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  3. 1st Unit : 7th Study Group Session

1st Unit : 7th Study Group Session

“The History of the Development of Early Modern Anti-Christian Thought: From the End of the Ming Period to Inoue Enryō.”


 On Wednesday, January 15, 2014, the Unit 1 Seminar was held at the Toyo University Hakusan Campus (Building6, Meeting Room3). We welcomed Dr.Nishimuraryō, a full-time researcher at the Nakamura Hajime Eastern Institute (a public interest incorporated foundation), who gave a presentation entitled “The History of the Development of Early Modern Anti-Christian Thought: From the End of the Ming Period to Inoue Enryō.”

  First, Nishimura gave an overview of the intellectual significance of early modern Japanese Buddhism. She stated that by examining early modern anti-Christian thought, it is possible to clarify issues surrounding the adoption of Chinese Buddhism in early modern Japanese Buddhist thought, as well some of the characteristics and historical significance of this adoption.

  Next, she provided an overview of criticism of Christianity starting from the end of the Ming period. In rebuttals to Matteo Ricci’s criticism of Buddhism, the Indian concept of “space” (akaza) and Chinese notion of The Great Way were used. Space is something that neither obstructs things nor is obstructed by them. It is universally pervasive. However, The Great Way is the fundamental path that nurtures the world and living things from this space. It reflects a view of the universe that is influenced by the matrix of Tathagata (tathagatagarbha) thought. Based on these two concepts, Buddhists discussed “The Great Way of Space,” describing it as something that functions perfectly without a beginning and end.

  Later, in 16th-century Japan, Buddhism was criticized by Christian missionaries as a way of thinking that does not offer any assurances regarding what happens after death and that believes in “nothingness.” In response, Japanese Zen Buddhists bestowed the Five Precepts on ordinary people, and argued that people’s own right actions that observe the Five Precepts bring bliss in the afterlife, as well as peace and comfort in this life. Furthermore, Christian doctrines were criticized from the perspective of The Great Way of Space.

 Japanese anti-Christian thought subsequently came to criticize Christianity from an ethical perspective. The metaphysical concept of The Great Way of Space was forgotten, and space (akaza) came to be understood by Buddhists such as Inoue Enryō as a modern, meaningless empty space. Inoue condemned Christianity on grounds that God is something meaningless, as “space.” Moreover, Buddhism was distinguished from Christianity as a philosophical religion. Through its criticism of Christianity, modern philosophy broke away from pre-modern Buddhism.

 After this presentation, a candid and substantial discussion occurred during the seminar.