PAPER TOPICS II: REL 444/544 Medieval Japanese Buddhism

Due November 7 in class.

* Three pages: Not more than 1000 words (You may use parenthetical notation to indicate page numbers for textual references.)
* I encourage you to discuss these topics with one another.
* Be sure to write your name, the name of the class, and the title of your topic at the top of the page.
* I also strongly encourage you to read the essays on my Writing web pages, especially "Four Keys to Writing in the Humanities," "Paper Writing Guidelines," "Checklist for Papers," "Writing: The Bridge between Consciousness and Unconsciousness," and "Clauses and Commas."

Myoe and the Mantra of Light
Discuss at least two out of the following three aspects of Myoe's practice of the Mantra of Light: 1) How does Myoe present this Mantra as a practice ideal for lay people and beginner's, on the one hand, but also one that leads to ultimate awakening? 2) How is both similar to and different from Shinran's nembutsu practice of invoking the Name of Amida Buddha? 3) Is Myoe's view of women in relation to the Mantra of Light ambiguous, troubling, or sophisticated?
Buddhism and Shinto in the Religious Life of the Buddhist Monk Myoe
Discuss the manner in which the relationship between the Shinto kami (deity) of the Kasuga shrine and the Buddhist figure it supposedly represents (Sakyamuni Buddha) are reflected in the relationship between the Shinto shamaness (priestess), the Woman of Yuasa, on the one hand, and the Buddhist monk Myoe, on the other (see Mark Unno, "Chapter 6: Gendered Power of Light," Shingon Refractions [Course Reader]). Use the concept of honji suijaku (essence and manifestation) to explain this relationship. Which is in the superior position: Buddhist monk/Buddha or Shinto shamaness/kami? Can either one be in the superior position depending on context? Reader's perspective? How should one understand their relation, religiously, socially, politically?
Dogen and Practice as Awakening
How is Dogen's view of "practice as awakening" different from "practice in order to awaken"? Identify two passages each from any three of the readings from Week V to explain your views.
Dogen and Sitting-Only
Dogen emphasized "sitting-only" as the core of his Zen Buddhist practice. Explain how this concept is both historical and philosophical. Identify at least two passages from the readings for Week V that illustrate your views. In addition, discuss how this is related to the passage from his Instructions for the Zen Cook (Tenzo kyokun, translation in Uchiyama, Refining Your Life), in which the old Chinese monk states that the essence of Zen practice is,  "1, 2, 3, 4, 5" (p. 11).
Shinran and the Tannisho
Discuss two or three passages from the Tannisho each in terms of their socio-historical context, possible philosophical significance, and as expression of individual subjectivity (see Mark Unno, "The Nembutsu of No-Meaning and the Problem of Genres"[Course Reader]. Do their different layers of textual analysis contradict one another or enrich one another?

Shinran and Myoe on Women and Buddhist Practice
Compare and contrast the views of Shinran and Myoe with regard to women's practice of Buddhism and their potential for awakening. Identify at least two similarities and two differences. Consider both images of the feminine and historical women in their lives.
Women in Medieval Japanese Buddhism
Compare the representation of women's religious lives as found in two of the sources we have read so far: Barbara Ruch, "The Other Side of Culture in Medieval Japan"; Mark Unno, "Chapter 5: Gendered Power of Light," Shingon Refractions; Chapter on Lady Gio from The Tale of the Heike. In the sources you examine, what is the relation between social and spiritual power? What is women's capacity for enlightenment? How, if at all, is this capacity related to social status and empowerment?

Individual Awakening and Social Enlightenment in Medieval Japan
Compare and contrast the practices of two of the following: Shinran, Dogen, and Myoe, specifically in terms of the relation between their views of individual cultivation of awakening and their visions for a Buddhist society. (Clues: For example, how do they view the religious lives of lay people? Do they have a monasto-centric view (elite monkhood first, and laity only secondary), a lay-centered view, or a lay-monastic egalitarian view of spiritual attainment? Do they view the monastery or temple as the center of religious practice, or daily practice regardless of place? Do they present a simplified view of practice (single-practice paradigm) for the sake of laity? Or, do they present a pluralistic view of practice (wide array), and how is this related their view of individual practice?)