Suzuki Daisetz as Regional Ontologist: Critical
Remarks on Reading Suzuki's Japanese Spirituality


Dilworth, David A.


Philosophy East and West  V.28  P99~110



Copyright 1978 by University Press of Hawaii

Honolulu, HI [US] (




The Japanese National Commission for UNESCO 'has been carrying out since 1958, a project of publishing representative modern Japanese philos­ophical works in translation. This series has helped to introduce the thought of such important authors as Nishida Kitarō, Hatano Seiichi, Watsuji Tetsurō, and Nakamura Hajime. The name of Suzuki Daisetz has been recently added to this .list through the publication of Suzuki's Japanese Spirituality (Nihonteki reisei, 1944), ably translated by Norman Waddell of Otani University.[1]

   Suzuki's prolific career as a scholar and exponent of Buddhism needs no documentation here. The work under review was the first in a series of Suzuki's consecutive Japanese writings on the subject of "Japanese spirituality" in the mid-1940s. It was followed by Reisei-teki Nihon no kensetsu ("The awakening of spiritual Japan," 1946), and Nihon no reisei-ka ("Spiritualizing Japan," 1947). Thus while Suzuki's thought is already abundantly found in his English language works, this translation makes available a representative part of his thought as articulated in his Japanese writings.

   Furuta Shōkin of Nihon University has added a useful preface which places this phase of Suzuki's writings in the fifth of six "thought peaks" in his career.[2] And we learn that Japanese Spirituality was written between trips to the air­raid shelter during some of the heaviest bombings in 1944. The work is of interest as a variation on the theme of Japanese self-identity expressed by many writers during the war years.

But Furuta Shōkin's introduction to the life and works of Suzuki emphasizes that Suzuki's career was a unique example of one who took the bypath all his life. Suzuki did not participate directly in the Japanese academic world of his day. In 1889 he left Ishikawa High School in Kanazawa to become a teacher of English, and thereafter graduated from no other school. He came to the United States in 1897 and returned to Japan in 1909, after a twelve-year absence.[3] For the next twelve years his primary academic position was as an instructor of English at the Peers School in Tokyo. Despite Suzuki's numerous publications to that point, finally, at the age of fifty-two (in 1921) he was invited to Otani University in Kyoto and entered formal academic life.

   Although always taking the bypath, Suzuki succeeded in making a distinct impression as a scholar, religious figure, and apologist in the area of East-West religious dialogue. The question remains, however, whether Suzuki was a truly representative Japanese intellectual of his times or whether he was an independent luminary whose work proceeded on a course somewhat unrelated to the intrinsic problematic of defining "Japanese spirituality" in Japan's last century. Certainly the untutored reader of Japanese Spirituality will be hard pressed to find explicit clues regarding Suzuki's relationship to the many major Japanese literary and philosophical figures who have articulated varia-



tions on the theme during his own lifetime.

  Nevertheless, a clear influence of the ideas of Japanes' Spirituality can be traced to the final "religious worid-vicw" of Nishida Kitarō (1870-1945), his Ishikawa High School classmate and lifelong friend. Nishida, a major figure in the prewar Japanese philosophical world, acknowledged that influence in his last work, Basho-teki ronri to shūkyō-teki lekaikcm (The logic of the topos of nothingness and a religious worldview, 1945), and incorporated some of Suzuki's ideas into his own "logic" of the religious consciousness- For example, Suzuki maintained that the essence of "spirituality" is exemplified in the passage from the Tannishō: "When I reflect deeply on Amida's Original Prayer which issues from his meditation for five long kalpas, I realize that it was solely for the sake of this individual person, Shinran" (77). In Nishida's essay, which appeared in the year following the publication of Japanese Spirituality, Nishida used this passage several times to exemplify his dialectical conception of the logic of the religious consciousness.[4] Nishida also referred in several passages to Suzuki's concept of discrimination through nondiscrimination, or nondiscriminatory wisdom. And he cited Suzuki's authority in declaring that "at its root. Western culture has lacked [Shinran's] notion of [Amida's vow of] absolute compassion."[5]

   The question naturally arises whether we can discern a reverse influence of Nishida's many volumes of philosophical thought written prior to 1944 on Suzuki's concept of Japanese spirituality. An example of this appears to be found in Suzuki's discussion in Japanese Spirituality of the "infinite cirularity of time" (112 ff.). We have earlier elaborations of a dialectical conception of time and eternity in Nishida's Fundamental Problems of Philosophy (Tetsugaku no kompon mondai, 1933-1934),[6] and other writings. The conception, however, is original to neither thinker, and we do not gain much by pursuing this link.

   With the exception of Nishida's 1945 essay, the reader is still left with the impression of Suzuki's relative independence from the indigenous Japanese philosophical climate of his day. This is perhaps typified by the fact that while Suzuki devotes considerable attention to the Japanese Pure Land school, in­cluding such interesting subjects as the myōkōnin, the "wondrous good men" who represent the most extreme form of religious pietism in the Japanese Pure Land tradition, Japanese Spirituality has not a single reference to Kiyozawa Manshi (1863-1903). Kiyozawa's premature death might obscure the fact that Suzuki was his younger contemporary by only a few years. A graduate of Tokyo University, Kiyozawa was influenced by Fenollosa and Busse, later studied Spencer, Kant, Hegel, and Lotze, and did graduate work in the phi­losophy of religion. While suffering from bouts of tuberculosis, in 1892,'he wrote Shukyō tetsugaku gaikotsu (Outline of a philosophy of religion), Zaisho zange roku (Record of repentance during my illness), and Tariki mon tetsugaku gaikotsu shikō (Draft outline of a philosophy of other-power). In 1895 he assumed leadership of the reform movement in the Higashi Honganji. The





Āgamas of the Hinayana Buddhist tradition, the Twnishō, and Epictetus' Dis­courses became Kiyozawa’s "triple sūtrci" during a major illness in 1898. The next year Kiyozawa became tutor to a new abbot of the True Pure Land sect in Tokyo and became dean of the Shinshu College newly located there. His home became the center of an informal community out of which arose the "spiritualism" (seishin shugi) movement, and the periodical Seishinkai. His Seishm shugi (1901) established Kiyozawa's place as the reviver of the "spirit­uality" of Shinran in modern Japanese history. [7]

    Another, and to me more unfortunate, instance of Suzuki's independence from the indigenous Japanese intellectual atmosphere of his times can be brought out when we consider the work of his contemporary, Tanabe Hajime. Tanabe (1885-1962) has been ranked as modern Japan's foremost academic philosopher after Nishida Kitarō, whose disciple he was before establishing his own system through criticism of Nishida. Whatever his ultimate rank in modern Japanese intellectual history, there can be no doubt as to Tanabe's originality and competence as a systematic philosophical thinker. His thought is characterized by a reinterpretation of Nishida's notion of "absolute Nothing­ness" in terms of the spirituality of Shinran. For our purposes here, we can note that Tanabe's Shu no ronri no benshōhō(Dialectic of the logic of the species) appeared in 1946, [8] and thus precisely in the midst of Suzuki's just cited Pure Land trilogy on Japanese spirituality (1944, 1946, 1947). It remains for someone to make a critical comparative study of the conceptual frameworks elaborated by Suzuki and Tanabe in their respective hermeneutical interpreta­tions of Shinran's spirituality. My initial impression is that the level of discourse in Suzuki's Japanese Spirituality comes off as a poor second to the rich blending of Pure Land Buddhist and Christian religious categories with Western phi­losophical concepts, notably those of Hegel and Kierkegaard, found in Tanabe's work. Even presuming that some internal dialogue obtains between Suzuki's and Tanabe's mid-1940s writings on the spirituality of Shinran. the Western reader is still left today with no real clue as to what the relation is.

In addition to indicating the need to establish critical relationships between Suzuki and such other modern Pure Land advocates as Kiyozawa Manshi and Tanabe Hajime, I should like to underline the necessity of reading Suzuki's efforts at defining "Japanese spirituality" in the wider context of the consid­erable legacy of literary and philosophical debate generated since the early Meiji period concerning the place of Japanese civilization (bummei ) in the emerging world-culture. Philosophical, as distinguished from ideological, aspects of this debate can be traced as far back as Fukuzawa Yukichi's Bumm.eiron no gairyaku (Outline of a theory of civilization, 1875), Nishimura Shigeki's Nihon dotoku ron (Japanese morality, 187), and other writings of the Meirokusha group. [9] Most prominent figures of the later Meiji and Taisho periods contributed to the debate. But in philosophical terms, a more sub­stantial elaboration of the concept of world philosophy, and of Japan's possible



contribution to it, appeared in the Showa period. This can be traced to such works as Abe Jiro's Sekai bunka to Nihon bunka (World culture and Japanese culture), which was published in 1933, and based in large part on Wilhelm Dilthey's (1833-1911) Der Aufbau der geschichtlichen Welt in den Geisteswissenschaften (The structure of the historical world in the human sciences, 1910). [10]

  Dilthey's hermeneutic of the "human studies" has had a seminal impact upon the development of major trends of contemporary continental philosophy through the writings of such figures as Husserl, Scheler, and Heidegger. A parallel process of appropriation of Dilthey's methodology took place in Japan. In particular, his pluralistic typology of Weltphilosophie provided the Japanese thinkers with a usuable alternative to Hegel's historical absolutism—which has after all traced the evolution of the Weitgeisi from East to West, omitting Japan altogether. For their part. some Japanese were prepared to turn the table on Hegel by absolutizing the spirituality of the East over against that of the West. (In Japanese Spirituality, Suzuki is one of them). But it remains the merit of Dilthey's sophisticated conceptual apparatus that it undercuts this kind of regional intramurals, which I will here grace with the more refined label of regional ontologism.

 Resonating with the writings of Abe Jirō, a high-level dialogue with Dilthey can be found in Nishida Kitarō's essay, "The Forms of Culture of the Classical Periods of East and West Seen From a Metaphysical Perspective" (1934), and in Watsuji Tetsurō's best-selling Fūdo (Climate and culture: A philosophical study, 1935), to mention only two obvious examples in this time frame. [11] It is also still instructive to compare these kinds of writings of Abe Jirō, Nishida, Watsuji, and others with the historically influential work of Dilthey's chief disciple, Georg Misch, Der Weg in die Philosophic, 1926).[12] It becomes apparent that the Japanese thinkers were striving to place the "spiritual" contribution of Japanese culture to world philosophy within the typology elaborated by Dilthey and Misch.

  Ultimately Suzuki's discussion of Japanese spirituality may be returned to that frame of reference. The reader's impression, however, is that Suzuki has pursued his subject in relative isolation from it. In Japanese Spirituality there , is no reference to such a wider context, and one wonders whether the apolo-getical and chauvinistic tone of the work was already a little anachronistic in its own day. A systematic justification of the work's methodology and guiding assumptions remains wanting. This is a shortcoming, I think, insofar as the work has been published by the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO as a representative philosophical work of modern Japan. It fails to be so repre­sentative, in the sense just indicated.

  Since the conceptual tools in terms of which Japanese Spirituality proceeds are found in the Introduction, it is well to focus upon Suzuki's definitions there. Suzuki draws a distinction between seishin, translated as "psyche, mind,





spirit," and reisei, translated as "spirituality, spirit-nature" (p. 11). The meaning of seishin is explored in a variety of uses, ranging from "willpower," "power of concentration," to kokoro (heart, feeling), tamashii (soul), "the nucleus of things." Refining his terms—tamashii is said to tend toward concreteness, seishin toward the abstract—Suzuki finally focuses upon a conception of seishin as connoting the national ideals, crystallized in the historical and especially future-orientated consciousness, of the Japanese people. For this reason seishin always has an ethical and cultural nature; it is always diametrically opposed to material substance, but it is not limited to matters of a religious character. Seishin can then be seen to be inherently oppositional and thus dualistic in character, and this is the point of contrast with reisei. Reisei, Suzuki argues, is the "something more which must be seen in the innermost depths of seishin and material substance." Attaining to reisei, one awakens to spiritual insight into "the mutual interpenetration and self-identity" of seishin and substance; it is the point where the two become one, while still remaining contradictory (p. 15).

   Suzuki maintains that true religious experience is only obtained in the awakening of reisei, which transcends the discriminatory and oppositional modes of consciousness. While it does not negate the domains of ethical or intellectual discrimination, reisei is a "nondiscriminatory wisdom" which func­tions "on a higher plane than seishin" (p. 15). Since he is clearly committed to this kind of hierarchizing ontology, Suzuki might be asked whether he has not introduced another dualism, namely, a dualism between nondiscriminatory (reisei) and discriminatory (seishin) modes of consciousness. But Suzuki's answer echoes the paradoxical repartee of the ancient Ch'an masters when he says that this kind of objection amounts to nothing more than "placing a head on top of the one you already have." For the converse is true, that reisei "is the operation latent in the depths of seishin; when it awakens, the duality with seishin dissolves. Seishin in this true form can sense, think, will, and act. What is generally called seishin is unable to touch its own subjectivity, its own true self "(p. 17).

   As a Buddhist thinker, Suzuki not unnaturally argues for the privileged ontological status of the domain of the enlightened consciousness—the domain of reisei, of prajñā, or nondiscriminatory wisdom—which he calls the domain of the true self. But while Suzuki does so from within a familiar framework of Buddhist linguistic expression, this does not guarantee the philosophical validity of the position. One could argue, in fact, that there are strands of Buddhist thought—the Mādhyamika, for example—which rule out, in prin­ciple at least, every claim of ontological privilege. Suzuki, in fact, has proceeded entirely from his own definitions. They remain precarious in that he does not attempt to provide an inherently consistent scheme of categories, in terms of which the tensions between the concepts of dual and nondual, relative and absolute, and so on, are adequately discussed.





     Such theoretical questions might not be problematic to the religioso, or within the domain of religious discourse, but they become so for any routine philosophical inquiry. Upon analysis, the claims of the religious consciousness, whether conceived in dualistic or nondualistic terms, are evidently claims to relevance and integrity within a given order of experience and expression. They take their place as such claims over against other kinds of claims in other orders of experience and expression. No such order, including the religious, appears to be ontologically privileged. It is true historically and customarily that the religious consciousness tends to make absolutistic claims—claims to being the "ultimate," "highest," "purest," "most concrete," form of experience, insight, or expression. Similar and conflicting claims, however, have been made, and can be made, by other domains of experience—perceptual, cognitive, moral, aesthetic, and so on.

   Perhaps not uncharacteristically of this form of religious discourse, Suzuki has shifted the variables in such a way as to have the religious consciousness function as the ground of the other domains of experience. It (reisei ) is inclusive of the other domains of experience: it is their innermost depth, their point of interpenetration and self-identity. As in most ontological hierarchies. East or West, the highest order includes the lower, but not vice versa. The religious plane is asymmetrically related to the other plans of experience by virtue of being, in Nishida's phrase, the "all-encompassing universal." The absolute order, in other terms, is conceived as the metaphysical and experiential ground of the relative orders. But precisely what is at stake is the theoretical meaning of this position. It goes without saying that the existence of an "absolute order" cannot be directly verified on empirical grounds. It is extremely difficult, how­ever, to defend the concept on rationalistic grounds. Ultimately one will have to adduce metaphysical arguments for the necessity of assuming an ontological hierarchy of the orders of experience, culminating in an "absolute order." After Nagarjuna, Hume, Kant, Wittgenstein, Buchler, and other philosophers who have developed deontological critiques of the possibilities of absolutistic metaphysical speculation, such arguments remain precarious and subject to ongoing debate.

Theoretically, moreover, the orders of experience, each with its own special claims to being, truth, or value, are indefinite in number. An adequate ontol­ogical description must allow for the partial inclusion and exclusion of com­plexes of experience within given systems of reiatedness. Suzuki's implicit ontology, however, goes further than this: it calls for the total inclusion, total interpenetration, of the complexes of experience, within the scope of a particular but self-encompassing complex. But this is precisely what must be proven—whether there is any ultimate system, or ultimate .order of experience, or ultimate form or complex of experience, in terms of which all other orders, forms, and complexes can be said to be grounded or subsumed, internally related, and hierarchically arranged.[13]





   Suzuki's own work, rather than pursuing theoretical issues, turns the dis­cussion to the topic of "Japanese spirituality." But we confront another difficulty here. Reisei. he tells us, "has universality and is not limited to any particular people or nation. To the extent the Chinese, Europeans, Americans, or Japanese possess spirituality, they are similar. Following the awakening of spirituality, however, each have their respective differences in the patterns or forms in which the phenomena of seishin's activity manifests itself" (p. 17). Reisei, then, is the universal and seishin the particular manifestation. It follows that "Japanese spirituality" must be a particular manifestation of cultural productivity, in the wider configuration of Weltgeist . Even granting Suzuki's distinction between reisei and seishin for the time being, Japanese spirituality must be a fusion of the two in the specific historical and cultural matrix. It is not clear from this point of departure, however, how Suzuki can contend, as he does, that there is something uniquely religious about Japanese spirituality. Culturally unique, to be sure, for that is a matter of seishin which is relative in character. But here, too, Japanese cultural expressions are unique in the obvious sense in which every culture has its idiosyncratic elements. Indeed, among anthropologists it is often just these idiosyncratic elements which are employed to distinguish one culture from another. It cannot be unique in the sense of having generated the paradigmatic form of religious consciousness.

  Yet in the subchapter entitled "The Autonomy of Japanese Spirituality," Suzuki's apologetics come perilously close to making this claim. To give only one example, he writes:


Chinese Buddhism was incapable of passing beyond cause and effect; Indian Buddhism sunk into the depths of emptiness. Japanese spirituality alone, in not destroying cause and effect, nor the existence of this world, succeeded in including ail things as they are completely within Amida's Light. This was possible with Japanese spirituality alone, and it was the Kamakura period that produced the opportunity for it. It is a strange thing indeed, that while Pure Land thought has had a continuous existence of over fifteen hundred years in China, it still has not arrived at a Shinran-like spiritual insight. In Japan it progressed from Genshin to Hōnen and then came directly to the fore in the thought of the Shinran school. It is a thought that existed neither in India nor China, nor in the Judaism or Christianity of the Western world. Therefore it is often justifiably said that Shinran's teaching is not Buddhist, inasmuch as it is something that emerged from the insight.of Japanese spirituality meeting the stimulus of Buddhist Amidist thought which uprose suddenly in Kamakura times, (p. 100)


Throughout the work Suzuki repeats his contention that Japanese Buddhism was an expression of the indigenous Japanese spirituality, and not of Japanicized Buddhism. In so doing he goes beyond the limits of his own conceptual model.

   The basic point in Suzuki's argument for the uniqueness of Japanese spirit­uality is discoverable in his emphasis on what he calls the "supra-individual Person" that comes to light in the religious awakening. The supra-individual Person, he tells us, "transcends individuality, it is not within the realm of the





    individual self" (p. 76). It is Lin-ch'i's "true man of no title"; again, it is "the one individual person, Shinran" in the previously cited passage from the Tannishō . Suzuki goes on to claim that the realization that the "supra-individual Person is none other than each individual, and that these individuals one by one are none other than the supra-individual Person, was experienced only by Japanese spirituality" (p. 85). In context, he means only by the Japanese spirituality of the Kamakura period.

    I have indicated earlier that Nishida Kitarō, in an essay written the year following the publication of Suzuki's Japanese Spirituality , acknowledged his interest in Suzuki's interpretation of the passage from the Tannishō: "When I reflect deeply on Amida's Original Prayer which issues from his meditation for five long kalpas, I realize that it was solely for the sake of this individual person, Shinran." Without extolling the uniqueness of the Kamakura period, Nishida attempted to elaborate a dialectical logic of the religious consciousness that incorporated the sense of radical religious individuality advocated by Suzuki. This is an interesting position in itself, but one that is not necessarily impervious to critical analysis. For one thing, the dialectical relation between Amida Buddha and the individual person, Shinran, does not necessarily entail such a thoroughgoing religious existentialism. At bottom, Shinran's sense of personal salvation must proceed from his realization of the absolute compassion of Amida toward all sentient beings. And this leads us to the further realization that the dialectical logic of Buddhism is a two-edged sword: mutual affirmation through mutual negation. Strictly speaking the dialectic yields nothing. There is no synthesis of the dialectical opposites. Nor is there any ground for asserting the ontological primacy of the Buddha, or the existential individual, or the totality of sentient beings, or any combination of these, except as suits a par­ticular exigency in the open-ended dialectic. The dialectic itself is only an expedient means (upaya), a playful musing of the spirit, on the path to grasping the truth enunciated in the Prajñāparamitā literature that there is no savior and no saved.

   My impression is that Suzuki, as many apologists within the Buddhist tra­dition, has reontologized the essentially ambivalent conception of śūnyatā worked out in the Prajñāparamitā sūtra literature, which formed the basis of the several developments of the Mahāyāna Buddhist tradition, including that of the Pure Land school. In the light of the original Prajñāparamitā literature and subsequent Maadhyamika formulations of the logic of śūnyatā, the dis­interested observer might well ask Suzuki how he can sustain his emphasis on the supra-individual Person and the individual person, Shinran at all.

   Now we have seen that Suzuki, for his part, went so far as to disassociate his interpretation of the Amida spirituality of the Kamakura period from its Indian or Chinese Buddhist antecedents. He went on to disassociate it from the similar structures of salvation spirituality found in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. But in the last analysis, this stress on the uniqueness and autonomy






of Japanese Amidist spirituality does nothing for it except isolate it as a cultural phenomenon.

   Max Weber's work in the sociology of religion is only one example of an articulated structuralist approach to, in Weber's term, "ideal-typical" patterns of resemblance of forms of religious expression. In this approach, analogous complexes of religious meaning are seen as occurring in diverse cultural and historical contexts. The archetypal view, of course, was elaborated by Jung and others in depth-psychology and forms the basis of the continuing interest in the typology of myths, fairy tales, the neurotic games people play, and so on, in that field. We can take a similar methodological approach to the common religious and philosophical intentionalities of East and West.

   From the structural point of view, Suzuki's claims as to the uniqueness of the spirituality of Shinran in medieval Japan will not pass the simplest test of comparison. For example, the concept of the supra-individual Person, which is "none other than each individual," inevitably calls to mind the words of St. Paul, "It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me." Or again, in St. Augus­tine's radical religious existentialism of the Confessions : "There is one in me more myself than myself." Indeed Suzuki's claim concerning the autonomy of Japanese spirituality betrays his lack of understanding of the essential thrust of theological Christology in the West, and of those underlying components of it which can be traced to Platonic, Stoic, and Neo-Platonic philosophical sources. The historian of ideas can furnish relevant examples in dualistic, nondualistic, or dialectic forms. For example, Plotinus' own concept of attaining to a nondualistic union of "the alone with the alone" came to form the root of the solus cum solo tradition of Christian Neo-Platonic mysticism and of Luther. Variations on the same tradition can be traced through the Renaissance Neo-Platonists, Spinoza, Schelling, Hegel, on to Kierkegaard and Heidegger in modern times.

   But we can discover similar ideal-typical patterns which stress the realization of radical religious individuality in other Asian traditions as well. Suzuki's excessive stress on the uniqueness of Japanese spirituality, in my judgment, caused him to underestimate the dialectical logic of Mahāyāna Buddhist tra­ditions in India, and of Mahāyāna schools in China and pre-Kamakura Japan. He also passed over the radical religious existentialism found within the Neo-Confucian traditions of China and Japan, most notably present in the Wang Yang-ming schools.

   What Suzuki had ultimately to prove was that there was something uniquely —that is, paradigmatically—religious about Japanese spirituality; but he could not do so even on his own definitions of reisei and seishin. For that matter, he could not sustain his more limited contention that the "purest form" of Japanese reisei appeared in Pure Land thought and in Zen of the Kamakura period (pp. 17ff). But this is what he attempted to do. He wrote: "Although the sects of Shinto might be regarded as transmitters of Japanese spirituality,





Japanese spirituality does not appear there in a pure form" (p. 18). Similarly, "The Buddhism of the Nara and Heian periods were merely tied conceptually to the life of the upper classes" (p. 19). The poetry of the Manyōshū, we are told, was emotional but not religious (p. 28); and Heian culture, typified by the Tale of Genji , is described as having been "delicate" but "effeminate" and lacking in religious authenticity in that it had no "intimacy with the earth" (pp. 36ff). Suzuki's repeated use of the term "feminine culture" to describe pejoratively the culture of the Heian period would appear to be particularly offensive to contemporary sensibilities. But he has gone further and made an ontological issue out of it. For example: "The ancient Japanese, as can be seen throughout the wealth of Heian literature, displayed a wonderful sensitivity in many intuitive directions; yet they were, finally, feminine and aristocratic, and lacked reality in the real sense of the word" (p. 85). Even Saicho and Kukai,  founders of the Tendai and Shingon schools of Heian Buddhism, are put down by Suzuki for not having sufficient "contact with the earth" (p. 43). Their achievements were also products of the aristocratic culture, continental in flavor, and thereby lacking in reisei in its "purest form" (pp. 69-70, 79).

   All of these generalizations can work for Suzuki only insofar as he is a regional ontologist—that is, apologist—in a specific sense. The "region" Suzuki particularly wants to defend is that of the Kamakura period, and more specifically, the awakening of true reisei in the forms of Jodo and Zen (pp. 27, 69). He goes so far as to maintain that the reisei of the Kamakura period was "unparalleled, before or after, in Japan's spiritual history" (p. 46).

   I have noted above that Suzuki's argument introduces the element of un­abashed romanticizing of the common people's supposed "contact with the earth" in the Kamakura period. This may be an interesting way of indicating the so-called democratization of Buddhism in the Kamakura period, but the thesis does not contain its own principle of verification. One could just as well argue that the more elite forms of monastic Buddhism of the Heian period, or the more sophisticated aesthetic and religious sensibilities reflected in the Tale of Genji and other Heian literary classics, were higher or purer forms of consciousness. As another alternative, one could argue for the superior realism and vitality of the developing urban areas of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Tokugawa Japan, which gained philosophical expression in Neo-Confucian forms. We may certainly ask why "contact with the earth" produces the purest form of reisei.

   The fact is we can find apologists for all the religious and cultural highpoints in Japanese culture. But each view is subject to the principle of contextual relevance and the wider principle of relativity, in the ongoing course of human­istic interpretation.

    It may be noted in passing that Nichiren Buddhism, which did play a role in the democratization of Buddhism in the Kamakura period, is conspicuously absent from Suzuki's account. Although not entirely clear, the main thrust of






Suzuki's position is as follows. Japanese spirituality existed within the Japanese from the beginning; it fortuitously encountered Buddhism, which acted as a catalyst for the manifestation of the indigenous endowment; it gained the full autonomy of Japanese spirituality only in the Kamakura period when the Japanese people came in contact with the earth; that spirituality was epitomized in the awakening to the Great Compassionate One (Amida Buddha) as re­flected in the individual religious spirit of Shinran (p. 104). As I have indicated earlier, every one of these premises is precarious.

       In the final analysis, the value of Japanese Spirituality appears to be a nega­tive one. Written in 1944, it bespeaks the need today for a more sophisticated conceptual model to interpret the stages of cultural productivity in Japanese history. Suzuki's idealization of the reisei of the Kamakura period is an interesting expression of his own religious and cultural imagination but does not measure up to his own definition of nondiscriminatory wisdom. At best Suzuki can be found defending the particular relevance and integrity of the distinctive Kamakura-period forms of Buddhism in their own historical con­text, It would have been consistent for Suzuki to defend the relevance and integrity of the forms of Shinto, of Nara and Heian Buddhism, and of the movement of the Japanese spirit in the forms of Muromachi, Tokugawa, Meiji, and recent Japanese spiritual history, as well—each in its own historical context. It is necessary to correct Suzuki's thesis by including the Japanese spirituality of the Kamakura period within the wider configuration of Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Western forms of religious and philosophical development. In so doing we shall have to elaborate and defend a genuinely pluralistic scheme of world-philosophy and world-religion and a corresponding method of criticism which eschews the excessive claims of regional ontologists; Dilthey's methodological elaboration of the notion of Geisteswissenschaft, which was well known to the Japanese academic community in the twentieth century, provides one model for doing this.

I have suggested that still another corrective to Suzuki's thesis may be found in the structural approach, which can identify the ideal-typical patterns of philosophical and religious expression historically crystallized in the East and the West. Perhaps the most remarkable contemporary achievement along these lines is Nakamura Hajime's latest work, Parallel Developments A Comparative History of Ideas. To cite the relevant instance here, the concept of "nondis­criminatory consciousness" (Suzuki's reisei ) is clearly a paradigmatic, cross-cultural form of religious and philosophical expression. It is absurd to maintain that it was either the exclusive discovery of the Japanese religious consciousness or that it appeared there in its "purest form" in the Jodo and Zen schools of the Kamakura period. This is true of it in either other-power (tariki ) or self-power (jiriki ) forms of religious salvation symbolization.





[1]. Daisetz Suzuki.,Japanese Spirituality, trans. Norman Waddell;.comp. the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO, Tokyo: (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, 1972).  [back]

[2]. Furuta Shōkin, "Dr. Suzuki: His Life and Works." Japanese Spirituality, pp. 1-10.

[3]. During this time Suzuki became an intellectual colleague of Paul Carus (1852-1919), who became editor of The Open Court and Monist periodicals in the late 1880s,. Carus' monistic views, evident in his polemics against such American writers as Peirec. James, and Dewcy, may have contributed to, or reinforced, Suzuki's own later interpretations of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Suzuki did bring William James' concept of "pure experience" {Essays in Radical Emp irifisin) to the attention of his close friend. Nishida Kitarō. Nishida's maiden work, Zen no kenkyuu (A study of good. 1911), shows this influence and similarly reflects a monistic reading of James' somewhat ambiguous concept. [back]

[4]. Nishida Kitarō, "Bashoteki ronri to shuukyōteki sekaikan," in Nishida Kitarō zvnxhū (Com­plete Works of Nishida Kitarō), 19 volumes, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1965, vol. 11, p. 341 ff.

[5]. Ibid., p. 445.

[6]. Nishida Kitarō, Fundamental Problems of Philosophy, trans. D. Dilworth (Tokyo: Sophia University Press, 1970). passim. [back]

[7]. Gilbert Jphnston, "Kiyozawa Manshi: A Shinshū Buddhist View of Stoic Self-Reliance," Japanese Religions 4, no. 4 (1966): 31 -44.I am indebted to two unpublished manuscripts of Gilbert Johnston, "Kiyozawa Manshi's Rosen ki," pp. 1-15, and "Kiyazawa Manshi's Buddhist Faith and Its Relation to Modern Japanese Society," pp. 1-16.

[8]. Tanabe Hajime. Shu no ronri no benshōhō (Tokyo: Akita Press, 1946). The first chapter of this work is available in "Tanabe Hajime: The Logic of the Species as Dialectics," trans. David Dilworth and Taira Satō, Monumenta Nipponica 24, no. 3 (Summer, 1969): 273-288. Further examples of Tanabe's writings appear in "Memento Mori," trans. V. H. Viglieimo, Philosophical • Studies of Japan 1 (1959): 1-12, and "Introduction to Philosophy as Metanoetics," trans. Takeuchi Yoshinori, Japanese Religions, 5, no. 2 (Spring, 1967): 29-47. [back]

[9]. Fukuzawa Yukichi, Outline of a Theory of Civilization, (1875), trans. D. Dilworth and G. C. Hurst (Tokyo: Sophia University Press, 1973); Donald Shively, "Nishimura Shigeki: A Confucian View of Modernization," in M. B. Jansen, ed,, Changing Japanese Attitudes toward Modernization (Princeton. N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965), pp. 193-241. [back]

[10]. Abe Jirō, Sekai bunka to Nihon bunka (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1933), p. 216ff The same volume contains Abe's Rikai to kaishuku (Understanding and interpretation), pp. 443-516, formerly published in the Iwanami Philosophical Series, in which Abe expounded the epistemological basis of historical hermeneutics as elaborated by Dilthey in his Verstehen und Auslegen (Understanding and integration) and other writings. See G, K. Piovesana, Recent Japanese Philosophical Thought, 1862-1962: A Survey (Tokyo: Enderle Press, 1968), p. 73. [back]

[11]. Nishida Kitarō, Fundamental Problems of Philosophy, pp. 237-254. Watsuji Tetsurō, Cli­mate and Culture: A Philosophical Study, trans. G. Bownas (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1961). In my writer's opinion, the dialogue with Dilthey is also implicit in Tanabe Hajime's Shu no ronri no benshōhō (Dialectic of the logic of the species) (1946).

[12]. This still impressive work is available in the translation by R. F. C. Hull under the title of The Dawn of Philosophy: A Philosophical Primer (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1950). [back]

[13] In the foregoing critical remarks I am particularly indebted to Justus Buchler's concepts of ordinality and ontological parity developed in his Metaphysics of Natural Complexes (New York: Columbia University Press, 1966). [back]