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Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism (Studies in East Asian Buddhism) Paperback – August 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Every now and then a book comes along that impacts its field in such profound ways that it is a certainty to appear in virtually every subsequent bibliography and to be footnoted ubiquitously. [This] will no doubt be such a text.... For any student of Japanese religion, this is a 'must read.' " - Journal of the American Academy of Religion; "A brilliant presentation." - Japanese Journal of Religious Studies --author
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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in East Asian Buddhism (Book 12)
  • Paperback: 568 pages
  • Publisher: Ateneo De Manila Univ Pr; 1st Printing edition (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824827716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824827717
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #906,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Kelley L. Ross on December 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Is Enlightenment something that we acquire? Or are we really Enlightened already and just have to realize that? Is Enlightenment something that will take us uncounted ages to achieve? Or can we achieve Enlightenment in this life and in this body? Such were some of the key issues of Medieval Japanese Buddhism. Some of the most popular conclusions, that we are Enlightened already, i.e. are Originally Enlightened, and that we can achieve Enlightenment in this life and in this body, remain both popular and controversial even today. Jacqueline Stone takes us into the little known world of the Tendai temples and hermitages on Mt. Hiei, the stately mountain above Kyoto, where much of the doctrine of Original Enlightenment thought was developed -- and whence it spread to the famous founders of Kamakura Buddhism, including Honen and Nichiren. Stone gives us a panorama of what was going on, what we known about it (not enough), and the long history of what happened and the debates that continue down to the present, debates that involve scholars, sectarian apologists, and the religious practice of many people, not just in Japan, but around the world. A fundamental book for one of the great, and still growing, religious traditions in the world.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Stone has provided an invaluable window into the current state of Japanese scholarship around the issues of orignal enlightenment teachings (hongaku shiso) and its role in the formation of Kamakuran Buddhism and Nichiren Buddhism in particular. I believe that she quite successfully brings out the complexities of this teaching and shows that it does not necessarily lead to antinomian conclusions and that it was not summarily rejected by the founders of Kamakuran Buddhism including Nichiren. The chapter on Nichiren in this book could also stand alone as an excellent guide to Nichiren's teachings and practice. She shows that there is much more to Nichiren Buddhism than vainly repeating the Sino-Japanese title of the Lotus Sutra in order to gain worldly benefits. She really brings out the depth and profundity of Nichiren Buddhism. This book, however, is not an apologetic for Nichiren Buddhism or even for original enlightenment teachings. Dr. Stone maintains a very objective and impartial stance throughout the book (which could be disturbing to those for whom this religion and these issues are literally a matter of life and death). She provides both the pros and the cons of the issues that she addresses. She is not so much providing a new theory about Nichiren Buddhism or original enlightenment so much as she is attempting to show that original enlightenment and its impact on Japanese Buddhism needs to be reevaluated and that the issues are far from black-and-white. I would highly recommend this book to serious scholars of Japanese Buddhism and to those who want to delve more deeply into the current state of scholarship in Japan surounding Nichiren Buddhism.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism by Jacqueline Ilyse Stone (Studies in East Asian Buddhism, No. 12: University of Hawaii Press) Being recognized as a major study in Buddhist studies and recognized as one of the best religious studies books of 2000, Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism represents some important historical and conceptual clarifications of perennial themes in Mahayana Buddhism.
From flyleaf: Original enlightenment thought (hongaku shiso) dominated Buddhist intellectual circles throughout Japan's medieval period. Enlightenment, this discourse claims, is neither a goal to be achieved nor a potential to be realized but the true status of all things. Every animate and inanimate object manifests the primordially enlightened Buddha just as it is. Seen in its true aspect, every activity of daily life?eating, sleeping, even one's deluded thinking?is the Buddha's conduct. Emerging from within the powerful Tendai school, ideas of original enlightenment were appropriated by a number of Buddhist traditions and influenced nascent theories about the kami (local deities) as well as medieval aesthetics and the literary and performing arts.
Scholars and commentators have long recognized the historical importance of original enlightenment thought but differ heatedly over how it is to be understood. Some tout it as the pinnacle of the Buddhist philosophy of absolute nondualism. Others claim to find in it the paradigmatic expression of a timeless Japanese spirituality. According to other readings, it represents a dangerous antinomianism that undermined observance of moral precepts, precipitated a decline in Buddhist scholarship, and denied the need for religious discipline.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was pretty weighty - real live scholarly work, rather than simple sectarian gloss. I particularly enjoyed the way Professor Stone placed the religious leaders of the time into their proper historical context and showed the way the traditions cross-pollenated with each other. The part on Nichiren was most informative, and gave an objective perspective on the events which occurred after Nichiren's death. Cool pictures of lots of mandalas, too.
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