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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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- Spring '13