This year has been quite eventful for me. I have also maintained a good level of productivity so far. Earlier this year I travelled throughout India, Nepal, China and Japan visiting numerous holy Buddhist sites. I also finished translating one book of Buddhist themed short stories by Venerable Nakamura Gyōmyō from Japanese into English. I also translated two of the late Chan Master Sheng Yen's sūtra commentaries along with the respective sūtras themselves. These will all be published sometime this year or later next year. On top of that I also finished writing my MA thesis in Japanese, not English, and successfully defended it, thus concluding my studies at Komazawa University here in Tokyo.
While I had originally intended to continue my studies and proceed into a PhD program elsewhere, my application was not accepted. In retrospect I should have applied to numerous institutions, but I thought if I did not get into the desired program, then I would do something other than academia for at least the next few years.
As fortune would have it I was given the opportunity to do an extended meditation retreat in Ladakh, the northern state in India nestled in the Himalayas bordering Tibet and Xinjiang. After some consideration I decided to pursue this option as I feel now would be an optimal time to engage in a lengthy and dedicated meditation retreat by myself. I am young, healthy and free of obligations. Moreover, after a number of years of practising meditation in urban areas, I think it best to go somewhere isolated, quiet and free of disturbances. A temple in the Himalayas seems like a suitable location in which to pursue full-time meditation for five to six months.
I plan to work on śamatha together with a comprehensive rereading of Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamaka-kārikā (Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way; 中論). The following quote by Nāgārjuna in his Letter to a Friend actually prescribes this sort of practice stating the following:
"There can be no dhyāna without wisdom;
There can be no wisdom without dhyāna.
He who has both reduces the ocean of existence,
To the size of an ox's hoofprint."
At the same time I want to read through a lengthy commentary on said treatise by the Sanlun 三論 patriarch Jizang 吉藏 (549-623). As of late I have taken an interest in Jizang's work and his thought, which truly complements my study of Nāgārjuna. Jizang himself was of Persian ancestry, but born and raised in China. Incidentally he lived during the same years as another famous Mādhyamaka thinker Candrakīrti (600-c. 650). Jizang's thought has much in common with prasaṅgika, which indeed might be suitable study to pursue at some point in the future. Anyway, after several months of reading Jizang extensively I imagine I will have much to say about his thought.
I am quite looking forward to this retreat. I feel as if all my academic learning can be put to practical use in a very serious way at last. I have the utmost respect for scholarly research of Buddhism, but as a Buddhist I have to weigh scholarly endeavours on one hand against actual practical implementation of it in real life. Buddhology ideally possesses a practical component, though of course this is not normally so in academia.
As I will be in exodus from the internet for at least half a year starting September I might not update this blog during that time. However, I compiled much of what I have written over the last two to three years into one site for the benefit of anyone who might make use of it. Some of the materials on it are from this blog, but neatly organized and formatted for ease of use. It is my hope that anything I have written can be of benefit to others:
The most recent article, posted today, concerns Saichō's monastic reforms. See here.
As for the future I have no definite plans. I will just play it by ear and see what comes.