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Interesting Lectures and Seminars

The World of Buddhist Chinese Texts(School of Humanities, and Social Sciences・School of Culture, Media and Society)

Hiromitsu Hirata
2nd year student at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Buddhist Chinese texts are the origin of Japanese thinking

The World of Buddhist Chinese Texts is as it reads, and is a class where you read Chinese character texts involving Buddhism. It may seem quite an imposing class to people unfamiliar with Buddhism. It must be said that Buddhism doesn't appear to be close to people in general. When thinking of why, the first reason I can come up with is that the language used is unfamiliar. However, when taking this class, you can understand that Buddhism isn't that remote to people raised in Japan.

Kanji written in Buddhist sutras isn't that different from what we use today. Yet, when it comes to confronting Chinese character texts, at first you have no idea at all in what way it is being used. That can be expected as many of the kanji used in Buddhist Chinese texts constitute different meanings to those that we use today. However, even in the Buddhist events we customarily take part in every year, there are episodes of profound interest surrounding those kanji.

In the lessons, Professor Okubo explains the generally unfamiliar world of Buddhism in an easy to understand manner

Take, for example, the national holiday O-bon. There may be people who find this strange when the tray (obon) on which vessels are placed spring to their minds. This word, although having various origins, has been confirmed to have spread throughout Japan via China. As an O-bon event, we offer food in honor of our ancestors, but that custom was added to O-bon events in China. In other words, through the writing of a sound close to bon as 盆 (bon) in China, saw the birth of the form of offering food on a tray.

Professor Ryoshun Okubo, who is in charge of the lectures, carefully writes difficult to understand Chinese texts carefully into Japanese, and invites us into the world of Buddhism with a light-hearted narrative with anecdotes thrown in. In doing so, we unexpectedly discover that Buddhism is close to us. And then, we understand that the world view of Buddhism, that we were unaware of until now, is a thing of both high significance and endless beauty.