The Philosophies of India, China and Japan

Pure Land School: By founding Jodo Shu, monk Honen(1133-1212) introduced the Chinese school of Pure Land to Japan. Pure Land also called Amidism, emphasizes Buddha (Amida Butsu in Japanese) through which one may be reborn in the Pure Land and be nearer to Nirvana.Jodo Shinshu was a school of Buddhism aiming to teach the commoners or laypersons.Today it is the largest sect in Japan.

Nichiren School: This was the most unique school of Buddhism in Japan,founded by Nichiren (1222-1282),a monk and reformer.From his study and experiences, Nichiren concluded that the entire teachings of the Buddha are contained in the ‘Lotus Sutra’ itself.Hence the importance of Lotus Sutra was preached and promoted in Nichiren school. As his followers were immense, the school was later on firmly established in Japan.It was probably the last major Buddhist school in Japan.

Zen School: Founder of Zen philosophy was Bodhidharma, who was associated with Buddha Siddhartha Gautama and Mahayana Buddhist thought.

Belonging to Mahayana Buddhism,Zen school is known for its commendable efforts to emphasize the values of practice and experimental wisdom.A combination of theoretical teachings and religious texts were used. Zen philosophy gives more importance to deep meditation and ability to learn how to understand our own nature as compared to teachings and written materials.

Eisei became the first Zen i.e. master in Japan

Dogen the dharma ancestor of all present Japanese Soto Zen Buddhists wrote the ‘Shobogenzo’ or Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, which is the core of Japanese Zen.

4. Modern Kyoto school (20th century)

The emergence of Kyoto school of thought was a prime development in Modern Japanese philosophy. Philosophy at that time had taken the form of academic study in universities. Prof. Nishida Kitaro of the Kyoto university along with an influential circle of philosophers worked in unison to address problems about the ‘meaning of self, the nature of knowledge, the role of spirituality and the place of both ethical and aesthetic values’.

Kyoto school began in 1913.It gradually developed into a well-known and active movement.The school was different from other traditional schools of philosophy as the founder encouraged ‘independent thinking’.

The features of the Kyoto school were

a)Teaching at Kyoto University or at a nearby affiliated school .

b) Sharing some basic assumptions about using Asian thought in the framework of western philosophical tradition.

c) Introduction and rational investigation of the meaning of “nothingness” and its importance in the history of philosophical debate.

d) Expansion of the philosophical vocabulary introduced by Nishida.

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