Jacqueline I. Stone. Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999. xxi + 544 pp. $25.00 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8248-2771-7; $55.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8248-2026-8.
Reviewed by Richard Payne (Institute of Buddhist Studies, Graduate Theological Union)
Published on H-Buddhism (December, 2003)
Jacqueline Stone's Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism is not simply a benchmark of scholarly excellence, but also firmly establishes the approach to the study of medieval Japanese Buddhism found in her previous work on the doctrine of mappou. There she examined how the idea of the decay of the dharma was understood and used by several different Kamakura-era figures--Hounen, Shinran, Dougen, and Nichiren. Here her topic is the doctrine of original enlightenment (hongaku).
The doctrine of original enlightenment has received a great deal of attention in the recent past because of the criticism of modern Japanese Buddhism by Hakamaya Noriaki and Matsumoto Shirou, which has largely circled around the idea of original enlightenment. In turn, this criticism has stimulated additional scholarship in both Japan and the West. Stone, however, looks at what original enlightenment actually meant in the Kamakura era.
The work is organized into three sections. The first of these, "Perspectives and Problems," sets out the issues involved. This section includes two chapters, "What is 'Original Enlightenment Thought?'" and "Tendai Hongaku Thought and the New Kamakura Buddhism: Rival Theories." The first of these two chapters makes the important distinction that while "original enlightenment" is part of medieval Japanese Buddhism, the idea of "original enlightenment thought" (hongaku shisou) is an interpretive, academic category created early in the twentieth century. In other words, while the idea had currency throughout the medieval period, those who used it did not conceive of themselves as part of the same group. From there she goes on to examine the origins of the idea in China and its introduction into the discourse of Japanese Buddhism with Saichou and Kuukai. Stone then gives extensive consideration to the character of medieval Tendai--its manner of thought, choices of authoritative texts, and unique interpretations of original enlightenment. Original enlightenment had broader influence outside Tendai as well, for example in Shintou thought. The chapter closes with an answer to the question of whether original enlightenment is uniquely Japanese or not. The next chapter reviews different theories concerning the relationship between original enlightenment and the new Kamakura Buddhisms. These include the idea that Tendai served as a matrix for the new Buddhisms, that the new Buddhisms constituted a radical break, and that the new Buddhisms emerged dialectically from Tendai.
The second section, "The World of Medieval Tendai," comprises three chapters. The first of these concerns "The Culture of Secret Transmission," which refers to the institutional form of medieval Tendai: "organized around master-disciple lineages and the production of kuden ororal teachings" (p. 101). This section highlights the importance of initiatory ritual in medieval Tendai. The consequence of this was that initiation into a lineage involved a system that "served to establish and preserve the authority of lineage" (p. 138). While stereotypic images of such a system might lead one to expect it to have been highly conservative, Stone notes that in fact the culture of secret transmission was really very innovative, creating a wealth of practices, rituals, and interpretations.
Chapter 4 is entitled "Hermeneutics, Doctrine, and 'Mind-Contemplation.'" One of the paradoxes of the received tradition regarding Kamakura-era Buddhism is that, on the one hand, the established traditions such as Tendai were in decay, yet on the other the founders of the new Buddhisms were well educated in the Buddhist tradition, being familiar with a broad range of texts and sophisticated interpretations. Stone here explores the nature of kuden hermeneutics in this situation, especially the concept of "mind-contemplation" (kanjin) which traces back to Chih-i. She identifies several hermeneutic strategies that were used in the kuden literature: the invention and rearrangement of source texts, word play, numeric correspondences and associations, and reversals. Similar hermeneutic strategies are also familiar to us from the works of Dougen and Shinran. The last chapter of the section is "Tendai Hongaku Thought and the New Kamakura Buddhism: A Reappraisal." This includes an examination of three medieval Tendai texts which exemplify the ramifications of the idea of original enlightenment in relation to practice and realization. This is followed by an examination of the relation between original enlightenment and evil actions--potentially antinomian themes which emerged for example in some popular Pure Land movements. Finally, Stone highlights the fact that the new Kamakura Buddhisms were not only synchronous with the rise of medieval Tendai's original enlightenment ideology and practice, but that the two "were both engaged in elaborating a constellation of very similar ideas about enlightenment or salvation" (p. 229).
Part 3 focuses specifically on an examination of "Nichiren and His Successors." Original enlightenment is a reformulation of the idea of gradual enlightenment into what Stone calls a "'nonlinear' paradigm of liberation" (p. 239), a development that is found in various forms throughout the Buddhisms of medieval Japan. Rather than separate and distinct sectarian developments, Stone proposes a view in which the various streams of both medieval Tendai and the new Kamakura Buddhism, in a complex web of mutual influences, now appropriating, now rejecting, together developed and were themselves expressions of a shared "nonlinear" reconception of the problem of salvation, which in each case was fleshed out in the specifics of a different religious vision and ideological orientation (p. 241).
The sixth chapter, "Nichiren and the New Paradigm," examines Nichiren's relation to Tendai in light of this way of thinking about the web of doctrines and practices created by the idea of original enlightenment. This begins with a summary of Nichiren's biography, including the development of his key concepts: teaching (kyou), human capacity (ki), land/country (koku), and sequence of dharma propagation (kyouhou rufu no zengo). This is followed by an expansion on what Stone refers to as the two soteric modalities of Nichiren's thought: devotion to the Lotus Suutra, and realization of buddhahood in this very body through recitation of the title of the Lotus Suutra, the daimoku. It is this second soteric modality that demonstrates the way in which Nichiren's thought is closely integrated with original enlightenment conceptions.
Next, Stone examines how this continued in Nichirenshuu (then known as the Hokkeshuu) after Nichiren's death--chapter 7 being "Hokke-Tendai Interactions and the Emergence of a Nichiren Hongaku Discourse." While by the end of his life Nichiren had broken with the Tendai of Hieizan, questions of legitimacy led Nichiren's followers to continue to draw on the authority of the Tendai tradition. The Nichirenshuu divided into many different, competing schools--schools which still shared, however, many of the same doctrines and practices. The development of unique interpretations is examined in relation to the Fuji school, progenitor of the familiar Nichiren Shoushuu and its modern lay affiliate Souka Gakkai. The chapter closes with a consideration of the way in which kuden literature contributed to the development of commentaries on the Lotus Suutra.
The concluding chapter reviews the work's goals, "to introduce the subject of medieval Japanese 'original enlightenment thought' and the major issues involved in its study ... its multivalence as a scholarly category and of the complexity of its embeddedness in medieval Japanese religious institutions, as well as culture and society more generally" (p. 356). In doing this, Stone has not only clarified the key role of original enlightenment in the development of medieval Buddhist doctrine and practice, but has also examined the relation between doctrine, practice, and institutional organization. Modestly, she closes by saying "this ... study is an introduction; much more waits to be done" (p. 367).
In conclusion I would like to discuss some of the ways in which this work has been valuable in graduate-level education in Japanese Buddhism. First, Stone's work is very thoroughly and coherently organized. Were this not the case, the detailed level of discussion--one of the work's values--might lead the reader to lose the overall thread of the argument. Stone, however, regularly summarizes where we have been and lays out where we are going. This models for students a way of presenting their own work.
Second, the approach--examining how a doctrine permeated the entirety of Kamakura Buddhisms--provides a way of thinking outside the formulaic summaries which seem to characterize not only textbook presentations of Japanese Buddhism (Dougen equals shikan taza; Nichiren equals daimoku recitation) but also much of contemporary humanities education (Descartes equals cogito ergo sum; Darwin equals evolution).
Third, examining the patterns of cross-fertilization, including how individuals studied a variety of different traditions, helps to loosen the sectarian historiography which is another of the main ways in which the study of Japanese Buddhism has been structured. Similarly, understanding how institutional organization was based on lineages of master-disciple relations, rather than the sects and their unique doctrinal claims--more familiar from contemporary presentations--facilitates students' abilities to think about institutional structures. This is similar to the way in which William Bodiford's Soutou Zen in Medieval Japan (1993) can be employed to introduce students to the issues of institutional history.
Fourth, Stone's emphasis on the difference between medieval original enlightenment doctrine and practice, and the interpretive, academic category, assists students to reflect critically on the construction of the field of study, whether conceived of as Buddhist studies or Japanese religions.
Stone's work is also important because it both examines medieval sources and introduces us to the works of many contemporary Japanese scholars. Her summaries of their works open up an important world of research and study.
The value of Stone's contribution to the study of religion generally, as well as Japanese Buddhism specifically, has been recognized by the American Academy of Religion, which in 2001 awarded her the Historical Studies Book Award.
. Jacqueline Stone, "Seeking Enlightnement in the Last Dharma Age: Mappou Thought in Kamakura Buddhism," Eastern Buddhist 18:1 (Spring 1985): pp. 28-56; and 18:2 (Autumn 1985): pp. 35-64.
. See for example, Jamie Hubbard and Paul Swanson, eds., Pruning the Bodhi Tree: The Storm over Critical Buddhism (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1997).
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Richard Payne. Review of Stone, Jacqueline I., Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism.
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