Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Tag: Buddhism

Episode 220 – The All Seeing Eye

This week, we investigate the great Zen master Dogen, who was something of an eccentric in his own time but remains one of the greatest Buddhist thinkers in Japanese history.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Heine, Stephen. Did Dogen Go to China?

Heine, Stephen. Dogen and Soto Zen

Images

Dogen Views the Moon, a roughly contemporary painting. It is usually dated to around 1250.

Rujing, the Zen master of Tiantong Mountain who would initiate Dogen into the esoteric Caodong lineage. Some doubt the veracity of his encounter with Dogen, or even Rujing’s own existence — though this latter position is rather extreme and unusual within the scholarly community.

An 1811 edition of the Shobogenzo, Dogen’s most famous work on, well, everything.

Eiheiji, the Soto monastery founded by Dogen. It remains one of the chief Soto temples in Japan.

Episode 203 – The Old Man and the Sea

This week: one of Japan’s most famous Buddhist masters, Kukai, takes center stage!

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Winfield, Pamela. Icons and Iconoclasm in Japanese Buddhism

Bowring, Richard. The Religious Teachings of Japan, 500-1600.

Totman, Conrad. A History of Japan.

Images

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A painting of Kukai from the medieval period.

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The Mandala of the Two Realms, used as a visual pattern for Mt. Koya and central to Kukai’s Shingon Buddhism.

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A letter from Kukai to Saicho.

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The main hall of the Mt. Koya complex.

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Monks bringing food and clothes to Kukai’s body.

Episode 182 – Building Better Worlds

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A roughly contemporary portrait of Nichiren late in life. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

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Tanaka Chigaku, head of the Kokuchukai (Pillar of the Nation Society). Tanaka is the intellectual godfather of Nichirenism: Nichiren Buddhism wedded to Japanese ultranationalism.

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The modern headquarters of the Kokuchukai.

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Seno’o Giro later in his life.

This week, we’re doing a biography of the little known Buddhist socialist Seno’o Giro. How do you reconcile Buddhism and Marx? Find out this week!

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Iguchi, Gerold Scott. Nichirenism as Modernism: Imperialism, Fascism, and Buddhism in Modern Japan.

Shields, James Mark. “Blueprint for Buddhist Revolution The Radical Buddhism of Seno’o Girō (1889–1961) and the Youth League for Revitalizing Buddhism”. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 39, No. 2.

Lai, Whalen. “Seno’o Giro and the Dilemma of Modern Buddhism”. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 11, No. 1.

Images

 

Episode 154 – Zen at War

This week: what happens when Buddhists go to war? We’ll explore the relationship between the Japanese Empire and the Zen Buddhist establishment.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Victoria, Brian. Zen at War

Victoria, Brian. Zen War Stories.

An excellent NYT article on Zen and war guilt.

Images

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Suzuki Daisetsu’s work would help popularize Buddhism in the US. However, his support for the Japanese Empire is less well-known than his later work (or his love of adorable kittens).

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Yasutani Hakuun promoted Japanese militarism (as well as anti-semitism) during the Second World War, and went on the record saying that Japan had to smash the US “for the peace of Asia.” After the war, he went on several speaking tours in the United States.

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Kaiten Nukariya’s Zen: The Religion of the Samurai helped popularize the idea of a link between Zen, the samurai class, and warfare.

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Sugimoto Goro, the posterboy of the Zen office.

Zen-at-War

Buddhist monks practice military drill in the 1930s under the gaze of an army officer. By the 1930s, Buddhism had effectively been militarized to support Japan’s wars abroad.

Episode 52 – Nichiren

This week, we’re going to be talking about one of Japan’s most famous religious movements: Nichiren Buddhism, devoted to the veneration of the text know as the Lotus Sutra. We’ll discuss the life and education of Nichiren, as well as the legacy his teachings have for Japan and the world.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Sansom, George. A History of Japan to 1334.

Totman, Conrad. A History of Japan.

Images 

A roughly contemporary portrait of Nichiren late in life. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

A roughly contemporary portrait of Nichiren late in life. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

A portable shrine from China; the image depicted is Sakyamuni Buddha (the Budda) preaching the Lotus Sutra before his death. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

A portable shrine from China; the image depicted is Sakyamuni Buddha (the Budda) preaching the Lotus Sutra before his death. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

A copy of the Lotus Sutra. This version is from 13th century Goryeo Korea, but like all important texts of the time it is written in Classical Chinese; thus an educated Japanese would have been able to read it as well. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

A copy of the Lotus Sutra. This version is from 13th century Goryeo Korea, but like all important texts of the time it is written in Classical Chinese; thus an educated Japanese would have been able to read it as well. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

A fragment of the original text of the Rissho Ankokuron (The Treatise on Securing the Realm by Promoting Virtue). Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

A fragment of the original text of the Rissho Ankokuron (The Treatise on Securing the Realm by Promoting Virtue). Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Nichiren's first exile in 1261. The collapsed figure on the shore is Nichiro, one of his disciples, who attempted to join his master in exile but was forbidden by Nichiren to do so. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Nichiren’s first exile in 1261. The collapsed figure on the shore is Nichiro, one of his disciples, who attempted to join his master in exile but was forbidden by Nichiren to do so. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Artists rendering of the bright flash of light saving Nichiren at the execution grounds. Courtesy of Nichiren Shoshu Myoshinji Temple.

Artists rendering of the bright flash of light saving Nichiren at the execution grounds. Courtesy of Nichiren Shoshu Myoshinji Temple.

A Gohonzon in the Nichiren-shu style. The central line of text is the "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo" chant.

A Gohonzon in the Nichiren-shu style. The central line of text is the “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo” chant.

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