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Myoe Shonin(1173 - 1232): Tradition and Reform in Early Kamakura Buddhism (Japan)
Author Tanabe, George Joji
PublisherColumbia University
Publisher Url
LocationColumbia, MO, US [哥倫比亞市, 密蘇里州, 美國]
Content type博碩士論文=Thesis and Dissertation
InstitutionColumbia University
Publication year1983
AbstractThis is a study of religion in the early Kamakura period from the standpoint of Myoe Shonin (1173-1232), a representative of "old Buddhism." Like the "new Buddhism" movement, the revival of Nara and Heian Buddhism involved a complex interaction between traditions and reforms, and the life of Myoe serves as a convenient window to these phenomena. This is accomplished through narrative descriptions, doctrinal analyses, and an examination of visions and dreams.Chapter One describes the general features of the revival in terms of the death and remembrance of the past, and the different attempts to make the presence of the Buddha felt in an age of his absence. The revival of the precepts in this context was an attempt to re-create the conditions of the Buddha and to live in imitation of him, and was not just a movement for moral improvement. Myoe's life, the subject of Chapter Two, is presented in substantial detail, and is shown to be a sustained attempt to re-create the Buddha's presence as well as to create the experience of samadhi. The biography is based on gyojo texts, for, unlike the denki works, they are the most representative of Myoe's own view of his life. Chapter Three deals with the controversy with Honen, and examines Myoe's defense of the Pure Land tradition that he claimed Honen had abandoned. The subsequent debates are briefly sketched with a view towards the different kinds of defenses made for Honen. Shinran's "defense," it is shown, was really a departure from Honen. The central issue of the controversy was whether the aspiration for enlightenment (bodhicitta) and all the traditional practices attending it were to be maintained or abandoned, and was a reflection of the larger Mahayana dilemma of being versus becoming. That same dilemma manifested itself in the Kegon tradition, and, in Chapter Four, the problem of putting Kegon insights into practice is examined primarily in the Chinese context. The complaint from both within and without the Hua-yen tradition, in Korea and Japan as well, was that Kegon was not easily accessible for practice. Myoe approached the problem by using Esoteric methods applied to Kegon concepts and images. His achievement, described in Chapter Five, was based on the systematics of Li T'ung-hsuan's (635-730) metaphorical (as contrasted with Fa-tsang's "metaphysical") approach. As recorded in his Record of Dreams, the meditative results of these and other religious efforts made throughout his life are presented in the Translation.The conclusions of this study can be stated as follows: Against the rejection of meditative visions by Honen, and the failure of Kegon to provide effective approaches to them, Myoe's attempts at renewal succeeded in the continuing production of visions in samadhi. These alternate realities were as real to him as were the events and ideas of his life, and need to be considered for an accurate assessment of him. The Buddhist experience, in other words, must be understood for its visions and dreams as well as its doctrines and ideas.
Created date2008.07.03
Modified date2016.03.16

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