Critical Buddhism and Returning to the Sources

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Critical Buddhism and Returning to the Sources
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Citation: Lusthaus, Dan. "Critical Buddhism and Returning to the Sources." In Pruning the Bodhi Tree: The Storm over Critical Buddhism, edited by Jamie Hubbard and Paul L. Swanson, 56–80. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1997.

Abstract

No abstract given. Here are the first relevant paragraphs:

Critical Buddhism was inevitable. That it was given voice by prominent Japanese scholars noted for their work in non-East Asian Buddhism was also inevitable. That it has provoked strong, even hostile, reactions was inevitable as well. Inevitable means that the causes and conditions that gave rise to Critical Buddhism can be analyzed and understood to show that it has a context, a history, and a necessity. Critical Buddhism is necessary. Thinking about what arises through causes and conditions, especially in terms of how that impacts on cultural and social realities, is a principal component of both Critical Buddhism and Buddhism properly practiced.
      This essay will examine some—but certainly not all—of the factors that have contributed to Critical Buddhism. Some arguments and observations will be offered that, while not retellings from the writings of the Critical Buddhists, run parallel to them. These parallels, which I offer as supplements, recast some of their arguments and focus on issues and areas germane to their undertaking. After discussing the inevitability of Critical Buddhism in the context of twentieth-century Japanese Buddhist scholarship, I will turn to some of the events that took place in China during the seventh and eighth centuries that were decisive for the prevalence in East Asia of the type(s) of Buddhism they criticize. This will be followed by a critique of what has happened to the notion of enlightenment in East Asian Buddhism, particularly in the Ch’an and Zen traditions, with reference to the problem of hongaku (original enlightenment) and the authority of lineage transmission. Then, stepping back into a wider context, I will suggest that, far from being the idiosyncratic, misguided departure depicted by its detractors, Critical Buddhism is the inevitable revisiting of a theme that has been central to Buddhism since its onset. All the above points concern inevitabilities: the trajectory and accomplishments of Japanese scholarship in this century coupled with the crisis of Buddhism in the modern world; the decisive historical events that have established a pervasive ideological underpinning in East Asian Buddhism that Matsumoto and Hakamaya have labeled dhātu-vāda, combined with the exclusion of other, counteracting Buddhist tendencies found elsewhere in the Buddhist world, such as Buddhist logic; the undermining of certain foundational Buddhist notions, such as enlightenment, as a result of or in tandem with the growth of dhātu-vāda ideology; the persistent self-criticism and self-reevaluation that Buddhism has subjected itself to, often glorifying the critique and the critics (Nāgārjuna being the most famous example)—all these points have made it inevitable that Critical Buddhism appear today in Japan (and elsewhere). Finally, while examining an aspect of Matsumoto’s critique of The Record of Lin-chi, I will suggest some tactical distinctions that should be considered by those critical of Critical Buddhism (Lusthaus, "Critical Buddhism and Returning to the Sources," 30–31)