Disarming the Superpowers

Carl Bielefeldt

in Dōgen

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199754465
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932801 | DOI:
Disarming the Superpowers

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This chapter highlights the role of Dōgen and Eisai in transmitting Chan to Japan, with its distinctive spiritual environment. The real powers of the Chan masters in Song Chinese literary records, or what made them alien and dangerous to the established Buddhist community, were precisely their dismissal of the traditional use of the supranormal powers or abhijna (jinzū ) as detailed in early Buddhist lore, and thus their refusal to play by the rules of standard buddhology. Eisai tried to downplay this danger by appealing to the circumstances and threat of the Final Age (mappō) and by invoking the authority of monastic law as the only legitimate avenue by which to achieving enlightenment. Dōgen, on the other hand, handled the problem by reaffirming the Chan masters' fidelity to orthodox esoteric buddhology and their consequent subjection to the higher metaphysical laws of the cosmic body. That is, Eisai attempted to turn the seminal Chan tricksters into sober Vinaya specialists who were off meditating in their monasteries, whereas, through very different means but with rather similar effect, Dōgen sought to transform them into a new kind of ritual master who was skilled in enacting the way of the Buddha. Thus transformed, the Chan master could now become a familiar figure in the Japanese theological scene—somewhat eccentric, perhaps, in his style of ritual practice, but hardly a threat to the established order.

Keywords: Dōgen; Eisai; Chan masters; supranormal powers; Buddhism; buddhology; enligthenment

Chapter.  7016 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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