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  3. 1st Unit : 2nd Meeting of Study Group Series “Views of Humanity and the World in the Meiji Period”

1st Unit : 2nd Meeting of Study Group Series “Views of Humanity and the World in the Meiji Period”

"The Transformation of the Study of the Mind: Nishida Kitarō’s ‘Cultivation’ and ‘Inquiry,’ and Agony in Natsume Sōseki's Kokoro"

 

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  On June 11, 2014,Professor Emeritus Yoshida Kouhei (Ircp Visiting Researcher,Toyo University) gave a presentation entitled “The Transformation of the Study of the Mind: Nishida Kitarō’s ‘Cultivation’ and ‘Inquiry,’ and Agony in Natsume Sōseki's Kokoro” at a study group sessionheld at Toyo University (Hakusan Campus, Building 1, Room 1202). This study group sessionwas second installment in the Meeting of Study Group Series “Views of Humanity and the World in the Meiji Period”.It sought to elucidate the modern Meiji problem of the self through considering the work of Nishida Kitarōand Natsume Sōseki.

  Yoshida discussed “pure experience” (junsui keiken), the most important term in Zen no kenkyū (An Inquiry into the Good), focusing on the idea of cultivation (shuyō). Nishida single-mindedly applied himself to the practice of zazen (seated meditation) before the publication of Zen no kenkyū, from Meiji 31 to 39 (1898–1906). He was aiming to do away with fabrications, assumptions, and pre-existing concepts in order to grasp the true self. Yoshida described this endeavor as “cultivation,” proposing that the original state of the self that is obtained through this means is in fact what Nishida describes as “pure experience.” A similar idea can also be found in the Cheng-Zhu and Yangming schools of Neo-Confucianism.

  After this, Yoshida considered the agony of characters in Kokoro as symbolic of the modern self. The teacher (called “Sensei”) and his wife appear in the novel form a nuclear family that has deviated from the emperor-led patriarchal extended family system. While Sensei obtains freedom and independence, he pays the price of isolation. This isolation is the very characteristic of the modern individual. It involves living while suffering through the loss of one’s home. Kokoro is a novel that depicts the conflicts and tension in the movement of the isolated modern individual’s heart and mind from distrust of others to distrust of oneself.

            During the Meiji period, people searched for the self in a way that was reminiscent of the Cheng-Zhu and Yangming schools of Neo-Confucianism. One of the academic fruits of this was Nishida’s Zen no kenkyū. In the context of the Meiji period’s cult of success, Nishida made a sincere effort not to be carried away by narrow self-interest. However, at the same time, the modern individual that he describes bears and is cornered by the fate of isolation. Through this research meeting, both the lighter side and shadow of the self in the Meiji period became clear.2