This paper discusses Reiner Schürmann’s notions of ontological anarché and anarchic praxis in his readings of Heidegger and Eckhart, while bringing his philosophy of anarchy into dialogue with Zen-inspired Japanese thought. I thereby hope to shed light on his thought of anarchy in terms of what I call “an-ontology.” The inspiration for this project is the fact that Schürmann himself had practiced Zen as a young adult in France and had engaged in comparative analyses of Zen and Eckhart in his (...) earlier works. I take what Schürmann meant by the principle of anarchy as a form of praxis that precedes the theoretical bifurcation between being and non-being. A similar sort of “anarchic praxis” is recognizable in Zen and we can find comparable (an)ontological implications of such praxis in the Zen-inspired writings of the Japanese medieval thinker Dōgen and of the contemporary philosopher Nishida Kitarō. (shrink)
In this paper, I use a comparative analysis of mysticism in Zen and the Abrahamic faiths to formulate a phenomenological account of mysticism “as such.” I argue that, while Zen Buddhism is distinct from other forms of mystical experience in important ways, it can still be fit into a general phenomenological category of mystical experience. First, I explicate the phenomenological accounts of mysticism provided by Anthony Steinbock and Angela Bello. Second, I offer an account of Zen mysticism which both coheres (...) with and problematizes these accounts, arguing that Zen demonstrates the inadequacy of these accounts as descriptions of mysticism as a universal religious category. Lastly, I use this investigation to propose that Zen mysticism does generally cohere with the mystical experiences of other religions, but only if we devise a new formula for speaking phenomenologically about mystical experience as such which captures this phenomenon in all of its manifestations. (shrink)
Richard Watson maintains that deep ecology suffers from an internal contradiction and should therefore be rejected. Watson contends that deep ecology claims to be non-anthropocentric while at the same time is committed to setting humans apart from nature, which is inherently anthropocentric. I argue that Watson’s objection arises out of a fundamental misunderstanding of how deep ecologist’s conceive of the ‘Self.’ Drawing on resources from Buddhism, I offer an understanding of the ‘Self’ that is fully consistent with deep ecology, and (...) does not lead to the anthropocentric contradiction that Watson identifies. The paper will proceed as follows: First, I articulate Watson’s objection, and briefly discuss the traditional deep ecology position. Next, I turn to a discussion of the ‘Self’ and show that there are conceptions of human nature that are not separate from ‘Nature.’ It will thus be shown that deep ecology is not inconsistent and need not be rejected. (shrink)
Since Nāgārjuna's proclamation of the emptiness of all things,1 Mahāyāna Buddhism has been faced with the question of how to reconcile emptiness with its commitment to compassion and altruism. While the latter would seem to require the existence of moral facts, the former would seem to destroy any basis for moral facts. In the vocabulary of contemporary metaethics, it would seem that any Buddhist who accepts Nāgārjuna's formulation of emptiness is committed to moral anti-realism,2 but it remains controversial whether anti-realism (...) is a position suited to Buddhism and its ethical focus.3In this essay, I will show that Dōgen 道元, founder of the Sōtō school of Japanese Zen Buddhism, responds to this problem... (shrink)
This article presents a new approach to Japanese Zen Buddhism, alternative to its traditional views, which lack exact definitions of the relation between the meditator and the Buddha’s ultimate cause, dharma. To this end, I offer a comparative analysis between Zen Buddhist and Christian views of causality from the medieval to early modern periods. Through this, human causation with dharma in the Zen Buddhist meditations can be better defined and understood. Despite differences between religious traditions in deliberating human causal accounts, (...) there are parallel ways of thinking and practicing between Christian and Buddhist meditators. Firstly, I reconstruct three sorts of Christian scholastic theories of creaturely causality: conservationism, occasionalism, and concurrentism. Secondly, Zen Buddhist doctrines are introduced by placing particular emphasis on dharma as causal agency. Focusing on the Japanese Zen practice of meditation, finally I expound two theories of human causality: Sōtō Zen quasi-occasionalism following Master Dōgen’s teaching of enlightenment, and Rinzai Zen quasi-concurrentism given the meditator’s interactive kōan practice. Hence, my comparative analysis explains why religious beings are causally active, passive, or interactive in relation to the first agency, God or dharma, whereby systematically establishing alternative definitions of human causality in Zen Buddhism. (shrink)
ABSTRACTFor Dōgen, the Buddhist doctrine of “no self” ultimately presents the self as contextualized. The self is for him not an independent entity, but is intricately related to its environment, determined through the many beings around it. In a quite different philosophical setting, Spinoza developed similar ideas. While Dōgen challenged the specifics of a tradition that explicitly argues against the idea of an absolute self, Spinoza faced a more radical challenge: questioning an absolute, unchanging, and free self that the Western (...) tradition has mostly taken for granted. After an analysis of the ideas of the two thinkers, the essay presents some important implications for contemporary times. Our domination of the earth and one another is arguably rooted in the individualism Dōgen and Spinoza seek to overcome. The insight that we are contextualized is a first step toward re-determining ourselves as placed within a larger whole. (shrink)
In recent decades, the concept of religion, and specifically its application to non-Western historic cultural formations has come unter critical scrutiny. This paper applies the analysis of semantic fields to three works by the medieval Japanese Buddhist monk Dōgen (1200–1253), who came to be revered as founder of the still extant Sōtō school of Zen Buddhism. By putting his notion of the ‘Buddha Way’ (butsudō) into strong relief, it provides a basis for comparison with modern concepts of religion. The conclusion (...) is that Dōgen’s ideas conform to a surprisingly large extent with modern ideas. This may be one reason for his popularity in modern times. But Dōgen should not be taken to represent the general world-view of medieval Japan. Further comparative analyses of other corpora remain necessary to gauge the applicability of‘religion’ as a category for the analysis of medieval Japanese culture. (shrink)
This contribution argues that it is misleading to consider Dōgen (1200-1253) a philosopher, in spite of a strong reception of his thought in Japanese and Comparative philosophy since the early 20th century. Dōgen himself gives a decidedly parochial description of his own agenda, and that he considered non-Buddhist views and teachings unworthy of any consideration whatsoever. There are substantial differences between Dōgen's concept of the Buddha Way and philosophy as an open-ended and reasoned discourse on matters of fundamental human concern. (...) Philosophical reception of Dōgen needs to take these differences into account to fully appreciate the challenges posited by his thought. (shrink)
This introductory chapter on concepts of Japanese philosophy and the concomitant approaches to this subject contains 1) a brief critical overview of the term's history and its impact on the definition of the field and 2) a short presentation of the ensuing chapters, which create a sustained dialogue on how to understand Japanese philosophy and how to delineate its his history.
Tsunoda Tairyū of Komazawa University is one of the foremost authorities on shūgaku 宗学, or “Sōtō theology,” in Japanese academia, and a leading philologist of Dōgen’s writings, in particular the Shōbōgenzō 正法眼蔵. Tsunoda’s ongoing investigation of Dōgen’s philosophy culminated in the year 2015 when his extensive study Dōgen Zenji no shisō-teki kenkyū 道元禅師の思想的研究 was published by Shunjūsha. Tsunoda opens by introducing the fundamental methodologies that constitute Sōtō theological scholarship. The first is sankyū 参究, or scholarship based on one’s faith in (...) the tradition. With sankyū, Tsunoda argues, the standpoint of faith... (shrink)
Dōgen: Textual and Historical Studies is an impressive volume that marks a significant leap forward in the study of Zen Master Eihei Dōgen, founder of the Japanese Sōtō School. Dōgen’s life and thought are closely examined in light of the wider historical and religious contexts of Song dynasty China and the Kamakura era in Japan. This collection offers a careful consideration of Dōgen’s rich literary legacy by examining his significance situated as he was at the historical crossroads between the Chinese (...) Chan tradition and the birth of Japanese Zen. In particular, the volume contemplates the manner in which Dōgen’s historical — perhaps mythological — figure has been endorsed and cultivated by the Sōtō.. (shrink)
Busshō, one of the central fascicles of Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō, is dedicated to the problematic of Buddha-nature, the understanding of which in Dōgen’s thought is fairly different from previous Buddhist philosophy, but concordant with his views on reality, time and person. The article will present a close reading of several passages of the fascicle with comment in order to argue that Dōgen’s understanding of Buddha-nature is not something that entities have, but a mode of how they are, neither in itself nor (...) for us, but in the total world-process. The relation between totality and particularity is not hierarchical, nor one of opposition, but conceived of a matter of perspective, which, as Dōgen shows, is both mediated and circumscribed by language. As a result, we can see that particularity of being is precisely what makes the totality of being accessible to every existent, not an obstacle to be overcome. (shrink)
In contrast to temporal asymmetry stressed in process philosophy, symmetry prevails in Mahayana Buddhism and East Asian philosophy formed under its influence. The paper clarifies the meaning of symmetry from the perspectives of Kitaro Nishida and Dogen, it explores similar or overlapping ideas in Whitehead’s philosophy oforganism, and it suggests that the differences among them are much smaller than commonly believed.
In this essay I hope to make some new contributions to the philosophical opening occasioned by John Sallis’ articulation of an “elementology” more broadly and by his turn to Guo Xi’s exquisite Song Dynasty shan-shui scroll painting, Early Spring more particularly. I do so by bringing the remarkable writings by the American poet and thinker Gary Snyder, especially in relationship to his reading of the great Kamakura Zen Master Eihei Dōgen, directly into the fray of contemporary Continental discourses on the (...) elemental and the ecological. At the heart of this project is Snyder’s development of Dōgen’s elemental discourse of “mountains, rivers, and the great earth.” Like Sallis’ own efforts to recast language into a more elemental discourse, this essay will also focus on the manners of speaking specific to the philosophical and poetic self-presentation of the elements, including the relationship between the philosophical and the artistic as such. (shrink)
Although the planet is currently facing an unprecedented array of environmental crises, those who are in a position to do something about them seem to be paralyzed and the general public apathetic. This pathological situation derives in part from a particular conception of the human relationship to nature which is central to anthropocentric traditions of thought in the West, and which understands the human being as separate from, and superior to, all other beings in the natural world. Traditional East Asian (...) understandings of this relationship are quite different and remarkably un-anthropocentric, especially as exemplified in the ideas of Chinese Daoism and Japanese Buddhism—even though Western conceptions now predominate in both China and Japan. Nevertheless, these ideas and understandings are experientially accessible to any contemporary person who has full contact with the natural world, regardless of which tradition that person stands in.This essay examines the understanding of the human-nature relation that we find in the philosophies of Kūkai and Dōgen, from whom we can learn much that is beneficial in the context of our current environmental predicament. The ideas of both thinkers are firmly rooted in practice, and especially bodily or somatic practice, designed to bring about a transformation of experience. The argument is not that we should appropriate their conceptions of nature in order to solve our environmental problems; rather, since they both practice “philosophy as a way of life,” the suggestion is that we can learn from the practices they advocate in the light of what they say about natural phenomena and would benefit from emulating their ways of engaging the world ecologically. (shrink)
While there have been numerous claims of a resemblance between the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Zen Buddhism, few studies of the philosophy of Wittgenstein in detailed comparison with specific Zen thinkers have emerged. This paper attempts to fill this gap by considering Wittgenstein’s philosophy in relation to that of Eihei Dōgen, founder of the Sōtō school of Zen. Points of particular confluence are found in both thinkers’ approaches to language, experience, and practice. Through an elucidation of these points, this (...) paper argues that both Dōgen and Wittgenstein can be understood as putting forth a philosophy of transcendent ethics. (shrink)
In "The Way of the Dialetheist: Contradictions in Buddhism," Yasuo Deguchi, Jay L. Garfield, and Graham Priest argue that some (though not all) of the contradictions that appear in Buddhist texts should be accepted. An examination of their argument depends on what sort(s) of negation is (are) used in the texts. In order to see apparently contradictory statements as affirmations of true contradictions, we must assume that 'not' (or its variance) is used as a contradiction-forming operator. In this article, the (...) conception of negation(s) that is (are) salient in the writings of Dōgen is examined, and it is argued that he would not agree that his sentences are to be considered, and accepted, as contradictory. (shrink)
Pamela D. Winfield offers a fascinating juxtaposition and comparison of the thoughts of two pre-modern Japanese Buddhist masters, Kukai (774-835) and Dogen (1200-1253) on the role of imagery in the enlightenment experience.
Thinkers like Slavoj Žižek and Tim Morton have heralded the end of our ideological constructions of nature, warning that popular “ecology” or the “natural” is just the latest opiate of the masses. Attempting to think what I call Nature after Nature, I turn to the Kamakura period Zen master Dōgen Eihei (1200–1253) to explore the possibilities of thinking Nature in its non-ideological self-presentation or what Dōgen called “mountains and rivers (sansui).” I bring Dōgen into dialogue with his great champion, the (...) American poet Gary Snyder (who understands the process of sansui as “the wild”), as well as with thinkers as diverse as Schelling, Kundera, Žižek, Agamben, and Muir. Beyond Nature being any one thing, what Badiou derides as the “cosmological one,” I argue for the reawakening and sobering up to multiple Nature, beyond its appearance as an object to a discerning subject, as the bioregions which give us our interdependent and dynamic being. (shrink)
This article argues for a new way to interpret Dōgen's theory of time, reading the notion of uji as momentary existence, and shows that many notorious difficulties usually associated with the theory can be overcome with this approach, which is also more compatible with some fundamental assumptions of Buddhist philosophy (the non-durational existence of dharmas, the arbitrariness of linguistic designations and the concepts they point to, the absence of self-nature in beings, etc.). It is also shown how this reading leads (...) to an innovative treatment of the concept of selfhood, viewing the self as the active openness of an existent to the surrounding world, with which it is able to identify through a mutual relation with other existents within the existential moment. This argument is supported by an alternative translation in the "momentary mode" of those extracts of the fascicle that introduce or elaborate on Dōgen's key concepts. (shrink)
One of the most characteristic features of the philosophy of Dōgen is his idiosyncratic use of language, in particular, the replacement of expected semantic connections between two adjacent Chinese characters with improbable, but grammatically possible ones, from which new philosophical concepts are then derived. The article places this writing technique in the context of the linguistic changes that were taking place both in China and Japan at the time of Dōgen's writing as well as the general attitude of Chan/zen thinkers (...) toward language, arguing that the Chan/zen critique was not pointed to language as such, but its reified and alienated forms. Dōgen's concept-making could accordingly be seen as an effort to keep language ‘alive.’ The article offers two possible ways of interpreting his concepts: they can either be seen as relativisations of the mainstream reading norms, or as the creation of total semantic links in which all the existing ways of linking two characters are simultaneously possible. (shrink)
The consummate Soto Zen master, Dogen (1200?1253), expressed himself in creative ways that reflected fundamental insights of Chan/Zen Buddhism while responding to the needs of his time and place, i.e., Kamakura era Japan. His early training in Tendai and Rinzai Zen lent rigor and force to his Soto Zen experiences and expressions. This paper explores Dogen's new light on causality and morality purity, vis-à-vis Song dynasty Chan approaches by examining (1) his comments, early (1244) and late (ca. 1252), on the (...) Fox Koan, and (2) his discussions about Dream and ?veridical? experience. By showing the inexorability of causality, Dogen revealed the need for moral purity in achieving enlightenment qua freedom. Even in the vertigo of emptiness, the purified Soto Zen Buddhist adept discerns and effects equilibrium and, by extension, fairness, in experience, practice and affairs, as ongoing endeavors, as skilful means to impact and transform, not just Buddhist adepts, but one's world. (shrink)
Are Derrida’s critique of presence and Dōgen’s emphasis on presence incompatible? I argue that they are not—and, in fact, that there is a deep connection between the projects of the two thinkers. In showing this I hope to combat some serious misconceptions about essential aspects of both Zen Buddhism and deconstruction.