ordination platform ［戒壇］ ( kaidan): Also, sanctuary. A place where the ceremony for conferring Buddhist precepts is conducted. Originally the ceremony for conferring precepts was held at a particular site or location designated as sacred. Later platforms were erected for this purpose. Tradition has it that the ordination platforms in China emulated those at Jetavana Monastery and Nālandā Monastery in India. According to one account, the first ordination platform in China was erected in 434 at Nan-lin-ssu temple in Chien-k’ang. In 667 Tao-hsüan, the founder of the Nan-shan branch of the Precepts (Lü) school, erected an ordination platform at Ching-yeh-ssu temple on the outskirts of Ch’ang-an. He also wrote a work in which he expanded upon the origin and forms of the ordination platform. Ordination platforms were also built in Lo-yang and other areas of China.
In Japan, the first ordination platform was built in 754 at the command of the Retired Emperor Shōmu at Tōdai-ji temple in Nara under the supervision of Ganjin (Chien-chen), a naturalized priest from China. There Ganjin conferred precepts upon about four hundred persons including the Retired Emperor Shōmu and his consort. This ordination platform was a temporary structure, and a permanent ordination hall was thereafter established within the precincts of Tōdai-ji temple. In 761 two more ordination platforms were built at Yakushi-ji temple in Shimotsuke Province and at Kanzeon-ji temple in Chikuzen Province. These were known as “the three ordination platforms” or “the three ordination platforms of the nation.” The whole country was divided into three ordination districts for the ordination of priests. At all three centers, priests were customarily ordained in the Hinayana precepts. Dengyō, the founder of the Tendai school, exerted himself to secure imperial approval for the erection of a Mahayana ordination platform at Enryaku-ji, the head temple of the Tendai school on Mount Hiei, but was opposed by the eminent priests of Nara. Permission was finally granted in 822, seven days after Dengyō’s death, and a Mahayana ordination platform was erected there in 827. This was the first Mahayana ordination platform in the history of Buddhism. In the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (1336–1392), ordination platforms were established at four temples of the Tendai school in the provinces of Sagami, Higo, Kaga, and Iyo, as branches of the ordination hall at Enryaku-ji. These four platforms were all later destroyed by fire and were never rebuilt.