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A New Paradigm for Understanding Japanese Buddhism

by Sueki, Fumihiko, Tokyo University

Nishitani Keiji (1900-1990), one of the leading philosophers of the Kyoto school, published an article "My opinion on the problem of the conquest of modernity" in 1942 during World War II. He asserted that Western modernity was to be overcome by the Eastern religious mind. By "the Eastern religious mind" he meant the standpoint of subjective nothingness, that is, no-self or no-mind of Buddhism that was to be realized by the devotion to society without selfishness. He concluded that it was only in Japan that such a standpoint had become the basis of the national ethics.

Although over a half century has passed since the end of World War II, the idea that the no-self or no-mind of Buddhism is the essence of the Eastern religious mind is still popular in Japan. In this paper, I will examine this popular notion and try to present an alternative way of understanding Japanese Buddhism.

Conference paper presented at Buddhism In (and Out of) Place Conference held 17-18 October 2004

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