A Comparative History of Ideas

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A Comparative History of Ideas
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Hajime Nakamura argues with remarkable erudition that particular intellectual and social developments can be traced in all great cultures; that each culture deals with its problems in about the same order. Discussing, in their similarities and in their subtle differences, ideas from India, China, Japan and Europe, the author considers such inclusive notions as the concepts of God, the controversy over universals and the nature of orthodoxy and heterodoxy. This is a lucid and rewarding book, which sets a new standard for dealing with a history of thought across many cultures.

About the Author

Hajime Nakamura, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo and currently Director of Eastern Institute, Tokyo, is a member of a number of philosophical associations and has taught at universities around the world. He holds several honorary degrees and has been decorated by the Indian government. Among his works in the English language are: Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India, Tibet, Japan; A History of the Development of Japanese Thought, 2 volumes; Religions and Philosophies of India: A Survey with Bibliographical Notes, 3 Volumes; "Buddhist Philosophy" in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1974; History of Early Vedanta Philosophy, Vol. I; Buddhism in Comparative Light; Indian Buddhism: A Survey with Bibliographical Notes.

Preface to the Second Edition

We are living in an age when things should be viewed and discussed on a global scale. No event is isolated from other events.

We are in need of a kind of global history of ideas in which the developments of ideas should be viewed in the global scope, and yet we are afraid that no work to the effect has been brought about. Of course, there have been published a number of authoritative works, such as History of Philosophy Eastern and Western or History of World Religions and so on. But in these works separate courses of development of ideas in various cultural areas were set forth in different chapters by different scholars from different angles, and the final outcomes seem too disparate, providing us with no conformity in the purpose and the style.

I thought that in order to keep conformity, developments of ideas in various cultural areas should be viewed by a single author and then the details should be corrected by other scholars specializing in various aspects of human intellect or in different traditions.

To this end, I have toiled presumptuously to write a comparative history of ideas covering various traditions in the global scope. In launching this project I tried to avoid elaborate theorizing and allow the data to speak for themselves, as a glance at the following pages will show. Some theoretical considerations are, of course, unavoidable, but whatever theories emerge in this work do not wander far from the problems that emerge from the data of intellectual history.

I have attempted to describe and assess certain key problems in the history of ideas, both East and West. The material has been patiently collected; it was there, and it seemed a pity not to put it into some kind of order and present it to a public that might, after all, find something of value hidden within these pages.

This work does not necessarily cover all important religions and philosophical systems. It covers only those features or problems of thought which are common to East and West through the end of the nineteenth century. Synchronical considerations are chiefly presented in the main text, while diachronic similarities between thinkers of different ages are mentioned mostly in the footnotes.

This work was originally based on a series of four public lectures delivered at Harvard University in 1963. For my lectures there I should also like to thank especially: Professor Robert H. L. Slater, former Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard. The suggestions and arrangements by Professor Charles W. Morris and Professor Delton L. Scudder of the University of Florida were helpful to me in my studies.

Since then I engaged in revising and developing the theme. In the summer, of 1969, I joined the Fifth East-West Philosophers' Conference held at the East-West Center, University of Hawaii, and remained in Honolulu after the close of the Conference to complete the manuscript. I am most grateful to Dr. Minoru Shinoda, Professor of History, at the University of East-West Center, who kindly assisted me in my work during my stay then. Without his kind arrangements, this book would not have been brought to existence. Mr. Clifford Miyashiro kindly went over the manuscript up to the end of the second chapter, spending a great deal of his time checking various points and improving the style.

I came again to Honolulu in the summer, of 1971, at the invitation of the East-West Center under the thoughtful arrangements by Dr. Everett Kleinjans, Chancellor of the Center, and Professor Eliot Deutsch, Editor of Philosophy East and West to revise the manuscript in its finalized form. Also, I am much indebted to Professor Winfield E. Nagley of the University of Hawaii for his kind friendship for many years.

The merit of completion of the manuscript should be ascribed especially to Professor Gerald Larson of the University of California at Santa Barbara, who kindly consented to come to the Center solely for the purpose of revising the manuscript. He and I worked together every day from 8 o'clock a.m. to noon and worked in the afternoon also. I learnt quite a lot from a conversation with him. Without his kid collaboration, this book would not have been brought to this state of completion.

After Professor Larson left for California, Mr. Ronald Burr of the East-West Center came to Tokyo for the purpose of completing the work and editing the manuscript. During his stay in Tokyo from August of 1971 through December, he kindly devoted most of his time to editing. I am greatly thankful for his enthusiasm for collaboration.

For publication of this work in its final form I was especially honoured and encouraged by Professor Charles Morris who kindly read the whole work through. I am very grateful to him for a long chain of friendship extending for many years, almost a quarter of a century.

I feel greatly honoured by the kind help of all these gentlemen. Although I know full well that this work has many passages which need much revision and further enlargement, I decided to bring it to the public as a stepping stone for further studies.

The original work was published in Tokyo, and now it is being published by KPI, in a new and revised form, and I feel greatly honoured in the hope that this work might be read widely.

For this new edition, I am very grateful to Mr. Peter Hopkins, and Dr. Mark Nathanson, of KPI. I am also greatly indebted to Mr. Trevor Leggett of the BBC, who knows Japanese and Sanskrit very well and whose works are cordially welcomed in both Japan and India, for his kind help on many points. Herewith I express my sincere gratitude to them.

Editor's Preface

Professor Nakamura's book represents an effort to discuss the history of ideas primarily from the perspective of Asians though, though perhaps sometimes with an Indian emphasis. As a result, it presents problems in intellectual history from quite a different perspective than most European and American historians of ideas, who view the history of philosophy using European thought as a norm or criterion. This is part of the genius of the work, but it must not be overly stressed because it is based on differences in traditions. For it becomes clear as one works through Professor Nakamura's books that the old East-West dichotomy in many respects is simply inadequate. Certain common intellectual problems have surfaced wherever man has appeared, and methods must be found for getting beyond the East-West preoccupation if significant intellectual progress is to be made with respect to understanding the history of ideas. At the same time, however-and this the paradox of Professor Nakamura'a book-it becomes clear in the end that many of the problems of what is called "modern thought" (by Western philosophers) did not manifest themselves in India, China, and Japan before the period of "Westernization except in scattered and tentative ways. In place of the Western scientific orientation, however, very human ethical considerations were often emphasized.

The reader will find Professor Nakamura's work to be a source book in at least two important ways. In the first place, he stands in a tradition of scholars who have held the chair of philosophy at Tokyo University, and who are of astonishingly high calibre in the amount and quality of the scholarship they have produced. Going back only two generations from Professor Nakamura is Junjiro Takakusa who, among other things, oversaw the publication in his own lifetime of the Taisho edition of the Buddhist Tripitaka. Succeeding him was Professor Nakamura's famous teacher Dr. Hakuju Ui, who, in addition to an immensely helpful Buddhist dictionary and other important work, published what stands as the authoritative work on Chinese Zen, his three-volume Zenshu Shi Kenkyu. In that work, Professor Ui offered long quotations and commentaries from works that would be very difficult for the average (and sometimes not so average) reader to find. In a somewhat similar way, the reader will find Professor Nakamura's scholarship to be authoritative and documented in the extreme, and that in place of hiding his sources behind paraphrases, he often offers quotations from the widest range of tests and commentators imaginable so that the reader may constantly appreciate the original touch of great figures in the ongoing history of ideas.

This work also serves as a source book in that scholar of the history of ideas (especially those in comparative philosophy and comparative religion) will find it to be especially rich in ideas. Many of the comparisons mentioned by Professor Nakamura have been elaborated on under this cover. In some instances, however, eager to explore other areas, he has moved on, leaving behind a challenge for succeeding authors to do further research on what has been brought to light. Many times Professor Nakamura has suggested specific points that deserve further scrutiny. If he had elaborated all of the comparative points of interest himself, this book would have been larger by at least another volume.

As to the editing of the work, it was done, so to speak, in two "shifts." Dr. Gerald Larson began work on the task early in the summer of 1971 in Honolulu. After readying for publication Chapter I and a large portion of Chapter II (parts I and II) his previous commitments necessitated his return to "the mainland." At that time Professor Nakamura was preparing to return to Tokyo for the resumption of his duties as chairman of the Department of Indian and Buddhist Philosophy at the University of Tokyo. So it became necessary to engage a second editor to complete the work. It was then decided that Ronald Burr would go to Tokyo in August of 1971 for this purpose. Beginning with Part III of Chapter II, he completed the preparation of the manuscript in Tokyo in March 1972. then it was sent to Santa Barbara, California, where Dr. Larson gave the entire manuscript a final reading.

Of the people without whom this editing task could not have been accomplished, the highest inspiration came from Professor Nakamura himself. Simply by working with him and a colleague has been prompted to persevere in the mentor's fashion (see for instance Professor India's foreword to his new translation of Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamaka-karakas, Hokuseido, 1970). Professor Nakamura unconsciously gets the best from those who come into contact with him. He is jolly, kind and willing to give complete concentration at a moment's notice to the problems that arise in each of the myriad projects in which he is constantly involved.

As to the people without whom the editing in Tokyo could not have taken place (at least as smoothly and happily as it did), thanks must go got us all together when it was learned that the editing must be completed in Japan. Secondly, without the friendship, companionship, and myriad assistance of Yoshihira Matsunami, who manages the affairs of Professor Nakamura's Eastern Institute in Tokyo, the task would have been much more lengthy and difficult as well as much less enjoyable. Mrs. Miriam Gould of the East-West Center offered many suggestions on the roof reading the finished copy. Finally, the Tokyo editing could not have been done without the day-to-day typing and doctoring of Mrs Nancy Burr, whose uncanny feel for good idiomatic English has made it possible to present a book which is, hopefully, as easy to read as it is important.




EDITOR'S PREFACE by Ronald Burr ix
1. The Aim of the Work 3
2. Some References to Comparative Attempts in the Classical Period 7
Chapter I.
I. Social Background 11
  1. Introductory Remarks 11
  2. Sedentary Life 12
  3. Establishment of a Hierarchical Order 15
  4. The Compilation of the Holy Scriptures of Each Tradition 22
II Gods and Man 26
  1. The Gods in Ancient Mythology 26
  2. Principles and Efficacy of Rituals 35
  3. Man's Destiny 39
      a. After-life 39
      b. Ancestor Worship 41
  4. Cosmic Law 43
III. The Search for the Absolute 47
  1. Introductory Comments 47
  2. The Tendency towards Mono-theism 49
  3. Cosmogony 50
      a. Introductory Remarks 50
      b. Creation from the Primordial Man 51
      c. Creation from the Non-existent 53
      d. Creation from "What is neither existent nor nonexistent." 53
      e. Creation from Primeval Water and the Cosmic Egg 56
      f. Speculation about the Word 60
      g. Time as the Fundamental Principle 63
      h. Food as the Fundamental Principle 64
      i. Reflections on the Structure of the Universe 65
IV. Conclusion 69
Chapter II.
I. Introductory Remarks 73
II. The Rise of Philosophy 76
  A. The Early Critical Attitude 76
      1. Yearning for the Beyond 76
      2. Re-evaluation of the Gods and the Sacrifice 80
      3. Brief Summary 83
  B. Elements Regarded as the Fundamental Principle 85
      1. Water 85
      2. Ether or Space 86
      3. Wind or Breath 87
      4. Fire 89
      5. Numbers 89
      6. Summary 90
  C. The Concept of the Absolute 91
      1. The Absolute and the Self 91
      2. The Identification of the Self with the Absolute 98
      3. The Manifestation of the World from Being as Such 103
      4. The Source of Beings 113
      5. The Structures of Human Existence 114
      6. The Absolute Subject 115
      7. The Deified Self 123
  D. Problems of Practice 125
      1. Retribution and Deliverance as Hereditary 125
      2. Individual Responsibility 126
      a. Transmigration and Retribution 126
      b. The Final Goal 135
      c. The Basis of Ethics 138
III. The Development of Heterodoxies 142
  A. Materialism 142
      1. Materialism (- Elements -) 142
      2. Materialism (- Atomists-) 145
  B. The Pursuit of Pleasure 152
  C. Determinism 157
  D. Skepticism 162
      1. Suspension of Judgment 162
      2. Sophistic Dialectic 165
      3. Relativism 167
  E. Asceticism 172
      1. Self-mortification 172
      2. The Seeking of Dishonor 180
  F. Concluding Words 183
IV Concluding Comments 185
Chapter III.
I. Introductory Remarks 191
II. The Ideal Image of the Founders 194
  A. Their Lives - 194
      1. Birth and Youthful Days 194
      2. Spiritual Activities 199
  B. Faith 206
      1. Significance of Faith 206
      2. Worship of the Founder 210
      C. Concluding Words 215
III. Fundamental Attitudes 217
  A. Attitude towards Thinkers and Their Systems - 217
      1. Cognizance of Variation 217
      2. Partial Veracity of Thoughts 218
      3. Tolerance 221
  B. Attitude toward Philosophy in General 225
      1. Silence on Metaphysical Problems 225
      2. Rigorous Examination 229
      3. Universal Norms 232
IV. Human Existence 237
  A. Analysis 237
      1. Suffering 237
      2. Ignorance - The Causes of Suffering 239
      3. Impermanence of Phenomena 242
      4 The Theory of Non-Ego 245
      5. The Individual - Kinetic Existence and Transmigration 250
  B. The Aim of Human Existence and the Path toward The Aim 256
      1. The Aim 256
      2. Possibility for Progress 264
        a. Karma and Craving 264
        b. The True Self 269
      3. General Principles of Ethics 273
        a. The Value and Equality of Man 273
        b. Compassion and Service to others 276
        c. The Concepts of Evil and Conscience 281
        d. The Mean and the Character of Effort 286
      4. Ethics in the Order 292
        a. Establishing the Order 292
        b. Moderate Asceticism 295
      1) Away from the World into the Order 295
        2) Disciplines 298
      c. Mission Work 301
  5. Ethics for Laymen 303
  6. Further Practice 309
      a. The Use of Philosophy as a Path 309
      b. Meditation 311
V. The Ideal of the Universal State 317
  A. States and Kings 317
  B. Attempts at a Universal State Based on a Universal Religion 323
      1. Universal States 323
      2. The Ideal of the Management of the Centralized State 332
      3. Religious and Cultural Policy for the Populace 339
VI. Concluding Remarks 344
Chapter IV.
I. General Thoughts on Developments in the Middle Ages 351
      A. Introduction 351
      B. Supremacy of Religion 356
        1. Otherworldliness 356
        2. The Establishment of Religious Authority 361
        3. Approach to Common People 366
II. Two Types of Religion 370
  A. Introductory Worlds 370
  B. The Themes of Compassion and Love 373
      1. Compassion-Love Doctrine 373
      2. The Role of Saints and Bodhisattvas 379
      3. Vicarious Suffering 382
      4. Sin and Grace 384
        a. Faith and Deliverance in the Pure Land or Paradise 384
        b. Sense of sin and Need for Divine Grace 390
  C. Mystical Schools 399
      1. Methodology 399
      2. Interpretation of Experience 409
      3. Practical Consequences of Mysticism 416
      4. Ecumenical Thinking 420
III. Theology and its Counterparts 423
  A. Reasoning and Philosophy 423
  B. Frequently Discussed Problems 432
      1. The Nature of the Absolute 432
        a. Threefold Characterizations 432
        b. Interrelational Existence 436
        c. The Absolute as Phenomena 443
      2. The Absolute and the Individual 449
        a. The Relationship between the Absolute and the Individual 449
        b. Immortality of the Self 452
      3. Problems of More Formal Reasoning 455
        a. Proofs of God's Existence 455
        b. Motion 459
        c. Categories 460
        d. Controversy over Universals 462
IV. Conclusion 469
Chapter V
I. Introductory Remarks 475
II. Modern Philosophical Attitudes 479
  A. Nature and Natural Law 479
  B. Mathematics, Logic, and the Movement toward Scientific Methods 486
  C. Revival of Skepticism 490
      1. Rational Doubt and Consciousness of the Ego 490
      2. Movement toward Reliance on Experience 497
  D. Discovery of Antiquity in a Modern Light 503
  E. Liberty 506
  F. Post-modern Movement toward Dialectics 509
III. Modern Religious Attitudes 511
  A. Protest against Medieval Ways of Thinking 511
      1. Introductory Words 511
      2. Denunciation of Religious Formalism and Stress on Inner Devotion 512
      3. Denial of Charismatic Authority 517
      4. Rejection of Religious Differences 520
      5. A Return to This-Worldliness 526
      6. Rise in Popularity of Worldly Activity and Vocational Ethics 530
        B. Changes in the Evaluation of Man 536
      1. Man Conceived as Supreme - Stress on Human Love 536
      2. Service to People 541
      3. Heightened Movement toward Equality of Man and Anti-discrimination 545
      4. Increased Lay Tendency of Religion 550
      5. Accelerated Approach to the Masses 555
      6. A Return to Ethical Norms - A Result of Man's Increased Value 557
IV. Conclusion of the Discussions on Modern Thought 561

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