According to the adage of “wakon yôsai” – “Japanese soul, foreign knowledge” – a specificity of the Japanese genius lies in its ability to assimilate foreign ideologies while preserving a strong cultural identity. This idea summarizes well the history of Buddhism in this country, as the authors of this dense, sober and fascinating work, entitled Japanese thought.
Introduced in the middle of the XNUMXth century via China, Buddhism there "played a formative role in Japanese thought and sensitivity", while being received "in a way rather distinct from its primitive state in India and China". – more in harmony with pre-existing beliefs in the archipelago. Throughout its history, the Land of the Rising Sun has never ceased to develop original concepts at the heart of this tradition.
The mixture was based on an ideological proximity and a common aspiration. There japanese thought such as Buddhism generally harbor a distrust of the scientific method and Western rationalism. Until the XNUMXth century, although the Japanese gradually accepted this approach in the natural sciences, they maintained a fundamentally negative attitude towards it when it came to understanding the human being himself. », the divinity or even the sanctity of existence. This positioning seems even more radical than in Chinese Buddhism, for example. The latter has developed abundant and complex philosophical treatises on spirituality throughout its history, while the Japanese tradition is characterized by a clear "disinterest in metaphysical speculation" and a tendency towards simplification.
Japanese thought, like Buddhism, generally harbors a distrust of the scientific method and Western rationalism.
Between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries in particular, the new Buddhism, known as “Kamakura”, summarizes the essence of Chinese teachings in a few simple and concrete principles. “We reduced the transcendent to the immanent, and the accent was placed on this world, on the lived experience, on the act here and now. Japanese spirituality is based in particular on the intuition that divinity is part of this world, and that humans are therefore likely to awaken to it during their lifetime. This indigenous belief, "the most primitive before the introduction of Buddhism", finds a favorable echo in the notion of spiritual awakening or enlightenment - but here again with nuances: original Buddhism generally reserved this possibility for a few rare individuals. , while it quickly becomes universal in the archipelago. According to the school of the Great “One Vehicle” (“Ichijô”), established in the XNUMXth century, anyone can become a Buddha.
The aesthetic feeling of things
By thus emphasizing the concrete and immediate life of everyone, Japanese Buddhism at the same time reduces enlightenment to better ways of daily living. Contrary to certain traditions of Indian origin in particular, “practice and Awakening coincide in time”; many intellectuals no longer even see it as a milestone to be crossed, but rather a kind of moment of grace that can arise and diminish at any moment of life. This idea was notably considered under the prism of "mono-no aware" or "aesthetic feeling of things" - the expression translates, depending on the context, a form of direct contact with reality, of fusion between men and objects. they perceive, with an almost poetic vibration...
As far as we can go back in the history of the archipelago, we thus find the idea that any activity or profession can be transformed into art and wisdom, as soon as we tackle it with sincerity, requirement or rigor. In Japan, the best-known examples come from the martial arts ("bushidô"), the arrangement of flowers ("kadô" or "ikebana") or even the tea ceremony ("sado" or "chanoyu"), but, fundamentally, any profane act would involve something sacred, and vice versa. According to the school of Soto, established in the XNUMXth century, the main thing would be to act as best you can, without trying to achieve something more, and above all by letting things come to you. There is therefore no royal way to live one's Buddhism. As a Japanese proverb sums it up: “There is more than one way to climb Mount Fuji, but all lead to the summit”