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The Philosophical Reception of Japanese Buddhism After 1868

  • Ralf Müller
Chapter
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 8)

Abstract

In the writings of the Japanese Pure Land Buddhist Shinran 親鸞 (1173–1263) we read: “I, Shinran, do not have a single disciple of my own” (SZ Supplement: 10; Saitō 2010: 242; Yuien 1996: 6). Is he simply being modest? Does Shinran defy discipleship? Does he rule out the possibility of the reception of his thought? The answer to these questions is not clear; nevertheless, what we do know is that the reader of his writings is supposed to arrive at the Buddha’s original teaching. Shinran’s voluminous works, however, exhibit more than an introduction to, or simple interpretation of, the Buddha’s preaching. We may say that Shinran has given us sermons and treatises that manifest an authentic and unique appropriation of the Buddhist tradition, and, therefore, his works offer the possibility of a thoughtful reception for his interpreters and disciples. The philosopher KUKI Shūzō 九鬼周造 (1888–1941) wrote remarkable verses about Shinran seven centuries after his death: “I will have no disciple, said Shinran; as for me [Kuki], I long to have his soul” (KSZ Supplement, 146; Saitō 2010: 242). Kuki’s poetic reflections express Shinran’s quest for an authentic life, and echo back the existentialist aspect of his philosophy. More than this, his words commit him to Shinran as his teacher. Do these words not enact the most authentic discipleship possible? In fact, SAITŌ Takako takes Kuki’s verses as empirical evidence of his receiving the intellectual legacy of Shinran. Thus, at the end of her article, the proof of historical facticity of reception retroactively justifies Saitō’s careful comparison of Kuki’s thought with Shinran’s, which began based on presuming similarities in content. In other words, the factual findings prove the validity of comparing Shinran and Kuki, although a truthful reading is impossible to verify historically. Be that as it may, Kuki’s poetic expression demonstrates the history of the reception of a pre-modern Buddhist by a modern philosopher in Japan, regardless of whether this discipleship was ultimately judged to be authentic and perfected, or an untimely failure.

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Abbreviations

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Ralf Müller
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HildesheimHildesheimGermany

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