Book: Listening to Shin Buddhism
Chapter: Mahāyāna Buddhism and Japanese Culture (1931)
These 3 chapters are an exchange between Yamabe Shūgaku 山辺習学 (1882–1944), writing rather generally on “Mahāyāna Buddhism and Japanese Culture” and C.A.F. Rhys Davids, a well-known British exponent of the Pāli or Theravāda tradition of Buddhism. The latter’s writing is marked not only by a decided loyalty to what she presumed to be the oldest traditions of Buddhism, but also by extremely high-flown, not to say adventurous language typical of some enthusiastic religious writing of her period. Yet by her literary devices she was trying to make a serious point about the status of conceptualized doctrine in Buddhism, to which Yamabe was quite able to respond. We see in the contributions of these two Japanese writers, Kaneko and Yamabe, both the opening of Shin Buddhist thinking to the wider tradition of Buddhist thought and, in their responsive formulations, their acceptance of the impact of perceived foreign expectations.