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Buddhism Classical Japanese Buddhist Philosophy
by
Masato Ishida

Introduction

The word “philosophy,” or tetsugaku in modern Japanese, can be perceived as problematic when applied to Japanese Buddhism. Until the late 19th century, there was no explicit term or concept in the Japanese mind corresponding to philosophy in the Western sense, while various conceptual and doctrinal formations of Japanese Buddhism mostly took place in the Middle Ages. Furthermore, the language and logic employed in Japanese Buddhist philosophy operate very differently from how they work, for example, in Indian Buddhist philosophy. There is rarely a logical argument that purports to convince the audience rationally, nor can there be found any clear division of philosophy into the common branches of epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics. Japanese Buddhist philosophy is more or less practice-oriented, and the distinction between philosophy and religion is often blurred accordingly. On the other hand, scholastic approaches to canonical Buddhist texts have been valued in the literate sphere, which resulted in numerous commentaries on works by past masters. Classical Buddhist texts, brought to the country through China and the Korean peninsula, were read and studied mostly in Chinese translation. A greater number of domestic Buddhist theories and texts appeared in and after the Heian period (794–1185 CE), reflecting the complete naturalization process of Buddhism in Japan. The growth of honji suijaku (“true nature manifestation”) theory, according to which indigenous Japanese gods are transformed or syncretized manifestations of the Buddhist pantheon, and the development of hongaku (“original enlightenment”) theory, which asserts the strict non-duality of the phenomenal and the real, offer fine examples of Japanese creativity. Syncretism is found across both theory and ritual practice in all sects of Japanese Buddhism, integrating Buddhist views with Shintoism, Confucianism, and Daoism. Buddhist philosophy has remained influential throughout the intellectual and cultural history of Japan since its introduction to the country in the mid-6th century CE. Modern Japanese philosophy, initiated by Nishida Kitarō, the founder of the so-called Kyoto School of philosophy, can be seen as a synthesis of Buddhist traditions and Western philosophical views encountered by Japanese intellectuals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Postwar Japanese Buddhist philosophers have involved themselves in comparative philosophy in order to enrich East-West dialogue in the modern world.

General Overviews

There are numerous works on Buddhism that cover some aspect of Japanese Buddhism, but we shall focus on philosophical works. Suzuki 1959, though somewhat dated, is still widely read and could be a fine place to start. Takeuchi 1991 may have a strong appeal to readers with comparative interests, as a work that sets Buddhism in dialogue with Western philosophy represented by such figures as Heidegger, Hegel, and Kierkegaard. Nishitani 2006 considers the meaning and scope of Buddhism in modern and postmodern society from the viewpoint of Japanese Buddhist philosophy. Another work that can be of interest to those working in areas of Japanese philosophy is Snodgrass 2003, which focuses upon the arrival of Japanese Buddhism in the United States after the Meiji era and thereby offers useful information concerning the context in which modern Japanese philosophy came into being. Tamura 2001 is a more general work, but it is listed here because of the significant role the author played in the study of hongaku theory (see Hongaku). Readers seeking more information about the history and cultural legacy of Japanese Buddhism may consult other bibliographies under “Buddhism.”

  • Nishitani, Kenji. On Buddhism. Translated by Seisaku Yamamoto and Robert E. Carter. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.

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    Lectures originally delivered in 1971–1972 and 1974 by a one of the most prominent Kyoto School philosophers. Through an engaging dialogue with Christianity and Western philosophy, the author develops considerations of religious consciousness, human existence, and the meaning of Buddhism in modern and postmodern society. Introduction by Robert E. Carter; foreword by Jan Van Bragt.

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  • Snodgrass, Judith. Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

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    Focuses upon a less discussed phase of modern Japanese Buddhism. Recommended to those interested in modern Japanese philosophy as well. Includes discussions of Inoue Enryō, Shaku Sōen, Suzuki Daisetsu, John Barrows, Paul Carus, and many other interesting figures.

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  • Suzuki, Daisetsu T. Zen and Japanese Culture. Bollingen Series 64. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959.

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    Somewhat dated, but often reprinted and still a fine introduction to Zen and its influence in Japanese culture. Written by one of the most influential writers on the subject, the book covers a wide range of topics including art, swordsmanship, and tea ceremony.

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  • Takeuchi, Yoshinori. The Heart of Buddhism: In Search of the Timeless Spirit of Primitive Buddhism. Translated by James W. Heisig. New York: Crossroad, 1991.

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    The author brings Pure Land metaphysics and Western philosophy into dialogue with particular emphasis on the Buddhist concept of dependent origination. One of the most insightful works in comparative philosophy.

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  • Tamura, Yoshirō. Japanese Buddhism: A Cultural History. Tokyo: Kosei, 2001.

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    A very fine exposition of Japanese Buddhism by one of the best authors in the field. This book presents a wealth of cultural observations intertwined with the history of Japanese Buddhism. Recommended to a broad audience.

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Reference Resources

The following two online resources are valuable to those interested in classical Japanese Buddhist philosophy. The first is SAT Daizōkyō Text Database, which offers access to eighty-five volumes of the 100-volume Sino-Japanese Buddhist canon, Shinshū Taishō Daizō Kyō. The text can be selected, copied, and pasted directly from the online database. The second is a link to the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, a journal that publishes fine papers on all aspects of Japanese religion. Papers in back issues are searchable online (go to “Search all back issues”), which are also downloadable at no cost.

Honji Suijaku (True Nature Manifestation)

In the history of Japanese Buddhism, honji suijaku (“true nature manifestation”) refers to the identification of indigenous gods (kami) with Buddhist deities, by regarding the indigenous gods as local traces or manifestations (suijaku) of the buddhas that constitute their true or original nature (honji). It is conceptually distinct from mere fusion of two (or more) systems of deities, since they stand in an asymmetrical relation, one constituting reality and the other seen as phenomenal emanation, hence suggesting a philosophical framework. (If the indigenous gods are taken as true nature and Buddhist deities as manifestations, the view was then called han honji suijaku, which means “reverse honji suijaku”). Tyler 1989 presents a brief yet fine historical and cultural survey which may serve as a good introduction to the subject. Kuroda 1989 exhibits astute sensitivity to the philosophical dimensions of honji suijaku theory, although the study is somewhat narrowly focused upon a particular set of medieval documents. Matsunaga 1969 is a philosophically illuminating classic that frames honji suijaku in the larger context of Mahāyāna Buddhism, while carving out its unique historical development in Japan. Lee 2007 attends to honji suijaku in Shinran’s worship for Prince Shōtoku. The rich volume edited by Teeuwen and Rambelli 2003 casts new light on the subject from a variety of angles. A detailed description and analysis of the history of honji suijaku is given in Murayama 1974. Como 2008, a recent and illuminating work, examines the influences of immigrants from the Korean peninsula upon the early forms of Japanese Buddhist cults, and thereby foreshadows the prehistory of honji suijaku.

  • Como, Michael I. Shōtoku: Ethnicity, Ritual, and Violence in the Japanese Buddhist Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    Focuses upon the formation and impact of the Shōtoku cult between the 7th and 9th centuries CE. Although mainly historical, the work captures how indigenous Japanese religion interacted with foreign (or, in the author’s term, “immigrant”) Buddhist deities, adumbrating the genesis of honji suijaku.

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  • Kuroda, Toshio. “Historical Consciousness and the Hon-jaku Philosophy in the Medieval Period on Mount Hiei.” Translated by Allan Grapard. In The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture. Edited by George J. Tanabe Jr. and Willa Jane Tanabe, 143–158. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989.

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    Starting with a brief consideration of the Lotus Sutra, from which the original hon-jaku construct derives, the paper observes the vast philosophical territory of honjaku theory. Stressed is the far-reaching impact of honji suijaku in the Japanese intellectual domain. Particular attention is paid to medieval documents known as kike.

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  • Lee, Kenneth Doo Young. The Prince and the Monk: Shōtoku Worship in Shinran’s Buddhism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007.

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    Shinran’s dream of Prince Shōtoku appearing to him as the deity Kannon is well known, but this work reinterprets such relevant events in Shinran’s life by observing the prevailing honji suijaku culture of the time. This work achieves a lot by challenging traditional sectarian interpretations of Shinran.

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  • Matsunaga, Alicia. The Buddhist Philosophy of Assimilation: The Historical Development of the Honji-Suijaku Theory. Tokyo: Sophia University with Charles E. Tuttle, 1969.

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    A captivating study of the development of unique features of honji suijaku theory in Japanese Buddhism. As its historical background, the book includes considerations of the Buddhist transformation of Indian gods, the Mahāyāna doctrines of distinct degrees of reality and its manifestations, and pen-chi in the Daoist discourse.

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  • Murayama, Shūichi. Honji Suijaku. Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kōbun Kan, 1974.

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    This work, written by a leading Japanese historian, remains a classic on honji suijaku theory. The guiding view is that honji suijaku provided a theoretical basis for a number of cultural developments throughout the history of Japan. A rigorous work that deserves serious attention.

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  • Teeuwen, Mark, and Fabio Rambelli, eds. Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

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    Under the theme of honji suijaku, twelve thought-provoking papers focusing upon the dynamic interactions between Buddhism and Shinto are contained in this volume. A fine introduction is followed by individual papers discussing rituals, literature, aesthetics, ideology, and more. Very useful bibliography and index included.

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  • Tyler, Susan. “Honji Suijaku Faith.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 16.2–3 (1989): 227–250.

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    A fine paper that outlines the formation of honji suijaku from early times through the 12th century. Draws on a number of concrete examples with a focus on documents pertaining to the Kasuga Shrine in Nara prefecture. The material is slightly technical, but the approach is friendly.

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Hongaku (Original Enlightenment, Awakening)

The earliest notion of hongaku (“original enlightenment, awakening”) is standardly attributed to Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith (Mahāyāna-śraddhotpāda-śāstra), which notion grew into one of the major characteristics of Japanese Buddhist philosophy. Although hongaku is referred to a number of times in Kūkai’s works, for example, it is mainly within the later Tendai school that it was shaped into a universal philosophic principle. The doctrine stresses the strict nonduality of the phenomenal and the real, a view that eventually leads to the absolute affirmation of the phenomenal world (since it is already in strict oneness with the real), hence often undermining the fundamental distinctions between enlightenment and illusion, priesthood and laity, good and evil, or life and death, although, naturally, it still remains necessary to grasp the nature of non-duality. Tamura 1987 is a quick guide to the subject. Another insightful but slightly technical paper is Sueki 1995. Habito 1996, a philosophically engaging work, may make a good companion to Sueki 1995. Stone 2003, a more recent work, is destined to become a classic for its comprehensive scope and innovative approach. A very thought-provoking volume on the subject is Hubbard and Swanson 1997, which contains essays responding to the philosophical dispute over hongaku theory, which was largely ignited by Hakamaya 1989. Tada, et al. 1973 is a useful collection of historically significant texts, with an illuminating outline of hongaku theory prepared by Yoshirō Tamura.

  • Habito, Ruben L. F. Originary Enlightenment: Tendai Hongaku Doctrine and Japanese Buddhism. Tokyo: International Institute for Buddhist Studies of the International College for Advanced Buddhist Studies, 1996.

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    A solid work that delves deep into the logic of Tendai hongaku thought, by way of which its unique philosophical features are brought to light. The author’s discussion of nonsubstantialism in Tendai hongaku theory should be of interest to readers of modern Japanese philosophy as well.

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  • Hakamaya, Noriaki. Hongaku Shisō Hihan. Tokyo: Daizō Shuppan, 1989.

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    (Critique of the theory of original enlightenment). A well-known, provocative work that ignited the dispute over hongaku. The author criticizes mainstream Japanese Buddhist thought as well as Japanese Buddhology on the basis of a critique of hongaku theory.

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  • Hubbard, Jamie, and Paul L. Swanson, eds. Pruning the Bodhi Tree: The Storm over Critical Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997.

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    Since the mid-1980s, hongaku theory has been challenged as “non-Buddhist” by Hakayama and Matsumoto, two well-known Japanese Buddhologists, to which more than a dozen leading scholars from East and West respond in this volume. Fundamental reflections upon Japanese Buddhist philosophy would be called for after reading this book.

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  • Stone, Jacqueline I. Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism. Kuroda Institute Studies in East Asian Buddhism 12. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2003.

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    The author’s penetrating analysis of Tendai hongaku thought leads to a reappraisal of Kamakura Buddhism in medieval Japan. Hokke-Tendai interactions after Nichiren receive excellent coverage as well. Also includes brief observations of honji suijaku, which the author tends to see under the influence of hongaku thought.

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  • Sueki, Fumihiko. “Two Seemingly Contradictory Aspects of the Teaching of Innate Enlightenment (hongaku) in Medieval Japan.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22.1–2 (1995): 3–16.

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    A very fine survey focusing upon the tension between the Tendai conception of original enlightenment (that all beings are already originally enlightened) and the need for Buddhist practice toward enlightenment. The almost theoretically overgrown Tendai teachings were saved from complete corruption by distinguishing between distinct levels of identity.

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  • Tada, Kōryū, ed. Tendai Hongaku Ron. Nihon Shisō Taikei 9. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1973.

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    (Tendai hongaku theory). A collection of nine historically significant documents that witness the development of hongaku theory in the Tendai school. Contains the original texts written in Classical Chinese and their Japanese translations with annotations. Includes a useful outline of Tendai hongaku thought by Yoshirō Tamura (cf. Tamura 1987).

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  • Tamura, Yoshirō. “Japanese Culture and the Tendai Concept of Original Enlightenment.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 14.2–3 (1987): 203–210.

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    A concise but very helpful overview of hongaku theory, outlining its history from Mahāyāna Buddhism to Kamakura Buddhism. The latter half of the paper explores cultural traits of hongaku in traditional Japanese literature.

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Zen

This section lists works that deal with the historical-philosophical dimensions of Zen. Suzuki 1964 is still a lively voice tuned well to a Western audience. Abe 1985 is a brilliant work that compares Zen with a broad spectrum of Western philosophy and theology. A work of significant philosophic insight is Kasulis 1981, which considers the meaning of the self and personhood in the Zen tradition. Another exceptionally well written work is Wright 1998, which is not to be mistaken as a mere historical study of Huang Po (9th-century China; Ōbaku in Japanese), since its uncompromising philosophical reflections apply to the entire terrain of Zen. Heine and Wright 2000 and Heine and Wright 2006, while historical for the most part, offer further reading material that would be suitable for readers finding themselves at the intersection of Zen and philosophy. The second volume of Dumoulin 2005, a work of unmistakable quality, is devoted to the history of Japanese Zen and is useful to a wide range of readers.

  • Abe, Masao. Zen and Western Thought. Edited by William R. LaFleur; foreword by John Hick. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985.

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    With tremendous background in Zen and the Western traditions, the author reveals deep similarities and dissimilarities between Zen, on the one hand, and Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Whitehead, Tillich, and Christianity, on the other. A work of enormous philosophic scope.

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  • Dumoulin, Heinrich. Zen Buddhism: A History. Translated by James W. Heisig and Paul Knitter. 2 vols. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2005.

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    A work originally written in German by one of the most renowned Zen specialists. Volume 1 covers India and China, while Volume 2 is devoted to Zen in Japan. Highly recommended to those interested in the history of Zen.

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  • Heine, Steven, and Dale S. Wright. The Kōan: Texts and Contexts in Zen Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Includes four cutting-edge papers on Japanese Zen Buddhism with emphasis on the Rinzai sect. Starting with a superb introduction to the kōan tradition, the book swiftly moves out into the ocean of concrete historical contexts in which many kōan texts free themselves from mystification.

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  • Heine, Steven, and Dale S. Wright. Zen Classics: Formative Texts in the History of Zen Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    History-oriented, but fine essays on distinct facets of Japanese Zen. Seminal figures such as Eisai (1141–1215), Dōgen (1200–1253), Tōrei (1721–1792), Hakuin (1685–1768), and Menzan Zuihō (1683–1769) are discussed.

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  • Kasulis, Thomas P. Zen Action/Zen Person. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1981.

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    The central concern of this work is the relationally constructed self or personhood in Zen and Japanese culture. An insightful work that brings to the surface a number of philosophical themes implicit in Zen. One chapter is devoted to Hakuin (1685–1768), two whole chapters to Dōgen (1200–1253).

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  • Suzuki, Daisetsu T. An Introduction to Zen Buddhism. New York: Grove, 1964.

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    A classic work that underscores the distinctive features of Zen manifested in both discourse and practice. Inquiring into Zen far and wide, the author expounds upon, and advocates, the unique logic of Zen from which its spiritual life issues forth.

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  • Wright, Dale S. Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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    Although primarily focused upon the Chinese Zen master Huang Po, the author’s reflections extend far beyond exposition of this single seminal figure. A genuinely philosophical engagement is made by questioning Zen rhetoric and modes of thought that often go unquestioned.

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Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi)

Kūkai (b. 774–d. 835) is the founder of the Shingon sect. Selective English translations of his writings are found in Hakeda 1972. Kasulis 1990 would serve as a wonderful guide to Kūkai’s philosophy as a whole, while Kasulis 1988 focuses on Kūkai’s theory of truth and interpretation. Abé 1999 is a superb work that situates Kūkai in the concrete sociopolitical context of his time, elaborating upon the relationship he stood in to both Nara and Heian Buddhism. Abé 1995, another excellent paper by the same author, focuses on the interactions between Kūkai and Saichō (b. 767–d. 822; the founder of the Tendai sect), which ended in a famous rupture. Another valuable study is White 2005, which focuses upon Kūkai’s interpretation of the awakening mind based upon his reading of the Bodhicitta-śāstra (arguably attributable to Nāgārjuna). Murphey 2009 opens a new perspective on Kūkai’s philosophy of language by situating him in the Japanese history of language studies leading up to the rise of kokugaku (studies of native classics). Not for the Buddhologist or the historian, Shaner 1985 looks at Kūkai from a unique Husserlian perspective in an attempt to reconsider mind-body dualism. (See also the separate OBO article on Kūkai.)

  • Abé, Ryūichi. “Saichō and Kūkai: A Conflict of Interpretations.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22.1–2 (1995): 103–137.

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    Astute interpretation of the relationship between Kūkai and Saichō, founders of the Japanese Shingon school and the Tendai school, respectively. A detailed analysis of how they differently related to Esoteric Buddhism in the Heian period.

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  • Abé, Ryūichi. The Weaving of Mantra: Kūkai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

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    Outstanding study of Shingon semantics and its political implications in relation to the (often misconstrued) sectarian movements and social order of the time. Lighter on Kūkai’s religious (or spiritual) philosophy, but presents an inspiring interpretation.

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  • Hakeda, S. Yoshito. Kūkai: Major Works; Translated with an Account of His Life and a Study of His Thought. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.

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    A valuable introduction to the life and thought of Kūkai, followed by abridged translations of Kūkai’s writings. The translations are highly selective but the coverage is reasonable overall. A fine gateway to Kūkai studies.

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  • Kasulis, Thomas P. “Truth Words: The Basis of Kūkai’s Theory of Interpretation.” In Buddhist Hermeneutics. Edited by Donald S. Lopez Jr. 257–272. Kuroda Institute Studies in East Asian Buddhism 6. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1988.

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    An insightful analysis of Kūkai’s theory of verbal truth and interpretation. The paper sets the reader in early-9th-century Japan, traces out the gradual growth of Kūkai’s theory, and shows how the mature theory applies to the evaluation of the famous ten stages of mindsets.

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  • Kasulis, Thomas P. “Kūkai (774–825): Philosophizing in the Archaic.” In Myth and Philosophy. Edited by Frank E. Reynolds and David Tracy, 131–150. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990.

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    An intense yet enjoyable paper that explores Kūkai’s philosophy within its concrete historical and cultural context. The author considers how the archaic and the philosophic were brought together in the genius of Kūkai. Includes observations of honji suijaku in Kūkai’s thought.

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  • Murphey, Regan E. “Esoteric Buddhist Theories of Language in Early Kokugaku: The Sōshaku of the Man’yō daishōki.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 36.1 (2009): 65–92.

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    Casts interesting light on Kūkai’s theory of language by observing the unique semantics and ontology attributed to Sanskrit. A historical trajectory is traced to the work of Keichū (1640–1701) in the Edo era.

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  • Shaner, David Edward. The Bodymind Experience in Japanese Buddhism: A Phenomenological Perspective of Kūkai and Dōgen. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985.

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    An eye-opening application of Husserl’s (but not Merleau-Ponty’s) phenomenology to the analysis of immediate body-mind awareness. The view that the process of revealing the eidetic structure of the body-mind (or better, “bodymind” in one word) experience is shared by Husserl, Kūkai, and Dōgen, guides the entire project.

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  • White, Kenneth R. The Role of Bodhicitta in Buddhist Enlightenment: Including a Translation into English of Bodhicitta-śāstra, Benkemmitsu-Nikyōron, and Sammaya-kaijo. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2005.

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    A study of Kūkai’s esoteric interpretation of bodhicitta, the awakening mind aspiring toward enlightenment. The first half of the book presents historical considerations leading up to Kūkai’s view, while the second half translates three important texts, two of which are Kūkai’s own writings.

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Shinran

Shinran (b. 1173–d. 1262) is the founder of Jōdo Shin sect of Pure Land Buddhism. The most complete English translation of his writings is The Collected Works of Shinran in two volumes, produced by Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha Shinran in 1997 (see Shinran 1997). As a readable introduction to Shinran’s teaching, Bloom 1965 remains recommendable despite its early publication date. Bloom 2007 offers another excellent account by presenting excerpts from Shinran’s writings under well-organized headings, all of which are cross-referenced to The Collected Works. A somewhat similar book is Ueda and Hirota 1989, but this volume contains the original Japanese texts to supplement the English translation. There are multiple translations of the important chronicle Tannishō, but Shinran 1982 is again useful for its inclusion of the original Japanese text. The renaissance of Shin Buddhism after Shinran in the Middle Ages is largely due to Rennyo, whose life and work are quite thoroughly discussed in Rogers and Rogers 1991. A more general history of medieval Pure Land Buddhism is found in Dobbins 2002. Also worthy of note is Nasu 2006, a paper that presents a fresh perspective on Shinran’s background in the Tendai tradition. (See also the separate OBO article on Shinran.)

  • Bloom, Alfred. Shinran’s Gospel of Pure Grace. Association for Asian Studies Monographs and Papers 20. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1965.

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    Consisting of eight short, readable chapters, this work sheds light on the religious genius of Shinran in the Pure Land tradition. Shinran’s transformation of Pure Land thought through the pursuit of faith and salvation in this life is explained well.

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  • Bloom, Alfred, ed. The Essential Shinran: A Buddhist Path of True Entrusting. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2007.

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    A superb introduction to Shinran’s life and teaching. Constructively presents Shinran’s writings with helpful notes. Each translated passage is cross-referenced to The Collected Works of Shinran (see Shinran 1997).

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  • Dobbins, James C. Jōdo Shinshū: Shin Buddhism in Medieval Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002.

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    The birth and institutional growth of Shin Buddhism in medieval Japan are the main concern of this book, originally published in 1989. The approach is mainly historical, but the work invites philosophical reflections, too, through its critical appraisal of Shinran’s legacy. The transition from Shinran to post-Shinran Shin Buddhism is analyzed well.

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  • Nasu, Eisho. “‘Rely on the Meaning, Not on the Words’: Shinran’s Methodology and Strategy for Reading Scriptures and Writing the Kyōgyōshinshō.” In Discourse and Ideology in Medieval Japanese Buddhism. Edited by Richard K. Payne and Taigen Dan Leighton, 240–258. London: Routledge, 2006.

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    An illuminating paper that brings Shinran back into historical context by observing how Shinran’s Tendai background could have affected the composition of his central work, Kyōgyōshinshō. The author perceives this text as deeply rooted in medieval Japanese Buddhism, hence suggesting a fresh perspective.

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  • Rogers, Minor, and Ann Rogers. Rennyo: The Second Founder of Shin Buddhism; With a Translation of His Letters. Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1991.

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    A comprehensive study of the multifaceted religious leader Rennyo (b. 1415–d. 1499), who was responsible for the rapid expansion of Shin Buddhism after Shinran. A work of great value to those who wish to study Shinran’s legacy together with the doctrinal and institutional establishment of Shin Buddhism.

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  • Shinran. Tannishō: A Primer; a Record of the Words of Shinran Set Down in Lamentation over Departures from His Teaching. Translated by Dennis Hirota. Kyoto: Ryukoku University Translation Center, 1982.

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    A chronicle of Shinran’s words arguably recorded by Yuien (1222–1289), which is famous for the dictum that the evil person will attain birth in Pure Land. Besides a straight translation of Tannishō, another phrase-to-phrase translation, accompanied with the original Japanese text, is included. Introduction by Michio Tokunaga.

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  • Shinran. The Collected Works of Shinran. 2 vols. Translated with introductions, glossaries, and reading aids by Dennis Hirota, et al. 2 vols. Kyoto: Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, 1997.

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    The most comprehensive translation of Shinran’s work that reflects up-to-date Shin Buddhism scholarship. Volume 1 covers Shinran’s writings; Volume 2 consists of introductions and glossary. The full text of Volume 1 is viewable online.

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  • Ueda, Yoshifumi, and Dennis Hirota. Shinran: An Introduction to His Thought; with Selections from the Shin Translation Series. Kyoto: Hongwanji International Center, 1989.

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    A detailed introduction to Shinran’s work and thought (Part I), followed by selections of Shinran’s writings (Part II). The appendix includes the original Japanese texts of the translated writings.

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Dōgen (Eihei Dōgen, Kigen)

Dōgen (b. 1200–d. 1253) is the founder of the Japanese Sōtō Zen. Apart from his religious legacy, Dōgen is often regarded as the greatest Japanese philosopher. The Kyoto School philosophers, for example, related themselves to Dōgen in very special ways (see two sections below). Here we list English translations of Dōgen’s writings, selective studies of his philosophy, and the Kyoto School philosophers’ writings on Dōgen that witness his philosophical significance. (See also the separate OBO article on Dōgen.)

Writings

Many of Dōgen’s writings have been translated into English, including his magnum opus Shōbōgenzō (The Treasury Eye of True Laws; translation varies). Listed in this section are, accordingly, selective translations. Dōgen 1975–1983 and Dōgen 2007–2008 translate Shōbōgenzō in entirety. Dōgen 1980 is easy to read and will serve as an ideal introduction to his life and teaching. A good sense of his writings as a whole can be obtained from Dōgen 1985. The aesthetic aspect of Dōgen is revealed in Dōgen 1997. A monumental work is Dōgen 2004, which shall long remain an invaluable resource for researchers. Dōgen 2005 would be better understood if read together with Heine 1994 (cited under Studies). For those who desire to read Shōbōgenzō in rigorous translation, Dōgen 2002 contains eight fascicles in excellent translation.

  • Dōgen. Record of Things Heard: From the Treasury of the Eye of the True Teachings; The Shōbōgenzō-zuimonki, Talks of Zen Master Dōgen, as Recorded by Zen Master Ejo. Translated by Thomas Cleary. Boulder, CO: Prajñā, 1980.

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    A translation of a memoir compiled by Ejō, one of Dōgen’s foremost disciples, which records Dōgen’s words and talks. There are other translations, but this one retains the flavor of the original text. Highly recommended to anybody interested in Dōgen’s life and teaching.

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  • Dōgen. Dōgen Zenji’s Shōbōgenzō (The Eye and Treasury of the True Law). 4 vols. Translated by Kōsen Nishiyama and John Stevens. Sendai, Japan: Daihokkauikaku, 1975–1983.

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    Notes and annotations are fairly limited, but this translation is for the most part plain and readable. See below for another translation. This translation contains ninety-two fascicles, not the standard ninety-five. Detailed information about the different number of fascicles can be found in Heine 2006 (cited under Studies)

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  • Dōgen. Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dōgen. Edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi; translated by Robert Aitken, et al. New York: North Point, 1985.

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    A convenient volume that contains selective fascicles from Shōbōgenzō, writings on practical Zen instructions, and selective translations of Dōgen’s poetry. Useful appendices, glossary, and index included. An overall recommendable anthology for the first-time reader of Dōgen.

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  • Dōgen. The Zen Poetry of Dōgen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace. Translated by Steven Heine. Boston: Tuttle, 1997.

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    Dōgen composed many poems both in classical Japanese and in Chinese. An outstanding Dōgen scholar presents a bulk of Dōgen’s poetry with extensive commentary, illuminating Dōgen’s aesthetics of nature and impermanence permeated with religious emotions.

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  • Dōgen. The Heart of Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō. Translated and annotated by Norman Waddell and Masao Abe. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

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    A collection of excellent translations of eight Shōbōgenzō fascicles, which originally appeared in the journal Eastern Buddhist. Included in this book are translations of Bendōwa, Ikka myōju, Genjō koān, Uji, Busshō, Sammaiō zammai, Shōji, Zazengi, and the Zen manual Fukan zazen gi.

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  • Dōgen. Dogen’s Extensive Record: A Translation of the Eihei Kōroku. Translated by Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura; edited and introduced by Taigen Dan Leighton. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2004.

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    A complete scholarly translation of Eihei Kōroku, a collection of Dōgen’s sermons, formal and informal discourses, kōans with commentaries, verses, and so forth, edited and compiled by his disciples. Given the great significance of the text, this is an indispensable volume for all Dōgen scholars.

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  • Dōgen. The True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dōgen’s Three Hundred Kōans. With Commentary and Verse by John Daido Loori. Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi and John Daido Loori. Boston: Shambhala, 2005.

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    A translation of Shinji (Mana) Shōbōgenzō, also known as Shōbōgenzō Sanbyakusoku, a collection of 300 kōans in Dōgen’s own hand. Unlike Shōbōgenzō, the text is written in Classical Chinese and is considered to supplement Shōbōgenzō.

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  • Dōgen. Shobogenzo: The True Dharma-Eye Treasury. 4 vols. Translated by Gudo Wafu Nishijima and Chodo Cross. Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2007–2008.

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    A complete translation of the ninety-five fascicles of Shōbōgenzō with useful textual footnotes. The now standard ninety-five-fascicle version of Shōbōgenzō stems from a vulgate called Kōzen bon (Kōzen’s Book), which appeared in the 17th century. For further information on the number of fascicles, see chapter 2 of Heine 2006 under Studies.

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Studies

There is an enormous secondary literature on Dōgen. A list of a few hundred papers, monographs, and books, including English and non-English works, would still fail to be comprehensive. Those cited below will facilitate access to the subject. LaFleur 1985 is a fine collection of essays by Dōgen experts, although not all of them are easy to digest. Kim 2004 is rich in philosophical insight and relatively accessible. Bielefeldt 1988 exhibits excellent research with a special focus on meditation. Heine 1994, Heine 1997, and Heine 2006 represent genuine expertise, each having a theme and context. Heine 1985, on the other hand, is a much earlier work by the same author, which can be of interest to readers familiar with Heidegger’s writings, especially Being and Time. Leighton 2007 would be quite eye-opening to those who have felt puzzled by Dōgen’s majestic metaphors of space and time. Tamura 1984 presents solid scholarship about Dōgen’s relation to hongaku theory.

  • Bielefeldt, Carl. Dōgen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.

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    Unsatisfied with Chinese Zen manuals, Dōgen composed his own manual, known as Fukan zazen gi. By comparing this work with other documents, including its variant and other relevant Chinese sources, the author skillfully uncovers the heart and art of meditation. Includes translations of the pertinent texts.

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  • Heine, Steven. Existential and Ontological Dimensions of Time in Heidegger and Dōgen. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985.

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    Heidegger and Dōgen receive equal weight in this study. With particular emphasis on the fascicle Uji (Being-Time), the latter half of the work attempts to unfold the structure of the primordial temporal matrix from which derivative time originates. Compare with Stambaugh 1990 (cited under Kyoto School Philosophers).

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  • Heine, Steven. Dōgen and the Kōan Tradition: A Tale of Two Shōbōgenzō Texts. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.

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    This work develops a unique discourse analysis that reevaluates the often-perceived conflict between Dōgen’s insistence upon sitting-only and his unexpectedly creative use of kōans. The work unveils Dōgen’s commitment to kōans, revived by him as multifarious dynamic symbol-making processes.

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  • Heine, Steven. “Critical Buddhism and Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō.” In Pruning the Bodhi Tree: The Storm over Critical Buddhism. Edited by Jamie Hubbard and Paul L. Swanson, 251–285. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997.

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    A reply to proponents of Critical Buddhism, according to whom the late twelve-fascicle Shōbōgenzō, not the standard ninety-five-fascicle Shōbōgenzō, represents Dōgen’s most authentic philosophical view that clearly rejects hongaku theory. See also chapter 2 of Heine 2006.

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  • Heine, Steven. Did Dōgen Go to China? What He Wrote and When He Wrote It. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    New light shed upon Dōgen’s life and work through the author’s keen observations of the distinct structures of Ch’an and Zen, which is followed by a remarkably astute analysis of the differences between the seventy-five-fascicle and the later twelve-fascicle Shōbōgenzō. See also Heine 1997.

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  • Kim, Hee-Jin. Eihei Dōgen: Mystical Realist. Rev. ed. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2004.

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    A classic work that richly explores Dōgen’s metaphysics and philosophy of religion. This work makes Dōgen speak well in his own words, while his divergence from traditional Buddhist philosophy is accounted for well. Compares Dōgen with Western thinkers such as Heidegger and Whitehead. Foreword by Taigen Dan Leighton.

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  • LaFleur, William R., ed. Dōgen Studies. Kuroda Institute Studies in East Asian Buddhism 2. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985.

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    An important collection of papers written by eight distinguished scholars. The papers, which grew out of a conference held at the San Francisco Zen Center, attempt to situate Dōgen’s philosophy in the contemporary academic world, each in its own way.

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  • Leighton, Taigen Daniel. Visions of Awakening Space and Time: Dōgen and the Lotus Sutra. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    A highly original work on Dōgen and the Lotus Sutra. Of all sutras, Dōgen most frequently refers to the Lotus Sutra. The author’s acute observations of the conception of Earth unfolds a number of subtle points regarding Dōgen’s understanding of space and time.

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  • Tamura, Yoshirō. “Critique of Original Awakening Thought [hongaku Theory] in Shōshin and Dōgen.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 11.2–3 (1984): 243–266.

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    A paper informative on the complexity of the hongaku movement. Observes where Dōgen agrees or disagrees with the hongaku theorists of his time. The paper also mentions how han honji suijaku (reverse true nature manifestation; see Honji Suijaku) was formed under the influence of hongaku theory, which the reader may well compare with Heine 1997.

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Kyoto School Philosophers

The Kyoto School philosophers related themselves to Dōgen in very special ways. Not all of their works are available in English, but the well-known ones are listed here since they attest to the significance of Dōgen in Japanese Buddhist philosophy. The last writings in Nishida 1987, while mentioning Dōgen no more than a few times, nevertheless reflect his committed reading of Dōgen. Watsuji 1962 is a pioneering work that resurrected Dōgen in modern Japanese philosophy. Inspired by Watsuji, Tanabe 1963 developed a highly original interpretation of Shōbōgenzō. Nishitani 1991 offers lectures on Shōbōgenzō with remarkable lucidity and insight. Abe 1992 cultivates the fertile borderland between Dōgen’s philosophy and religion while relating well to Western traditions. Stambaugh 1990, a beautiful exploration of Dōgen’s philosophy, is not primarily concerned with the relationship between Dōgen and Kyoto School philosophy, but keen readers would notice that the path of thought leading up to Stambaugh 1999, a study of Dōgen, Hisamatsu Shin’ichi, and Nishitani Keiji, is already present in this earlier work. Kopf 2001 is a very fine work that sets both Dōgen and Nishida in dialogue with Western views of selfhood and personal identity.

  • Abe, Masao. A Study of Dōgen: His Philosophy and Religion. Edited by Steven Heine. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

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    A powerful work that squarely addresses core issues in Dōgen’s philosophy, such as Buddha-nature, the oneness of practice and attainment, being-time and space, death and rebirth, and so forth. The book includes two illuminating chapters on the problem of death in Dōgen and Shinran.

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  • Kopf, Gereon. Beyond Personal Identity: Dōgen, Nishida, and a Phenomenology of No-Self. Surrey, UK: Curzon, 2001.

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    Outstanding work that recasts the problem of personal identity from the perspectives of Dōgen and Nishida. Appeals to certain Western notions, such as existential anxiety and anti-essentialism, may at times sound a little distracting, but all the more this book communicates well with contemporary Western readers.

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  • Nishida, Kitarō. Last Writings: Nothingness and the Religious Worldview. Translated with introduction by David A. Dilworth. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987.

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    The mature religious philosophy reached by the founder of the Kyoto School. Reference is made to Dōgen’s famous fascicle Genjō kōan in Shōbōgenzō. Nishida sees his notion of active intuition in alignment with the dynamic self-realization of Buddha-nature in Dōgen.

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  • Nishitani, Keiji. “Shōbōgenzō Kōwa.” In Nishitani Keiji Chosakushū (Writings of Nishitani Keiji), Vols. 22–23. Edited by A. Ōmine, et al. Tokyo: Sōbunsha, 1991.

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    (Lectures on Shōbōgenzo). A lucid exposition of the three fascicles, Bendōwa, Genjō kōan, and Busshō, presented in a series of lectures on Shōbōgenzō originally delivered in the 1960s. An ideal combination of Buddhist scholarship, philosophical insight, and thorough knowledge of Western traditions.

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  • Stambaugh, Joan. Impermanence is Buddha-Nature: Dōgen’s Understanding of Temporality. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990.

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    Although primarily focused on the question of temporality, the scope of this book is much wider and would prepare the reader for reading modern Japanese philosophy as well. A compact and philosophically dense work, recommended especially to readers with interest in Heidegger and German Idealism.

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  • Stambaugh, Joan. The Formless Self. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999.

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    Pursues some of questions raised in Stambaugh 1990, and extends the discourse beyond Dōgen to a study of two Kyoto school philosophers, Hisamatsu Shin’ichi and Nishitani Keiji. Nothingness and the self in Japanese Buddhist philosophy are explored in a very engaging and inspiring manner.

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  • Tanabe, Hajime. “Shōbōgenzō no Tetsugaku Shikan.” In Tanabe Hanjime Zenshū Vol. 5. Edited by Keiji Nishitani, et al., 10–155. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1963.

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    (My view of the philosophy of Shōbōgenzo). Highly original interpretation of the metaphysics of Shōbōgenzō. Tanabe follows Watsuji’s lead and regards Dōgen as a pioneer of Japanese philosophy. The philosophy of Shōbōgenzō is explored in terms of absolute mediation, temporality, and historicity.

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  • Watsuji, Tetsurō. “Shamon Dōgen.” In Watsuju Tetsurō Zenshū. Vol. 4. By Watsuji Tetsurō, 320–396. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1962.

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    A landmark in Dōgen studies that consciously attempted to free Dōgen’s philosophy from sectarian interpretations and presented Dōgen as a world-class philosopher. The treatise was later published as a chapter in Watsuji’s celebrated work Nihon Seishinshi Kenkyū (A study of the history of the Japanese mind).

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LAST MODIFIED: 06/29/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0082

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