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Ruben L.F. HABITO - Tendai Hongaku Doctrine and Japan’s Ethnocentric Turn - p. 374

Ruben L.F. HABITO - Tendai Hongaku Doctrine and Japan’s Ethnocentric Turn - p. 374

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Tendai Hongaku Doctrine and Japan’s Ethnocentric Turn
Tendai Hongaku Doctrine and Japan’s Ethnocentric Turn

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Published by: Ɓuddhisterie on Jul 12, 2012
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Doctrine andJapan’s Ethnocentric Turn
Ruben L. F.H
early essays presenting his thoughtson Critical Buddhism was given as a talk at a Buraku LiberationCenter in Osaka.
In it he examines discriminatoryattitudes andlanguage within the Sõtõ Sect and traces their roots to
hongaku shisõ 
, orthe doctrine of originary enlightenment.
He has ampli³ed thesethoughts in subsequent essays, and his position can be summarized as fol-lows:
hongaku shisõ 
is to be rejected as a pernicious way of thinking thatharbors and abets attitudes not only of social discrimination but also of cultural chauvinism and ethnocentrism.
The surge of militaristic nationalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, which motivated Japan to invade and colonize neigh-boring Asian countries and which eventually led her to an aggressor’s rolein the Second World War, can be seen as an outcome of these attitudes.Further, these problematic attitudes were not eradicated with Japan’sdefeat in the war, but were even further fanned by the economic successesJapan has enjoyed since the postwar years, continuing up to the present.This same set of attitudes also serves to bolster and maintain the hier-archical structure of Japanese society, often depicted as a pyramid withthe Tennõ
at the top. It is within this hierarchical structure that certaingroups (such as Koreans, Chinese, and Southeast Asians residing in Japan,as well as members of the groups traditionally treated as outcasts in soci-ety, namely those who come from the
or discriminatedcommunities) are treated as second- or third-class citizens.The key point here is that these problematic attitudes of culturalchauvinism, ethnocentrism, and social discrimination, connected withmany of Japan’s past and present social ills, ³nd their roots in a mode of thinking nurtured in the Japanese Buddhist tradition, that is, the doctrine
of originary enlightenment (
hongaku shisõ 
). Developed in medievalTendai circles, this doctrine and the way of thinking associated with itcontinued to inµuence various aspects of Japanese culture and society from the medieval period on.
Here we will not take up the intricate philosophical arguments pre-sented by Hakamaya. Rather, this essay is offered as an excursus that may shed light on possible historical connections between Japanese ethnocen-tric attitudes and Tendai
hongaku shisõ 
. The ³rst section will present arough outline of this Tendai doctrine of originary enlightenment. Thesecond section will highlight the shift in Japanese consciousness thatoccurred around the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century, a shiftthat we may call an “ethnocentric turn,” discernible from a comparison of two texts dealing with Japan’s imperial lineage: the
(written by the Tendai monk Jien around 1219) and the
 Jinnõ shõtõki 
(written by Kitabatake Chikafusa between 1339 and 1343). The third section willexamine other late-thirteenth-century texts that corroborate this shift inthe understanding of Japanese identity. Our fourth (³nal) section willoffer reµections on the possible link between this ethnocentric turn andthe Tendai doctrine of originary enlightenment.
It was the work of Tamura Yoshirõ, who held the Chair of JapaneseBuddhism at the prestigious University of Tokyo in the 1970s, thatbrought wide attention to the signi³cance of the Tendai doctrine of orig-inary enlightenment (
) in Japanese cultural, social, and religioushistory. Here we will present only the barest outline of the subject.
In brief, the doctrine of 
hongaku shisõ 
involves an absolute af³rma-tion of this world of phenomena—this world of birth-and-death—as the very embodiment of the perfection of Buddhahood itself. The followingpassages illustrate this kind of af³rmation.
 As one thinks of attaining Buddhahood, of inevitably becoming born inthe Land of Bliss, one is to think this way: My very mind—this itself isthe truth of Suchness. As one thinks that the Suchness that pervadesthroughout the Dharma-realm is my own body, then I myself am theDharma-realm, and one is not to think that there is anything other thanthis. As one is enlightened on this, the myriad Buddhas of the Dharma-realm and all the bodhisattvas all dwell within my very body. Apart from
my own body, looking for Buddha elsewhere is to lack the realizationthat my very own body is Suchness itself. If I realize that Suchness and Iare one and the same thing, Š„kyamuni, Amit„bha, Bhai¤ajya-guru, andall the myriad Buddhas of the ten directions, Samantabhadra, Mañjušr‡, Avalokitešvara, Maitreya, and the myriad bodhisattvas are not apart frommy very own body.
Therefore, we are the body of Suchness: as one thinks thus, in theevening and in daylight, in action, standing still, sitting and lying down, without forgetting, and keeps it in one’s mind, there is no doubt aboutthe fact that this very body itself is the Buddha. If so, then, believing inthe teaching of the Esoteric (Shingon) sect, wherein one is enjoined tothink: “I am Mah„vairocana,” this very body itself is Buddha. All my actions and movements become the sign of Suchness. Therefore, every utterance of the tongue, every word, is itself true mantra. Every form of the body, every movement, is itself the secret mudra. Every thought andevery memory is the Central Point of Veneration (
). Every delu-sive idea and thought is itself Esoteric contemplation. Have this mind in you, do not forget: keep it in mind, this very body itself is Buddha. Imyself am Suchness. I myself am Mah„vairocana.
The doctrine of originary enlightenment expressed in its most extremeform is an af³rmation of 
ordinary human being
as such 
, full of desiresand delusions and imperfections, as nothing less than the perfection of Buddhahood itself. In other words, it af³rms that
this very selfis Buddha 
,that there is nothing that is not Buddha, and that what is called “attain-ment of Buddhahood” is nothing but realizing the fact that one already isBuddha
 just as one is 
. Consequently, to aspire to Buddhahood in the con- ventional sense, that is, by leaving home, entering a monastery, taking uprigorous discipline and religious practice of meditation, is to pursue a mis-guided ideal if one does so thinking that one could thereby become whatone is not (that is, a Buddha).On the basis of this logic, Š„kyamuni—the historical Buddha who was born in India and who attained enlightenment after years of arduouspractice, who taught the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path andestablished the sangha—is considered only a “provisional” Buddha, as with the other Buddhas named in the sutras. This very body, here andnow—
is the real Buddha.This extreme form of the doctrine of originary enlightenment couldeasily (and has) become an excuse for religious laxity or the abandonmentof practice altogether, or could lead to rationalizations of immoral or irre-

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