Zen is Not Buddhism Recent Japanese Critiques of Buddha-Nature Swanson

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ZEN RECENT JAPANESE BUDDHISM OF BUDDHA-NATURE* CRITIQUES PAUL L. SWANSON IS NOT Summary the Hongakushis�, idea that all beings are inherently enlightened, is an almost universal assumption in the Japanese Buddhist tradition. This idea also played an important role in the indigenization of Buddhism in Japan and in the development of the syncretistic religious ethos that underlies Japanese society. Through most of Japanese history, the idea of the inherent enlightenment (including non-senti
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  ZEN ISNOTBUDDHISM RECENT JAPANESECRITIQUESOF BUDDHA-NATURE*PAULL. SWANSONSummaryHongakushis � ,theidea that allbeings are inherently enlightened,is analmostuniversalassumptioninthe JapaneseBuddhist tradition.Thisidea alsoplayedanimportantrole in theindigenizationof Buddhism inJapanand in thedevelopmentof thesyncretistic religiousethosthat underliesJapanesesociety. Throughmostof Japanesehistory,theidea of the inherentenlightenment(includingnon-sentientbeingssuchs asplantsand rocks-whichexpandedto includeassumptionssuchasthe non-differentiation between indigenous kami and the Buddhas andbodhisattvas,and the transcendence of all dualities(including goodandevil)asanideal-waspervasiveandunquestionedin muchof Japanese religious activityandthought.RecentlysomeJapaneseBuddhistscholars,notablyHakamayaNoriaki and Matsumoto Shiro of the S � t �  Zen sect KomazawaUniversity,havequestionedthelegitimacyof thisethos,claimingthatitis antithetical to basic Bud-dhist ideas such as an � tman( no-self ),and that it is the source of manysocialproblemsinJapan.Theycall foraconsciousrecognitionandrejectionof thisethos,and a return to true Buddhism. Afterpresentinga brief outline of thehistoryandsignificanceof these ideas inJapan, Hakamayaand Matsumoto'scritiqueisexplainedand examined.Some of the academic and social reactions tothiscritiqueare alsoexplored.EarlyinA.D.817, Saicho,the founderof JapaneseTendaiBud-dhism,enteredinto a debate with Tokuitsu over the idea of Buddha-nature and universalenlightenment.Tokuitsu,a Hossomonk who lived in the Kantoregion,had writtenatract calledBussosho[On buddha-nature],and SaichorespondedwithHokkekowaku[Vanquishingmisunderstandingsabout the LotusSlitra].Forthenextfouryearsthesetwo scholarsexchanged essaysandargumentsin whatgrewto beone of themostimportantdoctrinaldebatesinJapaneseBuddhisthistory.Inshort,Saichochampionedthe idea of universalbuddhahood,theekayanaidealepousedin theLotus Sutra that allbeingsare destined for thehighest enlightenmentof aBuddha,while TokuitsusupportedtheYogacara interpretationof fivegotra,or five inherentpotentialslatent insentientbeings,includingthat of theicchantikawho have nohopeof everattainingbuddhahood.l1  116What,youmightask,doesthis debate have totodo with the con-temporary studyof religionandourunderstandingof Buddhism inJapan? Justthis:wearein the midst of avery provocative rethinking of JapaneseBuddhismbysomeprominentBuddhistscholarsand thinkers who claim thatCh'an/Zen,thetathagata-garbha ( wombof theBuddha )tradition,hongakushiso( srcinal or inherent enlightenment),and related ideas are not Bud-dhism. This is tantamount tosayingthatmost,if notall,of JapaneseBuddhism is not Buddhism atall. Ina sensewhattheyaresayingis not at all that new-thetathagata-garbhatraditionandBuddha-nature ideas havealwaysbeenopento thechargethattheypositan un-Buddhist substantialist or atman-likeexistence,and itisakin to the debate betweenSaichoand Tokuitsu in our contem-porarycontext. What isthe true understandingof theteachingof the Buddha? Which of themanyand varied strands(if any)of Buddhist tradition should beacceptedascorrect andproper,andwhich(if any)should berejectedascontraryto theBuddha-Dharma ? Whatare the widersocialimplicationsof acceptingorrejectingcertaininterpretationsof the Buddhist tradition?It isusuallyassumed that Saicho won the debateagainstTokuitsu,andcertainlySaicho'sstand of universal buddhahoodbecametheaccepted presuppositionfor mostof JapaneseBud-dhism,and isin fact thedominantreligiousethosin Japan. Hongakushiso-awayof thinkingthat came toincludesuch ideasas theinherentenlightenmentof allthings(includingnon-sentientbeingssuch asgrassesandtrees,rocksandmountains);theidentityof samsaraandnirvana;no differentiation between the indigenous kamiand theBuddhasandbodhisattvas;the transcendence of alldualities,including goodandevil-grewto bepervasiveandunquestionedin much of Japanese religious activityandthought.However,therehavealso beentimes,thoughfew and farbetween,whenthe ideaandimplicationsof hongakushiso werequestioned.Now is suchatime.The current attack is ledbytwo Buddhist scholars at KomazawaUniversity (associatedwith the S6t6Zensect):HakamayaNoriakiand Matsumoto Shiro. Themain focus of their attack is thehongakushisotradition-strictly speakingthe idea that allthingsare inherently or srcinally enlightened-andtheimplicationsof   117this kind of thinking(suchas the idealof ma, harmony or con-formity )that ispervasive in Japanese society.In thispaperI willbrieflyexamine thedevelopmentof thistraditioninJapan,itssignificanceforJapanese religionandsociety,and the recentcriti-queof thistraditionby Hakamaya,Matsumoto,andotherJapanesescholars.History of HongakuShIS6The termhongaku[Chin. pen-chiao]has no Sanskritequivalent,andmakes its firstappearancein theAwakeningof Faith,a textprob-ably compiledinChina,2and in two ChineseapocryphalBuddhisttexts,thefen-wang ching [T8.825-834,834-845]3andthe*Vajrasam£dhi-slitra [T 9.365-373].44IntheAwakening of Faith,hongakuisused incontrasttoshigaku, the inception or actualiza-tion of enlightenment,i.e. theprocessbywhichonerealizesenlightenmentin hislife;thus theEnglish rendering srcinal enlightenment.TheAwakening of Faithteachesthat... srcinal enlightenment indicates[theessence of Mind(a priori)]in con-tradistinction to[theessence of Mindin]theprocessof actualization of enlightenment;theprocessof actualizationof enlightenmentis none otherthan[theprocessof integrating]theidentitywiththesrcinalenlightenment.55This ideaof srcinalorinherentenlightenment, alongwith theAwakening of Faith ingeneral,had agreatinfluenceonthedevelop-ment of East Asian Buddhism.6 Somebrief examples: Fa-tsang(643-712),theHua-yenpatriarch,is also well known for hisinfluentialcommentaryontheAwakeningof Faith;'the idea wasper-vasive in the Ch'antradition;and itinfluenced thedevelopmentof theconceptof  theBuddha-natureinnon-sentientbeings intheT'ien-t'ai tradition.InJapan hongaku thoughttookon a lifeof its own. Its influencewas felt in theShingonschool,particularlythroughKukai's exten-siveuseof the Shakumakaen-ron[T# 1668, 32.591-668],anapocryphalcommentaryon theAwakening of Faith attributed toNagarjuna.Thedevelopmentof hongakushiso wasespeciallypromi-nent in the Tendai school. After the Tendai school was transmittedto JapanbySaicho it underwentmany developments ,one of which  118was thegrowthof anidentifiably independentbranchcalledhongakumon.Texts devoted tohongakushiso made theirappearancein the lateHeianandKamakuraperiodsand some wereattributedtoprominentTendaifiguressuchasSaicho, Genshin,andRyogen.These texts include the Honri tatko-shu,attributed toSaicho,whichinterpretsthe mostimportantTendaiteachingsin terms of hongakushiso;HymnsonInherentEnlightenment[Hongaku-san],with commen-taryattributedtoRyogen[Chf-hongaku-san]and Genshin[Hongaku-sanshaku],and texts such as theShuzen-jiketsu,attributedinparttoSaicho,which containdetailson the oral transmissions(kuden)of hongakuideas,practices,andlineages.9Such oral transmissions andtheaccompanyinglineageswere animportant partof thehongakutradition.It isnoaccident that thesedevelopmentswerecontemporaneouswith(even part of)thegrowthof thesyncretistic honji-suijakul shin-butsushugomovement,thetendencytoemphasizetheunityof Bud-dhist and Shinto deities andpractices.Its influence can be seenin thedevelopmentof Shugendo(thewayof mountainasceticism),inShinto,and in all of theBuddhistschools.BuildingontheMahayanaidea of the identityof sams-ara -and nirvana, hongakushisidevelopedinto anethos(touseTamuraYoshiro'swords)of  absolutenon-duality and total affirmation of the mundaneworld. The ideal isperhapsbestexpressedin thephrasessomokukokudoshikkai jõbutsuand sansensimokushikkai jõbutsu[the grasses,trees,mountains and rivers all attainbuddhahood],phraseswhichpopupalmostincessentlyinJapaneseliterature,art,theatre,andso forth Thisreligiousethos was theoverwhelmingstatusquoformost of Japanese history,andcontinuesto dominatetoday despitetheattempt bythe Statetoforcibly separate BuddhismandShintoelements(shinbutsu bunri)intheearly Meiji period.There have beena fewexceptionsto the dominanceof thehongakuethos.Noteworthyis the work of Hachiba Shashin inthe12thcentury,11Shoshin was criticalof hongakushiso,sayingthat oneshouldnot understand itto meanthatsentientbeingsare already enlightened,andthat suchaninterpretationdeniescausalityand is theheresyof naturalism (shizen gedÔ).12It is oftenpointedout that the so-called new Kamakura Buddhist schoolsaroseinreactionagainstthehongakustanceof the Tendaiestablish-
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