ASIA212Varley

It stresses instead the intuitive calling for use of

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Unformatted text preview: hirteenth century, Nichiren certainly had a consciousness of country that set him apart from the other Buddhist leaders of the age. Declaring himself “the pillar of Japan, the eye of the nation, and the vessel of the country,”14 Nichiren seems even to have equated himself with Japan and its fate. The last of the so-called new sects of Kamakura Buddhism was Zen, which like Amidism had long been known to the Japanese but was not established independently in Japan until the early medieval age. Zen means “meditation,” and meditation—particularly in the cross-legged yogic position—is one of the most fundamental practices in Buddhism. Gautama, in fact, is purported to have achieved his own enlightenment while in a deep meditative state. In Zen, enlightenment (satori) may be interpreted as the final realization that a person’s suffering stems from the striving for such things as wealth and power that appear to be real, but actually are illusory. Unlike the salvationist sects of Pure Land and Nichiren Buddhism, which called upon the individual to escape from suffering by placing faith completely in some other being or thing (Amida or the Lotus Sutra), Zen encouraged the seeking of personal enlightenment—that is, the realization of one’s buddha nature—through discipline and effort. Tradition has it that Zen, which is pronounced Ch’an in Chinese, was first introduced to China from India in the sixth century by a priest named Bodhidharma. We are told that when Bodhidharma met the Chinese Emperor Wu, this conversation occurred: The Canons of Medieval Taste Emperor Wu: 103 “Since my enthronement I have built many monasteries, had many scriptures copied, and had many monks and nuns invested. How great is the merit thus achieved?” Bodhidharma: “No merit at all.” Emperor Wu: “What is the Noble Truth in its highest sense?” Bodhidharma: “It is empty, no nobility whatever.” Emperor Wu: “Who is it then that is facing me?” Bodhidharma: “I do not know sire.”15 We are further told that Bodhi...
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