Visions of Awakening Space and Time: D=ogen and the Lotus Sutra

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Overview

As a religion concerned with universal liberation, Zen grew out of a Buddhist worldview very different from the currently prevalent scientific materialism. Indeed, says Taigen Dan Leighton, Zen cannot be fully understood outside of a worldview that sees reality itself as a vital, dynamic agent of awareness and healing. In this book, Leighton explicates that worldview through the writings of the Zen master Eihei D=ogen (1200-1253), considered the founder of the Japanese S=ot=o Zen tradition, which currently enjoys increasing popularity in the West.

The Lotus Sutra, arguably the most important Buddhist scripture in East Asia, contains a famous story about bodhisattvas (enlightening beings) who emerge from under the earth to preserve and expound the Lotus teaching in the distant future. The story reveals that the Buddha only appears to pass away, but actually has been practicing, and will continue to do so, over an inconceivably long life span.

Leighton traces commentaries on the Lotus Sutra from a range of key East Asian Buddhist thinkers, including Daosheng, Zhiyi, Zhanran, Saigyo, My=oe, Nichiren, Hakuin, and Ry=okan. But his main focus is Eihei D=ogen, the 13th century Japanese S=ot=o Zen founder who imported Zen from China, and whose profuse, provocative, and poetic writings are important to the modern expansion of Buddhism to the West.

D=ogen's use of this sutra expresses the critical role of Mahayana vision and imagination as the context of Zen teaching, and his interpretations of this story furthermore reveal his dynamic worldview of the earth, space, and time themselves as vital agents of spiritual awakening.

Leighton argues that D=ogen uses the images and metaphors in this story to express his own religious worldview, in which earth, space, and time are lively agents in the bodhisattva project. Broader awareness of D=ogen's worldview and its implications, says Leighton, can illuminate the possibilities for contemporary approaches to primary Mahayana concepts and practices.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Among the eminent Buddhist figures of premodern Japan, perhaps none has drawn more attention in the West than the Zen master D=ogen (1200-1253). In a fresh approach, this volume moves beyond D=ogen's explicitly Zen heritage to explore his indebtedness to the imagery and rhetorical strategies of the Lotus S=utra in articulating his vision of practice. Leighton is sensitive to the playfulness and creativity of D=ogen's hermeneutics. His study will be welcomed by readers interested in the Mah=ay=ana as literature and in situating D=ogen within the broader intellectual currents of his day." — Jacqueline I. Stone, author of Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism

"This book is an exploration of D=ogen's writings on space and time, especially as they relate to the central message of the Lotus S=utra. It demonstrates unity of practice and book learning in Japanese Zen and the unity of the Zen tradition and Buddhist teaching traditions such as Tendai and Kegon. Anyone interested in philosophical or literary aspects of Dōgen 's teachings and their relationship to Buddhist scriptures will find much to savor. Buddhist practitioners who wish to know how traditional scriptures can speak to contemporary concerns will find much to digest. " — William Bodiford, author of Soto Zen in Medieval Japan

"This richly woven study brings us new insights into the dynamic role of Earth in Mahayana Buddhist understandings of enlightenment. Leighton reveals a transmission of the Buddha Dharma in which the utter reality of the phenomenal world is not to be questioned, nor is impermanence to be transcended. Time and space are rather to be experienced as the spiritually nourishing womb of our awakening. Right now, when ecological crises imperil the future of conscious life, and when, at the same time, Gaia theory invites us to understand ourselves as intrinsic parts of a living Earth, this work of scholarship is good news indeed." — Joanna Macy, author Coming Back to Life

"A premier translator of two of D=ogen's major works, Eihei Shingi and Eihei Koroku, has now turned his sights to an analysis of D=ogen in East Asian theoretical contexts with illuminating results. This very thoughtful, informative, and highly original study makes a significant contribution to both D=ogen and Lotus S=utra studies by showing how D=ogen's Zen is rooted in Mahayana worldview, and also how the Lotus Sutra was a key resource for Japanese Zen. Leighton does an outstanding job of juxtaposing the seminal Lotus S=utra with the main writings of D=ogen, along with other prominent thinkers in Zen and Chinese and Japanese Buddhism. He also sheds important light on contemporary applications and interpretations of Buddhist theory." — Steven Heine, author of D=ogen and the Koan Tradition

"Among the eminent Buddhist figures of premodern Japan, perhaps none has drawn more attention in the West than the Zen master D=ogen (1200-1253). In a fresh approach, this volume moves beyond D=ogen's explicitly Zen heritage to explore his indebtedness to the imagery and rhetorical strategies of the Lotus S=utra in articulating his vision of practice. Leighton is sensitive to the playfulness and creativity of D=ogen's hermeneutics. His study will be welcomed by readers interested in the Mah=ay=ana as literature and in situating D=ogen within the broader intellectual currents of his day." — Jacqueline I. Stone, author of Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism

"This book is an exploration of D=ogen's writings on space and time, especially as they relate to the central message of the Lotus S=utra. It demonstrates unity of practice and book learning in Japanese Zen and the unity of the Zen tradition and Buddhist teaching traditions such as Tendai and Kegon. Anyone interested in philosophical or literary aspects of D=ogen 's teachings and their relationship to Buddhist scriptures will find much to savor. Buddhist practitioners who wish to know how traditional scriptures can speak to contemporary concerns will find much to digest. " — William Bodiford, author of Soto Zen in Medieval Japan

"This richly woven study brings us new insights into the dynamic role of Earth in Mahayana Buddhist understandings of enlightenment. Leighton reveals a transmission of the Buddha Dharma in which the utter reality of the phenomenal world is not to be questioned, nor is impermanence to be transcended. Time and space are rather to be experienced as the spiritually nourishing womb of our awakening. Right now, when ecological crises imperil the future of conscious life, and when, at the same time, Gaia theory invites us to understand ourselves as intrinsic parts of a living Earth, this work of scholarship is good news indeed." — Joanna Macy, author Coming Back to Life

"A premier translator of two of D=ogen's major works, Eihei Shingi and Eihei Koroku, has now turned his sights to an analysis of D=ogen in East Asian theoretical contexts with illuminating results. This very thoughtful, informative, and highly original study makes a significant contribution to both D=ogen and Lotus S=utra studies by showing how D=ogen's Zen is rooted in Mahayana worldview, and also how the Lotus Sutra was a key resource for Japanese Zen. Leighton does an outstanding job of juxtaposing the seminal Lotus S=utra with the main writings of D=ogen, along with other prominent thinkers in Zen and Chinese and Japanese Buddhism. He also sheds important light on contemporary applications and interpretations of Buddhist theory." — Steven Heine, author of D=ogen and the Koan Tradition

"Leighton has produced yet another work of consummate scholarship that expands our understanding not only of the S=ot=o Zen founder D=ogen (1200-1253) but also of Zen Buddhism in general. ...Leighton's clear, articulate prose renders D=ogen's writings alive, accessible and relevant to life in the twenty-first century." —Philosophy East and West.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195320930
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/11/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Taigen Dan Leighton is an Adjunct Professor at the Graduate Theological Union, Institute of Buddhist Studies and author of Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and Their Modern Expression. He is primary co-translator and editor for several Zen translations, including D=ogen's Extensive Record and Cultivating the Empty Field. He is also a S=ot=o Zen priest and Dharma heir.

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Table of Contents

I. The Pivotal Lotus Story and Dogen's Worldview
II. Hermeneutics and Discourse Styles in Study of the Lotus Sutra and Dogen
III. Selected East Asian Interpretations of the Story
IV. Dogen's Interpretations of this Lotus Sutra Story
V. Dogen's View of Earth, Space, and Time Seen in Mahayana Context
Afterword: Implications of Dogen's Mahayana Worldview
Endnotes
Bibliography

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2013

    The Lotus Sutra and the Zen worldview

    You've heard of the Lotus Sutra. Maybe you've tried to read it. Mystical stories. Polemics against other teachings. Rejoicing that the Buddha is about to preach the Lotus Sutra. Does he ever go ahead and do it? What do people get out of this scripture? Who finds it relevant? Dogen, the greatest figure in Japanese Zen, for one. Leighton explains. The whole worldview of Zen turns out to reflect this lotus.

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