By Jacqueline L. Stone
Jacqueline Stone’s groundbreaking study moves beyond the treatment of the original enlightenment doctrine as abstract philosophy to explore its historical dimension. Drawing on a wealth of medieval primary sources and modern Japanese scholarship, it places this discourse in its ritual, institutional, and social contexts, illuminating its importance to the maintenance of traditions of lineage and the secret transmission of knowledge that characterized several medieval Japanese elite culture. It sheds new light on interpretive strategies employed in pre-modern Japanese Buddhist texts, an area that hitherto has received a little attention. Through these and other lines of investigation, Stone problematizes entrenched notions of “corruption” in the medieval Buddhist establishment. Using the examples of Tendai and Nichiren Buddhism and their interactions throughout the medieval period, she calls into question both overly facile distinctions between “old” and “new” Buddhism and the long-standing scholarly assumptions that have perpetuated them. This study marks a significant contribution to ongoing debates over definitions of Buddhism in the Kamakura era (1185–1333), long regarded as a formative period in Japanese religion and culture. Stone argues that “original enlightenment thought” represents a substantial rethinking of Buddhist enlightenment that cuts across the distinction between “old” and “new” institutions and was particularly characteristic of the medieval period.
Jacqueline Stone is a professor in the Department of Religion at Princeton University. She received her PhD in Buddhist Studies from UCLA in 1990.
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