Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Japanese Buddhist Chanting
In the above video, some lay practioners chant Buddhist scripture. None of the people that are chanting know the meaning of what they are chanting, but they know it is meaningful. I am not sure which scripture they are chanting. Often it is Hanya Shinkyou or Lotus Heart Sutra, which is a pretty philosophical exposition about emptiness. I think that they are chanting to achieve a bit of enlightenment, purification.
I think that the fact that they do now know what they are saying is important and effective. They are destroying language. Repeat anything, even ones own name, even the most meaningful phonemes, and they will become meaningless after a while. By repeating, chanting, these Buddhists are entering, the mumbo-jumbo, language-free-land, and freeing themselves, purifying themselves of the symbol, the group, society, and returning to their un-symbolised, un-analysed Buddha nature.
They feel that they are praying to the Buddha enshrined here. I think that the Buddha here enshrined approves of their self-and-language-anihilation. They are generally older people. People who do not want to die with this-worldly-public things on their mind. They shake noise-makers, to remind themselves that the soul has many voices, not only the one that they are destroying in their heads.
If Japan is so occularcentric then wouldn't it be a good idea for these Japanese Buddhists to work on their self image more? To disassociate themselves from the image? This ia weak link in Takemoto Theorey of Japan. A great deal (but not all) Japanese Buddhist spiritual practice (shugyou) focuses upon eradicating language, via silence (Za-zen), chanting (all forms of Japanese Buddhism), and unsayable sayings (Zen Koans). At the present time my only answer is that perhaps language is the weakest link in the borromean knot that ties the Japanese self together.
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.