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Minoru Kiyota - Tathagatagarbha Thought, A Basis for Devotionalism in East Asia

Minoru Kiyota - Tathagatagarbha Thought, A Basis for Devotionalism in East Asia

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Published by: thewitness2 on May 06, 2013
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Japanese Journal of Religious Studies
HOUGHTA BASIS OF BUDDHIST DEVOTIONALISM IN EAST ASIAMinoru KIY OTAPurpose, Rationale and ApproachThe historical approach to Zen in Heinrich Dumoulinfs majorwork,
History of Zen, published over twenty years ago, brokenew ground in Western Zen studies. Up to that time Zen publica-tion in the West dealt primarily with interpretive accounts of Zenand translations of Zen or Zen-related texts. I follow here analternate approach to Zen and seek to place it in the context ofone or another aspect of Mahayha tradition. One [night read Zenin the perspective of Indian MEdhyamika or YogEcZra, or in termsof the Chinese pmjiiic or Hua-yen doctrinal development. But Iwould like to place it within the perspective of Tathzgatagarbhathought.Perhaps the most illustrious treatment of the Buddha nature inall of Zen appears in D6genfs Shc~genz;, where an entire book isspecifically devoted to the subject (T.
Westernscholars and Japanese authors writing in English have alreadydealt with this particular book (Abe
in termsof the history of Zen. My aimhere is rather to provide
broadbackground on Tathzgatagarbha thought itself.Although it is an important aspect of MahGyZna thought,research on the subject of Tathagatagarbha thought has tended tobe overshadowed by MEdhyamika and YogZcZra studies. Evenamong eminent Japanese Buddhologists, it was not until
comprehensive study on Tathzgatagarbha appeared when Taka-saki JikidGfs Nyoraiz6 shis6 no keisei was published. Prior to thiswork Takasaki had also published A Study on the Ratnagotm-
KIYOTA: TathGgatagarbha
in 1966.2Of all the important works on Tathagatagarbhathought published by prominent Japanese Buddhologists-amongthem Hanayama Shinsh6, Kumoi ShGzen, Nakamura Zenryii, andOgawa Ichij6--Takasaki1s work, at least in
opinion, stands outas the most comprehensive. Vost of the others are devoted largelyto textual studies. European and American Buddhologists com-manding respect on the subject are E. Obermillerls
Sublime Scienceof the Great Vehicle to Salvation
(1930), David S. Ruegg's
LaThQorie du Tatnagatagarbha et du Gotra
(1969), Alex Wayman1s
The Lion's Roar of Queen skimila
(1974). This is not the place toreview all of this research in detail. Rather, let me briefly indi-cate the problenatics involved in an investigation of the historicaldevelopment of Buddhist thought so that we might be able tounderstand the significance of TatGgatagarbha thought withinthat context.Although Buddhism originated in India, it underwent a domesti-cation in China and Japan, accommodating concrete historicalneeds and circumstances in those countries. According to
remarkof Edward Conze, the late British Buddhologist, the limitation ofnot knowing Chinese and Japanese "is not as serious as it sounds.Most creative work was done in India.
(Conze 1962). Whilethere
no doubt those who would agree with him, those of uswho have access to Chinese and Japanese sources know better.New dimensions of thought and certainly "creative work1' emergedfrom the minds of the Chinese and Japanese in the course ofBuddhisnls domestication. There is simply no way to understandthe transinission of Buddhism through this historical processwithout taking seriously a comparative philological study ofBuddhist texts extant in Sanskrit and PEli and in the Chinese andTibetan translations, as well
contemporary Japanese Buddholo-gical works based upon such philological studies. But caution isrequired here, for, even though
comparative philological study ofthis kind enables us to expose errors in the translating of techni-cal terms and the interpreting of ideas in their transposition fromthe original Indian sources, it would be imprudent to challenge thevalidity of
given religious tradition simply on the basis oftextual orthodoxy.
tradition, after all, represents a living reli-
gion that has inspired those living within it, in spite of the factthat they may lack the benefits of
modern philological discipline.Quite the contrary, they may even have been more deeply inspiredprecisely because they were graced with not knowing aboutmodern philological methods. In a word, skill-in-means has alwaysmarked the transmission of the Dharma.The term "skill-in-means" does not mean "anything goes." It isan ability to implement insight (into emptiness,
thelevel of secular reality. It presupposes an understanding of theprinciple of the inseparability of emptiness and co-arising, of truthand practice, a matter of which we shall have more to say later.The domestication of Buddhism in East Asia,
in other culturalenvironments, owes much to this skill-in-means in
propagationof the Dharma. The significance of Buddhism in East Asia, then,begins with the fact that it is a living religion, not simply a philo-logical or philosophical asset monopolized by an intelligentsiadedicated to a critical examination of the noetic contents ofBuddhist thought and the philological validity of its expression.Buddhism has established deep roots among the masses and withintheir culture quite apart from all the philological errors committedduring the process of domestication. And most important of all, itis a tradition that has survived the overwhelming pressures ofmodernization.The trouble with Buddhologists today is that they have becomespecialists in a given
of texts within
particular lineage or in
given system of thought. As a result, the issue of the relevanceof those texts or that system of thought to the culture andthought of the people who were influenced by them seems to haveeluded their attention. I make this point because Tathagatagarbhathought provides one of the most significant bases for the development of popular living schools of Buddhism like Zen and PureLand.This leads us to examine two questions, one historical and theother doctrinal: whether Tathagatagarbha constituted an indepen-dent school of thought in India or not, and whether it is a form ofmonisin or not. After examining these two issues, I will attempt aninterpretation of Tathagatagarbha thought from

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