Thursday, 15 December 2011

Kyoto Day 2



Monday's rather relaxed pace eased me into a frenetic Tuesday of resource gathering and very technical Japanese conversation. It's quite a relief to discover that my language study is paying off, and I can just about, if rather painfully, maintain a decent academic conversation about Buddhism, thanks to Professor Bowring's Classical Japanese lectures and my three months last year at Nihon University.

Today, I went to Ōtani University (大谷大学), affiliated to the Higashi Honganji (東本願寺) school of True Pure Land Buddhism (浄土真宗), to meet Dr Kaku and the Rev'd Professor Michael Pye. Dr Kaku very kindly allowed me to use the excellent university library and Eastern Buddhist Society office to obtain copies of some much needed articles. Kisa, a young American graduate working as a volunteer, spent hours turning these into .pdfs for me, for which I am most grateful.
Michael Pye is retired professor of Buddhism at Marburg University, but I use the term 'retired' advisedly, given that he is now active as an Anglican priest in Kyoto Diocese and as a researcher at Ōtani. Over and after some very good soba noodles, for which Kyoto is rightly famed, we chatted about things Anglican, Buddhist and Japanese. One of my research questions is the extent to which one can make ontological statements about Shin Buddhism, and if I understood correctly, he was very much of the opinion that ontology is really not a matter of much concern in Buddhist teaching. Dr Kaku, on the other hand, influenced to some extent by the philosophers of the Kyoto School, maintained in our later conversation that one could usefully derive ontological conclusions from Shinran's work. Perhaps I should feel some relief that there is as much diversity of opinion among Buddhist scholars as there is among Christian ones.

After a light and very reasonably priced meal of Galician octopus and white rice with a glass of wine, I plunged into a nearby onsen for a couple of hours and headed home, to write and then to sleep.

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