This chapter explicates the philosophy of the body of sixth-century Buddhist thinker Kūkai. Kūkai brings together what initially seem to be opposing concepts: body and emptiness. He does this in the context of formulating a system of cosmology inseparable from religious practice. We interact with the rest of the cosmos through our body. Kūkai characterizes the cosmos in turn as the body of the Buddha, who personifies the embodiment of the dharma. This cosmic body is comprised of myriad bodies through (...) their interactivities, in which we ourselves partake. The interdependence obtains both horizontally (among microcosmic bodies) and vertically (between macrocosm and microcosm). But this interdependent nature of bodies also means emptiness. All bodies are empty of substantiality. Enlightenment is to realize this emptiness of all. An additional factor is language because Kūkai conceives the body as the linguistic medium for communicating that dharma of emptiness. (shrink)
This introductory chapter on concepts of Japanese philosophy and the concomitant approaches to this subject contains 1) a brief critical overview of the term's history and its impact on the definition of the field and 2) a short presentation of the ensuing chapters, which create a sustained dialogue on how to understand Japanese philosophy and how to delineate its his history.
Philosophy challenges our assumptions—especially when it comes to us from another culture. In exploring Japanese philosophy, a dependable guide is essential. The present volume, written by a renowned authority on the subject, offers readers a historical survey of Japanese thought that is both comprehensive and comprehensible. Adhering to the Japanese philosophical tradition of highlighting engagement over detachment, Thomas Kasulis invites us to think with, as well as about, the Japanese masters by offering ample examples, innovative analogies, thought experiments, and jargon-free (...) explanations. He assumes little previous knowledge and addresses themes—aesthetics, ethics, the samurai code, politics, among others—not in a vacuum but within the conditions of Japan’s cultural and intellectual history. For readers new to Japanese studies, he provides a simplified guide to pronouncing Japanese and a separate discussion of the language and how its syntax, orthography, and linguistic layers can serve the philosophical purposes of a skilled writer and subtle thinker. For those familiar with the Japanese cultural tradition but less so with philosophy, Kasulis clarifies philosophical expressions and problems, Western as well as Japanese, as they arise. Half of the book’s chapters are devoted to seven major thinkers who collectively represent the full range of Japan’s historical epochs and philosophical traditions: Kūkai, Shinran, Dōgen, Ogyū Sorai, Motoori Norinaga, Nishida Kitarō, and Watsuji Tetsurō. Nuanced details and analyses enable an engaged understanding of Japanese Buddhism, Confucianism, Shintō, and modern academic philosophy. Other chapters supply social and cultural background, including brief discussions of nearly a hundred other philosophical writers. In his closing chapter Kasulis reflects on lessons from Japanese philosophy that enhance our understanding of philosophy itself. He reminds us that philosophy in its original sense means loving wisdom, not studying ideas. In that regard, a renewed appreciation of engaged knowing can play a critical role in the revitalization of philosophy in the West as well as the East. (shrink)
Selected Bibiliography and Overview of Japanese Philosophy by reference to major Japanese Anthologies of Traditional and Modern Japanese Thought / Philosophy, listing a wide range of Japanese philosophers and thinkers from ancient times to the present.
Two Japanese philosophers not often read together but both with valuable insights concerning body and place are Kūkai 空海, the founder of Shingon 真言 Buddhism, and Nishida Kitarō 西田幾多郎, the founder of Kyoto School philosophy. This essay will examine the importance of embodied implacement in correlativity with the environment in the philosophies of these two preeminent intellects of Japan. One was a medieval religionist and the other a modern philosopher, and yet similarities inherited from Mahāyāna Buddhism are to be found (...) in the way each conceives of the interrelationship between self and environment via the body. Both figures emerged in Japan when the nation was undergoing radical.. (shrink)
Although the planet is currently facing an unprecedented array of environmental crises, those who are in a position to do something about them seem to be paralyzed and the general public apathetic. This pathological situation derives in part from a particular conception of the human relationship to nature which is central to anthropocentric traditions of thought in the West, and which understands the human being as separate from, and superior to, all other beings in the natural world. Traditional East Asian (...) understandings of this relationship are quite different and remarkably un-anthropocentric, especially as exemplified in the ideas of Chinese Daoism and Japanese Buddhism—even though Western conceptions now predominate in both China and Japan. Nevertheless, these ideas and understandings are experientially accessible to any contemporary person who has full contact with the natural world, regardless of which tradition that person stands in.This essay examines the understanding of the human-nature relation that we find in the philosophies of Kūkai and Dōgen, from whom we can learn much that is beneficial in the context of our current environmental predicament. The ideas of both thinkers are firmly rooted in practice, and especially bodily or somatic practice, designed to bring about a transformation of experience. The argument is not that we should appropriate their conceptions of nature in order to solve our environmental problems; rather, since they both practice “philosophy as a way of life,” the suggestion is that we can learn from the practices they advocate in the light of what they say about natural phenomena and would benefit from emulating their ways of engaging the world ecologically. (shrink)
This study is an attempt to show how the poetic figure of the acrostic was constructed in ninth-century Japan as a tantric semiological implement in a poetic discourse, in which poets working in Sino-Japanese or kanabun constructed kami cultic ritual in various forms and contexts within the broad framework of Kūkai’s tantric Buddhist semiology. Three poetic texts, a Sino-Japanese poem by Kūkai and two prose-poem texts from Kokin wakashū and/or Ise monogatari, all of which contain an acrostic, are analysed and (...) interpreted, and evidence from several of Kūkai’s expositions on semiology and hermeneutics, is adduced in support. The suggestion is that the acrostic was construed as an articulation of Kūkai’s metaphor for the limitlessness of meanings of the mantra syllables, the intersection of vertical and horizontal meanings, which was associated with the experience of nyūga ganyū 入我我入. (shrink)
Pamela D. Winfield offers a fascinating juxtaposition and comparison of the thoughts of two pre-modern Japanese Buddhist masters, Kukai (774-835) and Dogen (1200-1253) on the role of imagery in the enlightenment experience.
Buddhist maṇḍala that are made of colored sand or are painted on cloth have been well represented in Asian art circles in the West. Discussions of the role that they can play in stimulating religious contemplation or even as sacred icons charged with power have also appeared in English scholarship. The metaphorical meaning of the term maṇḍala, however, is less commonly referenced. This paper discusses how the founder of the Japanese school of Shingon Buddhism, the Buddhist monk Kūkai of the (...) ninth century, uses this term in a metaphorical sense to convey the transformed nature of awareness that is the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice. Emphasis is also placed on the importance of metaphorical thinking to the religious path of transformation itself. (shrink)
Secret language that the language problem, and the meaning dense, dense body together constitute the empty sea esoteric ideas backbone. Kukai the discussion in this regard, with both deep and unique characteristics and differences, and lack a certain academic value and religious significance. This article in its "sound word meaning of reality," as the research object, research on the basis of the text, focusing on the sound of the word and the reality of the area, and its impact on future (...) generations and the impact of literary theory in Japan, highlighting their break learning to see the "Distinction between word and meaning," meaning, trying to reveal the unique nature of its philosophy of language. Gomitu, largely a linguistic issue, forms the main subjects of Kūkai's esoteriic buddhist thoughts along with Imitu and Sinmitu. This issue is dealt with by Kukai in a profound and idiosyncratic way without losing its academic value. Regarding the book Syoujijitusougi as the subject matter, I wish to demonstrate the uniqueness of his linguistic theories with a stress on a pair of categories of Syouji and Jitusou. (shrink)
The concept of Dharmakaya is the central theme in both the Hua-yen and Shingon Buddhist literatures. Hua-yen Buddhism adopts Dharmakaya Vairocana Buddha as the main Buddha. Shingon Buddhism, on the other hand, claims that their secret doctrine is the direct teaching of Dharmakaya Mahavairocana Buddha. Even though these two schools are based on the same idea of Dharmakaya Buddha, the concepts of Vairocana in Hua-yen and Mahavairocana in Shingon are different in their doctrinal formulation. Hua-yen Buddhist literature elaborates the function (...) of Dharmakaya Vairocana in the context of the three Buddha-body theory; the Shingon Buddhist literature elaborates Dharmakaya Mahavairocana in the context of the five Buddha Body theory. Shingon literature emphasizes the direct communication between Dharmakaya Mahavairocana and sentient beings, and expands his direct salvation of sentient beings in samsara. This process of salvation by Mahavairocana is based on compassion which is a fundamental merit of Mahavairocana. Compassion is the basic element of enlightening and saving sentient beings. (shrink)
As factor of enlightenment, bodhicitta is fundamental to Kukai's soteriological scheme, being compartmentalized into two fundamental aspects: 'aspiration for enlightenment' and 'potentially enlightened mind.' Such a depiction incorporates both impetus for, and object of, enlightenment, exemplifying a total integratory approach. Whereas early textual mention of bodhicitta merely emphasized its effective cause for compassionate engagement, subsequent philological evolution afforded it an aspect linking practitioner to Dharmakaya Mah avairocana in essential integration. Termed sokushin-j obutsu , first mention is made in Bodhicitta-sastra , (...) transcending the dichotomous notion pertaining to the relationship of man and buddha, ultimately allowing for universal buddhahood. Problematic is the nature of man-buddha union from the perspective of bodhicitta of which Mahavairocana is not only functionally inclusive, but which Mahavairocana also perceives. ;Shingon Buddhist practitioners accomplish bodhicitta cultivation through employment of meditations and rituals including visualizations, man&dotbelow;d&dotbelow;ala use, etc. Kukai rigorously stresses the importance of such practices, that without them, man-buddha integration is rendered ineffective. Although such iconographic tools are afforded certain practitional prominence within Shingon cosmology, perhaps principally for most who would require such tangible representation of supporting Buddhist doctrine, these trappings are otherwise viewed, by the more critical element of Buddhist inquiry, as mere embellishments existing outside of true philosophical endeavor. Here, Kukai forwards the theory of body, speech, and mind, the elimination of any one element of this triad rendering the process ineffectual. Noumenally real, this engenders a synergistic state of mutual empowerment between practitioner and Mahavairocana. ;Textual basis is extremely important for Kukai in his quest to underscore a major thesis of his Benkemmitsu-niky oron , that elements of this fulfilling Mikkyo doctrine are to be found precisely in Kengyo texts. Abundant excerpting, an established exegetical tool, certifies his doctrinal justification. Many of these passages treat the bodhisattva, personification of compassionate service, a characteristic element of Shingon philosophy. Kukai's Sammaya-kaijo delineates cultivation of four types of bodhicitta. Though not overtly stressed, bodhicitta cultivation epitomizes Ku kai's Shingon. (shrink)
The central claim of the dissertation is that lesser known and somewhat neglected, yet influential thinkers, within classical religious traditions have something worthwhile to contribute to the kind of ethos we should adopt in the face of the world’s various environmental crises. Moreover an exploration of such perspectives is best done in dialogue, particularly between Eastern and Western thought. I examine this claim primarily through a dialogue between the Christian philosopher John Scottus Eriugena and the Japanese Buddhist philosopher Kūkai. This (...) dialogue, framed by the triad of divine-human-earth relations, primarily emphasises the oneness of all reality, and it finds expression in Eriugena’s concept of natura or phusis and Kūkai’s central teaching that the phenomenal world is the cosmic Buddha Dainichi. By highlighting this focus, I contribute to the existing academic field of ecology and religion on the subject of holism. However, I go beyond the materialist focus that generally marks such ecological holism within that field, offering instead a more metaphysical approach. This is indicated through my use of the concept of ‘immanental transcendence’ to describe Eriugena’s and Kūkai’s dynamic, numinous and mysterious notion of reality, as well as my exploration of Eriugena’s concept of theophany and Kūkai’s notion of kaji. I further explore how both philosophers highlight the human role in the process of reaching enlightenment—understood as attaining union with the whole. In that regard, I note significant differences in their positions: in particular, I note that Kūkai’s emphasis on bodily practices contrasts with Eriugena’s more conceptual approach. Finally to bolster my claim, I examine some ecologically oriented understandings of contemporary phenomenological approaches found particularly in the work of Jean-Luc Marion and to a lesser extent Merleau-Ponty, arguing that these reflect notions of reality and of the human role similar to those of the medieval philosophers. (shrink)