Critical Buddhism: Engaging with Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought

James Mark Shields

Language: English

Pages: 216

ISBN: 1409417980

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the relative calm world of Japanese Buddhist scholarship was thrown into chaos with the publication of several works by Buddhist scholars Hakamaya Noriaki and Matsumoto Shiro, dedicated to the promotion of something they called Critical Buddhism (hihan bukkyo). In their quest to re-establish a "true" - rational, ethical and humanist - form of East Asian Buddhism, the Critical Buddhists undertook a radical deconstruction of historical and contemporary East Asian Buddhism, particularly Zen. While their controversial work has received some attention in English-language scholarship, this is the first book-length treatment of Critical Buddhism as both a philosophical and religious movement, where the lines between scholarship and practice blur. Providing a critical and constructive analysis of Critical Buddhism, particularly the epistemological categories of critica and topica, this book examines contemporary theories of knowledge and ethics in order to situate Critical Buddhism within modern Japanese and Buddhist thought as well as in relation to current trends in contemporary Western thought.

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distorted, but decidedly “non-Buddhist.” The goals of the Critical Buddhists are more encompassing than those of previous writers who have criticized Japanese Buddhist leaders and thinkers before, during, and after the Asia Pacific War. Their objective is not simply to expose the particular problems of the past but to pave the way for a better future for Buddhism on the world stage.   Quoted in Ives, Zen Awakening, p. 71.  See Ives (Zen Awakening, pp. 82–3) for a critique of Hisamatsu’s lapses

See L. 14.7; also Ives, Zen Awakening, p. 92 n.97; Bellah, Tokugawa Religion, p. 55. 35  See Hu Shih, “Development of Zen Buddhism in China,” The Chinese Social and Political Science Review, 15 (1931): pp. 483–505; Hu Shih, “Chan (Zen) Buddhism in China: Its History and Method,” Philosophy East and West, 3/1 (1953); also Ames, Zen and American Thought, p. 7. The Roots of “Topicalism” 61 the indigenous Japanese “way of kami”—Shinto. According to Hori Ichirō, “The tendency toward a harmonious

is not a simple constant; b. Causes are manifold and extend beyond moral actions to include various other conditions—social, political, economic—over which an individual person has very little control (a contemporary social theorist or Marxist might speak here of structural factors); and c. According to most Buddhist traditions, only a Buddha or about-to-becomea-Buddha is able to correctly and clearly see the past results of karma in successive rebirths.102  See Keown, Buddhism, pp. 37–9; David

contrast to the unstable and constantly changing conventional reality. This point alone would serve as a boost to those undertaking the Buddhist path, in what might be considered a functional parallel to the Christian Heaven, Islamic Paradise, or Amida’s Pure Land of Bliss. Speaking pragmatically, if the cash-value of karma is to keep people in line, then the cashvalue of this understanding of nirvāna is to keep them going. In addition, the appeal to authority by way of a privileged yet

in inescapably subjectivist language. “[T]he spatiality inherent in ‘a being there’ is, in the final analysis, attributed to the relationship of concern between I and tools and has nothing to do with the relationship of communication among human beings.”109 Though tropes of “being-with” (Mit-sein) and Care/Concern (Sorge) occur quite often in the Heideggerian corpus, these themes, according to Watsuji, remain relatively underdeveloped, and do not easily connect with Heidegger’s more general

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