Purifying Zen

Purifying Zen: Watsuji Tetsurō's Shamon Dōgen

Watsuji Tetsurō
Translated and with Commentary by Steve Bein
Foreword by Thomas P. Kasulis
Copyright Date: 2011
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  • Book Info
    Purifying Zen
    Book Description:

    "Purifying Zen: Watsuji Tetsuro's Shamon Dogenmakes available in a clear and fluid translation an early classic in modern Japanese philosophy. Steve Bein's annotations, footnotes, introduction, and commentary bridge the gap separating not only the languages but also the cultures of its original readers and its new Western audience." -from the Foreword by Thomas P. Kasulis

    In 1223 the monk Dogen Kigen (1200-1253) came to the audacious conclusion that Japanese Buddhism had become hopelessly corrupt. He undertook a dangerous pilgrimage to China to bring back a purer form of Buddhism and went on to become one of the founders of Soto Zen, still the largest Zen sect in Japan. Seven hundred years later, the philosopher Watsuji Tetsuro (1889-1960) also saw corruption in the Buddhism of his day. Watsuji's efforts to purify the religion sent him not across the seas but searching Japan's intellectual past, where he discovered writings by Dogen that had been hidden away by the monk's own sect. Watsuji later pennedShamon Dogen(Dogen the monk), which single-handedly rescued Dogen from the brink of obscurity, reintroducing Japan to its first great philosophical mind.

    Purifying Zenis the first English translation of Watsuji's landmark book. A text intended to reacquaint Japan with one of its finest philosophers, the work delves into the complexities of individuals in social relationships, lamenting the stark egoism and loneliness of life in an increasingly Westernized Japan. In addition to an introduction that provides biographical details on Watsuji and Dogen, the translation is supplemented with a brief guide to the themes and ideas ofShamon Dogen,beginning with a consideration of the nature of faith and the role of responsibility in Watsuji's vision of Dogen's Zen. It goes on to examine the technical terms of Dogen's philosophy and the role of written language in Dogen's thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6025-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Thomas P. Kasulis

    The Japanese bookShamon Dōgenis important for multiple reasons. First, it represents a crucial turn both for modern Japanese philosophy and for its author, Watsuji Tetsurō (1889–1960), a major Japanese thinker of the twentieth century. At the beginning of that century Japanese intellectuals heatedly debated the meaning of the term “philosophy” and whether it applies to premodern, pre-Westernized Japanese thought. As an academic subject, philosophy arrived in Japan with the waves of Western influences in the late nineteenth century. The philosophy faculty of the newly founded secular universities, often foreigners brought to Japan for that purpose, typically taught...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introductions
    (pp. 1-20)

    This book is calledPurifying Zenbecause that was a goal shared by the two minds who meet in these pages. About eight hundred years ago Dogen Kigen (1200–1253), a young monk from the Kansai region of Japan, came to the audacious conclusion that the Buddhism practiced in his homeland was hopelessly corrupt. Convinced that he could find a purer form of Buddhism across the sea, he braved a dangerous voyage to China. After his return home, he established himself as one of his country’s greatest philosophers and a founding father of Sōtō Zen, still the largest Zen sect...

  6. Notes on the Translation
    (pp. 21-22)
  7. Shamon Dōgen
    • CHAPTER ONE Preface
      (pp. 25-33)
    • CHAPTER TWO Dōgen’s Period of Self-Cultivation
      (pp. 34-44)

      The monks of Kenninji once turned to their teacher Eisai and said, “These days the Kamo River is getting close to the temple buildings at Kenninji. Someday it may flood up to our doorstep.” Eisai answered, “Our templewilldisappear someday; it’s not necessary to think about such things. Nothing but the foundation stones remain of the Jetavana monastery¹ in India anymore. The important thing is the effort made at embodying the truth, which happens in a temple.”

      One time a beggar came to Kenninji and said, “My wife and children and I haven’t eaten for several days. There is...

    • CHAPTER THREE The First Sermon
      (pp. 45-51)

      Having finished his period of self-cultivation in China, Dōgen returned to Japan at age twenty-eight. This was two years after the death of Minamoto no Yori tomo’s wife, Hōjō Masako.¹

      In Kyoto, Kamakura, and other cities, there were still attempts to overthrow the new government of the warrior class, but by this time they could no longer shake the ruling authority. After the Jōkyū Disturbance,² the Imperial court lost much of its revolutionary drive and began to ingratiate itself with the warrior class. The power of the Imperial court and the warriors finally blunted even the spearhead of the warrior...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Method and Meaning of Self-Cultivation
      (pp. 52-60)

      At the heart of Dōgen’s teachings is the manifestation of eternal values. Therefore, the destruction of all worldly values must be the starting point of his project. Dōgen expressed this destruction of worldly values through the traditional Buddhist expression “You should contemplate impermanence.” He says, “The impermanence of this world is not a problem to think about, but rather a fact before our eyes. In the morning we are born and in the evening we die. The people you saw yesterday are not the people of today. We ourselves may contract a terrible illness this evening or be killed by...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Shinran’s Compassion and Dōgen’s Compassion
      (pp. 61-71)

      The most remarkable part of Shinran’s teaching is his explanation of boundless compassion. For Shinran, compassion is the image of the absolute being. It is the highest aspiration. Therefore, the best thing in human life must be the manifestation of compassion. But Shinran does not explain infinite compassion in phrases such as “Love thy neighbor,” “Love all humankind,” or “Love between people is the most meaningful thing in life.” This is because he understands how feeble human love truly is, and how difficult it is for human beings to love selflessly. He distinctly separates human compassion from the Buddha’s compassion....

    • CHAPTER SIX Concerning Excellence
      (pp. 72-77)

      Obviously, concern for moral excellence is not the primary obligation in religions that aim for oneness with the absolute. In the case of Shinran, the fact that he gives little explanation regarding excellence indicates his intense passion for the absolute. But here one can also see an inevitable difference between the teaching that places Amida’s Pure Land somewhere far beyond this world and the teaching that recommends trying to embody the absolute truth in this life. According to Shinran, human beings could be rescued and taken to the Pure Land, even with their “innate desires”¹ as they are. Confronted with...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Concerning Social Problems
      (pp. 78-81)

      Dōgen accepted the world of laypeople and their excellences. However, he did not try to teach that, when complete, the moral excellences of the laity are in agreement with the moral excellences of the clergy—or, in other words, that to leave personal interest behind and ascend to the will of the heavens is, in the end, to return to cutting away natural cravings and following the will of the Buddha. The reason for this is that the act of leaving personal interest behind is not necessarily the same as conquering appetites and carnal desires. The ideal world that laypeople...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Criticism of Art
      (pp. 82-84)

      Given his way of thinking, Dōgen soon came to disapprove of artistic efforts. The Buddhism of the Asuka period was represented by Prince Shōtoku and Hōryūji. Buddhism of the Tempyō period is represented by Empress Kōmyō and the Great Buddha Hall of Tōdaiji.¹ Buddhism in the Fujiwara period was in harmony with the elegant lifestyle of the aristocracy.² We can see one point all these forms of Buddhism hold in common: in all these periods, religious ecstasy is clearly described to be an aesthetic ecstasy. Because of this, even today we still tend to value the religious aesthetic of this...

    • CHAPTER NINE Dōgen’s “Truth”
      (pp. 85-118)

      All of Dōgen’s ideas that I have explained so far are based on his most basic passion: the passion to cast off body-mind and realize the truth. Though I try to explain these ideas clearly, I could never get beyond even the outer boundaries of his “truth.” So what is his so-called “Buddha’s truth”?

      Here we encounter the most important question, and also the most challenging.

      In the early days of Dōgen’s preaching—namely, the several-year period after he turned thirty-seven or thirty-eight, a period we have examined already—he only glosses over this question in his first three chapters...

  8. Reading Shamon Dōgen: A Tourist’s Guide
    (pp. 119-142)

    Perhaps the greatest contributionShamon Dōgencan offer readers of English is a distinctively Japanese interpretation of Dogen’s life and thought. Watsuji’s perspective is unmistakably different from that of most of the Dōgen scholars working in English (and in other European languages, for that matter). Watsuji has had a significant influence on these studies: it is his edition of theShōbōgenzō Zuimonkithat Masunaga Reihō translated into English, and he is the first of a long line of Dōgen scholars to take up theShōbōgenzōat the expense of theEiheikōroku. Nevertheless, the features of Dōgen’s thought that receive the...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 143-160)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 161-168)
  11. Index
    (pp. 169-174)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 175-176)