UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Le Shasekishu : miroir d’une personnalité, miroir d’une époque Golay, Jacqueline


Mujû Kokushi was born in 1227, some forty years after the great upheaval caused by the struggle between the Taira and Minamoto families. His was a century of religious controversies which were often the outcome of a search for a form of Buddhism capable of answering the spiritual needs of the masses. Mujû could see no incompatibility between the traditional forms of Buddhism and a truly popular religion. He wrote the Shasekishû in order to demonstrate that every aspect of Buddhism can be practical and useful. For instance, he said that although the practice of Shingon Buddhism is usually thought to be proper only for princes and priests, nowhere in the Scriptures is such an idea stated. Every man or woman, he felt, must avail himself or herself of the miraculous power of the magic formulae of esoteric Buddhism. Mujû did not want to discard all the new schools of buddhist thought which had sprung up during his lifetime, but he deplored their excesses and the narrowness of their views, which bred prejudice and intolerance. This dissertation is composed of two parts of approximately the same length. The first part is an effort to present Mujû points of view through, the study of his life and writings, more specifically of the Shasekishû, a collection of sermons and tales written during the years 1279-84. Mujû's goal is twofold: first, to prove the practicality of Buddhism, its unfailing availability through the compassionate care of many Buddhas and bodhisattvas who vowed to save humanity. Second, to show that the truths of Buddhism are unchangeable, and that differences of opinion are merely different ways of considering the same idea. Therefore, the new sects, such as the Pure Land sect, were grossly mistaken when they claimed to offer the only valid solution to the problems of the time. There is an answer to each individual need, and it is made available through Buddha's universal expedients, or hôben. In Japan , hôben is made tangible in the various native gods or kami, and in the form of poetry called waka, which Mujû regards as the highest expression of Buddha's golden thought and the ultimate means of communion between the Japanese mind and transcendental Truth. For this reason, Mujû equates waka with the magic formulae of esoteric Buddhism or dhâranî. In the Shasekishû, Mujû gives many examples of the application of buddhist ideals in daily life. His humorous approach, the lighter vein of the second part of his book, is perhaps intended to make the revelation of the Truth less formidable. The second part of this dissertation is a selection of translated texts chosen to illustrate the main points of the argument. The text used for this study is edited by Watanabe Tsunaya, Shasekishû , Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei 85, (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1966).

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