Mohr, Michel

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    Advanced Contemplation of the Impure: Reflections on a Capstone Event in the Meditation Sutra
    (MDPI, 2020-07) Mohr, Michel
    The present article explores the form of meditation called contemplation of the impure (Skt aśubha-bhāvanā; Ch. bújìng guān 不淨觀) and its meticulous description in a Chinese text produced in the early fifth century CE. It illustrates the problematic nature of the pure-impure polarity and suggests that, ultimately, “purity” refers to two different things. As a generic category, it can be understood as a mental construct resulting from the mind’s discursive functioning, which tends to be further complicated by cultural factors. The other avenue for interpreting “purity” is provided in this meditation manual, which describes how meditation on impurity leads to the direct perception of purity, and to the vision of a “pure land.” This stage is identified as a “sign” marking the completion of this contemplative practice. Examining the specific nature of this capstone event and some of its implications lies at the core of the research whose initial results are presented here. Although this particular Buddhist contemplation of the impure begins with mental images of decaying corpses, it culminates with the manifestation of a vision filling the practitioner with a sense of light and purity. This high point indicates when the practice has been successful, an event that coincides for practitioners with a time when they catch a glimpse of their true nature. The last section of this article further discusses the extent to which positing an intrinsically pure nature—one of the major innovations introduced by Buddhism in fifth-century China—could inform ethical views.
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    The Missing Link between Meiji Universalism and Postwar Pacifism, and What It Means for the Future
    ( 2018-05-09) Mohr, Michel
    This article focuses on the life of two individuals who were actively promoting universalism in the Meiji era, becoming silent during World War II, and then resurfacing after the war, pursuing similar ideas and agendas. These two individuals were Imaoka Shin’ichirō (1881–1988), the former secretary of the Japanese Unitarian Association who died in 1988 at age 106, and Nishida Tenkō (1872–1968), the founder of the Ittōen movement. The author scrutinizes their role in formulating ideas and forming alliances between groups that still claim to promote transnational and transreligious ideas in the twenty-first century. Although Imaoka and Nishida contributed to bridge the gap between the Meiji era and today, whatever remains of their legacy may be related to the current standstill in attempts to deal with transnational and transdenominational divisions. In reviewing avenues for future transreligious conversations, this article discusses the extent to which the present Japanese religious traditions could contribute to such nonsectarian endeavors. It also indicates some of the philosophical strategies that could be adopted, highlighting the limits of common attempts based on an ethical approach, suggesting instead that empirical and epistemological approaches avoiding the pitfall of language may be more conducive to overcoming the current inertia in transreligious conversations.
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    Monastic Tradition and Lay Practice from the Perspective of Nantenbō: A Response of Japanese Zen Buddhism to Modernity
    (Zen Buddhism Today, journal (discontinued), 1996-03) Mohr, Michel
    Article examining the biography of the unconventional Zen teacher Tōshū (or Tōjū) Zenchū 鄧州全忠, known as Nantenbō 南天棒 (Nakahara 中原 1839–1925), whose "chamber name" was Hakugaikutsu 白崖窟. It discusses in particular a reform project he proposed in 1893 before considering the nationalist dimension of Nantenbō's thought and his view of lay practice.
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    Tōrei zenji ni miru Hakuin zen no shinmenmoku 東嶺禅師に見る白隠禅の真面目
    (Zenbunka 禅文化, journal, 1987-07) Mohr, Michel
    First published article by Michel Mohr, indicating one of the central topics he would explore in his dissertation about Tōrei Enji 東嶺圓慈 (1721–1792) and in subsequent publications examining the semi-mythical figure of Bodhidharma.
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    Kindai 'Zenshisō' no keisei: Kōgaku Sōen to Suzuki Daisetsu no yakuwari o chūshin ni 近代「禅思想」の形成 洪岳宗演と鈴木大拙の役割を中心に
    (Shisō 思想, journal, 2002-11) Mohr, Michel
    This article reexamines how Kōgaku Sōen and Suzuki Daisetsu "invented" the concept of "Zen thought" to suit their agendas.