Return to Tsuba Collective
PROVENANCE:    Robert E. Haynes
                                            William F. Shepherd
Reference Only
"Round iron plate of goishigata shape. The surface with a very fine carved line Amida Yasuri pattern, over all, on both sides. With two thin rectangular openings, that might be sutra cases. The nakago-ana has copper insertions in the style of the Suruga family school, but can also be found in the work of other artists.
The face is signed: 'Kaga jo Fujiwara Toshisada'. See H 10544.0.
He dated one piece Sept. 1658. This example of his work is in the style of the Toda Hikoemon (see H 01261.0) school of Owari Prov. The first members of that school were active when this artist was working. Why he would choose to work in their style is not known, but it is most interesting, for it shows again that if most unsigned tsuba, were signed, that we would be very surprised at the names we would find on them. This is an important study piece and needs more research." (R.E. Haynes)

Ref. Toko Kinko Jiten pg. 609 lower 5

8.10cm x 0.35cm thick tapering to edge.

Amida Yasuri is symbolic of Buddha's Halo. The light of the Halo symbolises truth, wisdom, and purity of heart. In this example, the sutra cases are representing two of the discourses attributed to Buddha.
Read (below) about TENDAI-SHU, a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism favored by the Fujiwara Clan.
From a practitioner of Buddhism: "I believe the following passage perfectly compliments your 'Kaga jo Fujiwara Toshisada' tsuba." (James)

"The union of the two truths, the dharmadhatu, the great equality of all things, does not, by its very nature, involve the rejection of samsara. Neither does it abide in the extreme of peace, for it is endowed with enlightened activities. Dharmadhatu is inseparable from great compassion, free of all references. How could someone fall into the extreme of peace, if he or she realized the great equality of all things? If such a thing were possible, the Aryas of the Mahayana and even those who actualize the luminosity of the Mantrayana would be caught in the extreme position of a one-sided nirvana."
- Introduction to the Middle Way, Chandrakirti's Madhyamakavatara with Commentary by Ju Mipham, Shambala Publications, page 313


Shingon Buddhism is one of the mainstream major schools of Japanese Buddhism that started in the 3rd to 4th century AD. Shingon enjoyed immense popularity during the Heian Period, particularly among the Heian nobility, and contributed greatly to the art and literature of the time, as well as influencing other communities, such as the TENDAI School on Mount Hiei.

TENDAI-SHU: The Tendai sect flourished under the patronage of the imperial family and nobility, especially the Fujiwara family. Tendai Buddhism became the dominant form of main-stream Buddhism in Japan for many years, and gave rise to most of the developments in later Japanese Buddhism, Nichiren, Honen, Shinran and Dogen (trained as Tendai monks). Due to its patronage and growing popularity among the upper classes, the Tendai sect became not only respected, but also politically and even militarily powerful. During the Kamakura Period, the Tendai school used its patronage to try to oppose the growth of rival factions—particularly the Nichiren school, which began to grow in power among the merchant middle class, and the Pure Land school, which eventually came to claim the loyalty of many of the poorer classes. Enryaku-ji, the temple complex on Mt. Hiei, became a sprawling center of power, attended not only by ascetic monks, but also by brigades of Sohei ( Buddhist warrior monks of feudal Japan. At certain points of history they held considerable power, obliging the imperial and military governments to collaborate. Prominence of the sohei rose in parallel with the ascendancy of the Tendai school's influence between the 10th and 17th centuries. The warriors protected land and intimidated rival schools of Buddhism, becoming a significant factor in the spread of Buddhism and the development of different schools during the Kamakura period. ) who fought in the temple's interest. As a result, in 1571 Enryaku-ji was razed by Oda Nobunaga as part of his campaign to unify Japan. Nobunaga regarded the Mt. Hiei monks as a potential threat or rival, as they could employ religious claims to attempt to rally the populace to their side. The temple complex was later rebuilt, and continues to serve as the head temple of the Tendai school today.

TENDAI doctrine: Tendai Buddhism has several philosophical insights which allow for the reconciliation of Buddhist doctrine with aspects of Japanese culture such as Shinto and traditional aesthetics. It is rooted in the idea, fundamental to Mahayana Buddhism, that Buddha-hood, the capability to attain enlightenment, is intrinsic in all things. Also central to Mahayana is the notion that the phenomenal world, the world of our experiences, fundamentally is an expression of the Buddhist law (Dharma). This notion poses the problem of how we come to have many differentiated experiences. Tendai Buddhism claims that each and every sense phenomenon just as it is is the expression of Dharma. For Tendai, the ultimate expression of Dharma is the Lotus Sutra. Therefore, the fleeting nature of all sense experiences consists in the Buddha's preaching of the doctrine of Lotus Sutra. The existence and experience of all unenlightened beings is fundamentally equivalent and undistinguishable from the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.

TENDAI and Shinto: Tendai doctrine allowed Japanese Buddhists to reconcile Buddhist teachings with the native religion of Japan, Shinto, and with traditional Japanese aesthetics. In the case of Shinto, the difficulty is the reconciliation of the pantheon of Japanese gods, as well as with the myriad spirits associated with places, shrines or objects, with the Buddhist doctrine that one should not concern oneself with any religious practice save the pursuit of enlightenment. However, priests of the Tendai sect argued that Kami are simply representations of the truth of universal Buddha-hood that descend into the world to help mankind. Thus, they were seen as equivalent with Buddhas. This doctrine, however, regards Kami as more sacred. While Buddhas represent the possibility of attaining enlightentment through many lifetimes of work and devotion to Dharma, Kami are seen to be manifest representations of universal Buddha-hood. They exemplify the doctrine that all things are inherently enlightened and that it is possible for a person of sufficient religious faculties to attain enlightenment instantly within this very body. Those Kami that Shinto regards as violent or antagonistic to mankind are considered as simply supernatural beings that are violent and evil.

TENDAI and Japanese Aesthetics: The Buddha taught a Middle Way between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. So in Early Buddhism the emphasis, especially for monks and nuns, was on avoiding activities that might arouse worldly desires. Buddhist art and poetry focused on overtly Buddhist themes. Shedding worldly pleasures and attachments might seem to require that such treasures of culture as poetry, literature, and visual arts be given up. However, later Mahayana views developed a different emphasis. By claiming that the phenomenal world is not distinct from Dharma, Tendai doctrine allows for the reconciliation of beauty and aesthetics with Buddhist teachings. Things are to be seen just as they are, as expressions of Dharma. Poetry, instead of being a potential distraction, now in fact can lead to enlightenment. Contemplation of poetry, provided that it is done in the context of Tendai doctrine, is simply contemplation of Dharma. This same thing can be said of other forms of art. Therefore, it is possible to construct an aesthetic that is not in conflict with Buddhism.

A Collaboration of Robert E. Haynes and Elliott D. Long

Return To Tsuba Collective
Robert Haynes   Articles -- Tutorial
Email to Shibui Swords