Shinran’s Treatment of Violence

Date
2014-03-20
Authors
Hirota, Dennis
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Abstract
This paper explores Shinran’s use of narrative as a mode of reflection and a means for recognizing and coming to terms with violence—including violence suffered, but in particular the violence one has inflicted on others. The most prominent among such narratives in Shinran’s writings stems from what is often referred to as the “tragedy of RājagṛhaRajāgṛha”—the story of Ajātaśatru’s murder of his father, King Bimbisāra, and imprisonment of his mother, Vaidehī, in order to seize the throne of the kingdom of Magadha. For Shinran, this sutra narrative is a crucial element of the Buddhist teaching, a drama enacted precisely to occasion Śākyamuni’s expounding of the Pure Land path historically and to communicate the self-aware hermeneutical stance that embodies genuine engagement with it. In Shinran, narrative broadly defined as an ordered account of events, however brief, plays a significant role in the articulation of the nature of religious awareness and historical consciousness as it pervades everyday life. Here, violence signifies not primarily the overt acts of coercion or callous injury inflicted through authoritarian power or martial force, but the roots of afflicting passion scarcely beneath of surface of social life that hold the potential of moving oneself and others to irreconcilable conflict. His use of narrative to contextualize personal existence as an occurrence of Buddhist truth within the flux of temporal events may be have seen resulted from histo share characteristics of the endeavor to deal with the intense emotions resulting from violence suffered and inflicted, as depicted seen in some types of medieval tale literature and noh drama.
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Presented at the Numata Conference in Buddhist Studies / “Violence, Nonviolence, and Japanese Religions: Past, Present, and Future,” held in Honolulu, Hawaii, March 20–21, 2014
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Shinran, Shinshū, Ajātaśatru, violence, Pure Land, medieval literature, noh drama
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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs
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