A Buddhist all of my life and a Zen practitioner since the 90s. I discovered the Kyoto School through my reading of Heidegger, with whom Nishitani studied, and was deeply impressed by his Religion and Nothingness. I then turned to Nishida as the pioneer thinker who had launched the school. Currently living in the UK. From such a standpoint I wish to clarify the many problems of our day. Biographical information on Nishida was gathered from his Collected Works and personal documents by James W.
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A Buddhist all of my life and a Zen practitioner since the 90s. I discovered the Kyoto School through my reading of Heidegger, with whom Nishitani studied, and was deeply impressed by his Religion and Nothingness. I then turned to Nishida as the pioneer thinker who had launched the school. Currently living in the UK.
From such a standpoint I wish to clarify the many problems of our day. Biographical information on Nishida was gathered from his Collected Works and personal documents by James W. Heisig, former director of the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture in Nagoya, and can be found in his Philosophers of Nothingness, published in In his book on Nishida, Nishitani recalls the happy moment when both men realized this shared origin, as, having just graduated, Nishitani had his first private meeting with the rather intimidating Nishida.
Nishitani, Nishida Kitaro, At age seven, he moved to Tokyo with his family. When he was fourteen, his father died of tuberculosis, and he himself suffered from the same disease for many years. This caused him to be regarded as physically unfit when he first tried to enter the prestigious Daiichi High School. On his return, after a second attempt, he was able to join Daiichi. Once a pupil there, Nishitani was able to read widely outside the curriculum — Dostoevski, Nietzsche, as well as well as Hakuin, the Bible, and St.
Francis of Assisi. Nishida was not well-known then as the second edition of the Inquiry had not yet been published. I bought his book only because it was the kind of title that appealed to a high school student. Ironically, Thought and Experience is one of the works Nishida felt most dissatisfied with!
Somehow, for Nishida, these were facts of life to be overcome in the pursuit of an inquiry which was to be of benefit to the world. For Nishida there was a sense of purpose and hope. But even as a young man, Nishitani felt himself surrounded by meaninglessness. A sense of despair had settled inside me from which I was unable to shake free.
It made everything look empty and vain; it felt like an endless desolate wind blowing through my inner parts. He chose the latter, and enrolled at the University of Kyoto, where he studied under Nishida and Tanabe. Heisig notes that Nishitani had two children by then and had to practice at a place close to his home. Nishitani and Heidegger In , Nishitani received a scholarship from the Ministry of Education, which he had originally planned to use to study with Henri Bergson in Paris.
In keeping with the notion that the really real is the phenomenal, and therefore the historical, as Nishida had also stated, Nishitani saw it as his responsibility to help the Japanese intellectuals become aware of the urgency to develop a healthy understanding and practice of nationhood. Only a century before, Japan had been a feudal society secluded from the rest of the world, and when that seclusion had ended, it had fallen into the trap of militarism, with 50 years of a nearly permanent state of war.
The country had obviously not learned how to be a democracy … History shows again and again that no country can go from a rule by feudal war lords to a democratic constitutional regime in just one leap. The book was meant to lay the foundations on which a healthy sense of nationhood could be built from the same standpoint of emptiness as had been established for individuals.
The same wish to enlighten the political and military elite prompted Nishitani to take part in the Chuokoren Discussions, which had been set up by senior figures in the Navy to moderate the ultra-nationalism of the generals at the head of the Army. But, of course, in a climate where propaganda, rather than cool thinking, rules, it was easy to interpret encouraging a sense of nationhood as an expression of nationalism pure and simple.
As a result, during the war, Nishitani came under suspicion because of the internationalist framework in which his concept of nationhood was worked out — the Chuokoren Journal was censored and eventually shut down in for being too liberal, and Nishitani himself was placed under the surveillance of the Special Higher Police. But, once the war was over, along with a number of other academics, he was accused of having supported the wartime government and banned from teaching by the American occupation authorities.
Heisig deals with the question in some depth in Philosophers of Nothingness. Academic exile and the publication of Religion and Nothingness Nishitani was in fact barred from holding any public office. So he spent the five years until his reinstatement in once again facing nihilism, perhaps now better equiped thanks to a renewed sitting practice, the support of his wife, and writing.
This approach will most likely throw readers used to dialectical arguments out of their comfort zone. In fact, it is exactly what it is meant to do, as they need to break with objective, calculative thinking from the standpoint of being and allow themselves to embrace reality intuitively from the standpoint of emptiness.
You are, as it were, taught to swim in this new element through the practice of following the writer on his spiral journey. Still teaching throughout retirement Nishitani retired from Kyoto University in , but he then went back to Otani University as Professor of philosophy and religion.
He also became president of the Eastern Buddhist Society, taught at the University of Hamburg as a visiting professor and served as chief editor of The Eastern Buddhist.
Heisig also notes that, as he was living in Kyoto, he was frequently invited to give public lectures and take part in debates and roundtables both in Japan and abroad. A Symposium on Religion and Nothingness was held at Smith and Amherst Colleges in April , which Nishitani was unfortunately unable to attend as his wife was in hospital. Papers presented by the scholars who spoke at this Symposium have been published in The Religious Philosophy of Nishitani Keiji, edited by Taitetsu Unno, in Nishitani died in Kyoto in November Shrines in snowy mountains — Hiroshige Share this:.
Black Illumination: the abyss of Keiji Nishitani
Though the philosopher Keiji Nishitani was arguably the latter kind, he struggled throughout his life to see the world with wonder. But this was not just a subjective dilemma for Nishitani. The questions he posed are still relevant, specifically to our recent concerns about the climate and planet. Rather than ignore this abyss, Nishitani sought to go deeper into it. As a youth he struggled with bouts of illness, but discovered his love of reading in periods of convalescence. In high school — listless and bored — he found further solace in books after abandoning the official curriculum.
Quotes[ edit ] In the religiosity of Zen Buddhism , demythologization of the mythical and existentialization of the scientific belong to one and the same process. On the other hand, it is a historical and social phenomenon, an object of the study of history. The phenomenon of nihilism shows that our historical life has lost its ground as objective spirit, that the value system which supports this life has broken down, and that the entirety of social and historical life has loosened itself from its foundations. Nihilism is a sign of the collapse of the social order externally and of spiritual decay internally - and as such signifies a time of great upheaval. Viewed in this way, one might say that it is a general phenomenon that occurs from time to time in the course of history.