Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India China Tibet Japan

Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India China Tibet Japan

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Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India China Tibet Japan
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Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples is a comparative study of the thinking of major peoples of Asia. It has been widely admitted that this is the first attempt to give a survey and analysis of the ways of thinking of Asians, which differ from people. The author has chiefly in pointing out features of Indian ways of thinking. As well as Chinese, Japanese, and Tibetan ones. His wide knowledge of Asian traditions, as well as his wonderful command of various languages of Asia, “being combined”, has made this attempt quite successful and reliable in the scholarly sense.

The first English version was undertaken and published by the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO. It was highly welcomed abroad. The new, revised edition was published. By the University of Hawaii Press. It continues to be a very important book and sells consistently throughout the world.

Now the Indian edition has been made available, its content is exactly the same as the American edition. This edition will receive renewed interest from students and scholars thought Asia.


About the Author

Hajime Nakamura (Born 1912) is an illustrious scholar of repute. He obtained his D.Litt. from the University of Tokyo and Buddhist Philosophy at the same University for thirty years. He fought as Visiting Professor at Stanford, Harvard University of Hawaii, University of Florida, and State University of New York at Buffalo.

Prof. Nakamura has been the recipient of academic honorary from various countries. He reserved Honorary Doctorates from the University of Delhi, Vishva Bharati University, the Nalanda Institute of Pali Studies, and the Kuppuswamy Institute in Madras, the lal bahadur Shastri Sanskrit Training Centre. He was conferred the honorary title of vidya Vacaspati by the late Dr. S. Radhakrishna, President of India, at the general assembly of the Visva Sanskrit Parishes. He was awarded the Imperial Prize for his 4 volume work on Early Vedanta philosophy. He was also awarded the Honorary Professor by the University of Si-an in China, and the honorary D. Litt. by Van-Hanh University in Saigon, Vietnam.

Prof. Nakamura is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and leaned, a corresponding member of the Austrian Academy of Science, Vienna, and a titular member of L’ Institute International de la Philosophies, Paris. In Japan, he is a member of the Japan Academy of Science, and he was awarded the Order of Merit by the Emperor.

Many of his books were translated into English, German, Chinese, and Korean. He has established the Eastern Institute, Inc. In Tokyo and is working as its Director.



Professor Nakamur’s book was the basis of conferences held at the East-west Center, in 1962-1963, where everyone agreed that the existing English version, now out of print, deserved to be replaced by a more readable, updated, and revised edition, with the help of the Senior Scholars and the department of Research Translation of the institute of A danced Projects at the East. West Center, and through closed collaboration with Professor Kenneth K. India, my editorial task has been directed at providing a more correctly printed and revised text incorporating many new features. Among these is a new Foreword by the distinguished Eastern scholar, Arthur F. Wright, who has been intimately acquainted with the evolution of Mr. Nakamur’s studies; he and Professor Charles A. Moore have encouraged us to produce this new edition.

The renounced Sinologue professor P. Sevierville has recently said of Dr. Nakamura’s work: “No statement is enunciated in this book without resting in some document duly indicated in the footnotes.

It is a comparative study of ‘the ways of thinking’ characteristic of the peoples of India, China, Tibet, and Japan, with an Introduction and Conclusion on East Asia in general…They are treated in a broad manner, as “cultural phenomena” (bunka gonzo in Japanese), through language chiefly but also bringing in psychology, esthetics, and logic all without pedantry, in a lively and at times humorous tone which holds your interest…I was particularly struck by the part on Japan which occupies nearly half the work, for it constitutes a national self-criticism, whole and sharp, such as you would not have thought written by a Japanese. ..The myth of an “Oriental mind” common to the whole of East Asia is denounced without beating around the bush….The claim of Western thought to universality does not escape off.”

Professor Nakamura’s numerous emendations and additions of new material to the text of both the original Japanese edition and the first English version have resulted in the following changes. The Introduction has been enlarged, and recent studies on Indian, Chinese, Tibetan, and Japanese. Though culture has been utilized, entirely new chapters on Tibet have been added, the chapters on Japan have been re-organized, and an Index has been compiled (since none existed in the first English version). Bibliographical notes have been revised to include more recent references and more titles have been translated; more dates of authors and leaders of thought have also been discussed.

The breadth and plasticity of Professor Nakamura’s thinking are evidenced by his willingness to revise even his basic ideas and interpretation, such as the greater emphasis in this edition on social-cultural tradition and environmental influences than on innate, national, or racial traits.

I am greatly indebted to the author for broadening the scope of my own interest in the history of ideas, since I have learned so much of my own interests in ideas since I have learned so much from his work about the aspects of the profound thought and culture of Eastern peoples. It has been an honor as well as an edifying experience to collaborate with so eminent a Japanese scholar as Professor Hajime Nakamura.



The appearance of a revised English edition of Professor Nakamura’s work will be warmly welcomed by scholars and by laymen who seek to understand the complex societies of Asia with whose destinies the West is ever more intimately involved. It is surely appropriate that this should be the first major publication of the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii, for Mr. Nakamura is concerned with two problems that are crucial for the development of better mutual understanding between East and West.

The first of these problems is the identification in some meaningful way of the “East” and the ‘West.” How may one define such entities, and how may systematic comparisons be made that will bring into bold relief basic differences and similarities? In the four and a half centuries from the European “discovery” of Asia to the present period of intensified culture contact, Europeans and Asians alike have learned all too little about each other. False antitheses and monolithic comparisons have persisted from one generation to the next; knowledge is difficult to attain, understanding is more so, and resorting to cliché generalization proves irresistible. In recent times some of these clichés have been dressed up in new jargon so that thousands of unwary readers have been led to believe that they were being given new magic keys that would open the door to the “Oriental mind, Oriental logic” or what-not. But the keys opened doors into dream worlds inhabited only by clichés and plantains.

Professor Nakamura sweeps aside this flotsam and sets out to analyze, with rigor and objectivity, the characteristic thought patterns of four Asian peoples as these are revealed in their languages, their logic, and their cultural products. In this analysis he speaks neither of an “Oriental mind” nor of an undifferentiated “West.” Rather he speaks of the Indians, the Chinese, the Tibetans, and the Japanese out of a solid understanding of their distinctive cultures and histories. And when he speaks of the West, it is with full awareness of the multiplicity of traditions that have contributed to Western civilization. He seems to me to demonstrate the level of understanding that can be reached once we transcend the ancient myth of the “East” and the “West” as monoliths.

The second major problem dealt with in this study is equally relevant to the need for mutual understanding between the peoples of Asia and the West. Mr. Nakamura poses it this way: It is clear that no person in the world today is isolated from those worldwide movements of thought and belief that everywhere tend to transform men’s lives and the values they live by. Yet each people are engaged, consciously and unconsciously, in selecting among the manifold influences which reach them and then cadetting and modifying those elements which they select. What governs this process and how does it come about that out of it cultures emerge which are amalgams—.certain elements of them being native and distinctive, others clearly derived from one or another worldwide movement? Mr. Nakamura believes that there are clues to this process in the long history of Buddhism which began and evolved in India and then invaded, one by one, all the historical societies of Central, East, and Southeast Asia. Indians, Chinese, Tibetans, and Japanese were continuously engaged in selecting and adapting elements from the evolving tradition of Buddhism. The ways in which they did this reveal certain long-continuing and distinctive modes of thought, certain key values, and attitudes that governed the scope of the borrowing and the process of adapting Buddhist ideas. These peoples’ experience with Buddhism, when properly understood, in turn, helps to explain their differences one from and their widely variant responses to Western culture in our time. This is the great theme to which Mr. Nakamura addresses himself in this volume.

The magnitude of this study, involving as it does four civilizations, four literary traditions, two and a half millennia of history, and a host of analytical problems, inevitably directs attention to its author. What sort of man is he and under what circumstances did he conceive and carry through this impressive work? Mr. Nakamura completed the original Japanese version of his study in 5947 when he was in his middle thirties. Portions of the work in its early stages were developed as part of a broader project on language and culture headed by Professor Kichinosuke Ito, but the scope and method of the book is distinctively Mr. Nakamura’s own. He graduated from Tokyo Imperial University in 1936 and received the degree of Doctor of Letters (Bungaku Hakase) in 1943. In 1957 he was awarded the Imperial Prize of the Academy of Japan for his four-volume history of early Vedanta philosophy. Since 1954 he has been Professor of Indian and Buddhist Philosophy at the University of Tokyo.

Professor Nakamura was trained at Tokyo University in Indian and Buddhist studies fields which necessarily involved him in the study of the cultures and the Buddhist traditions of China, Tibet, and Japan. In the course of this training, he acquired the broad knowledge of languages and cultures requisite for such a study as this. From the beginning of his career, however, his intellectual interests carried him beyond the traditional confines of Indology and Buddhology. He emerged as a major force in the modernization of Indian studies in Japan, and his publications have ranged over a wide field: studies of ancient Indian history, studies on the character of primitive Buddhism, studies of Indian philosophic traditions, notably Vedanta, articles on the living traditions of modem India, a book on the nature of religion in modern Japan, and numerous publications on problems of language and culture and on East-West cultural relations.

The catastrophe which befell Japan in 1945 ushered in a period of great intellectual and spiritual ferment. Japanese intellectuals asked themselves fundamental questions about their nation and their culture, about the potential of a new Japan in a new world order. One facet of this great effort of reappraisal and projection was a comparative study which, it was hoped, would give the Japanese a fresh view of their culture and society, their myths, and their values. Mr. Nakamura, as the preface to the Japanese edition indicates, was drawn to this new effort at national self-knowledge through intercultural comparisons. His training in Indian and Buddhist studies led him to examine four societies (including his own) that had been affected in different ways by their experience with Buddhism. Other intellectual influences dictated the methods he was to use.

Western philosophy has long been one of Mr. Nakaniura’s major interests, and the approaches used in this volume were shaped by these interests. Mr. Nakamura was first introduced to the thought of such British and American philosophers as Russell and Dewey. At this stage, he also read widely in the writings of Deuce, Keyserling, and Schopenhauer. After reading Professor Shinkichi Soda’s Logic, he went on to study German logicians. He has long been deeply interested in Wonderland’s “problem approach” to the history of philosophy.

Like many scholars throughout the world, Mr. Nakamura has been greatly influenced by the general breakdown of absolutist philosophies. He was impelled to ask the question, not, are these views in accord with some absolute system, but rather how it is that some men in some societies come to hold such views? How will men’s behavior be affected by those views, and under what altered conditions will they change them? In formulating questions of this kind, Mr. Nakamura was influenced by Marx, Max Weber, and by Professor Watsuji, whose book, Climate, explored the problem of the relationship between environment and thought. Thus in the present book, Mr. Nakamura uses the study of philosophic ideas to carry through an inquiry that lies largely beyond the traditional rope of philosophy. His inquiry seeks to analyze the modes of thought or “ways of thinking” of the four Asian peoples those distinctive and slowly evolving ways in which people sort and classify experience, argue with one another, and make value judgments or practical decisions. For such an analysis, he has been concerned with a whole range of phenomena that might be classified as social-historical, psychological, and linguistic.

The design of this comparative study of modes of thought was developed out of the intellectual interests we have noted. Each of the four sections of the study is developed on a common plan. First, there is some discussion of language and logic, of the characteristic ways in which each of these Asian peoples habitually made certain types of judgments and inferences. In each section the author then proceeds to the manifestations of these patterns in formal philosophical writing, in literature, and in individual and group behavior. In each section, Buddhism is used, in the manner described earlier, as a kind of chemical precipitant to isolate those indigenous habits of thinking that are most enduring and resistant to change.

Mr. Nakamura is aware that explicit logic and philosophical formulations of all kinds are the particular property of the small educated elites in the societies he is considering. But, if I interpret him correctly, he regards the philosophizing of the elite as a kind of translation into more general and abstract terms of the problems encountered in the common life of society. And, in turn, folk sayings, proverbs, and everyday thought to reflect a translation downward or a seeping downward of what the philosophers have voiced. To find evidence of how this occurred and of how Buddhist ideas and values entered into this process in the four societies, Mr. Nakamura has cast a wide net. He has combed folk literature, prayers, and the scriptures of popular cults, collections of proverbs, and descriptions of everyday life, and, wherever possible, he has used the accounts of foreign observers whose fresh eyes often register characteristics that escape the native critic of his own society. Thus, in the end, we are shown not only how each elite grappled with the problems of Buddhist thought and belief but also how this process affected habits of thought and modes of behavior in society as a whole.

The present revised English edition reflects at many points the development of Mr. Nakamura’s thought in the period since 1947. When the first Japanese version was written, Japan was only beginning to emerge from the isolation of years of war and military rule. Since that time Mr. Nakamura has read widely in newer writings in the fields of philosophy, anthropology, and linguistics. During 1951—1952, he visited Stanford University where his work was the focus of a year-long faculty seminar. Again in 1962—1963, he discussed his findings with a seminar of scholars at the East-West Center. Portions of his book, certain lines of argument, and much of the documentation have been revised in light of the author’s experiences over the last fifteen years.

It is a pleasure to present this revised English edition to the Western reader. In its pages scholar and layman alike will find a wealth of insight into the range of great problems with which Mr. Nakamura is concerned. He will also, I think, come to admire its author as a tireless explorer on the frontiers of knowledge, a scholar whose virtuosity in research is matched by his relentless drive to new understandings.




  Foreword v
  Preface xi
  Acknowledgement xiii
  Introduction 3
  Part 1: India 3
1 Introduction 41
2 Stress on Universals 44
3 Preference for the Negative 52
4 Minimizing Individuality and Specific Particulars 60
5 The Concept of the Unity of All Things 67
6 The Static Quality of Universality 73
7 Subjective Comprehension of Personality 87
8 Primacy of the universal Self over the Individual Self 93
9 Subservience to universals 107
10 Alienation from the Objective Nature World 130
11 The Introspective Character of Indian Thought 152
12 The metaphysical Character of Indian Thought 157
13 The Spirit of Tolerance and Conciliation 168
  Part II: China  
14 Introduction 175
15 Emphasis on the Perception of the Concrete 177
16 Non-Development of Abstract Thought 185
17 Emphasis on the Particular 196
18 Conservatism Expressed in Exaltation of Antiquity 204
19 Fondness for Complex Multiplicity Expressed in Concrete From 217
20 Formal Conformity 226
21 The Tendency towards Practicality 233
22 Individualism 247
23 Esteem for Hierarchy 259
24 Esteem for Nature 277
25 Reconciling and Harmonizing Tendencies 284
  Part III: Tibet  
26 Introduction 297
27 Consciousness of the individual 301
28 Discovery of the Absolute in Man 309
29 Absolute Submission to a Religiously Charismatic Individual 316
30 Absolute Adherence to the Lamaist Social Order 327
31 Shamanistic Tendencies 333
32 Logical Tendencies 337
  Part IV: Japan  
33 Introduction 345
34 The Acceptance of Phenomenalism 350
35 The Tendency to Emphasize a Limited Social nexus 407
36 Non-Rationalistic Tendencies 531
37 Problem of Shamanism 577
  Notes 588
  Index 691


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