From the Jacket
Facets of Buddhism is a short collection of essays written over the years by one of the pre-eminent Japanese scholars in the field of Buddhism and comparative religion. The ten essays are loosely linked together by the common themes of (a) dependent co-origination (pratitya-samutpada), (b) the effect of Madhyamika and Yogacara ideas on Japanese literature and culture and (c) the tension and harmonies amongst different religious traditions and different Buddhist sects.
Scholars will be particularly interested in this collection of essays for the access they provide to a wide range of Japanese scholarly exchange and opinion, much of which has until now been available only in Japanese. They will also be interested in the presentation of the different Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese interpretation of important passages from classical Indian Buddhist text, and in the comparison of meditation techniques described by Indian, Chinese and Tibetan writers.
Drawing on his experiences during a long and distinguished career as a teacher and scholar, Professor Iida provides in these essays new and valuable insights into the place of women and the feminine principle in Buddhism, the convergence of folk beliefs and philosophical Buddhism in Japan, the rise of the modern Japanese Buddhist sects and, through a comparison of Buddhist, Christian and Sufi-Yogic practices and modern psychology, the difference, similarities and interdependence of the different faiths of mankind.
About the Author
Shotaro Iida, Ph.D. (Wisconsin) and Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, was originally trained as a specialist of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. His interests have expanded to include Sino-Korean-Japanese Buddhism. His publications include: Reason and Emptiness: A Study in Logic and Mysticism; Hindu Buddhist Thought in India; and The Hey Ch'o Diary: Memoir of the Pilgrimage to the Five Regions of India. His translations into English from Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan and Sanskrit, often in collaboration with other eminent scholars, include some of the most important Madhyamika and Cittamatrin works.
Dr. Iida was largely responsible for the establishment of the Asian Centre at the University of British Columbia (1970-80), as planner and fund-raiser. He received the Japan Foundation Special Prize for this in 1986.
It is with great pleasure that I present to the public a selection of papers I have written over the last twenty or so years, spanning the period from my early research into the then nearly unknown Madhyamika writer Bhavaviveka or Bhavya, amongst Tibetan refugees in India, up to the recent past where my interests have, perhaps, somewhat broadened to include comparative religion.
I have by and large, left the essays in their original form. I have introduced sonic consistency in the citing of the names of Japanese scholars in order to aid the English speaking reader unfamiliar with Japanese. On one or two occasions I have repeated an important axiom, e.g., the Buddhist axiom of dependent-co-origination, in almost the same words in different places. This is because originally the articles were presented to different scholarly gatherings at different times. Here I have left a few such repetitions stand, because, it seems to rue, where something is really worth saying it bears repeating.
The first essay was written when I was young and presents, within the vehicle of my own experiences at the start of my career in India, as it were, short biographies of the founders of modern Buddhology and Tibetology, Brian Hodgson and Csoma de Koros. In my Re-turning Gautama’s Wheel I take a detailed look at some aspects of the devadasanidana the so-called twelve links of dependent-co-origination. In the essay the reader will find described the debate as it raged amongst British trained missionaries and a Sri Lañkan bhiksu in the nineteenth century, amongst the eminent scholars of pre-war Japan and as it is formulated today.
Taking the theme of dependent-co-origination as a point of departure, the third essay attempts to identify differences underlying Buddhist and Judeo-Christian attitudes towards tolerance. I wrote then that Buddhism seemed to have shown, throughout its long history, less intolerance to other religions than has Judeo-Christian religion. Though I think the remark still generally holds true, perhaps today, looking at events in south Asia one must ask if Buddhism is not also becoming as much a banner for fundamentalism and intolerance as some other religions. Nevertheless I think the basic point of the essay, that there is a difference in how relationships are defined in the religions, holds true.
The essays then turn away from theory somewhat and deal more with praxis. The fourth essay describes and compares Tibetan Tantric Buddhist visualization practices with practices found in the Chinese and Japanese Pure Land traditions. It then contrasts these with some techniques in modern psychology. The fifth essay addresses an old and modern question: the role of women in Buddhist literature. It is an old question in that the paper finds its genesis in an important passage from the Lotus Sutra. It is new in that the question is very much a pressing one in the modern context, particularly in a western university environment. The reader will also wish to read the final section of my essay (in collaboration with Hagiwara Takao) on Mishima Yukio to gain a balanced appraisal of my views on these matters.
In my discussion of the Japanese No Play Yamamba I attempt to show how a fundamental folk belief of the Japanese is molded in the cast of Buddhist beliefs. I also attempt to trace the influence on it of basic Buddhist elements, particularly of emptiness (Sunyata) and compassion (karuna).
The essay on the controversial Japanese writer Mishima I wrote with Hagiwara, a graduate student at the time, and now professor of Japanese literature at Smith College, Mass., U.S.A. We show that the Buddhism, and here not just the set of beliefs known to the lay person, hut the intricate Buddhist philosophy, particularly the intense idealism of the Yogacara, was well known to Mishima. lathe Sea of Fertility (Hajo no Utni), which we show to be the first literary work anywhere based on the Yogacara idealist philosophy, one perhaps tastes the danger of the anãtman doctrine while also glimpsing a profundity far beyond a mere academic formulation, indeed reaching to the end of the human soul.
In the present century much of Japanese Buddhist scholarship has drawn its inspiration from the pioneering works of the early European scholars, giants in the field like L. dela Vallée Poussin still it has important to me to show as I attempt to do in the eighth essay that the principles of modern scholarship and in particular the Criteria derived for the interpretation of Buddhist texts were anticipated to some extent by the earlier somewhat neglected Japanese Tominaga Nakamoto. In the ninth essay I deal with the history and rise of the important Nichiren sect and the role of the Lotus Sutra.
Finally I include as a contribution to the field of comparative religion an article on the levels of truth and consciousness in Bhavaviveka and the sufi mystics.
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