Filial Piety with a Zen Twist: Universalism and Particularism Surrounding the Sutra on the Difficulty of Reciprocating the Kindness of Parents

Date
2013-05
Authors
Mohr, Michel
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Publisher
Brill
Abstract
This article examines the Sutra on the Difficulty of Reciprocating the Kindness of Parents (Fùmǔ ēn nánbào jīng 父母恩難報經, T 16 no. 684) and its reinterpretation by the Japanese Rinzai Zen monk Tōrei Enji 東嶺圓慈 (1721–1792). In the context of the Tokugawa period (1600–1867) where filial piety was upheld as one of the pillars of morality and Neo-confucian orthodoxy, Tōrei’s commentary of this sutra skillfully combined the particularist understanding of filiality as limited to one’s relatives with its broader construal as a universal attitude of reverence directed toward all sentient beings. The father is envisioned as the wisdom and the excellence of the Buddha, the mother as the compassionate vows of the Bodhisattva, and the children as those who emit the thought of awakening. Tōrei further pushed this interpretation by adding the distinct Zen idea that the initial insight into one’s true nature needs to be surpassed and refined by perfecting the going beyond (kōjō 向上) phase of training, where the child/disciple’s legacy and his indebtedness towards his spiritual mentors is recast in terms of overcoming one’s attainments and attachment to them.
Description
The actual printed article was published in the Journal of Religion in Japan 2 (1) (2013) on pages 35-62, whereas the proofs included here have a different pagination. Please refer to the link http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/22118349/2/1 for the final version as published. Aside from minor typos, the content has not changed between the last proofs and the published article.
Keywords
filial piety, family reverence, Song period Chan, Rinzai Zen, universality, going beyond
Citation
Mohr, Michel. 2013. “Filial Piety with a Zen Twist: Universalism and Particularism Surrounding the Sutra on the Difficulty of Reciprocating the Kindness of Parents.” Journal of Religion in Japan 2 (1): 35–62.
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