The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse


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Both in the new readings of early and medieval Japanese Buddhism that it advances and in the discussions that it will stimulate, this volume stands as a major addition to the field. Watt Journal of Asian History. Origins, Traces, Nonorigin 2. Kukai's Dissent: Of Mendicancy and Fiction 3. Journey to China: Outside Ritsuryo Discourse 4. Cartography 5. Category and History: Constructing the Esoteric 6. Writing and Polity 7. Semiology of the Dharma; or the Somaticity of the Text 8. Du kanske gillar. Meditations Marcus Aurelius Inbunden. Outgrowing God Richard Dawkins Inbunden.


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Spara som favorit. Skickas inom vardagar. The great Buddhist priest Kukai is credited with the introduction and establishment of tantric -or esoteric -Buddhism in early ninth-century Japan.

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In Ryuichi Abe examines this important religious figure -neglected in modern academic literature -and his profound influence on Japanese culture. Offering a radically new approach to the study of early religious history -combining historical research, discourse analysis, literary criticism, and semiology -Abe contends that the importance of Kukai's transmission of esoteric Buddhism to Japan lay not in the foundation of a new sect but in his creation of a general theory of language grounded in the ritual speech of mantra.

On the other hand, Kinos conclusion is crystal clear: Shinran and the Tannish are mas- culine, harsh, and rigorous. Those who see soft sentimentality in the Tannish, he says, are reading their own feelings into it. Since the age of seventeen, when he rst read the Tannish, he has always carried a copy of it, even when he was a sol- dier at the front. Shinran is complex, he concludes, and is difcult to understand.

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In characteristic style, Kino combines clarity with ambiguity, referring loosely to novels, essays, individuals by name, ideas, images, and his own experiences. Despite the twistings and turnings, an overall assertion survives: the Tannish is a book of profound meanings.

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The impenetrability of Buddhist profundity is an ancient claim that is more of a boast than a complaint. Ian Reader and I have already noted that from the time of the ofcial introduction of Buddhism to Japan in the sixth century to our own time, Buddhism has been praised for being unfathomable. The king of Paekche recommended Buddhism to the Japanese court because its profundity was attested in the report that Confucius himself could not understand it Reader and Tanabe , pp.

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The challenge for a popular writer like Kino is to be clear and understandable about profound meanings that resist clear explanation. Intellectually jarring, his presentation must be rhetorically smooth to allow ideas to ow, even implausibly, one into another: Shinran, Kurata Hyakuz, Maida Shichi, sentimentalism as feminine, simplicity kanso dened as concentrating kan on certain basic elements so , desire so likened to plants, choice kan as masculine, Shinran and the Tannish as denitely masculine, the Tannish as the one book he took to war, omote and ura :, and nally the common boast, which everyone understands, that Shinran and the Tannish are complex and hard to understand.

If Kino mysties Shinsh, it is because it is a mystery, but that claim of Buddhist ineffability is so widely accepted as true that mystication is a perfunctory truism clearly understood by all. The Tannish itself is a lament about the divergent understandings among Shinrans own followers. Oral transmissions or kuden from master to disciple were widely practiced, often in secrecy. Once written as texts, oral transmissions, as Jacqueline Stone shows in her magnicent book on original enlightenment, were emblems of legitimacy as well as doctrinal privilege and mastery Stone , pp.

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This culture of secrecy bred innovative interpretationshence, divergences of the kind Yuien lamentsand claims were pitted against counter claims over correct and errant understandings. The Tannish is a good example of this culture of secret trans- missions, and Yuien establishes his authority in the preface by saying that his understanding of shinjin faith is based on the kuden received from Shinran himself.

Because Yuien was able to receive direct face-to-face instruction, Kino afrms the legitimacy of his understanding as expressed in the Tannish. While Yuien was in a position to sort right from wrong understandings, those who did not receive a direct transmission suffer a disadvantage. Kino, however, assures his uninitiated audience that they have their own method for discerning true from false writings. The method consists of reading a text constantly day and night.

If the constant reading makes one feel bad kimochi ga waruku naru , then the text is false, and good feelings kimochi ga yoku natte kuru indicate a true text Kino , p. Kino could be accused of afrming the very senti- mentality he earlier rejected, but the persuasion of his claim lies less in logical consistency and more in the unmistakable clarity and simplicity of his test for authenticity. Some might say that his test, unmistakably clear, is simply mis- taken, but each person is in the end his or her own standard of orthodoxy.

The Tannish itself, however, cannot be mistaken since it is based on kuden. In the rst section Yuien expresses his joy at being saved by Amidas inconceivable vow seigan fukashigi X , which makes no distinction between young and old, good and evil, and embraces without ever letting go. This is the bound- less light and life without limit, says Kino, and it is a great thing inaru mono. Great is Amidas name, great is the absolute freedom zettai jiy of the pure land into which all are born.

As long as one has faith, the vow works in inconceivable ways overcoming all evil, sweeping away every obstacle in the way of its embrace of everyone and everything Kino , p. Though we think we control our lives, Kino continues, we are grasped by an eternal power.


  • Abe, Ryūichi 1954-.
  • More Stories Julian Tells?
  • The Early Life of Kūkai and His Stay at Dōgaku-ji Temple?
  • People can deny this, reject this, think that they have been aban- doned by it, but such denials do not change the primary condition in which everyone lives in the life of the Buddha. This is just as it is with ordinary physi- cal life produced by an endless line of parents who had parents who had par- ents. No one chooses to be born; everyone is given life through a power moving through generations. Amida has his own genealogy, having been the bodhisattva Hz , who became Amida Buddha by fullling a vow he made in the eternal past. Shinran believed in this unconditionally and did not question it.

    Even if he had raised questions and received answers they would be of no consequence except for the self-satisfaction of having understanding. But he did not seek understanding, and therefore he simply had faith in the inconceivable path by which Hz fullled his vow and became Amida. The vow itself is inconceivable, Kino writes. It cannot be understood through human cognition.

    Article excerpt

    There is no fool stu- pid enough to try to understand what cannot be understood. But those who have faith know eternity Kino , p. Kino is fond of repeating the refrain that truth is ineffable. Words fail, not because the absolutes are transcendent and beyond their reach, but because absolutes are confounding for inhering in phenomena. The term muge without hindrances belongs to the Mahyna language on the mutual interfusion of things, and in accord with this spirit of inherent related- ness, Kino argues that the passage must not leave out the person, who is, after all, at one with the nenbutsu.

    Clearly approving the language of nondual identity, Kino cites the medieval Chinese Pure Land thinker Tan-luan and his explanation of muge as a reference to the idea that samsara is nirvana shji soku nehan Kino , pp. As the cycle of birth and death, samsara is the condition from which one seeks liberation into nirvana.

    The process is linear as one moves from samsara to nirvana, from life to death. Peo- ple fear death, Kino says, because they do not know what comes after it. This fear of the unknown is hard to control, and people therefore concentrate on life and do not think of death. This is particularly true for Westerners, and since the Japanese educational system is Western, modern Japanese in terms of their mentality, are the same as Westerners.

    Pure Land Buddhism, however, explains what happens after death and provides assurance that the dead will be reborn in the pure land. This is to say that people move from samsara to nir- vana Kino , p. The structure of this faith is the same as that of Zen Buddhism.

    Kino cites a passage from Dgens Shbgenz Qabout how know- ing the Buddhist path is knowing oneself, and how knowing oneself is forget- ting the self. He cites another Shbgenz passage about saving others even though one has not yet been able to save oneself, and notes that the source of this idea is the Murygiky [g The Sutra of Innumerable Meanings , the so-called opening sutra of the Lotus Sutra. By helping others the great matter of eternal light and eternal life appears before our very eyes.

    This is what Dgen said, and through this we know a world in which samsara is nirvana Kino , p. Service to others is thus the means for realizing that samsara is nirvana. Taking another line of explanation, Kino delineates a human being into three parts: body, mind, and spirit. Mind performs psychic functions and together with the body is inherited from parents.

    Unlike mind and body, spirit is not genetically transmitted and comes from a totally different sphere.

    The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse
    The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse
    The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse
    The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse
    The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse
    The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse
    The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse
    The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse The Weaving of Mantra: Kukai and the Construction of Esoteric Buddhist Discourse

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