WORKSHOP> "Dōgen’s texts: Manifesting philosophy and/as/of religion?" HU Berlin, April 2–4

Steven Heine's picture

Workshop on Dōgen | Berlin | April 2-4, 2020

Dōgen’s texts: Manifesting philosophy and/as/of religion? 


The Zen Buddhist Dōgen remains the most widely read pre-modern Japanese author in modern day philosophy since Meiji period. However, at the same time, his philosophical reception is most fiercely criticized by his denomination, i.e. by scholars of the Sōtō Zen community.


The dispute was caused by the pretensions of non-denominational intellectuals to pave the way for an authentic apprenticeship independent of the practice of “sitting-only” (j. shikan taza) which was taught by the Sōtō school as the core of Dōgen’s Zen. However, the predominance of a “practical” interpretation of Dōgen covers up the linguistic complexities of Dōgen’s writings. In fact, the Shōbōgenzō’s emergence as a philosophical text exhibits, more than any other example, the history of Japanese philosophy in the making in modern age while competing with the premodern denominational approach. For this reason, Dōgen studies in Meiji Japan can be understood as a passage way in which the image projected on Dōgen underwent severe changes and multiplied. What exactly happened to Dōgen during that time still awaits to be spelled out both historically and systematically. And so do the account and discussion of its pre-Meiji conditions and post-Meiji results.


The workshop aims at the core issue that became critical during Meiji period in which the philosophical appropriation of Dōgen worked as a catalyst to tackle the question both inside and outside the monastery: How are we to handle Dōgen’s texts? This issue is not limited to the apparent oppositions of premodern denominational authority vs. modern academic discourse, religion vs. philosophy, or commentary vs. critique. The emergence of a modern Shūgaku based self criticism of practitioners or the convergence of philosophic discourse on Dōgen with denominational commentary literature are examples that undermine the apparent oppositions and show that the issue is more complex.


Regarding present day Dōgen studies, most intricacies go back to or are informed by a number of different factions among those who receive Dōgen before, in, or since Meiji Japan: the Zennist (j. zenjōka) emphasising practice, the Genzōnians (j. genzōka) shifting the attention to the reading of Dōgen’s texts, the laity movement opening up both the texts and the practice to people in modern society, and the Genzō researchers (j. genzō kenkyūka) searching for the authenticity and truth of Dōgen’s writings.


The workshop invites contributors to undermine the common images of Dōgen in the monastery, in the denominational studies, or modern academic philosophy. The objective is to bring into play the various discourses on Dōgen and to discuss their relation across times and factions in modern and premodern times and to show how and upon which conditions the present day image of Dōgen emerged. The challenge remains to establish hermeneutic standards of reading and to propose new, original, and critical interpretations of his texts.


Thursday April 2nd

1st Panel: 15:00-16:30

Steven Heine


  *   On Juxtaposing the Dōgen Interpretations of Traditionalist Nishiari Bokusan and Philosopher Akiyama Hanji (based on APA-Panel Talk)

  *   Reflexivity and Adaptability. The Functions and Dysfunctions of Meditation (based on Readings of Dōgen's Treasury of the True Dharma Eye)


2nd Panel: 17:00-18:30

Steven Heine


  *   "Flowers blooming...". On Giun's Verse Comments (based on Flowers Blooming From a Withered Tree: Giun's Verse Comments on the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye)

  *   The Role of Reciting the Sutras (based on unpublished AAS Talk)


Friday April 3rd

3rd Panel: 9:30-11:00

Raji Steineck


  *   From Uji to Being-time (and Back): Translating Dōgen into Philosophy


4th Panel: 11:15-12:00

Zuzana Kubovčáková


  *   Uji: Analysis of Dōgen’s Language Style as the Formation Ground for his Philosophy


5th Panel: 12:15-13:00

Etienne Staehelin


  *   Dōgen’s early commentaries in contemporary shūgaku


6th Panel: 15:00-15:45

Marta Sanvido


  *   Forging the Founder’s secret: Dōgen’s Apocrypha in Premodern Zen kirigami and monsan


7th Panel: 16:00-16:45

He Teng


  *   A brief introduction to Biyanlu and Chan/Zen


8th Panel: 17:00-18:30

André van der Braak


  *   Zen spirituality for our Secular Age


Saturday, April 4th

9th Panel: 9:30-10:15

Ralf Müller


  *   Nishitani Keiji’s Shōbōgenzō kōwa.


10th Panel: 10:30-13:00

Round Table


Zweigbibliothek Asien-/Afrikawissenschaften und Islamische Theologie - Universitätsbibliothek Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

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