spiritual healing is Kaji 持. In which, through the application of the Siddham and Mantras within the context of contemplative meditations such as the Ajikan 字 観 観 or Gachirinkan 輪 観 観 comes to a fusion with the healing being, so that within the heart the enlightenment bodaishin 菩提心 can be recognized.

The Kaji healing rituals, for the cure of diseases and protection from any form of disaster, Kūkai established the Temple Shingon-in 真言院  in the year 834 in the Imperial Palace.

During this time, the monk Saichō took over the secret teachings of the Shingon school in his Tendai school, imported from China to Japan, which had until then mainly focused on Zen-meditation and Amida Buddhism.  In the following decades, several monks were sent from there to China to study, in which they brought back large amounts of material about the Siddham of Buddhist spiritual healing to Japan.

Buddhist spiritual healing in the history of healing up to today

Since then, in the history of healing in Japan, the existing material on the Siddham was studied and Japaneseized so that further developments and possibilities arose.

Today one can learn Buddhist spiritual healing in some temples of the Shingon- and Tendai schools in Japan. Especially well known is the mountains of Kôyasan 高野山  for the Shingon school and Hieizan 比叡山 for the Tendai school.

In Germany one can learn Buddhist spiritual healing at the Shingon Institute Mark Hosak in seminars and/or in the schooling and graduation to a Shingon monk and Buddhist spiritual healer.

Dr. Mark Hosak. had lived in Japan for three years and learned Buddhist spiritual healing in the temples. On the history of healing related to the Siddham in Japanese art and rituals of healing, he wrote his doctoral thesis.