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  • Buddhist Philosophy and New Testament Theology
  • Yagi Seiichi


By way of Buddhist-Christian dialogue we Christians can become aware of the latent motifs in our own tradition. The dialogue gives us opportunities to rethink the Christian tradition, not to interpret it from Buddhist viewpoint but, based on these actualized motifs, to find a more adequate interpretation of its own. In this way Buddhist-Christian dialogue is relevant also for the construction of New Testament theology.

On the Philosophy of Nishida, Hisamatsu, and Nishitani

The central problems of Nishida Kitaro’s philosophy were (1) keiken (immediate experience) in his early period, (2) jikaku (seeing oneself in oneself) in his middle period, and (3) basho (topos) in his last years. 1 It should be noted that these terms together cover the essential fields of Buddhist cognition.

Nishida began his book Studies of the Good 2 with statements concerning immediate experience. After the publication of the book, he felt compelled to consider the nature of the subject of philosophical cognition at the scene of immediate experience, for the subject in this case is not reason in the sense of Western philosophy. Thus in his middle period, jikaku became the main theme of his reflection. Jikaku means that the self sees itself in itself, and Nishida named the deepest, ultimate self, the self that embraces and sees all levels of cognition in “the field of transcendental predicate.” Then in his last years, Nishida grasped it anew as the topos, in which the individuals work on one another. The structure of the topos was defined as the “unity of the contradictory,” for in the topos the absolute and the relative define each other.

His student, Hisamatsu Shin’ichi, made jikaku his central theme, whereas the thinking of Nishitani Keiji, another eminent student of Nishida, was centered mainly on topos. Nishida’s understanding of jikaku reminds us somewhat of the Hegelian Geist, for it concerns primarily the subject of cognition. Hisamatsu, however, spoke simply of ‘kaku’ (awakening) of the Formless Self. It means that the ego is awakened to the Formless Self. At the same time it is the awakening of the Formless Self to [End Page 165] Itself. We should note that kaku is not simply self-cognition but rather the actualization of the Self. As is well known, Hisamatsu rejected theism. God or Buddha as ‘other’ or ‘over against’ is at best a secondary human construction and not primary reality. So, if we call God the absolute Other, God must be at the same time the ultimate Self: God as the absolute Other, in Hisamatsu’s view, must be at the same time God who acts as the ultimate subject of humanity. 3 On the other hand, Nishitani preferred the terms common to Mahayana-Buddhism in general: ku (nothingness), engi (dependent orinination), and jijimuge (infinite-fold mutual penetration of the individuals). In his book What Is Religion, 4 Nishitani tried to rethink such Christian themes as personality, time, and history from the standpoint of ku. Remarkably, he stated that the topos of ku is the field of power: “As far as all beings penetrate one another in their being, they are not what they are. On the other hand they are as such what they are. This relation of mutual penetration itself is the power which gathers and binds all beings into one, the power which makes the world the world. The field of ku is the field of power.” 5 As is well known, from the viewpoint of jijimuge, the infinite-fold mutual penetration of the individuals, there is nothing transcendent. Therefore Nishitani, when he speaks of this aspect of reality, does not refer to the paradoxical unity of the absolute and the relative. The field of ku is simply the field of power in which mutual penetration of the individuals is realized.

If we combine three keywords of these three philosophers, namely Nishida’s “immediate experience,” Hisamatsu’s “awakening to the Self,” and Nishitani’s “field of ku as the field of power,” they seem to me more genuinely Buddhist than Nishida’s terms: keiken, jikaku, and basho. Whereas Nishida—who as a pioneer attempted to construct a philosophical system from...

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