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SUEKI Fumihiko - A Reexamination of Critical Buddhism - p. 321

SUEKI Fumihiko - A Reexamination of Critical Buddhism - p. 321

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Published by Ɓuddhisterie
A Reexamination of Critical Buddhism
A Reexamination of Critical Buddhism

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Published by: Ɓuddhisterie on Jul 12, 2012
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09/06/2013

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321
 A Reexamination of Critical Buddhism
S
UEKI
Fumihiko
T  
HETERM
CRITICALBUDDHISM
 was used by Hakamaya Noriaki asthe title of a 1990 book in which he de³nes it as the positionthat “Buddhism is criticism” or that “only that which is critical isBuddhism.” Hakamaya further uses the term “critical philosophy” to dis-tinguish it from “topical philosophy.” For the purposes of this essay, Ishall employ the term “Critical Buddhism” to refer to a movement inBuddhist scholarship that is represented by Hakamaya and one of his col-leagues at Komazawa University, Matsumoto Shirõ, and that is charac-terized by its critique of traditional attitudes in Japanese Buddhist studies.Strictly speaking, the positions of the two are not identical, but since they have collaborated so closely and have had considerable inµuence on oneanother, it does not seem out of place to treat them under the samerubric. I would also note that whereas the label of “Critical Buddhism”has been widely used among Buddhist scholars in the United States, thisis not the case in Japan. Although Hakamaya and Matsumoto prepared a number of criticalstudies in the early 1980s, they began to publish their main work in 1985.In that year Hakamaya released a number of important articles that werelater to be included in his well-known book 
Critiques of the Doctrine of Original Enlightenment 
. It was in 1986, when Matsumoto read his paper“The Doctrine of 
Tath„gata-garbha 
Is Not Buddhist” at the annualmeeting of the Japanese Association of Indian and Buddhist Studies, thatCritical Buddhism ³rst caused a stir in Japanese Buddhist studies.
1
In theaftermath Hakamaya and Matsumoto churned out one essay after theother, many of which were subsequently collected and published as sepa-rate volumes: Hakamaya’s
Critiques 
(1989),
Critical Buddhism 
(1990),
Dõgen and Buddhism 
(1992); and Matsumoto’s
Prat‡tyasamutp„da and Emptiness 
(1989) and
Critical Studies on Zen Thought 
(1994).
 
The response in Japanese academic circles to their criticisms wasmixed. A few scholars reacted positively, but most scholars withheldapproval. Hakamaya and Matsumoto (especially Hakamaya) made no pre-tense to objectivity and politeness in presenting their ideas, but roderoughshod over the customs of Japanese academia, setting forth theirsubjective opinions in a bold and forthright manner, attacking otherscholars head-on, and not infrequently using disparaging language. This was part of a strategy aimed at insuring that the issues they raised wouldnot be ignored or get swept aside in the general current of minute schol-arly problems. From the start, they wanted public attention and debate.Their strategy succeeded and catapulted their names into promi-nence. But at the same time, their radical and aggressive attitude incurredthe anger of most Japanese scholars and led to the unfortunate result thattheir underlying intentions were neither understood nor discussed for arather long period. The handful of scholars who stood up for themincluded some of their colleagues at Komazawa University like IshiiShðdõ and Itõ Takatoshi, who were able to read between the lines of theexaggerations of Hakamaya and Matsumoto. Perhaps the only person torespond seriously to their criticism in the early stages was Tsuda Shin’ichi,a somewhat unique scholar specializing in esoteric Buddhism. Mostscholars simply ignored them, preferring not to get involved rather thanto court danger. Critical Buddhism became the sort of issue in JapaneseBuddhist scholarship that everyone knew about, but few discussed openly.Scholars in the United States, unaffected by the taboos of Japanese acade-mia, took a more open-minded approach. The 1993 meeting of the American Academy of Religion included a panel on Critical Buddhism.In any event, after Hakamaya and Matsumoto had ³nished the ³rststage of their work, Japanese scholars eventually began to take up thequestions they were raising. In 1994 the Association of BuddhistPhilosophy published a special issue of its
 Journal of Buddhist Studies 
incommemoration of ten years of the establishment of the association. Inthe lead article Takasaki Jikidõ, the president of the association, made asurvey of Buddhist studies in Japan over the past ten years, devoting morethan half of his treatment to Critical Buddhism.
2
This left no doubt thathe considered it to be the principal issue in the previous decade of Japanese Buddhist studies. In addition to the comments of Takasaki, arti-cles by Maeda Egaku, Yoshizu Yoshihide, and Tsuda Shin’ichi in the same volume also took up the question. The taboo had begun to lift.
322
SUEKI FUMIHIKO
 
In this essay, I would like to begin with an overview of the issuesraised by Critical Buddhism and the responses to it by Japanese scholars,and then go on to brieµy outline my own participation in this debate andmy current views on this issue.
 ASSERTIONS AND SCHOLARLYREACTIONS
Hakamaya’s Ideas 
In contrast to Matsumoto Shirõ, who usually approaches questions froman academic standpoint, Hakamaya often reverts to a journalistic style.His thoughts range broadly across a number of issues at the same time, weaving a complex web of connections that is not always easy to follow.Paul Swanson has distinguished three levels in the critique of Hakamayaand Matsumoto (see pages 27–8 above): the Buddhological, the sectari-an, and the social-critical. I would like to add a fourth: the philosophical.
THESECTARIANLEVE
 An important stimulus to Hakamaya and Matsumoto’s promotion of Critical Buddhism came from their participation in a committee formedto study the problem of discrimination in the Sõtõ sect. JapaneseBuddhism has long lent support to social discrimination—even frombefore the Tokugawa period—and contemporary Buddhism has come torecognize the need for self-examination in this regard. In contrast to theJõdo Shin sect, whose ³ght against discrimination has a comparatively long history, the Sõtõ sect has lagged behind. It was only after a discrim-inatory statement issued by the leaders of the Sõtõ sect attracted wide-spread public attention that the sect began to take up the question inearnest.
3
The writings of Hakamaya and others on this question need tobe read in this light.Hakamaya concluded that the traditional doctrines that supporteddiscrimination in the Sõtõ sect had derived from the monistic view of the
hongaku shisõ 
or the doctrine of “original enlightenment.” This explainsin part his vehement attacks against
hongaku 
thought. In its place, he pro-motes what may be called the “Protestant character” of Critical Bud-dhism, insisting on the need to modernize the teachings of the Sõtõ sect, which has lagged far behind in terms of facing discriminatory elements inits own tradition past and present.
REEXAMINATION OF CRITICAL BUDDHISM
323

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