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Buddhahood for the Nonsentient Reconsidered: The Case of Kakitsubata (The Iris) and Other Noh Plays by Konparu Zenchiku

Susan Klein, University of California, Irvine
Susan B. Klein
Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Smith Hall 115
Donald Shively first considered the topic of “Buddhahood for the nonsentient” (sōmoku jōbutsu) as a theme in noh plays back in 1957. In the subsequent fifty-five years, there have been several major studies published on sōmoku jōbutsu in Japanese and one major study in English (Fabio Rambelli’s Buddhist Materiality, 2007). This new research enables a more complex understanding of how popular conceptions of sōmoku jōbutsu play themselves out in noh involving nonsentient beings, and in particular how the concept of Buddhahood for the nonsentient intersects with the issue of “Buddhahood in this very body” (sokushin jōbutsu) for women. A vexing question for medieval Buddhist scholars was whether either nonsentient plants or women could achieve enlightenment through their own efforts (jiriki) or had to depend on the intervention of a higher Buddhist power (tariki).

Sponsored by the UW Japan Studies Program and the Jackson School of International Studies.

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